Whether your holiday season comes with flight delays, a long car trip, or a rare day that takes up space on your calendar, chances are you’re about to have some time free.
If you want to use it to get a little smarter about deals and economics — and maybe even have some fun in the process — you’re in luck: Here are our favorite books and podcasts from this year (plus one game) which will help you do just that.
Investigative journalist breaks down the crypto industry
“The Numbers Are Growing: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Stunning Fall” by Zeke Faux
Cryptocurrency has its detractors, including JPMorgan Chase Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, who told a congressional hearing this month that the government should ban digital assets. But few crypto critics have been as committed to trying to understand the technology and deeply exploring the industry — which has at times appeared to be making money out of thin air — as Bloomberg investigative reporter Zeke Fake. In his book “Number Go Up,” he travels the world for two years meeting the people fueling enthusiasm for digital tokens – and discovering corruption, greed and exploitation along the way.
The book was published about a month before the criminal trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of crypto exchange FTX, who was convicted of seven counts of fraud and conspiracy last month. Faux begins by admitting that he didn’t see through Bankman-Fried’s billionaire wunderkind facade when they met. But Faux had suspicions about the crypto industry and promises from digital asset enthusiasts that blockchain would democratize finance, and he encountered many people peddling these ideas. “From the beginning, I thought crypto was pretty stupid. And it turned out to be even stupider than I imagined,” he writes.
Global trade, online gaming
It’s time for the quiz: which country’s foreign trade represented approximately $597 billion in 2021? Hint: its main export categories were cars, refined oil, wine and valves.
C. United States
The answer is D, Italy.
It depends Tradethe Wordle-style game about global trade that has become a daily habit for economics enthusiasts, global politics geeks, and at least one DealBook editor.
Developed by the Observatory of Economic Complexity, specialists in commercial data visualization, Tradle takes players around the world every day. These allusions could lead to the development of an island economy whose main exports are pleasure boats (the Cayman Islands, for example) or to a Group of 7 giant. like Canada (Spoiler: Major exports include crude oil, sawn timber and fertilizers).
Gilberto García-Vazquez, an economist whose company is behind the game, said Walk This summer, Tradle’s global popularity came as a big surprise. The site was attracting “nearly a million visits a month,” he said, another sign that everyone likes a good game, even ones about global trade.
If Hollywood had a sports podcast
Who is at the top in the media industry and who is at the bottom? Tinseltown’s industry boss has an image built on art and glamor, but Matt Belloni’s podcast about his inner workings treats it like a sport, with an AM radio vibe (no surprise, considering its roots in The Ringer podcast network) and an informal, laid-back approach. about. Belloni grew up in the Hollywood trade and is the author of Puck’s flagship newsletter, What I’m Hearing, but on the podcast he takes an approach that welcomes more casual followers of media news. Keen industry observers, however, will still enjoy interviews with journalists such as Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos and Endeavor Chairman Mark Shapiro on hot-button topics like the streaming wars, cast strikes and writers and why superheroes. films stumble.
A glimpse of a climate apocalypse
“Fire Weather: A True Story of a Warmer World” by John Vaillant
Wildfires dominated the news in 2023. Burning Canadian forests blanketed New York in smoke, deadly fires occurred in Maui, and extreme heat sparked the worst fires on record in Greece. In “Fire Weather” journalist John Vaillant writes about an earlier wildfire that gave a hint of what was to come.
In 2016, Fort McMurray, Alberta, was ravaged by fire, forcing 90,000 people to evacuate. The city is the center of Canada’s tar sands industry, meaning it relies on the production of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. Vaillant calls this a “split reality,” in which leaders recognize the threat posed by carbon dioxide emissions but continue to make money from the industry despite the damage it obviously causes.
The contradictions will not end anytime soon. Some of the world’s biggest energy companies have signaled this year that they are doubling down on fossil fuels through a series of deals in the shale oil sector. July was the hottest month on record. And the United Nations climate conference in the United Arab Emirates – a petrostate – was the first to publicly declare that the world must move away from fossil fuels.
We are still producing and using fossil fuels, and our world is getting warmer. These two trends will inevitably clash again, and Vaillant’s book provides a useful overview of how this might play out.
A warning about the geopolitical challenges that threaten market democracy
“The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism” by Martin Wolf
Martin Wolf, chief economic commentator at the Financial Times, believes in the marriage of liberal democracy and the market economy. This combination, he believes, gave birth to the most successful societies in history, generating prosperity and freedom.
In “The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism,” he argues that this is changing because the system is failing to deliver on its promises economically and politically, leading to the rise of populists and self-destructive political movements. Brexit, the election of Donald Trump as president and the rise of small capitalism are all bad for democratic societies and the institutions they rely on, he writes. And this has worrying consequences for free societies and the businesses that operate in them.
The matter is personal for Wolf. He is an economist and his parents were refugees from Nazism, who were able to rise to power thanks in part to the Great Depression. History, he says, warns us that political mistakes can be extremely destructive when combined with economic disasters.
A podcast that showcases the drama of big business
Reporting on deals often focuses on numbers. This approach can miss the drama behind them and its subsequent effects. “The Closer,” a podcast hosted by journalist Aimee Keane, uncovers rich stories behind the headlines, often revealing unexpected consequences.
In its first episode, it explored the 2013 merger between American Airlines and US Airways, which created the world’s largest airline, and the role unions played in that deal. Since then, the podcast has explained how a Justice Department action allowed Modelo to become America’s number one beer; why a failed deal in 2018 led to WeWork’s bankruptcy this year; and how private equity investors and Walmart killed Toys “R” Us (an episode featuring DealBook’s Lauren Hirsch, who revealed the company was considering bankruptcy).
The show’s trick is to show the continued relevance of old deals and how the cascading events they trigger can reshape industries.
A podcast for true bargain nerds
Tech investors Ben Gilbert and David Rosenthal take listeners behind the scenes of some of the world’s most famous companies: Costco, LVMH, Porsche. Their extensively researched episodes last several hours (one on Nike lasted about four hours) and explain the strategies and strange twists and turns that allowed these companies’ founders to build sustainable businesses. Gilbert and Rosenthal devote a few episodes to guests, including Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang and Berkshire Hathaway executive Charles Munger, who was interviewed about a month before his death in late November.