Stephen Dubner (born August 26, 1963) is an award-winning author, journalist, and radio and podcast host. He is best known for his work with economist Steven Levitt on the Freakonomics book series.
In this article, we will take a look at some of the books that Dubner recommends. These books have helped him to better understand the world around him, and they can do the same for us.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a coming-of-age novel that follows the life of Francie Nolan and her family as they move from the tenements of Williamsburg, Brooklyn to more suburban life in Queens.
The novel chronicles Francie’s struggles with poverty, abuse, and heartbreak, as well as her determination to make something of herself. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a timeless classic that speaks to the human experience of growing up and finding one’s place in the world.
Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
Sudhir Venkatesh’s book, Gang Leader for a Day, is an intimate look at the everyday lives of gang members in Chicago.
Venkatesh spent several years embedded with the Black Kings, one of the most powerful gangs in the city. He chronicles their struggles and triumphs as they navigate the drug trade, violence, and poverty that plague their community.
Gang Leader for a Day offers readers a unique and insightful perspective on the realities of life in some of America’s most marginalized communities. Venkatesh’s work is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the complex issues facing these communities today.
Levels of the Game by John McPhee
John McPhee’s Levels of the Game is a book about tennis and its history, told through the lens of two matches between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner in 1968.
Ashe and Graebner were two very different players. Ashe was black and from Richmond, Virginia. He was quiet and unassuming, and he played an attacking style of tennis. Graebner was white and from Cleveland, Ohio. He was brash and confident, and he played a defensive style of tennis.
The two matches between Ashe and Graebner were very close. The first match went to five sets, with Ashe winning the final set 6-4. The second match was even closer, with Graebner winning the final set 7-5.
These two matches showed that tennis could be a game for all levels of players.
The Empty Pot by Demi
A wonderful story about the importance of telling the truth. Ping is the subject of a Chinese emperor who is exceptionally gifted at growing things.
When it is time for the old king to choose his successor, he tests the children of the land by giving them each a seed to cultivate and bring to him within a year.
Ping is unable to get this seed of all seeds to grow, and brings his empty pot to the king, whereupon the king reveals his wisdom in a surprise ending.
This is an aesthetic, moral story with an enjoyable mystery and very nice illustrations. Caring for plants is a central part of the story, and the ability to get a plant to flourish may be symbolic of nurturing a kingdom.
Although he gives his best, Ping fails at getting the seed to grow. Nevertheless, he demonstrates courage in presenting his empty pot, and his honesty is well rewarded.
Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner by Jonathan Yardley
Ring: A Biography of Ring Lardner is a book that tells the story of one of America’s most popular and prolific writers. Lardner was a sports journalist, humorist, and short story writer who is best known for his satirical writings about baseball.
The book chronicles Lardner’s life from his childhood in Niles, Michigan to his death in New York City at the age of 48. It includes many never-before-published letters and anecdotes from family members and friends.