Pop Economics Books
August 12, 2006 Economists

Over the past decade there has been a proliferation of “pop-economics” books. Many are terrific, but many are not. Please see me if you would like recommendations for additional reading, in addition to some classic works in economics that might help you in your journey to being able to think like an Economist. Some old and new books I recommend without hesitation include (in no particular order): 

    1. Economics in One Lesson, by Henry Hazlitt (unintended consequences, a very simple treatment)
    2. Armchair Economist, by Steven Landsburg (a popular tour through all of economics, but at a slightly more advanced level than Harford’s book, highly recommended)
    3. Hidden Order, by David Friedman (similar to Landsburg’s book in many respects)
    4. The Economic Naturalist, by Robert Frank (a collection of student essays that get down to the nitty gritty of supply, demand and rational/irrational behavior)
    5. The Invisible Heart, by Russell Roberts (a novel – yes, a novel – by one of the premier economic educators of our day; among the many valuable lessons it provides is that economics is not about the dry and heartless pursuit of profits, but it is a much richer and deeper way of thinking about human behavior). During the fall, his newest novel, The Price of Everything, is scheduled to come out. I have not read it yet.
    6. Discover Your Inner Economist, by Tyler Cowen (not quite the tour through all of economics, but rather a delightful illustration of appreciating the role of incentives and scarcity in a variety of interesting settings)

There are many others, but also many that I would not recommend. For example, Freakonomics helped bring economic ideas to the masses, I am not convinced it contains the thoughtful analysis, breadth of ideas, richness of complexity, etc. that are displayed in the better books. It is certainly interesting, however.

"1" Comment
  1. You describe my _Hidden Order_ as similar to Steve’s _Armchair Economist_ in many respects.

    I disagree. His book is fun, but it’s a survey of interesting bits of economics, while mine is a price theory text aimed at the intelligent layman learning economics for the fun of it.

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