Books for your nightstand

From Andrew Jackson to John McPhee, Network member Ned Hill’s reading list was so intriguing I thought it was worth a blog. Each of the books offers fresh insights on  regional development, as Ned shows. What follows is his email to me. I’m adding each of these to my ever-growing pile.  What’s on your nightstand?

* * *

From Ned Hill…

A fantastic piece of reporting that has local economic development implications and lessons about the food industry is Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish (Penguin Press).  Greenberg reports in the tradition of John McPhee.  His work focuses on the standardization, commercialization, and globalization of four species: salmon, tuna, sea bass, and cod.  It is wonderful reporting.

Speaking of McPhee, his last book Uncommon Carriers, has an essay titledOn the Sort,” that follows the commercial life of a lobster from the processor in New Brunswick to the world’s largest lobster pound in Louisville, Kentucky.  Why Louisville? UPS has its global air freight hub.  McPhee then goes on to report on the cluster theory of economic development–based on a global logistics hub.  The reporting brings a cluster to life in ways that an input-output model can never do.

My current reading has returned to historical Presidential biography, but with a twist.  I am reading these biographies with an eye on the debate over “internal improvements.” This feeds my interest in the roots of domestic economic development politics and practice.  One of the major differences between Jeffersonian Democrats and the Federalists and latter Whigs lay in the politics of investing in infrastructure, what was then termed to be “internal improvements.”

Jackson gained support and popularized presidential politics in no small part over the veto of Clay’s bill to continue building the National Road in Maysville, Kentucky.  The early part of Robert W. Merry’s biography of James K. Polk, A County of Vast Designs (Simon and Schuster, 2009), reflects on this debate.  It also plays a large role in Jon Meacham’s biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion (Random House, 2008) and was central to Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton (Penguin, 2004) and Joseph Ellis’ biography of Jefferson, American Sphinx (Vintage, 1998).  Parts of Chernow’s book can serve as a history of American economic development practice and theory.

Contrasting Chernow’s descriptions of Hamilton’s theory of state-sponsored economic development with Jackson’s veto message of the National Road telegraphs political debates we are having today.  Chernow’s work is leading me to look forward to picking up his new biography Washington: A Life (Penguin, 2010) and rereading other biographies of Washington and to reread David Herbert Donald’s Lincoln biography (Touchstone 1996).  It is interesting to consider that one of the cornerstones of the founding of the Republican party was the incorporation of the Whig’s support for ‘internal improvements.”

Closer to my main stream of research are Richard Longworth’s Caught in the Middle (Bloomsbury, 2009).  Longworth and I are having a conversation around his book with the senior staff of Cuyahoga County Community College latter this spring [May 25].  Richard does (accurately) quote me referring to Dayton, Ohio, as being a “hospice for Delphi” over the past decade.

Finally, I have Edward Glaeser’s Triumph of the City (Penguin, 2011) packed to go with me on my field research trip to Pritchard, Alabama.

Comments are closed.