PRI’s 2021 Summer Reading List – Pacific Research Institute

PRI’s 2021 Summer Reading List


Today marks the unofficial start of the summer season.  Unlike last year, Americans might be able to take a vacation and go somewhere this summer as we begin to turn the corner on the Covid-19 pandemic.  What’s one of the most important things you’ll need for your summer vacation planning this year?  A good book.

Below are recommendations from PRI’s team for great books that you should consider picking up before you leave town.  There’s something here for everyone – with books ranging from policy and history to fiction and everything in between.

On behalf of everyone at PRI, we hope you have a safe and enjoyable summer season.

Tim Anaya – The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

If you’ve read his classic Devil in the White City, you’ll know that Erik Larson has a rare gift for storytelling that brings history alive, even for historical events that you think you know everything about.  His latest book, The Splendid and the Vile, tells the story of Winston Churchill during the Battle of Britain, holding his family and his country together amidst one of the greatest and most direct threats to its freedom that Britain has ever endured.  Like every other Larson book, I literally couldn’t put it down.

Bartlett Cleland – The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Time to open your mind to a little chaos! To truly embrace innovation, and the benefits it brings us personally, economically, and societally, we need to stop trying to predict everything, but to understand and take advantage of uncertainty. If 2020 taught us nothing else it should be that the unexpected should be expected, and that those who can adapt to the new playing field are those most likely to prosper whether in the battle of ideas, as communities or as nations.

Rowena Itchon – Winning the Water Wars by Steven Greenhut

The drought has returned to California and there’s no better way to become informed about water policy than Winning the Water Wars by Steven Greenhut.  Water policy can be dry — pun intended — but Greenhut explains the state’s hodge-podge water policies in his clear, journalism style, but he also sprinkles the book with fascinating historical accounts of the water wars that have been fought in the state for generations.  It’s also a beautiful book, designed by acclaimed graphic artist Dana Beigel, and includes many of the authors own photos.

Lance Izumi – A Dubious Expediency: How Race Preferences Damage Higher Education, co-edited by Gail Heriot and Maimon Schwarzschild

I highly recommend the just released book A Dubious Expediency: How Race Preferences Damage Higher Education, which is co-edited by Gail Heriot and Maimon Schwarzschild, who are both professors of law at the University of San Diego.  With the Left pushing to divide the country through racist identity politics, this book could not be timelier.  As the editors state, the book offers “compelling reasons to reconsider educational policies that discriminate in favor of some and inevitably against others, that visibly corrupt educational life, and set Americans against each other with bitter and angry consequences.”  The book contains chapters authored by the likes of Heather Mac Donald and Peter Kirsanow.  Rowena Itchon and I contribute a chapter entitled “Race Preferences and Discrimination against Asian Americans in Higher Education,” which analyzes how political forces and institutional policies target and racially discriminate against Asian Americans.

Kerry Jackson – Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen

People think they know about baseball Hall of Famer Tyrus Raymond Cobb, the Georgia Peach, who played 22 seasons for the Detroit Tigers and set at least 90 Major League Baseball records during his career. Most serious baseball fans know his .366 average is still the highest lifetime batting average in the history of the majors. They also believe that he was a real-life villain, a dirty player, a racist, a generally nasty man. However, sometimes reputations are not earned but fabricated. Leerhsen presents a different Cobb, one that everyone, not just baseball fans, should know. 

Henry Miller – Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World’s Oldest Friendship

For dog lovers, this is a must.  And if you’re not a dog lover, it could make you one!

Sally Pipes – No Way Home:  The Crisis of Homelessness and How to Fix It with Intelligence and Humanity by Wayne Winegarden, Kerry Jackson, Joseph Tartakovsky and Christopher Rufo

California’s homeless crisis continues to grow worse by the day.  Politicians from President Biden to Gov. Newsom and liberal mayors across the state continue to put their trust in government, proposing billions in new spending on status quo programs that have been ineffective to date.  PRI’s new book on California’s homeless crisis, published by Encounter Books this spring, explores how misguided government policy and legal rulings have made our homeless problem worse, profiles innovative non-profits that are successfully helping people in need, and proposes market-based reforms to clean up our streets.

McKenzie Richards – Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I first met Gilead while casually perusing the shelves of Powell’s City of Books in Portland. Picking books at random, I would read the first page before returning the book to its place. But when I read Gilead’s first paragraph, my breath caught; I reread the paragraph, teared up, and took Gilead home. The book is a letter from a dying father to his son – a short read, but you may not want to read it quickly. With unforced tenderness and humble wisdom, Gilead is a modern masterpiece.

Ben Smithwick – Liftoff: Elon Musk and the Desperate Early Days That Launched SpaceX by Eric Berger

This riveting book takes readers inside the turbulent early beginnings of SpaceX, tracking the company’s incredible achievements and the people who made it happen. One does not need to be a space enthusiast to appreciate this well-researched story of sacrifice and determination in the face of countless obstacles.

Wayne Winegarden – The War on Small Business by Carol Roth (available June 29)

The book begins with an excellent overview of the policy mistakes made by the federal government that helped make the Covid-19 shutdown worse than necessary. It then explains how these pandemic shutdowns, coupled with the long-term trends of growing cronyism and over-regulation, are hollowing out the small business sector with dire consequences for entrepreneurship and prosperity.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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