The year 2023 was a remarkable one for books, as authors explored a wide range of topics and genres, from politics and economics to science and culture. Here are some of the best books of the year, according to The Economist:
- The Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson. This is a captivating and inspiring biography of Jennifer Doudna, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist who co-invented CRISPR, the revolutionary gene-editing technology. The author, a best-selling writer, traces Doudna’s life and work, as well as the ethical and social implications of her breakthrough.
- The Invisible Hook by Peter T. Leeson. This is a fascinating and entertaining exploration of the hidden economics of piracy. The author, an economist, reveals how pirates were rational actors who devised sophisticated systems of governance, cooperation, and compensation to maximize their plunder and minimize their risks.
- The Impossible City by Karen Cheung. This is an illuminating and moving personal account of how Hong Kong descended into the mass street unrest of 2019, and of the pandemic-abetted repression that has crushed it since. The author speaks powerfully for a desperate generation of young Hong Kongers conscious that their home city has lost what made it home.
- Confidence Man by Maggie Haberman. This is a chronicle of the life and lies of the 45th president of the United States, from outer-borough brat to White House bully. This portrait of a master scammer is by a New York Times journalist who covered Donald Trump for decades. He learned early, she notes, that celebrity was power.
- The Economic Weapon by Nicholas Mulder. This is a fortuitously timed history of the use of economic sanctions during the interwar period of the 20th century. The author shows how sanctions were often ineffective, counterproductive, or even illegal, and how they shaped the international order and the rise of fascism.
- The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins. This is a devastatingly intimate insight into the refugee crisis, as the author, a Canadian journalist, went undercover to accompany an Afghan friend on his perilous journey to a new life in Europe. The author exposes the hardships, dangers, and hopes of millions of people fleeing war and poverty.
- The Age of the Strongman by Gideon Rachman. This is a striking analysis of how many of today’s leaders fit the strongman mould, such as Xi Jinping and Prince Muhammad bin Salman. The author, a columnist for the Financial Times (formerly of The Economist), argues that these leaders are a threat not only to the well-being of their own countries, but to a world order in which liberal ideas are increasingly embattled.
- The Corporation by Joel Bakan. This is a sweeping and provocative history of the corporation, from its origins in the medieval era to its dominance in the modern world. The author, a law professor, examines how corporations have evolved, how they have shaped society and politics, and how they have been regulated, challenged, and reformed.