From Gastronomy to Crunching Numbers: What Faculty Are Reading

Published: February 29, 2008

Faculty Readings
Image by Shawn Barkhurst

Emir Kamenica
Assistant Professor of Economics

The Physiology of Taste, Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, translated by M. F. K. Fisher (The Heritage Press, 1949)

“A truffled turkey, pullet of Bresse, herb steamed turbot, quails Richelieu poached in veal stock, eggs in meat juice, roasted pheasant à la sainte alliance… Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (a.k.a. ‘the Professor’) will teach you not how to prepare these dishes, but rather how to consume them with proper aesthetic appreciation. Written as the Professor surely liked to eat, which is to say slowly - with doting care reflected in each sentence, over the first 25 years of the 19th century - The Physiology of Taste, Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy is not a cookbook but an ode to food, an account of a lifelong love affair with gourmandism, coupled with quaint, scholarly views on the senses, the theory of frying, dreams, and death. Whether he is reflecting on the erotic properties of truffles or the effects of digestive predispositions on writers’ styles, the Professor is a delight to read. Along with his words, you may also wish to try the decadent triple-crème named after Brillat-Savarin, for the Professor cautions: ‘A dinner that ends without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye.’”

Reid Hastie
Robert S. Hamada Professor of Behavioral Science

The Poker Face of Wall Street
Aaron Brown, John Wiley & Sons, 2006

The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade that Transformed Wall Street
Jonathan Knee, Oxford University Press USA, 2006

“So, what have I read that a GSB MBA might like? Well, I have read several books about ‘behavioral insights into investment,’ and my favorite by far is by Aaron Brown, ’82. For my money, The Poker Face of Wall Street is the wisest pop-investment-strategies book I’ve read. I would definitely trust Brown with my money at the poker table or in the market.

“I also recently enjoyed Knee’s The Accidental Investment Banker for a personal view of some important Wall Street history with insights into (now historical) media investment banking; he’s senior managing director at Evercore Partners. It’s wise and humorous, and I liked his discussions of ‘tradition’ versus ‘profit-maximization,’ which was inspiring in some ways.

“Both books are rather lightweight for our finance students, but if you haven’t read them, you’ll enjoy them.

Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart
Ian Ayres, Bantam Dell Publishing Group, 2007

“Closer to my own professional domain, I recommend Ian Ayres’s Super Crunchers, which makes exactly the same points that professors Richard Thaler, George Wu, Chris Hsee, and I make about the advantages of statistical over intuitive thinking in business judgments and decisions in our Managerial Decision Making courses, and in an exceptionally readable manner. We often assign portions of Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink or Michael Lewis’s Moneyball in our courses, but I’m going to replace those assignments with Super Crunchers.

The Lincoln Lawyer
Michael Connelly, Little, Brown and Company, 2005

The Crime Writer
Gregg Hurwitz, Viking Adult, 2007

Black and Blue: An Inspector Rebus Mystery
Ian Rankin, St. Martin’s Press, 1997

Fleshmarket Alley
Ian Rankin, Little, Brown and Company, 2005

“I spend a lot of time on airplanes,and when all I can consume is ‘chewing gum for the brain,’ I read mysteries and thrillers. Last summer, I enjoyed Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, Gregg Hurwitz’s The Crime Writer, and several of Ian Rankin’s Inspector John Rebus novels including Black and Blue and Fleshmarket Alley. I was at conferences in Los Angeles and Edinburgh, and I like to read books set in the city I’m visiting. If you like that stuff, you can’t go wrong with these choices or almost anything else by these authors.

Atonement: A Novel
Ian McEwan, Nan A. Talese, 2002

“Finally, if you want something deep and literary, I think Ian McEwan is the best craftsman writing in English today (he’s won every major prize, except the Nobel, and he’s got plenty of time to win that one, too). I’ve never read an author (except maybe Flaubert) who chooses words with more precision or impact. I’d recommend Atonement for starters.

“And why so many Ians? You’ll have to ask my therapist. I considered only recommending writers with the first name ‘Ian,’ but that would have been silly, right?”—P.H.

Last Updated 5/14/09