The best economic development books 📚

Browse the best books on economic development as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of Steady-State Economics

Steady-State Economics

By Herman E. Daly

Why this book?

Want solutions? Start with our failed economic system. Daly, a World Bank senior economist, examines the economic restructuring necessary to live on a finite planet. He corrects the errors of classic economics by showing that a human economy is a subsystem embedded in a finite, fragile ecosystem, maintained by extracting limited resources and exporting waste. A steady-state economy accounts for the limits of both resources and waste. 

From the list:

The best books about ecology from an ecologist

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Gender, Development and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered

Gender, Development and Globalization: Economics as if All People Mattered

By Lourdes Beneria, Günseli Berik, Maria Floro

Why this book?

It’s a great and up-to-date overview of gender inequality on a global scale, covering paid and unpaid work, public policies, and the impact of patriarchal institutions. It also explains why current trajectories of economic development are both inadequate and unsustainable.

From the list:

The best books on feminist political economy

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of Grassroots Innovation: Minds On The Margin Are Not Marginal Minds

Grassroots Innovation: Minds On The Margin Are Not Marginal Minds

By Anil K. Gupta

Why this book?

The discourse on modern India is often about achievements in science and technology, R&D in national laboratories, and industry. However, in a country of one billion plus people, innovation is happening not just in formal sectors. Ordinary people – farmers, teachers, students, artisans, school dropouts, homemakers – are constantly innovating to solve everyday problems using frugal means. The book is an account of spotting grassroots innovations, nurturing them, and building networks with formal systems and markets. It is critical to understand this process for a deeper appreciation of contemporary India. 

From the list:

The best books on the history of modern India

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins

By Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing

Why this book?

This is the epic adventure of the delicious matsutake mushroom, which thrives in the ruins of the clear-cut Oregon ponderosa pine forests. Because it’s prized in Japan and China, it’s a precious trophy for those who hunt it. This delightful, elegant book takes us through its life cycle and complex ecosystem underground, the Hmong villagers and other refugees in America who hunt it, the middlemen who pay them, the shippers, buyers, biologists, foresters, economists, and, yes, the anthropologists who study them. It’s an entertaining, surprisingly enriching read about a global phenomenon that takes place “in Capitalist Ruins.” As an aside,…

From the list:

The best books that blend science with fiction yet are not entirely either

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy

By Joel Mokyr

Why this book?

I’ve included this book to illustrate how the perspective of cultural evolution is spreading to disciplines and problems far beyond its origins in biology and anthropology. In this case the discipline is economic history and the problem is explaining why the Enlightenment, which paved the way for the rapid technological and economic transformations brought about by the subsequent Industrial Revolution, occurred when it did (1500-1700) and where it did (Western Europe). Mokyr’s answer draws on cultural evolutionary concepts to argue that a culturally transmitted mindset of innovation and progress, as well as the intense competition of ideas within a politically…

From the list:

The best books on cultural evolution

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Book cover of The New Geography of Jobs

The New Geography of Jobs

By Enrico Moretti

Why this book?

Moretti’s book is, I think, woefully underappreciated. He gives a clear portrait of different regions of the United States, classifying them on the basis of their current economic structure and not on a predetermined political split or on industrial classifications from fifty years ago. It shows that we are in the midst of a substantial economic transformation that likely rivals the shifts seen during the early industrial revolution. This book gives you a real sense of what a “knowledge economy” will look like. More than that, though, he shows how that transformation could be beneficial to everyone (but might not).

From the list:

The best books on the economic challenges of the 2020s

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Or, view all 22 books about economic development

New book lists about economic development

All book lists about economic development

Bookshelves related to economic development

Browse books by…