100 books like Adam Smith

By Nicholas Phillipson,

Here are 100 books that Adam Smith fans have personally recommended if you like Adam Smith. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Adam Smith

Christopher J. Berry Author Of Adam Smith: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied Smith and his Scottish contemporaries, off and on, for over fifty years. My whole professional career has been spent at Glasgow University where Smith was both a student and later professor. I thus have a personal affinity to him and his work, all the more so because his published writings were all trailed in his professorial classroom. While I have published extensively on Smith, the particular book of mine that I’ve selected was chosen because I wanted to distill all my scholarship into a volume that would be accessible to non-academics. 

Christopher's book list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important

Christopher J. Berry Why did Christopher love this book?

What was impressive about this book and what made me recommend it (on the back cover) was how it succeeded in covering the full range of Smith’s work while demonstrating that it possesses a common unifying thread.

The author has already written a learned treatment of Smith (based on his doctoral dissertation); this volume, as befits a designedly introductory book, is written without jargon, in careful, clear prose. While students will gain the most benefit (the purpose of the series of which it is a part), it is, as well as informative, accessible to anyone with an initial interest in Smith, which it will succeed in broadening and deepening

By Craig Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adam Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Almost everyone has heard of Adam Smith, founding father of modern economics and author of Wealth of Nations. There is, however, much more to him than this.

This new introduction gives a crystal clear overview of the entirety of Smith's thought. It demonstrates how Smith's economic theories fit into a larger system of thought that encompasses moral philosophy, philosophy of science, legal and political theory, and aesthetics. Examining the central arguments of his major works, ranging from The Theory of Moral Sentiments to his lectures on jurisprudence and beyond, Smith's thought is explained in its full intellectual and historical context.…


Book cover of The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations

Christopher J. Berry Author Of Adam Smith: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied Smith and his Scottish contemporaries, off and on, for over fifty years. My whole professional career has been spent at Glasgow University where Smith was both a student and later professor. I thus have a personal affinity to him and his work, all the more so because his published writings were all trailed in his professorial classroom. While I have published extensively on Smith, the particular book of mine that I’ve selected was chosen because I wanted to distill all my scholarship into a volume that would be accessible to non-academics. 

Christopher's book list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important

Christopher J. Berry Why did Christopher love this book?

The title of this book unambiguously states its purpose. What, above all, impressed me was how Paganelli, an academic economist, fulfilled this purpose so splendidly. The Wealth of Nations is one of the great books in the history of economics, but it is a large and somewhat intimidating volume, which has meant it has usually been cited without ever being read.

This book systematically and carefully explains the book chapter by chapter but never misses ‘the wood for the trees’. While ideal for students, with guides for future reading, for anyone who just wants to discover what this great book says beyond headline summaries, and why it is important, this is the text to read.

By Maria Pia Paganelli,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is famous around the world as the founding father of economics, and his ideas are regularly quoted and invoked by politicians, business leaders, economists, and philosophers. However, considering his fame, few people have actually read the whole of his magnum opus The Wealth of Nations - the first book to describe and lay out many of the concepts that are crucial to modern economic thinking. The Routledge Guidebook to Smith's Wealth of Nations provides an accessible, clear, and concise introduction to the arguments of this most notorious and influential of economic texts. The Guidebook examines:

the historical…


Book cover of Adam Smith in His Time and Ours

Christopher J. Berry Author Of Adam Smith: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied Smith and his Scottish contemporaries, off and on, for over fifty years. My whole professional career has been spent at Glasgow University where Smith was both a student and later professor. I thus have a personal affinity to him and his work, all the more so because his published writings were all trailed in his professorial classroom. While I have published extensively on Smith, the particular book of mine that I’ve selected was chosen because I wanted to distill all my scholarship into a volume that would be accessible to non-academics. 

Christopher's book list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important

Christopher J. Berry Why did Christopher love this book?

This is a lively and engaging book that bears its learning lightly. That stylistic presentation is coupled with a broad agenda to counter common assumptions and distortions about Smith, with the aim, as Muller himself declares, to recover Smith’s own intentions from subsequent misreadings.

While opinionated it is even-handed, neither bland nor strident. What singles out this book and what I found distinctively insightful was a lengthy discussion of the differing receptions of Smith’s work in the two-hundred years since his death.   

By Jerry Z. Muller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adam Smith in His Time and Ours as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Counter to the popular impression that Adam Smith was a champion of selfishness and greed, Jerry Muller shows that the Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations maintained that markets served to promote the well-being of the populace and that government must intervene to counteract the negative effects of the pursuit of self-interest. Smith's analysis went beyond economics to embrace a larger "civilizing project" designed to create a more decent society.


Book cover of Adam Smith: Father of Economics

Christopher J. Berry Author Of Adam Smith: A Very Short Introduction

From my list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve studied Smith and his Scottish contemporaries, off and on, for over fifty years. My whole professional career has been spent at Glasgow University where Smith was both a student and later professor. I thus have a personal affinity to him and his work, all the more so because his published writings were all trailed in his professorial classroom. While I have published extensively on Smith, the particular book of mine that I’ve selected was chosen because I wanted to distill all my scholarship into a volume that would be accessible to non-academics. 

Christopher's book list on who Adam Smith was and why he's still important

Christopher J. Berry Why did Christopher love this book?

This is a defence of Smith's continuing relevance. It combines an overview of Smith's life and writings together with an assessment of his long-term and enduring contribution.

What is distinctive is that second-half of the book takes up Smith's ideas thematically and analyses them in the light of contemporary issues. Norman's judgment is that mainstream academic discussion of 'economics' is too self-absorbed and would be improved by heeding Smith's inclusive insights.  Impressively what could have been a heavy read is conveyed in a readable, accessible style.

By Jesse Norman, Matthew Waterson (narrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adam Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A superb book' Financial Times, Books of the Year

Adam Smith is now widely regarded as 'the father of modern economics' and the most influential economist who ever lived. But what he really thought, and what the implications of his ideas are, remain fiercely contested. Was he an eloquent advocate of capitalism and the freedom of the individual? Or a prime mover of 'market fundamentalism' and an apologist for inequality and human selfishness? Or something else entirely? Jesse Norman's brilliantly conceived \book gives us not just Smith's economics, but his vastly wider intellectual project. Against the turbulent backdrop of Enlightenment…


Book cover of Adam Smith

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Author Of Adam Smith's System: A Re-Interpretation Inspired by Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric, Game Theory, and Conjectural History

From my list on the Adam and smith of modern economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

 AO: I have been intrigued by the Adam and smith (a play on Adam Smith’s name due to K. Boulding) of social sciences ever since, as a graduate student, I was given the privilege to teach a history-of-thought course. I found a lot of wisdom in Smith’s works and continue to find it with every new read. BW: I first met Adam Smith when I was studying for my master’s degree in economics almost twenty years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed rereading him, always finding new sources of fascination and insights. For me, Smith's work is endlessly rich and remains astonishingly topical, three centuries after his birth. 

Andreas and Benoit's book list on the Adam and smith of modern economics

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Why did Andreas and Benoit love this book?

Part of the series meant to cater to “those new to philosophy” while also being “essential reading for those interested in the subject at any level.” It’s a little bit like squaring the circle. But Fleischacker (also the author of an excellent book on Smith’s Wealth of Nations almost twenty years back) manages to do so.

There are two ingredients that make Fleischacker’s latest book such a must-read. First, his ability to synthesize complicated issues (such as what distinguishes Smith’s and Hume’s theories of self-command) in language accessible to motivated laypeople. Second, his outstanding scholarship.

Fleischacker really knows his stuff, as reflected in the richness of the footnotes to each of the chapters. Many of them are little gems and literature reviews of consistently high quality.

By Samuel Fleischacker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Adam Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adam Smith (1723-1790) is widely regarded as one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment period. Best-known for his founding work of economics, The Wealth of Nations, Smith engaged equally with the nature of morality in his Theory of Moral Sentiments. He also gave lectures on literature and jurisprudence, and wrote papers on art and science.

In this outstanding philosophical introduction Samuel Fleischacker argues that Smith is a superb example of the broadly curious thinkers who flourished in the Enlightenment-for whom morality, politics, law, and economics were just a few of the many fascinating subjects that could be illuminated by…


Book cover of Our Great Purpose: Adam Smith on Living a Better Life

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Author Of Adam Smith's System: A Re-Interpretation Inspired by Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric, Game Theory, and Conjectural History

From my list on the Adam and smith of modern economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

 AO: I have been intrigued by the Adam and smith (a play on Adam Smith’s name due to K. Boulding) of social sciences ever since, as a graduate student, I was given the privilege to teach a history-of-thought course. I found a lot of wisdom in Smith’s works and continue to find it with every new read. BW: I first met Adam Smith when I was studying for my master’s degree in economics almost twenty years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed rereading him, always finding new sources of fascination and insights. For me, Smith's work is endlessly rich and remains astonishingly topical, three centuries after his birth. 

Andreas and Benoit's book list on the Adam and smith of modern economics

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Why did Andreas and Benoit love this book?

Ryan Patrick Hanley is a Great Enlightenment scholar and one of the very best scholars on Smith (see also his Adam Smith and the Character of Virtue).

Focusing on Smith’s moral philosophy and especially on his description of the excellent character (cultivating prudence, justice, self-command, and beneficence), Hanley offers us a different and unknown picture of Smith, one of a man who was deeply concerned with, and who can still offer us deep insights into, how to live a better life and reach that “great purpose” we all strive for, happiness.  

By Ryan Patrick Hanley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Great Purpose as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Invaluable wisdom on living a good life from the founder of modern economics

Adam Smith is best known today as the founder of modern economics, but he was also an uncommonly brilliant philosopher who was especially interested in the perennial question of how to live a good life. Our Great Purpose is a short and illuminating guide to Smith's incomparable wisdom on how to live well, written by one of today's leading Smith scholars.

In this inspiring and entertaining book, Ryan Patrick Hanley describes Smith's vision of "the excellent and praiseworthy character," and draws on the philosopher's writings to show…


Book cover of The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Author Of Adam Smith's System: A Re-Interpretation Inspired by Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric, Game Theory, and Conjectural History

From my list on the Adam and smith of modern economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

 AO: I have been intrigued by the Adam and smith (a play on Adam Smith’s name due to K. Boulding) of social sciences ever since, as a graduate student, I was given the privilege to teach a history-of-thought course. I found a lot of wisdom in Smith’s works and continue to find it with every new read. BW: I first met Adam Smith when I was studying for my master’s degree in economics almost twenty years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed rereading him, always finding new sources of fascination and insights. For me, Smith's work is endlessly rich and remains astonishingly topical, three centuries after his birth. 

Andreas and Benoit's book list on the Adam and smith of modern economics

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Why did Andreas and Benoit love this book?

This handbook, edited by three well-known Smith scholars, follows on from a conference organised for the 250th anniversary of the publication of Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments although it is not a proceedings volume.

The book has seven parts, each part featuring four chapters. These 28 chapters cover all bases, from an introductory outline of life, times, and legacy, over the importance of Smith’s unpublished work, the importance to Smith of rhetoric, ethics, aesthetics, theatre, and fashion, to Smith’s view on commerce and morality, his view on religion, and Smith’s legacy and influence, among many other topics.

By Christopher J. Berry (editor), Maria Pia Paganelli (editor), Craig Smith (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Adam Smith (1723-90) is a thinker with a distinctive perspective on human behaviour and social institutions. He is best known as the author of the An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). Yet his work is name-checked more often than it is read and then typically it is of an uninformed nature; that he is an apologist for capitalism, a forceful promoter of self-interest, a defender of greed and a critic of any 'interference' in market transactions . To offset this caricature, this Handbook provides an informed portrait. Drawing on the expertise of leading…


Book cover of Humanomics: Moral Sentiments and the Wealth of Nations for the Twenty-First Century

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Author Of Adam Smith's System: A Re-Interpretation Inspired by Smith's Lectures on Rhetoric, Game Theory, and Conjectural History

From my list on the Adam and smith of modern economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

 AO: I have been intrigued by the Adam and smith (a play on Adam Smith’s name due to K. Boulding) of social sciences ever since, as a graduate student, I was given the privilege to teach a history-of-thought course. I found a lot of wisdom in Smith’s works and continue to find it with every new read. BW: I first met Adam Smith when I was studying for my master’s degree in economics almost twenty years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed rereading him, always finding new sources of fascination and insights. For me, Smith's work is endlessly rich and remains astonishingly topical, three centuries after his birth. 

Andreas and Benoit's book list on the Adam and smith of modern economics

Andreas Ortmann and Benoit Walraevens Why did Andreas and Benoit love this book?

Smith is generally considered as the father of economics, laying its foundations in the eighteenth century.

But he can also be an inspiration for rethinking economics (providing more realistic assumptions about human conduct) and laboratory experiments in the twenty-first century, helping us to build a new “Humanomics” (see also McCloskey’s two books on this subject). That’s what Vernon Smith (Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002) and Bart Wilson convincingly argue for in their uncommon and innovative book. Smith is still alive (and well alive) today. 

By Vernon L. Smith, Bart J. Wilson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

While neo-classical analysis works well for studying impersonal exchange in markets, it fails to explain why people conduct themselves the way they do in their personal relationships with family, neighbors, and friends. In Humanomics, Nobel Prize-winning economist Vernon L. Smith and his long-time co-author Bart J. Wilson bring their study of economics full circle by returning to the founder of modern economics, Adam Smith. Sometime in the last 250 years, economists lost sight of the full range of human feeling, thinking, and knowing in everyday life. Smith and Wilson show how Adam Smith's model of sociality can re-humanize twenty-first century…


Book cover of The Scottish Enlightenment: The Historical Age of the Historical Nation

Elizabeth Ford Author Of The Flute in Scotland from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Century

From my list on eighteenth-century Scotland.

Why am I passionate about this?

I dropped out of law school to pursue a PhD in music at the University of Glasgow and to write the history of the flute in Scotland. Essentially, I wanted to know that if Scotland was a leader in Enlightenment thought, and if there were hundreds of publications with flute on the title page, and since the flute was the most popular amateur instrument in the eighteenth century, why was nothing written about the flute. I obsessively read Scottish mythology as a child, and was always drawn to the stereotypical wild misty landscapes of Scotland without knowing much about it. 

Elizabeth's book list on eighteenth-century Scotland

Elizabeth Ford Why did Elizabeth love this book?

I think understanding the intellectual background to a historical period is always important, and I was introduced to the Scottish Enlightenment at West Virginia Wesleyan College through this book. I have since had the pleasure to meet and work with Alexander Broadie while at Glasgow, and he is a kind, generous, and supportive scholar.

The Scottish Enlightenment covers the significant breakthroughs in the thought of the movement, and the contributions of the characters behind it such as David Hume and Adam Smith. The importance of studying history, morality in civil society, religion, and art. The Enlightenment laid the groundwork for our modern society, so how could anyone not study it?

By Alexander Broadie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scottish Enlightenment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Scottish Enlightenment was one of the greatest intellectual and cultural movements that the world has ever seen. Its legacy in philosophy, history, science, music, art, architecture, economics, and many other disciplines cannot be overstated. This book considers the totality of achievements from this most astonishing period of Scottish history and how they still animate and inspire the world today.


Book cover of Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World

Ritchie Robertson Author Of The Enlightenment: The Pursuit of Happiness, 1680-1790

From my list on the Enlightenment.

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2021 I retired as Schwarz-Taylor Professor of German at Oxford. For many years I had been interested not only in German literature but in European literature and culture more broadly, particularly in the eighteenth century. Oxford is a centre of Enlightenment research, being the site of the Voltaire Foundation, where a team of scholars has just finished editing the complete works of Voltaire. When in 2013 I was asked to write a book on the Enlightenment, I realized that I had ideal resources to hand – though I also benefited from a year’s leave spent at Göttingen, the best place in Germany to study the eighteenth century. 

Ritchie's book list on the Enlightenment

Ritchie Robertson Why did Ritchie love this book?

The late Roy Porter wanted to show that England did not lag behind Scotland in promoting Enlightenment, and assembled a huge quantity of material to show not just the theoretical but also the practical effects of Enlightenment. Ranging widely, he dwells on practical projects like the building of roads and canals, on the beginnings of industry (e.g. Wedgwood’s pottery factory at Etruria), and on reform of the criminal law. A distinguished historian of science, he says much about medical experiments, scientific research, and the increasingly humane treatment of mental disorders.

By Roy Porter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

It is almost impossible to encapsulate briefly the range and variety contained in Roy Porter's major new book. For generations the focus for those wishing to understand the roots of the modern world has been France on the eve of the Revolution. Porter certainly acknowledges France's importance, but makes an overwhelming, fascinating case for considering Britain the "true" home of modernity - a country driven by an exuberance, diversity and power of invention comparable only to 20th-century America. Porter immerses the reader in a society which, recovering from the horrors of the Civil War and decisively reinvigorated by the revolution…


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