100 books like Basic Economics

By Thomas Sowell,

Here are 100 books that Basic Economics fans have personally recommended if you like Basic Economics. 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 The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter

Michael Muthukrishna Author Of A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

From my list on changing how you see the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of economic psychology at the London School of Economics with affiliations in developmental economics and data science. Before that, I was at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology. During my PhD, I took graduate courses in psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, and statistics. I have undergraduate degrees in engineering and in psychology and took courses in everything from economics and biology to philosophy and political science. As a child, I witnessed the civil war in Sri Lanka; a violent coup in Papua New Guinea; the end of apartheid in South Africa, living in neighboring Botswana; and London’s 7/7 bomb attacks. I’ve also lived in Australia, Canada, USA, and UK.

Michael's book list on changing how you see the world

Michael Muthukrishna Why did Michael love this book?

Henrich is a frequent collaborator and was my PhD advisor, so I’m somewhat biased, but in my opinion, this remains the best book showcasing the evidence for cultural evolution and dual inheritance theory.

I use it as a second textbook for my undergraduates learning about the foundations of psychological science. 

By Joseph Henrich,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Secret of Our Success as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Humans are a puzzling species. On the one hand, we struggle to survive on our own in the wild, often failing to overcome even basic challenges, like obtaining food, building shelters, or avoiding predators. On the other hand, human groups have produced ingenious technologies, sophisticated languages, and complex institutions that have permitted us to successfully expand into a vast range of diverse environments. What has enabled us to dominate the globe, more than any other species, while remaining virtually helpless as lone individuals? This book shows that the secret of our success lies not in our innate intelligence, but in…


Book cover of Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past

Michael Muthukrishna Author Of A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

From my list on changing how you see the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of economic psychology at the London School of Economics with affiliations in developmental economics and data science. Before that, I was at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology. During my PhD, I took graduate courses in psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, and statistics. I have undergraduate degrees in engineering and in psychology and took courses in everything from economics and biology to philosophy and political science. As a child, I witnessed the civil war in Sri Lanka; a violent coup in Papua New Guinea; the end of apartheid in South Africa, living in neighboring Botswana; and London’s 7/7 bomb attacks. I’ve also lived in Australia, Canada, USA, and UK.

Michael's book list on changing how you see the world

Michael Muthukrishna Why did Michael love this book?

The new science of DNA reveals a lot about how we think about identity.

Humans are a migratory species and our stories are complicated. Ancient DNA don't always match people's stories about their ancestors. Rather than being in a place for thousands of years, sometimes we replaced those who were there before or only the males of the group.

Sometimes we completely replaced the group that was there before but the original group's culture persisted or even replaced the invading culture. The book complicates our understanding of indigeneity and belonging.

By David Reich,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Who We Are and How We Got Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The past few years have witnessed a revolution in our ability to obtain DNA from ancient humans. This important new data has added to our knowledge from archaeology and anthropology, helped resolve long-existing controversies, challenged long-held views, and thrown up remarkable surprises.

The emerging picture is one of many waves of ancient human migrations, so that all populations living today are mixes of ancient ones, and often carry a genetic component from archaic humans. David Reich, whose team has been at the forefront of these discoveries, explains what genetics is telling us about ourselves and our complex and often surprising…


Book cover of The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man's Changing Vision of the Universe

Michael Muthukrishna Author Of A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

From my list on changing how you see the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of economic psychology at the London School of Economics with affiliations in developmental economics and data science. Before that, I was at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology. During my PhD, I took graduate courses in psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, and statistics. I have undergraduate degrees in engineering and in psychology and took courses in everything from economics and biology to philosophy and political science. As a child, I witnessed the civil war in Sri Lanka; a violent coup in Papua New Guinea; the end of apartheid in South Africa, living in neighboring Botswana; and London’s 7/7 bomb attacks. I’ve also lived in Australia, Canada, USA, and UK.

Michael's book list on changing how you see the world

Michael Muthukrishna Why did Michael love this book?

It's a history of scientific advances, particularly in cosmology. It’s old now and I don’t know if it’s the best book on the topic, but it influenced my thinking a lot when I was a teenager.

Many advances in science require letting go of what you think you think you know. Letting go of even obvious assumptions – that the sun goes around the earth (plain to the naked eye); that the world is made of 4 elements  – fire, water, earth, wind; that time flows the same everywhere for all people.

My book similarly shows some of the current assumptions that are holding us back – that human intelligence explains our success, the nature of intelligence, and what ultimately drives growth and prosperity.

By Arthur Koestler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A thought-provoking account of the scientific achievements and lives of cosmologists from Babylonians to Newton.


Book cover of Energy and the Wealth of Nations: An Introduction to Biophysical Economics

Michael Muthukrishna Author Of A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We're Going

From my list on changing how you see the world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a professor of economic psychology at the London School of Economics with affiliations in developmental economics and data science. Before that, I was at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology. During my PhD, I took graduate courses in psychology, economics, evolutionary biology, and statistics. I have undergraduate degrees in engineering and in psychology and took courses in everything from economics and biology to philosophy and political science. As a child, I witnessed the civil war in Sri Lanka; a violent coup in Papua New Guinea; the end of apartheid in South Africa, living in neighboring Botswana; and London’s 7/7 bomb attacks. I’ve also lived in Australia, Canada, USA, and UK.

Michael's book list on changing how you see the world

Michael Muthukrishna Why did Michael love this book?

This book should have launched debates and discussions about how our economies are not closed-loop perpetual motion machines with no input other than ideas and technology, but instead machines ultimately powered by access to excess energy.

Charles Hall developed the concept of energy return on investment (EROI – how much energy it costs to get some amount of energy back. Alongside Valclav Smil’s many books, this is a must read.

By Charles A. S. Hall, Kent Klitgaard,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Energy and the Wealth of Nations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this updated edition of a groundbreaking text, concepts such as energy return on investment (EROI) provide powerful insights into the real balance sheets that drive our "petroleum economy." Hall and Klitgaard explore the relation between energy and the wealth explosion of the 20th century, and the interaction of internal limits to growth found in the investment process and rising inequality with the biophysical limits posed by finite energy resources. The authors focus attention on the failure of markets to recognize or efficiently allocate diminishing resources, the economic consequences of peak oil, the high cost and relatively low EROI of…


Book cover of Slavery and American Economic Development

Joshua L. Rosenbloom Author Of Quantitative Economic History: The Good of Counting

From my list on understanding the modern capitalist economy.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been studying, writing, and teaching economic history for nearly four decades. I was drawn to the field because it let me combine my passion for understanding how the past and present are connected with my fascination with the insights derived from the natural sciences. When I started studying economic history, the discipline was still relatively new, having grown out of pioneering research in the 1950s and 1960s by a small band of innovative scholars. During my career, I have met many of these intellectual giants personally, and I have watched the discipline of economic history mature and grow in both its methods and intellectual scope.

Joshua's book list on understanding the modern capitalist economy

Joshua L. Rosenbloom Why did Joshua love this book?

If you read one book about the history of slavery, this should be it. This brief volume sums up decades of Wright’s scholarship about how the institution of slavery shaped virtually every aspect of American economic development and left a lasting imprint long after Emancipation. It is concise, eye-opening, and insightful. It also offers a broader lesson in the ways in which economic institutions affect aspects of behavior in unanticipated ways.

By Gavin Wright,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Slavery and American Economic Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Through an analysis of slavery as an economic institution, Gavin Wright presents an innovative look at the economic divergence between North and South in the antebellum era. He draws a distinction between slavery as a form of work organisation, the aspect that has dominated historical debates, and slavery as a set of property rights. Slave-based commerce remained central to the eighteenth-century rise of the Atlantic economy, not because slave plantations were superior as a method of organizing production, but because slaves could be put to work on sugar plantations that could not have attracted free labor on economically viable terms.


Book cover of The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World

Selwyn Parker Author Of The Great Crash: How the Stock Market Crash of 1929 Plunged the World into Depression

From my list on economics and investment.

Why am I passionate about this?

Selwyn Parker is an award-winning journalist, author, speaker and pianist. In journalism he focuses on transformational contemporary issues like the new era in energy, the upheaval in banking, the revolution in transportation and the fast-moving world of investment. However most of his dozen books – novels and non-fiction -- are rooted in landmark historical events whose effects still register today.

Selwyn's book list on economics and investment

Selwyn Parker Why did Selwyn love this book?

Apart from revealing and sometimes dismaying insights into the workings of the White House, this legendary chairman of the US Federal Reserve presents a tour d’horizon of the economic thought that underpins the creation of wealth. As such, it should be obligatory reading for anybody interested in how nations prosper (or don’t), how governments routinely make disastrous interventions even if they aim to act for the right reasons, why Adam Smith continues to influence our lives (even though we don’t know it), and why capitalism is so foolishly demonised by banner-waving grandstanders.

By Alan Greenspan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence is the essential guide to what is happening in the world, and where we're heading, from the ultimate expert.

Alan Greenspan wielded more power than the presidents he worked for, from Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to George Bush and his son. He was in the command room of the world economy for longer than any other single figure. One word from him could send markets into freefall.

Now Alan Greenspan, the legendary former chairman of the Federal Reserve, gives us a unique insider's view of the world over his lifetime, from stock market…


Book cover of Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics, and American Economics in the Progressive Era

Malcolm Rutherford Author Of The Institutionalist Movement in American Economics, 1918-1947: Science and Social Control

From my list on the economic mind in America from 1880 to 1960.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was contemplating a topic for my PhD thesis, it struck me powerfully that American economics was severely under-studied, and that this applied even more so to those associated with “American institutional economics.” My research soon indicated to me that the literature that did exist was lacking in coverage and badly misleading. During my research in archives, I uncovered some real gems—just one example was the archives of the Robert Bookings Graduate School, an institution largely forgotten, but famous at the time. This was exciting and inspired me to continue on to provide a major re-evaluation of American economics in the interwar period.    

Malcolm's book list on the economic mind in America from 1880 to 1960

Malcolm Rutherford Why did Malcolm love this book?

Mary Furner’s book presents what is the common view of progressives as liberal reformers, but there is another side to progressive social science that is less liberal. 

The progressive era social science literature is replete with racism and with arguments about racial and other forms of inferiority derived from eugenics.

The vast amount of immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe gave rise to concerns about the undermining of American standards, both biological and economic, including theories of “race suicide.” 

Leonard’s book has generated a great deal of discussion, and while there is no doubt that many progressives displayed eugenic and racist ideas, it needs to be stressed that such views were not limited to progressives, but included many of those with conservative and even free-market views in other areas.     

By Thomas C. Leonard,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In Illiberal Reformers, Thomas Leonard reexamines the economic progressives whose ideas and reform agenda underwrote the Progressive Era dismantling of laissez-faire and the creation of the regulatory welfare state, which, they believed, would humanize and rationalize industrial capitalism. But not for all. Academic social scientists such as Richard T. Ely, John R. Commons, and Edward A. Ross, together with their reform allies in social work, charity, journalism, and law, played a pivotal role in establishing minimum-wage and maximum-hours laws, workmen's compensation, antitrust regulation, and other hallmarks of the regulatory welfare state. But even as they offered uplift to some, economic…


Book cover of The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War

Larry Allen Author Of The ABC-Clio World History Companion to Capitalism

From my list on seeing world history thru the lens of economics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up listening to my grandfathers tell stories about the Great Depression (1930s). My cousins would want me to go out and play, but I wanted to stay indoors and listen to the stories. The Depression proved my grandfathers were not the best cotton farmers, but they were good storytellers, and I ended up an economics professor. Along the way, I ran across a thought from renowned British philosopher Francis Bacon: “Histories make men wise, poets, witty, mathematics, subtle;” Modern economics has gone in for subtlety, and maybe is a little too careless of wisdom. This thought sent me delving deeper into economic history, and I ended up writing five books in economics history. 

Larry's book list on seeing world history thru the lens of economics

Larry Allen Why did Larry love this book?

Here is a stimulating and suggestive book, in 18 close-packed chapters, rich in fresh and illuminating insights. The scope, depth, and harmony of this book, strengthened with minute elaboration and carefulness, make it a work of permanent value. Missed here is the dogmatic readiness to force many intricate and diverse things to accommodate themselves to a few simple formulas. The book’s very descriptive title reveals its subject, which is presented with the utmost clearness, thoughtful intelligence, and adequacy of analysis, It is a welcomed reminder that time is the greatest innovator, spawning economic developments missed by the blind mechanisms of theoretical formulas. There is the accuracy of knowledge throughout, thoroughness in setting it forth, and admirable clearness. 

By Robert J. Gordon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rise and Fall of American Growth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the century after the Civil War, an economic revolution improved the American standard of living in ways previously unimaginable. Electric lighting, indoor plumbing, motor vehicles, air travel, and television transformed households and workplaces. But has that era of unprecedented growth come to an end? Weaving together a vivid narrative, historical anecdotes, and economic analysis, The Rise and Fall of American Growth challenges the view that economic growth will continue unabated, and demonstrates that the life-altering scale of innovations between 1870 and 1970 cannot be repeated. Gordon contends that the nation's productivity growth will be further held back by the…


Book cover of Rethinking Economics: Lectures and Seminars on World Economics

Lorraine Flower Author Of Heartful Business: Leading with the World in Mind

From my list on leading business consciously to create a better world for all.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love businesses and have been lucky enough to work for and with some great ones in my career in senior leadership positions. For me, leadership is an extraordinary privilege, so we have a responsibility to do it well and keep learning and improving ourselves and the organisations we lead. My journey into more conscious leadership began over 30 years ago, well ahead of the current movement, and it has progressively become the passion driving my work to help leaders and organisations contribute to building a better world. This passion also drives my service with a number of spiritual communities, including Sundial House and the Community of Living Ethics.

Lorraine's book list on leading business consciously to create a better world for all

Lorraine Flower Why did Lorraine love this book?

You might think this book is a bit left field in the arena of leadership, given its title. I think it cuts to the heart of the big question all leaders, whether of organisations or nations, should be considering, that of economics and economy.

What really resonated with me is the exploration of the subject from holistic and spiritual, or consciousness, perspectives and how this encourages thinking more deeply about the confines and constraints our economic systems place on us, the compromises that ensue in decision-making and, most importantly, the choices we need to consider more carefully from an ethical and human values standpoint.

This is a topic central to human survival and well-being, a must-read for leaders.

By Rudolf Steiner, Peter Clemm (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

14 lectures in Dornach, July 14-August 6, 1922 (CW 340)
6 seminars in Dornach, July 31-August 5, 1922 (CW 341)

“In this age of social, economic, and ecological disruption, many people are beginning to realize that perhaps the most important root causes for this crisis originate in an economic thinking that is increasingly out of touch with the social, ecological, and spiritual realities of our time. How, then, can we rethink and redefine the fundamental economic concepts that frame our discussions and shape our key institutions in society today? This is the big question on the table today. Rudolf Steiner’s…


Book cover of A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland Author Of Witness to Transformation: Refugee Insights Into North Korea

From my list on the North Korean economy.

Why are we passionate about this?

We teamed up about fifteen years ago around a common interest in the political economy of North Korea; Haggard is a political scientist, Noland an economist. Both of us had spent our careers focused on Asia but looking largely at the capitalist successes: Japan and the newly industrializing countries of Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. But what about the anomalous cases in the region that did not get on the growth train? The “Asian miracle” was hardly ubiquitous…what had gone wrong? North Korea was clearly the biggest puzzle, and we ended up researching and writing on the famine, refugees, and the complexities of international sanctions. 

Stephan and Marcus' book list on the North Korean economy

Stephan Haggard and Marcus Noland Why did Stephan and Marcus love this book?

The title of this book is doubly surprising. Is North Korea enterprising? And North Korea “in the world economy”? Isn’t it the hermit kingdom? Hastings picks up a theme that was central to our work on the famine: that the socialist sector in North Korea has undergone a secular decline while households and entrepreneurs have constructed a complex market economy that is partially above ground, partly below it. But Hastings goes further, showing how that market economy is integrally tied to China. And the book has the added attraction of focusing attention on lucrative black markets that range from amphetamine to counterfeited one hundred dollar bills. 

By Justin V. Hastings,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Most Enterprising Country as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

North Korea has survived the end of the Cold War, massive famine, numerous regional crises, punishing sanctions, and international stigma. In A Most Enterprising Country, Justin V. Hastings explores the puzzle of how the most politically isolated state in the world nonetheless sustains itself in large part by international trade and integration into the global economy. The world's last Stalinist state is also one of the most enterprising, as Hastings shows through in-depth examinations of North Korea's import and export efforts, with a particular focus on restaurants, the weapons trade, and drug trafficking. Tracing the development of trade networks inside…


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