April 17, 2012


From time to time, we come across great books that we feel need to be shared. Take a look at these if you are lacking summer reads for vacation or need inspiration.

Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era by Amory B. Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute

Oil and coal have built our civilization, created our wealth, and enriched the lives of billions. Yet their rising costs to our security, economy, health, and environment are eroding and starting to outweigh their benefits. The tipping point where alternatives work better and compete on cost is not decades in the future: it is here and now. And that tipping point has become the fulcrum of economic transformation.

Reinventing Fire offers market-based actionable solutions integrating transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. Built on Rocky Mountain Institute’s http://rmi.org 30 years of research and collaboration in all four sectors, Reinventing Fire maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions. This would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—in addition to the value of avoiding fossil fuels’ huge but uncounted external costs. 

Due Diligence: An Impertinent Inquiry into Microfinance by David Roodman 

The idea that small loans can help poor families build businesses and exit poverty has blossomed into a global movement. The concept has captured the public imagination, drawn in billions of dollars, reached millions of customers, and garnered a Nobel Prize. Radical in its suggestion that the poor are creditworthy and conservative in its insistence on individual accountability, the idea has expanded beyond credit into savings, insurance, and money transfers, earning the name microfinance. But is it the boon so many think it is?

Readers of David Roodman's openbook blog http://blogs.cgdev.org/open_book/  will immediately recognize his thorough, straightforward, and trenchant analysis. Due Diligence, written entirely in public with input from readers, probes the truth about microfinance to guide governments, foundations, investors, and private citizens who support financial services for poor people. In particular, it explains the need to deemphasize microcredit in favor of other financial services for the poor.

The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity by Jeffrey Sachs 

In a forceful, impassioned, and personal voice, Sachs offers not only a searing and incisive diagnosis of our country’s economic ills but also an urgent call for Americans to restore the virtues of fairness, honesty, and foresight as the foundations of national prosperity.

As he has done in dozens of countries around the world in the midst of economic crises, Sachs turns his unique diagnostic skills to what ails the American economy. He finds that both political parties—and many leading economists—have missed the big picture, offering shortsighted solutions such as stimulus spending or tax cuts to address complex economic problems that require deeper solutions. 

By taking a broad, holistic approach—looking at domestic politics, geopolitics, social psychology, and the natural environment as well—Sachs reveals the larger fissures underlying our country’s current crisis. He shows how Washington has consistently failed to address America’s economic needs. He describes a political system that has lost its ethical moorings, in which ever-rising campaign contributions and lobbying outlays overpower the voice of the citizenry. 

Finally, Sachs offers a plan to turn the crisis around, one that will restore America to its great promise. 

Happy reading!

Reah Janise Kauffman

Note: Much of these descriptions come from the publishers’ book blurbs.