From Gender Equality to Vampires: What Faculty Are Reading

Faculty read more than research in their areas of expertise. Here’s a look at what Emily Oster, assistant professor 
of economics, had on her Kindle recently.

Emily Oster
Assistant Professor of Economics
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf, 2009)

“I have long been a big fan of Kristof’s New York Times column, and an occasional reader of his blog. His new book, written with his wife, Sheryl, draws on these sources but goes much deeper into both research and policy.

“Put simply, the book is a call to action, a journalistic account of the plight of women worldwide, and 
a plea to the reader (and to the West in general) to make gender equality a central human rights issue. Probably because it’s written by a journalist, not an academic, the book is extremely readable and has many of the hallmarks of a good journalistic account: compelling (if sometimes disturbing) examples, a mix of hopeful stories and disastrous ones, and a well-organized central theme.

“However, Kristof ,and WuDunn also have a deep understanding of the academic literature on the topics they discuss, and they present this research even when it may not agree with their points. In a discussion of maternal mortality, the authors are straightforward about the fact that research suggests that decreasing maternal mortality is not the most cost-effective way to save lives. They argue that this should be our goal for ethical reasons, even if it does not stand up to cost-effectiveness analysis.

“I found this impressive; most books of this type make the ethical argument and gloss over any possible caveats. By giving the reader all the facts, the authors leave us to come to their conclusion by ourselves, as I think most people surely will.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook — A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal, Ben Mezrich (Doubleday, 2009)

“Not a traditional corporate history book, but pretty fascinating nonetheless. Despite the salacious title, this 
was more informative than I expected and had a lot more economics. Probably the most interesting issue has to do with intellectual property rights—in a world where 20-year-old college sophomores are founding companies that initially have no obvious monetary value, what does it mean to steal someone’s idea? Not much, as it turns out.


Image by Shawn Barkhurst

Twilight, Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown, 2005)

“What can I say? Millions of 13-year-old girls can’t be wrong.”

Last Updated 7/7/10