Diane Coyle, in a new book The Soulful Science, writes

Branko Milanovic points out that more than a third of Brazilians are richer than the poorest 5% of French people. He calculates a 10% probability that French aid to Brazil…will be a transfer from a poorer person to a richer person.

This is from a chapter called “How to Make World Poverty History.” The chapter does not provide the answer. Instead, it helps explain why simple solutions have not worked.Other topics in the book are behavioral economics and institutional economics. Regular readers of this blog know that I am enamored of the latter and not of the former. The Soulful Science offers a better-balanced view, correctly identifying the strengths and shortcomings of research in these areas.

Coyle is something of the anti-Landsburg. She is cautious, conscientious about presenting the views of other economists as well as her own, and focused on topics that interest many economic researchers. Where Landsburg’s book is spicy and provocative, Coyle’s suffers from blandness.

I think that an undergraduate economics major wondering about whether to attend graduate school would get a good feel for what economists really do by reading The Soulful Science. Of course, you would have to keep in mind that graduate school itself is very heavy on math and technical training.

On the other hand, I cannot see using The Soulful Science in an introductory course or suggesting it to a lay reader. Given that she wants to reach an audience outside of students of economics, I would question Coyle’s carefree use of jargon (e.g., “growth regressions”). Also, in my opinion, the book tries to be overly inclusive with citations of published works–the chapters read a bit too much like the survey articles in the Journal of Economic Literature.