100 books like The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith

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

Here are 100 books that The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith fans have personally recommended if you like The Oxford Handbook of Adam Smith. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ 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 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 Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Author Of Law, Economics, and Morality

From my list on ethics and economics.

Why are we passionate about this?

We are law professors at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Eyal Zamir is interested in the intersections of law, economics, ethics, and psychology. In addition to theoretical studies of these issues, he engages in experimental legal studies, as well. Barak Medina studies constitutional law, human rights, and economic analysis of law. He is interested in constitutional interpretation and the interaction between common-sense morality, public opinion and adjudication.

Eyal's book list on ethics and economics

Eyal Zamir and Barak Medina Why did Eyal love this book?

This collection of essays by some of the leading contemporary scholars in ethics and in economics provides both critical surveys of the various interactions between these two bodies of thought and original suggestions for future advancements in this important intersection.

The collection includes both general and theoretical inquiries and more specific applications. It may be of interest both to academics (scholars and students) and to policymakers and laypersons.

By Mark D. White (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Economics and ethics are both valuable tools for analyzing the behavior and actions of human beings and institutions. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, considered them two sides of the same coin, but since economics was formalized and mathematicised in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the fields have largely followed separate paths.

The Oxford Handbook of Ethics and Economics provides a timely and thorough survey of the various ways ethics can, does, and should inform economic theory and practice. The first part of the book, Foundations, explores how the most prominent schools of moral philosophy relate to economics;…


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 The Affluent Society

Mark R. Reiff Author Of On Unemployment: A Micro-Theory of Economic Justice: Volume 1

From my list on what causes economic injustice.

Why am I passionate about this?

F. Scott Fitzgerald claimed, “there are no second acts in American lives.” But I am on my third. I started out in the theatre, then became a lawyer, and then a political philosopher. What drove each move is that I was always outraged by injustice and wanted to find a better way to fight against it. For me, reading, writing, and teaching political philosophy turned out to be that way. The books on this list provide important lessons on how certain economic policies can cause injustice while others can cure it. Each has been around for a long time, but they are as relevant today as when they were first written. 

Mark's book list on what causes economic injustice

Mark R. Reiff Why did Mark love this book?

How can a society as rich as ours leave so many people behind?

Published in 1958, this book opened my eyes to the importance of economic justice—I first read it in the late 1970s when I was nineteen.

But it is still mind-blowing today, for neither the wrongheadedness of prevailing economic policy nor the solutions that are available for us to do better have changed.

By John Kenneth Galbraith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Affluent Society as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

John Kenneth Galbraith's international bestseller The Affluent Society is a witty, graceful and devastating attack on some of our most cherished economic myths.

As relevant today as when it was first published over forty years ago, this newly updated edition of Galbraith's classic text on the 'economics of abundance', lays bare the hazards of individual and social complacency about economic inequality.

Why worship work and productivity if many of the goods we produce are superfluous - artificial 'needs' created by high-pressure advertising? Why begrudge expenditure on vital public works while ignoring waste and extravagance in the private sector of the…


Book cover of The Community of Advantage: A Behavioural Economist's Defence of the Market

Vangelis Chiotis Author Of The Morality of Economic Behaviour: Economics as Ethics

From my list on economic morality.

Why am I passionate about this?

Two self-interested people will try to outperform each other. One will win, the other will lose. If they instead cooperate, both will win a bit, and lose a bit. Is this preferable? I say yes, because in the long term, winning a bit many times, is better than winning a lot, once. Choosing short-term gain at the expense of long-term benefit is a waste of potential for societies and individuals. Traditional morality works, sometimes, in some cases. Rational morality can fill the gaps, and expand the circle of morality so that when higher ideals fail or become too difficult to follow, rationality can be about more than just short-term self-interest.

Vangelis' book list on economic morality

Vangelis Chiotis Why did Vangelis love this book?

The Community of Advantage is an excellent exposition of how moral philosophy informs and is informed by economics.

The title itself is taken from a political philosopher: John Stuart Mill. There is one caveat: Sugden speaks of behavioral economics, and as such, takes a different approach to rational agency than neoclassical economics.

Individual agency is not moral, but it is not assumed to be rational either. The book, and Sugden’s work as a whole, is of special relevance for two reasons: 1) It links morality with self-interest. 2) It uses society to argue for morality in self-interest.

By Robert Sugden,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Community of Advantage asks how economists should do normative analysis. Normative analysis in economics has usually aimed at satisfying individuals' preferences. Its conclusions have supported a long- standing liberal tradition of economics that values economic freedom and views markets favourably. However, behavioural research shows that individuals' preferences, as revealed in choices, are often unstable, and vary according to contextual factors
that seem irrelevant for welfare. Robert Sugden proposes a reformulation of normative economics that is compatible with what is now known about the psychology of choice.

The growing consensus in favour of paternalism and 'nudging' is based on a…


Book cover of Anathem

A. David Redish Author Of Changing How We Choose: The New Science of Morality

From my list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have long been fascinated by what makes us human. Great art is about the human condition. We are very quick to reject art that gets that human condition wrong. I’m a poet, a playwright, and a scientist.  While my science has found itself at the center of fields such as computational psychiatry and neuroeconomics, I find myself turning again and again to the insights from great novels to understand the subtleties of the human condition. So to complement the scientific questions of morality (because morality is all about the human condition), one should start with great novels that ask who we are and why we do what we do.  

A.'s book list on across the boundary of poetry, science, and society

A. David Redish Why did A. love this book?

A science fiction tale couched in the language of a novel study of academia, Anathem by Neal Stephenson describes a world in which monk-like academicians ensconce themselves away in “maths” which shut their doors to the world for a day, a year, a decade, a century, or a millennium. 

A marvelous vision on what it means to study something, to understand it, and, thus to see the world from a different perspective.

By Neal Stephenson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Since childhood, Raz has lived behind the walls of a 3,400-year-old monastery, a sanctuary for scientists, philosophers, and mathematicians. There, he and his cohorts are sealed off from the illiterate, irrational, unpredictable "saecular" world, an endless landscape of casinos and megastores that is plagued by recurring cycles of booms and busts, dark ages and renaissances, world wars and climate change. Until the day that a higher power, driven by fear, decides it is only these cloistered scholars who have the abilities to avert an impending catastrophe. And, one by one, Raz and his friends, mentors, and teachers are summoned forth…


Book cover of The Lessons of History

Aparna Pande Author Of From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

From my list on history and foreign policy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Foreign policy has been my passion since I was a child. My father was a civil servant and growing up in India, I always wanted to follow in his footsteps but instead of working on domestic issues, I wanted to work on international affairs. History was another passion of mine and I wanted to combine the two of them in such a way that I studied the past in order to explain the present and help the future. This passion led me to enroll in a PhD program in the United States and then work at a think tank. I have written three books, two of which focus exclusively on foreign policy. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have listed and read my book.  

Aparna's book list on history and foreign policy

Aparna Pande Why did Aparna love this book?

This classic, written by the authors of the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, is a must-read for those who want to understand everything, from history to economics, from foreign policy to politics. I have read and re-read this book multiple times as it is my go-to book for when I rethink issues and problems. This short collection of essays offers simple yet critical lessons on geography, biology, economics, religion, and government all of which help explain the foreign policies of empires and states.  

By Will Durant, Ariel Durant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this illuminating and thoughtful book, Will and Ariel Durant have succeeded in distilling for the reader the accumulated store of knowledge and experience from their five decades of work on the eleven monumental volumes of The Story of Civilization. The result is a survey of human history, full of dazzling insights into the nature of human experience, the evolution of civilization, and the culture of man. With the completion of their life's work, they look back and ask what history has to say about the nature, the conduct and the prospects of man, seeking in the great lives, the…


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