Below is a small subset of the best books, essays, and online courses that I have been reading or watching during this quarantine period:
1. “Thinking in Bets” by Annie Duke (Portfolio/Penguin, 2019), available here via Amazon. Suffice it to say, I have now added Annie Duke to my pantheon of intellectual heroes. She was not only a PhD student at Penn; she is also a world-class professional poker player as well, and her beautiful book “Thinking in Bets” is one of the best works I have read thus far about the virtues of probabilistic thinking. This tome is so good that I will be writing up and posting on this blog a chapter-by-chapter review in the days to come. (I discovered this book by accident last month while I was working on another project. Thanks Google!)
2. “The Economics of Maps” by Abhishek Nagaraj & Scott Stern (Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 34 (2020), pp. 196-221), available for free here via the American Economics Association (AEA). How much does it cost to make a map? Who pays for these costs, and how are they recovered? Among other things, this paper identifies five economic and institutional factors shaping the data and design choices made by mapmakers. Shout out to that polymath of polymaths, Tyler Cowen, for bringing this beautiful paper to my attention many months ago.
3. “Math on trial: how numbers get used and abused in the courtroom” (pictured below) by Leila Schneps & Coralie Colmez (Basic Books, 2013), available here via Amazon. This beautiful book–which contains ten chapters, each one devoted to a leading criminal or civil case involving the use (or misuse) of probability theory, both by prosecutors and plaintiffs as well as by defense attorneys–is dedicated “to all those who have suffered miscarriages of justices, and to all victims of crimes whose perpetrators went unpunished, due to the misuse or misunderstanding of [probability theory] in the legal process.” In other words, judges must avoid false positives (punishing the innocent) and false negatives (allowing the guilty to go unpunished). Among those cases dissected in this tome are the infamous Dreyfus Affair (a tragic example of a false positive) and the Amanda Knox trial (a false negative). Shout out to Professor Karl Schmedders for bringing this excellent book to my attention.
In addition to these readings, I have also enrolled in Professor Charles Fried’s online course on “Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract” (via edX) to compare notes, so to speak. Professor Fried, who teaches contracts at Harvard Law School and who I had the pleasure of meeting in March of 2011 at Suffolk Law School, is one of my academic role models and intellectual heroes.