100 books like Humanomics

By Vernon L. Smith, Bart J. Wilson,

Here are 100 books that Humanomics fans have personally recommended if you like Humanomics. 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: An Enlightened 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?

Phillipson’s book is, for us, the best intellectual biography about Smith.

It provides a balanced overall account of Smith’s economics and wider thought and traces their origins and evolution back to the places where Smith lived. It is a very fine read indeed. Quite possibly it is the most insightful book yet on Smith’s life and work.

It is a must-read for Smith scholars. It is also an important corrigendum to the many accounts that describe Smith as an absent-minded professor, somewhat detached from the world. Phillipson argues convincingly that Smith, while he may have had Asperger’s, was a man of the world, a very competent administrator in academic and other matters, and a much sought-after policy advisor at the highest level.

By Nicholas Phillipson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Adam Smith is celebrated all over the world as the author of The Wealth of Nations and the founder of modern economics. A few of his ideas - such as the 'Invisible Hand' of the market - have become icons of the modern world. Yet Smith saw himself primarily as a philosopher rather than an economist, and would never have predicted that the ideas for which he is now best known were his most important. This book, by one of the leading scholars of the Scottish Enlightenment, shows the extent to which The Wealth of Nations and Smith's other great…


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 Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change

Kusi Hornberger Author Of Scaling Impact: Finance and Investment for a Better World

From my list on investing for impact.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Partner at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, where I lead a lot of our finance and investment advisory work with development finance institutions, family offices, and impact investors. I also serve on several impact investment and field-building organization advisory boards and regularly contribute to the ecosystem through thought leadership and speaking engagements at leading conferences. Over the course of my 20+ year career, I have played the role of advisor, investor, and technical assistance provider on more than 200 individual projects across the globe.   

Kusi's book list on investing for impact

Kusi Hornberger Why did Kusi love this book?

This is an inspiring read from a real changemaker.

Morgan is also someone I have had the pleasure of getting to know through the impact investing conference circuit, and I enjoyed reading her firsthand account of how she combined her social activist desires with the practical tools of finance and investment to create ‘real impact.’

One of my favorite sections of the book was on her early days and successes with shareholder activism. This book and her story are ones that many impact-minded leaders can learn from. 

By Morgan Simon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Impact investment, the support of social and environmental projects with a financial return, has become a hot topic in the world's philanthropy and development circles, and is growing exponentially: in the next decade, it is poised to eclipse traditional aid by ten times. Yet for all the excitement, there is work to do to ensure it actually realizes its potential. Will impact investment empower millions of people worldwide, or will it just replicate the same failures that have plagued the aid and antipoverty industry?

Enter Morgan Simon. When she was a twenty-year-old college student at Swarthmore, Simon compelled Lockheed Martin…


Book cover of Herman Daly's Economics for a Full World: His Life and Ideas

David Miller Author Of Solved: How the World's Great Cities Are Fixing the Climate Crisis

From my list on books that evoke a place and take you there.

Why am I passionate about this?

I love cities, and as a former Mayor, I understand their vibrant complexity. Like all of us, I am deeply worried about planetary breakdown, but unlike most, I’ve had the privilege of seeing firsthand the great work that leading mayors are undertaking globally to address the climate crisis. It's my belief that if more of us knew what is happening in some cities, and therefore what is possible in all, we would not only see that it is possible to avoid climate breakdown but fuelled by that hope, we would demand change from those we elect. You can hear more in the podcast I lead, Cities 1.5, or read more in my occasional newsletter on substack.

David's book list on books that evoke a place and take you there

David Miller Why did David love this book?

This book is a lovingly and expertly written biography of an underappreciated but vastly significant economist, Herman Daly. Professor Daly was an early proponent of ecological economics, and his work is becoming increasingly important and relevant if we want to stop climate breakdown.

One of the main reasons we are approaching climate breakdown is because neo-liberal economic theories and the economic system they have led to through trade agreements and the like rely on false or oversimplified assumptions—like pollution is free or that any resource constraints can be met by new inventions. The fact that neither is true—and the policy implications that set out from that conclusion - are persuasively documented in this biography.

The book is about economics and a great economist who brilliantly and convincingly demonstrated that the Planet and human resource demands on it must be included in our economic analysis and rules. As such, the biography…

By Peter A. Victor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Herman Daly's Economics for a Full World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As the first biography of Professor Herman Daly, this book provides an in-depth account of one of the leading thinkers and most widely read writers on economics, environment and sustainability.

Herman Daly's economics for a full world, based on his steady-state economics, has been widely acknowledged through numerous prestigious international awards and prizes. Drawing on extensive interviews with Daly and in-depth analysis of his publications and debates, Peter Victor presents a unique insight into Daly's life from childhood to the present day, describing his intellectual development, inspirations and influence. Much of the book is devoted to a comprehensive account of…


Book cover of The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens

Shikha Basnet Silwal Author Of The Economics of Conflict and Peace: History and Applications

From my list on the foundations of conflict, war, and peace economics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm Associate Professor of Economics at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, USA. My expertise is in conflict, war, and peace economics. I'm deeply motivated to understand the broader impacts of violent conflicts in low-income countries with the hope that doing so will pave the way for us to live in a more harmonious world. Recently, I've been interested in economics of cultural heritage destruction during violent conflicts. My aim is to understand patterns of heritage destruction in the past such that we can incorporate heritage destruction in atrocity forecasting models of today. I'm just as passionate to teach what I have learned over the years and what I'm curious to explore in the future.

Shikha's book list on the foundations of conflict, war, and peace economics

Shikha Basnet Silwal Why did Shikha love this book?

This book asks policymakers to look beyond incentives when designing policies.

Whether we are trying do something at a personal level, such as have our children do chores, or achieve something much bigger, such as combat obesity, designing appropriate incentives (carrots or sticks) is generally believed to help us achieve our goals.

Bowles warns us that this view assumes that incentives and morality are independent and that such view is faulty. Numerous experimental evidence attests to his argument. In its stead, he suggests shaping norms as a much more viable option.

When I presented these concepts in my economics elective this semester, one student commented that this was a “paradigm shift” in their understanding of economics; hence, the reason why I recommend this book.

By Samuel Bowles,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Why do policies and business practices that ignore the moral and generous side of human nature often fail?

Should the idea of economic man-the amoral and self-interested Homo economicus-determine how we expect people to respond to monetary rewards, punishments, and other incentives? Samuel Bowles answers with a resounding "no." Policies that follow from this paradigm, he shows, may "crowd out" ethical and generous motives and thus backfire.

But incentives per se are not really the culprit. Bowles shows that crowding out occurs when the message conveyed by fines and rewards is that self-interest is expected, that the employer thinks the…


Book cover of CRISPR People: The Science and Ethics of Editing Humans

Kevin Davies Author Of Editing Humanity: The CRISPR Revolution and the New Era of Genome Editing

From my list on CRISPR and genome editing.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a British science editor and author of a string of books on the scientific, medical, and social implications of advances in genetics research. I trained as a geneticist but found more personal satisfaction wielding a pen rather than a pipette. I’m especially drawn to science stories that have medical implications for the public and a strong narrative thread. Prior to writing Editing Humanity, I covered the race for the BRCA1 breast cancer gene (Breakthrough), the Human Genome Project (Cracking the Genome), and the rise of personal genomics (The $1,000 Genome). I’m currently writing a biography of sickle cell disease, arguably the most famous genetic mutation in human history.

Kevin's book list on CRISPR and genome editing

Kevin Davies Why did Kevin love this book?

The CRISPR story took a shocking turn in 2018 when a Chinese scientist attempted the unthinkable – overseeing the birth of twin girls with edited DNA.

I devoted multiple chapters to this saga in my book (resulting in the book’s ban in China); meanwhile, Stanford law professor Hank Greely produced an excellent account of the entire story in CRISPR People. Greely eloquently guides the reader beyond the headlines, offering valuable context and shrewd legal analysis, before asking whether this scandal could happen again.

By Henry T. Greely,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What does the birth of babies whose embryos had gone through genome editing mean--for science and for all of us?

In November 2018, the world was shocked to learn that two babies had been born in China with DNA edited while they were embryos--as dramatic a development in genetics as the cloning of Dolly the sheep was in 1996. In this book, Hank Greely, a leading authority on law and genetics, tells the fascinating story of this human experiment and its consequences. Greely explains what Chinese scientist He Jiankui did, how he did it, and how the public and other…


Book cover of Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change

Deborah R. Coen Author Of The Earthquake Observers: Disaster Science from Lisbon to Richter

From my list on what scientists don't know and why it matters.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a historian of science fascinated by how scientists cope with uncertainty. I’m drawn to books that identify and try to explain the gaps in scientific knowledge and describe ways of knowing that might not be called scientific. I love to read stories about how ordinary people discover extraordinary things about their environments. I’m always curious about what happens when savvy locals are visited by scientific experts. Will they join forces? Admit what they don’t know? Or is a struggle brewing?

Deborah's book list on what scientists don't know and why it matters

Deborah R. Coen Why did Deborah love this book?

This classic work of history and investigative reporting reads like a whodunit. It’s about the ill-willed contrarians who tried to convince the public that scientists don’t know what they do know: that our planet is warming as a result of human actions.

So, the book is not at all about scientists’ ignorance but instead about an illusion of uncertainty that has been deliberately fabricated.

By Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Merchants of Doubt as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The U.S. scientific community has long led the world in research on such areas as public health, environmental science, and issues affecting quality of life. Our scientists have produced landmark studies on the dangers of DDT, tobacco smoke, acid rain, and global warming. But at the same time, a small yet potent subset of this community leads the world in vehement denial of these dangers. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of how a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry, ran effective campaigns to mislead the public and deny well-established scientific…


Book cover of A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science in Seventeenth-Century England

David N. Livingstone Author Of The Empire of Climate: A History of an Idea

From my list on the history of ideas.

Why am I passionate about this?

My love for ideas and their history was born when I was still in high school. It was my old English teacher who first opened up the power of ideas in literature to change the world. I’m pretty sure he loved Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Whether or not that’s true, my taste was further sharpened when I took a two-year course on the history of thought about nature and culture as an undergraduate student. I was captivated. 

David's book list on the history of ideas

David N. Livingstone Why did David love this book?

What I love about this book is the way it challenges the taken-for-granted thought that ‘truth’ is easily discovered. With compelling examples from the past, Shapin works through the ways in which scientific knowledge is made–the struggles that its practitioners have to engage in to construct and consolidate credibility.

What the author reveals is that trust is as fundamental in science as it is in everyday life. A revolutionary thought: who do we trust, and why?

By Steven Shapin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Social History of Truth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How do we come to trust our knowledge of the world? What are the means by which we distinguish true from false accounts? Why do we credit one observational statement over another? This study engages these universal questions through a recreation of a crucial period in the history of early modern science: the social world of gentlemen-philosophers in 17th-century England. The author paints a picture of the relations between gentlemanly culture and scientific practice. He argues that problems of credibility in science were practically solved through the codes and conventions of genteel conduct: trust, civility, honour, and integrity. These codes…


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