The best books about economics for people who are allergic to algebra

Why am I passionate about this?

I currently teach in the management department of the London School of Economics, and I often need to communicate economic ideas to non-economists. Honestly, I was very nervous about writing (yet another) book about economics. Especially since there are so many around. Two things made me have a go. I really wanted to convey the key arguments with simplicity, translating often complicated and abstruse ideas into straightforward language in a way that didn’t dumb down. Second the world has changed so much in recent years that you need to keep up to date. Quantitative easing, modern monetary theory, and Bitcoin are ideas that just did not exist until recently. 


I wrote...

How to Teach Economics to Your Dog: A Quirky Introduction

By Rebecca Campbell, Anthony McGowan,

Book cover of How to Teach Economics to Your Dog: A Quirky Introduction

What is my book about?

How to Teach Economics to Your Dog is an accessible introduction to economic ideas and economic history. Through a series of walks accompanied by her dog, Monty, Campbell (a lecturer at the London School of Economics) introduces you to questions such as why are some countries so much richer than others, is bitcoin the latest bubble about to burst, what causes inflation and why it’s not a good idea to try to build your own toaster.

Perfect for someone thinking about studying economics, or so you just sound a bit more brainy in the pub.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

Rebecca Campbell Why did I love this book?

In the words of the Financial Times, there are many good books on human rationality but only one masterpiece. And that masterpiece is this book by Daniel Kahneman. Behavioural economics has become hugely influential. It is a statement of the obvious to say that humans are sometimes irrational. What is groundbreaking about Kahneman’s work is that he demonstrates how predictable our irrationality can be. If you want to understand why people often do some really puzzling things, and how to improve your own (and others) choices, read this book.

By Daniel Kahneman,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked Thinking, Fast and Slow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The phenomenal international bestseller - 2 million copies sold - that will change the way you make decisions

'A lifetime's worth of wisdom' Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics
'There have been many good books on human rationality and irrationality, but only one masterpiece. That masterpiece is Thinking, Fast and Slow' Financial Times

Why is there more chance we'll believe something if it's in a bold type face? Why are judges more likely to deny parole before lunch? Why do we assume a good-looking person will be more competent? The answer lies in the two ways we make choices: fast,…


Book cover of The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times And Ideas Of The Great Economic Thinkers

Rebecca Campbell Why did I love this book?

Most people would agree that economics is an important subject, but it can be a challenge to translate that importance into graceful prose. I defy anyone to read this book and not be enthralled. If I had to pick only one book to convert people to the subject this would be it. Modern economics (as it is taught at university) has become highly mathematical and abstract, not just bone dry, but positively fossilized. The Worldly Philosophers bring those bones to life. It sets economics in its historical and cultural context and explains why it matters. I am resistant to prose described as ‘lyrical’ or ‘beautiful’, but truly Heilbroner writes an exquisite sentence. Worth reading even if you think you hate economics.

Book cover of Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong about the World--And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Rebecca Campbell Why did I love this book?

Because sometimes you just can’t face reading another depressing news story. Rosling, with astonishing clarity, steps back and shows us just how much the world has improved. Of course, things are not perfect, of course we need to do better. But it is also important to recognise just how much better some things have got. Guaranteed to make you feel just a bit more optimistic about humanity.

By Hans Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Ola Rosling

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Factfulness as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases.' BARACK OBAMA

'One of the most important books I've ever read - an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world.' BILL GATES

*#1 Sunday Times bestseller * New York Times bestseller * Observer 'best brainy book of the decade' * Irish Times bestseller * Guardian bestseller * audiobook bestseller *

Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.

When asked simple questions about global trends - why the world's population is increasing; how…


Book cover of How to Make the World Add Up: Ten Rules for Thinking Differently About Numbers

Rebecca Campbell Why did I love this book?

All politicians should be forced to read this book. Anyone who reads a newspaper should be forced to read this book. My favourite radio programme in the world is Tim Harford’s More or Less. And this book is every bit as good. Harford is clear, incisive, and always interesting. In a world crowded with disinformation and fake news, he shows you how to evaluate the numbers that are thrown at you. To read him is to become a little cleverer. Make this man prime minister someone.

By Tim Harford,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked How to Make the World Add Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Bestseller

'Tim Harford is one of my favourite writers in the world. His storytelling is gripping but never overdone, his intellectual honesty is rare and inspiring, and his ability to make complex things simple - but not simplistic - is exceptional. How to Make the World Add Up is another one of his gems. If you're looking for an addictive pageturner that will make you smarter, this is your book' Rutger Bregman, author of Humankind

'Tim Harford could well be Britain's Malcolm Gladwell'
Alex Bellos, author of Alex's Adventures in Numberland

'If you aren't in love with…


Book cover of Money: The Unauthorized Biography

Rebecca Campbell Why did I love this book?

Most people think of economics as just everything to do with money (it’s more than that, of course, but it is a lot to do with money). We all think of money as a fixed thing – as notes or coins, or entries in our bank account. Felix argues that money is really a social technology, a set of ideas and practices for organising society. This quietly revolutionary book will change how you think about an important part of all our lives.  

By Felix Martin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From ancient currency to Adam Smith, from the gold standard to shadow banking and the Great Recession: a sweeping historical epic that traces the development and evolution of one of humankind’s greatest inventions.

What is money, and how does it work? In this tour de force of political, cultural and economic history, Felix Martin challenges nothing less than our conventional understanding of money. He describes how the Western idea of money emerged from interactions between Mesopotamia and ancient Greece and was shaped over the centuries by tensions between sovereigns and the emerging middle classes. He explores the extraordinary diversity of…


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Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


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