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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. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Basic economics does not require much mathematics. However, in order to delve into economics beyond the basics, you will need to have a strong mathematical background. If you are interested in economics beyond the basics, therefore, you should make sure to learn mathematics well.

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

Blogs to follow

The blogs below are not focused exclusively on analysis of current events, but on taking a broad view of economics in relation to social, cultural, and philosophical issues. The knowledge and insight you can gain from following them will therefore tend to have more long-lasting value.

Recommendations are in decreasing order of recommendation strength.

Blog Bloggers Type of posts
EconLog Bryan Caplan (COI disclosure: Caplan is a friend of Vipul Naik, one of the wiki authors) and David Henderson are the regular bloggers. There have been many guest bloggers. Posts are of mid-range length, about 500-1000 words (longer than Facebook posts, but shorter than magazine articles). The authors have a libertarian perspective. Posts relate economics to social issues, philosophy, history, and pop culture.
Marginal Revolution Tyler Cowen (primary), Alex Tabarrok Posts are generally short to mid-range (typical length is 100-500 words). The authors have a libertarian perspective, but less than EconLog. Posts are often more focused on contemporary issues than on abstract philosophical issues.
Modeled Behavior (on Forbes) Adam Ozimek (primary), Karl Smith Posts are of mid-range length, about 500-1000 words. The authors have a left-liberal perspective, albeit they lean more classically liberal than mainstream left-liberals, possibly on account of their economic background. Posts are generally focused on analysis of contemporary issues in conjunction with economic principles.
Freakonomics Stephen J. Dubner, Steven Levitt, and many other contributors Posts vary considerably in length. Authors come from a wide range of perspectives. There is generally more discussion of interesting aind counter-intuitive facts and less of moral and philosophical issues.

See also