My Book of the Year 2020—perfect for advisors as well as the ideal holiday gift for clients—is Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know by Ronald Bailey and Marian L. Tupy, published by the Cato Institute. It takes its place alongside Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist and the late Hans Rosling’s Factfulness as a vivid demonstration that our world is, by leaps and bounds, getting freer, cleaner, healthier, wealthier, longer-lived and less violent. And it does so in as graphically inviting and even beautiful a way as you can possibly imagine—one dramatic chart and supporting commentary on each two-page spread. Dip into it anywhere you like, buzz through its 178 pages of text at a sitting—and hopefully both. A unique and astonishing testament to the counterintuitive truth that optimism is still the only realism.

My first runner-up is Daniel Yergin’s The New Map: Energy, Climate and the Clash of Nations. Mr. Yergin wrote or co-wrote two of the most important books of the last 30 years: The Prize, a history of oil, and The Commanding Heights, a chronicle of how free-market economics (and politics) gradually replaced central government primacy in the years leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union. The former won a Pulitzer Prize; both were turned into multi-episode PBS documentaries.

In The New Map, Mr. Yergin surveys the entire range of global geopolitical change attendant upon fracking, horizontal drilling and the return of the United States to the position of world’s leading oil producer. He documents the stupendous discoveries of new hydrocarbon reserves in some of the world’s oddest places—Israel a net exporter of natural gas?—leading to important shifts in great power relationships, most notably in the South China Sea. The author looks deeply into the trajectories of wind and solar, the rise of electric cars, and the future of self-driven vehicles. This is a must-read book for anyone seeking to understand the geopolitics of energy in the 2020s and beyond.

Our foremost economic historian—and one of the greatest broad-gauge scholars of the age—is Deirdre McCloskey, a distinguished professor emerita of economics and of history, and professor emerita of English and of communication, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ms. McCloskey’s essential hypothesis—developed over a three-volume, 1,700-page, heavily footnoted work of scholarship—is that the great enrichment of the world since 1800 is not due to science, nor capital, nor anything but human liberty: the opportunity of the common man to raise himself as far as his talent and energy will take him.

As Matt Ridley observes, “There is nobody writing today who mixes erudition and eloquence, or wit and wisdom, as richly as McCloskey.” Her challenge, clearly, has been brevity. Hence, everyone who has ever tried to plow through her iconic Bourgeois Trilogy and failed—including me—must rejoice that, with the economist and journalist Art Carden, she has condensed her definitive case into one sparkling volume of a mere 189 pages. It’s titled Leave Me Alone and I’ll Make You Rich: How the Bourgeois Deal Enriched the World. It’s an unalloyed treasure—one that every informed financial advisor should take in, and a possible gift for your more thoughtful clients.

I’m not sure there is any such thing as a climate debate in this country (or the world, for that matter); if there is I’m clearly missing it. What I seem to encounter on the one hand is existential catastrophism (the world will end in 11 years if we don’t rid it of airplanes and bovine flatulence) and on the other, out and out denial (climate change is simply a hoax, a power grab by the socialist left).

How delightful, then, to discover a serious book by a lifelong and deeply committed environmentalist—indeed, a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”—who says that climate change is both very real and eminently manageable. The book is Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger. Wherever you stand on the question of climate, and whatever you believe the facts are, you owe it to yourself to read this wonderfully humane book.

One of the best-selling nonfiction books of this year was a history unlike any other I’ve ever encountered. It’s The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, and it’s entirely devoted to the first 12 months following Winston Churchill’s becoming prime minister on May 10, 1940.

But in addition to a history of that fateful year when England stood alone, the book is an exploration of the personalities and experiences of the man, his family and the circle around them. If ever there were a book of narrative history that could justifiably be termed a page-turner, this is it. Breathtaking and unputdownable.

When I was growing up, my parents always said that no one would ever forget where they were when they learned that Franklin Roosevelt had died. I couldn’t really imagine why that experience had affected them so deeply—until about one o’clock on the afternoon of November 22, 1963. Then I understood it perfectly.

First « 1 2 » Next
To read more stories , click here