The best books to learn how economics shapes our world and your life

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for economics began during my first semester of college when I enrolled in a principles of macroeconomics course only because the professor was my father’s friend. The power of economic reasoning to explain the world around me has held my fascination every since. After graduate school, my interests turned to encourage others to use the economic way of thinking to better their lives. My life as an economic educator spans more than 40 years, having taught thousands of college students across several universities, from first-semester freshmen to matriculating doctoral candidates. My work has taken me around the world and back to my undergraduate alma mater in Pittsburg, Kansas.

I wrote...

Economics of Social Issues

By Paul Grimes, Charles Register,

Book cover of Economics of Social Issues

What is my book about?

This book introduces the reader to the underlying forces that shape the pressing social issues of our modern world and how the application of economic principles and tools can be used to craft successful responses. Charles Register and I wrote Economics of Social Issues to introduce college students to the study of economics by flipping traditional textbook pedagogy on its head. Instead of starting with abstract theories and complex models, we introduce and explain the economic roots of major social issues such as poverty and unemployment and then explore the basic economic principles that can be used to construct potential solutions. Economics of Social Issues will help you better understand the myriad of economic choices we face as individuals and as a society.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Better Living Through Economics

Paul Grimes Why did I love this book?

Even a professional economist is likely to find something surprising in this book. 

Editor John Siegfried has collected a dozen essays written by notable and award-winning economists explaining how economic research has improved our lives over the past two generations. Several of these essays do not focus on obvious examples but rather on those that are a step or two removed from what many laypersons would consider the domain of economics.

For example, Alvin Roth’s chapter on “deferred-acceptance theory” describes how economics improved the efficiency of educating doctors by better matching prospective medical residents with training hospitals. 

Other chapters explore how economic research helped eliminate the military draft and replace it with an all-volunteer armed service, how economists shaped the welfare-to-work reforms of the 1990s, and the impact of economic research on the allocation of the radio spectrum which was necessary to establish our modern cell phone networks.

By John J. Siegfried (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Better Living Through Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Better Living Through Economics" consists of twelve case studies that demonstrate how economic research has improved economic and social conditions over the past half century by influencing public policy decisions. Economists were obviously instrumental in revising the consumer price index and in devising auctions for allocating spectrum rights to cell phone providers in the 1990s. But perhaps more surprisingly, economists built the foundation for eliminating the military draft in favor of an all-volunteer army in 1973, for passing the Earned Income Tax Credit in 1975, for deregulating airlines in 1978, for adopting the welfare-to-work reforms during the Clinton administration, and…

Book cover of Economics for Life: 101 Lessons You Can Use Every Day!

Paul Grimes Why did I love this book?

This thin volume is subtitled 101 Lessons You Can Use Everyday and is jam-packed with simple-to-understand explanations about how economics can help you make better personal choices while also providing an understanding of the way the world works – or doesn’t work. 

Madariaga takes on important economics decisions like choosing a college or a career or getting married. He also tackles pervasive myths such as “economics is all about money” and “monopolies can charge any price they want and are always bad.” 

The most fun in this book are the thirty entries on economic riddles and mysteries, where Madariaga addresses topics ranging from why students get discount movie tickets to the intriguing question of why he voluntarily cut his salary in half to change careers. 

By Bruce Madariaga,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economics for Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ECONOMICS FOR LIFE 3e is a book about real-world applications for economics. In addition to applications, the text contains critiques of common economic fallacies, paradoxical economic results, and solutions to economic mysteries that are sure to interest students. Tied through its Appendices to all South-Western principles texts, Economics for Life helps students use economic concepts to better understand the world around them. The book serves as a valuable resource for delivering a more applications-based Principles (or Economics 101) course and can be bundled at no additional charge.

Book cover of Economic Analysis of Social Issues

Paul Grimes Why did I love this book?

This book is for the modern economics student comfortable with seeing problems as a game to be solved. 

While still exploring many of the topics in my book, Grant uses game theory to illuminate the economics of social issues and how we should approach them. Game theory brings incentives and strategies to the forefront of analyzing possible solutions to the economic problems we face. This focus also forces us to be more thoughtful about why human beings behave the way they do.

Economic Analysis of Social Issues is not a gamification of economics, but how economic behavior can be seen through the lens of strategic games. 

By Alan Grant,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Economic Analysis of Social Issues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOTE: You are purchasing a standalone product; MyEconLab does not come packaged with this content. If you would like to purchase both the physical text and MyEconLab search for 0134098374 / 9780134098371 Economic Analysis of Social Issues Plus MyEconLab with Pearson eText (1-Semester Access) -- Access Card Package, 1/e

Package consists of:

0133023036 / 9780133023039 Economic Analysis of Social Issues, 1e
0134088603 / 9780134088600 MyEconLab with Pearson eText (1-Semester Access) -- Access Card

MyEconLab should only be purchased when required by an instructor.

Introductory one-semester course for freshman or sophomore non-majors without a background in economics.

Real-world data analysis, games,…

Book cover of Introduction to Economics: Social Issues and Economic Thinking

Paul Grimes Why did I love this book?

This book provides a thorough treatment of all the basic economic tools that everyone needs to survive and thrive in today’s world. 

Stock is a natural teacher who uses her gift for taking the complex and making it simple. The topics are wide-ranging and the analysis is clear and convincing. Even those who think they are not interested in economics will find something to take with them after pursuing this well-written volume.

By Wendy A. Stock,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Introduction to Economics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book presents a realistic picture of current economic thought through an understanding of theory and the application of issues. It discusses concepts in economics and how they relate to real issues in life. It delves into economics by looking at Crime, Labor Markets, Drug Use, Population etc, using the "tools" of economics.

Book cover of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Paul Grimes Why did I love this book?

How many books on economics top the best sellers lists? Not many, but this one did. And for good reason. 

Levitt and Dubner take an irreverent approach to explaining the economics of the world around us through great storytelling and an appeal to observations that we all make, but haven’t taken the time to really understand what is happening.

The range of story topics is wide, from cheating teachers, to the dynamics of street gangs, to television game show strategy, there is a lot here to digest. Through it all the authors reveal the true power of looking at the world – even the most freakish parts – through the lens of economics and the power of incentives on human behavior. 

If you can’t get enough of Levitt and Dubner’s perspective, check out their sequels and related media offerings.

By Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The legendary bestseller that made millions look at the world in a radically different way returns in a new edition, now including an exclusive discussion between the authors and bestselling professor of psychology Angela Duckworth.

Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Which should be feared more: snakes or french fries? Why do sumo wrestlers cheat? In this groundbreaking book, leading economist Steven Levitt—Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark medal for the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to the discipline—reveals that…

You might also like...

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

Book cover of The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

Sammy Stein Author Of Fabulous Female Musicians

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been passionate about music for almost my entire life. Jazz music in particular speaks to me but not just jazz. I love music, full stop. I really discovered jazz when I attended a jazz club workshop in London and there, I had to join in or leave. I chose to join in and since then I have never looked back. I was introduced to more jazz musicians and now write about music for three major columns as well as Readers’ Digest. My Women In Jazz book won several awards. I have been International Editor for the Jazz Journalist Association and had my work commissioned by the Library of Congress. 

Sammy's book list on female musicians

What is my book about?

With input from over 100 musicians, the book discusses what exactly jazz is, and how you know you are listening to it. Do we truly know when and how jazz first originated? Who was the first jazz musician? How does jazz link to other genres? What about women in jazz? And writers and journalists? Do reviews make any difference? 

This book is a deep dive into jazz's history, impact, and future. It discusses jazz's social, cultural, and political influence and reveals areas where jazz has had an impact we may not even realize.Its influences on hip hop, the connection to…

The Wonder of Jazz: Music that changed the world

By Sammy Stein,

What is this book about?

This book is very different from other, more general jazz books. It is packed with information, advice, well researched and includes experiences from jazz musicians who gleefully add their rich voices to Sammy's in-depth research. All genres, from hard bop to be-bop, vocal jazz, must instrumental, free jazz, and everything between is covered in one way or another and given Sammy's forensic eye. There is social commentary and discussions of careers in jazz music. The musical background of those in the book is rich and diverse.
Critics comment:
"This new book by Sammy Stein is a highly individual take on…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in economics, sociology, and presidential biography?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about economics, sociology, and presidential biography.

Economics Explore 392 books about economics
Sociology Explore 145 books about sociology
Presidential Biography Explore 19 books about presidential biography