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Economics reading recommendations

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This page lists reading recommendations for people interested in economics.

A few things to keep in mind

Further information: cautionary notes for economics learners

  1. The subject of economics is very politically charged, because of the significant extent to which economics affects the daily lives of people and the decisions of democratically elected governments. As a result of this, a lot of books in the market that claim to be introductions to economics may in fact be attempts to sell a particular form of economic doctrine.
  2. The topic of microeconomics is well-understood, but the topic of macroeconomics -- the large-scale operation of the economy, including such issues as money, inflation, unemployment, and business cycles -- is both poorly understood and controversial. There are many different schools of thought even within mainstream economics, and even more at the fringes. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you begin your study of economics by focusing on the key ideas of microeconomics and only then proceed to understand the different schools of macroeconomic thought.
  3. Contrary to what many people think, economics is only tangentially related to the subjects of finance, business management, and accounting. As a discipline, it is more closely related to sociology and political science.
  4. Understanding economics will not make you notably better than others at making predictions about the stock market or economic recessions. Predictions in these areas are notoriously hard and it would take a lot of effort to reliably do better than the existing consensus of experts. What economics can help you with is reliably understanding some of the mechanisms of operation and the effects of policies on economies.

Core recommendations

We strongly recommend beginning your explorations in economics by reading one or more of these books, or equivalent books that you can find elsewhere if none of these are available.

These books use real-world examples and a minimum of mathematical formalism to explain key economic concepts.

Book Author ISBN and purchase links Notable reviews
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science Charles Wheelan ISBN 978-0393337648, Amazon paperback
The Undercover Economist Timothy Harford ISBN 978-0345494016, Amazon paperback
Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life David Friedman ISBN 978-0887308857, Amazon paperback
The Armchair Economist: Economics and Everyday Life Steven Landsburg ISBN 978-1451651737, Amazon paperback
The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume 1 (Microeconomics) Yoran Bauman, Grady Klein ISBN 978-0809094813, Amazon paperback Bryan Caplan on EconLog

Some books that are in a similar vein, but that we do not recommend as strongly, are listed below. If you are unable to procure the above books, and/or would like additional books, you may consider these.

Book Author ISBN and purchase links
The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas Robert H. Frank ISBN 978-0465003570, Amazon paperback
Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist Tyler Cowen ISBN 978-0452289635, Amazon paperback
Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: And Other Pricing Puzzles Richard B. McKenzie ISBN 978-0387769998, Amazon paperback