What I’m reading on the topic of social problems

Currently, as I’m teaching The Economics of Social Problems, I find myself reading (and re-reading) a few books on the topic. Two of these are novels (i.e., not really appropriate sources for term papers in Econ 349); one is a memoir.

I just finished reading Warren Miller’s The Cool World (1959), a novel about gangs in New York. The book was made into a movie that you can watch here. (Soundtrack by Dizzy Gillespie.)

I’m also reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. It’s an interesting look at life inside a federal prison and is striking in documenting how many people are in prison for the (what seem to me like) minor drug offenses.  As we’ll discuss in class, there are various means by which one can engage in deterrence and this book makes the case for re-thinking the war on drugs and the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

Finally, I’m re-reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This is a great book by a great writer, painting a haunting picture of race relations, poverty, and social exclusion in the United States. It’s listed as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century.