106 books directly related to economics 📚

All 106 economics books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: With the Economic Consequences of the Peace

By John Maynard Keynes,

Book cover of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money: With the Economic Consequences of the Peace

Why this book?

Keynes’ book is not just a classic, but to my mind is the finest book in economics written in the first half of the twentieth century. Although I studied the book as an undergraduate student, at the time I failed to appreciate what Keynes wrote about the role psychology played in economic decision making. It was only after becoming a behavioral economist myself, and re-reading the book, did I realize that Keynes was a stellar behavioral economist. Although many professionals learn about Keynes’s ideas from other sources, there is nothing like the original. In this work Keynes speaks to us about how human psychology impacts economic decisions and events. Those who read carefully will see that he writes about psychology, optimism, confidence, and sentiment – terms very much in vogue today among modern behavioral economists.


Clash of Extremes

By Marc Egnal,

Book cover of Clash of Extremes

Why this book?

Egnal shows that the causes of the war were indeed complex and multifaceted rather than resting on a single simplistic issue. His is a thorough treatment of the many economic factors involved in the war that resulted.


The ABCs of Political Economy: A Modern Approach

By Robin Hahnel,

Book cover of The ABCs of Political Economy: A Modern Approach

Why this book?

Hahnel’s work should be more well known. A professor of economics who understands the neoclassical approach inside out, he has spent his career not only critiquing mainstream economics but developing rich alternatives, including a sophisticated economic vision that aims to avoid the pitfalls of both free markets and state planning. I’ve chosen The ABCs of Political Economy as it’s a wonderful introduction to the area, offering a broad scope and a sharp critique of orthodox approaches to the economy.


Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

By Steve Solomon,

Book cover of Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times

Why this book?

First, let me explain where I'm coming from – my husband and I spent over a decade growing nearly all of our own vegetables and a considerable portion of our other sustenance on our homestead. So even though our current smaller plot only feeds us a side dish or three per day, I tend to think of gardening as something that should be good for our wallets as well as our bellies and the earth. Gardening When It Counts is all that and is 100% based on the author's personal experience growing most of his own food. Highly recommended.


Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

By Kate Raworth,

Book cover of Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist

Why this book?

To succeed in facing the social and environmental challenges that threaten to upend our economies, we need to refocus from financial and economic measures such as total returns to shareholders and GDP growth. The question has always been what measures would we substitute in? Raworth’s concept of the “Doughnut” is one of the most coherent articulations of the answer to this question: imagine a doughnut where the inside foundation are the social needs of water, food, health, energy, housing, gender equality, education, peace and justice, income and work and so on. Failure to meet these needs leads to shortfalls. On the outside of the doughnut is the ecological ceiling, which, if exceeded leads to climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, pollution, ozone layer depletion, etc. Within these boundaries is the safe and just space for humanity.

To get us to this zone, Raworth proposes 7 inspirational and practical ways to, as she says, “think like a 21st-century economist.” These include changing the goal away from GDP growth, understanding the economy as embedded in social and environmental realities, moving away from the faulty metaphor of the “rational economic man” to one of socially adaptable humans, and designing systems, governance, and organizations to be distributive and regenerative.  


The Economic Way of Thinking

By Paul Heyne, Peter Boettke, David Prychitko

Book cover of The Economic Way of Thinking

Why this book?

This was required reading in my MBA program at Golden Gate University. In fact, the economics teacher, Joe Fuhrig, inspired me to go on for my PhD in Economics at New York University. The book explains how economics isn’t just about mathematical models: it is about how people think and behave. Once you learn to think like an economist, you will find investing (and even grocery shopping!) a completely different experience.


Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation

By Jeffry D. Wert,

Book cover of Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation

Why this book?

We often think about the Civil War in terms of battles, casualties, and fatalities, which isn’t surprising as war is always considered a bloody business sprinkled with death and destruction. However, many historians overlook that it wasn’t just bullets that won the war. Technological innovations changed the battlefield. For example, Samuel M. Pook teamed up with John Eads to design a new style of armored battleship—dubbed Pook’s Turtles. Just weeks after the gunboats were commissioned, they enabled Ulysses S. Grant and Admiral Andrew Hull Foote to take Forts Henry and Donelson. Later, the fleet assisted John Pope in taking Island 10 and again in the Vicksburg campaign.

Christopher Spencer developed a repeating rifle that fired seven balls in quick succession. Abraham Lincoln’s first test determined the gun was a dud. However, the second test went off without a hitch, and the war department ordered 2,000 Spencer Rifles. Many other innovations came together during the Civil War to change the face of battle forever.


Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered

By E.F. Schumacher,

Book cover of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as If People Mattered

Why this book?

My rekindled interest in climate change took me back to a book that had influenced me significantly decades ago, which now seems more relevant than ever before—a fact attested to by the fact that the most recent edition features a new forward by Bill McKibben. Of course, Schumacher was not discussing climate change in 1973, but he was already calling attention to ethical, economic, and environmental issues associated with economic growth and thinking about solutions. This is a collection of articles by an economist whom John Maynard Keynes once suggested might be his worthy successor. It includes his provocative “Buddhist Economics.”


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

By Stephen J. Dubner, Steven D. Levitt,

Book cover of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

Why this book?

Levitt is a pioneer of, and among the most successful users of, techniques of data analysis to identify causes and effects in economics. This book, based on work that won him the Clark Medal, the economics profession’s premier prize for young researchers, gives us surprising, quirky, and delightful insights into the workings of many economic, political, and social phenomena.


The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

By Karl Polanyi,

Book cover of The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time

Why this book?

This book showed me the way to alternative understandings of money, from one culture to another, over vast periods of time and space. An extraordinary read. Polanyi influenced a little-known school of economics, yet one that is becoming more and more relevant as our understanding of money is transformed by alt- and cryptocurrencies.


Stabilizing an Unstable Economy

By Hyman P. Minsky,

Book cover of Stabilizing an Unstable Economy

Why this book?

Hyman Minsky might well have been the most underrated economist during the second half of the twentieth century. In Stabilizing an Unstable Economy, Minsky identified the psychological factors that create in financial markets and exacerbate economic downturns. Viewed against the backdrop of recent financial crises, his writings appear prescient. Readers of this book will discover that Minsky explained that the same factors which underlie economic instability also underlie the creative spark that produces economic progress. Readers will also learn that Minsky warned about being naïve in thinking that we can avoid instability.


Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

By Jason Schreier,

Book cover of Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made

Why this book?

Longtime games journalist, Jason Schreier, takes readers within the bowels of gaming’s most celebrated studios to reveal the fascinating, yet often cringe-inducing conditions in which modern games are made. Well-researched and fascinating to read, with individual chapters devoted to many of gaming’s most recent bestsellers.


The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

By Edward E. Baptist,

Book cover of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Why this book?

What psychologists like me and historians have in common is a deep understanding that the past matters.  Past events shape our perceptions of the present and our expectations for the future. To understand the contemporary persistence of racism and racial inequality you have to know what happened in the past. Learning more about the establishment of slavery as a business practice foundational to the American economy is a good place to start. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward Baptist is a riveting historical account of both the brutal realities of enslavement and the way today’s U.S. economy was profoundly shaped by the American system of slavery. Before I read this book, I thought I already knew a lot about this subject, but as the title suggests, “the half has never been told…” I learned a lot, you will, too!


Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics

By Marianne A. Ferber, Julie A. Nelson,

Book cover of Beyond Economic Man: Feminist Theory and Economics

Why this book?

This classic anthology reveals “rational economic man” as a naked and misshapen emperor pretending to be grandly dressed. While unpacking the androcentric (and plain old sexist) assumptions of conventional economic theory, it also provides rich examples of new ways of explaining the links between gender, care, and inequality.


Economics in One Lesson

By Henry Hazlitt,

Book cover of Economics in One Lesson

Why this book?

There is no book from which you can absorb more economics with less effort. Readers new to economics should start here. Readers familiar with economics should return here often.


Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

By Ludwig von Mises,

Book cover of Human Action: A Treatise on Economics

Why this book?

This is the most rewarding book in economics—maybe in all of social science—if you’re willing to be patient and attentive (no math, statistical equations, or even graphs, but this is not light reading). Human Actions treatment of economics is comprehensive, tackling questions from the philosophical—What, for example, is the nature of economic laws?—to the practical—What do those laws mean for, say, regulating the price of milk? A true tour de force, this book changed how I think about the world, and it might do the same for you. Just remember what I said about patience and attentiveness!


Stocks for the Long Run: The Definitive Guide to Financial Market Returns & Long Term Investment Strategies

By Jeremy J. Siegel,

Book cover of Stocks for the Long Run: The Definitive Guide to Financial Market Returns & Long Term Investment Strategies

Why this book?

Professional investors troop to Wharton School to sit at the feet of professor Siegel and learn about why stocks – or shares – should be the bedrock of any investment strategy for the very obvious reason that it’s the best way to capitalise on the steady growth of the American economy. And by implication, other growing economies. If you haven’t got skin in the game, you’re on the sidelines. A dry book unless you have an intellectual interest in investment, it is nevertheless extremely thought-provoking and enlightening. It’s been through several editions and is routinely updated to reflect the latest developments such as exchange-traded funds, the phenomenon of the millennium.


Epistemological Problems of Economics. Ludwig Von Mises

By Ludwig von Mises,

Book cover of Epistemological Problems of Economics. Ludwig Von Mises

Why this book?

This book written in 1922 by the Austrian economist at the University of Vienna is one of the few truly foundational works in political economy. Mises takes apart the theory of the Marxist moneyless planned economy which Lenin and then Stalin tried to apply to the Soviet Union. Mises lucidly explains why not only that it could never work but would lead to catastrophic and unending shortages, dictatorship, repression, and arbitrary rule enforced by a militarized one-party state. Although Mises had no knowledge of China, it is the best book to read in order to understand what happened in China in the 20th century.

The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce

By Fred Goodman,

Book cover of The Mansion on the Hill: Dylan, Young, Geffen, Springsteen, and the Head-On Collision of Rock and Commerce

Why this book?

It’s a real insider’s view of what it took to make turn such artists as Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen into money-spinning superstars. Interestingly, some of the back-room kingmakers — Albert Grossman, David Geffen, and the rest of them — prove to be just as interesting and complicated as the music makers they represented.

Buying Into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

By Heidi Tinsman,

Book cover of Buying Into the Regime: Grapes and Consumption in Cold War Chile and the United States

Why this book?

You’ll never look at table grapes the same after reading Tinsman’s excellent Buying into the Regime. Her book takes a different approach from the texts above – instead of looking at a single movement, she focuses on a single industry (Chilean grapes) in multiple contexts: cultivation in Chile, Cold War consumption in the United States, and consumer activism and grape boycotts in both nations. The result is a remarkable transnational history that underscores how consumption itself is a “terrain of political struggle.” Tinsman’s expansive perspective, which engages a number of different fields, also offers lessons for activists in the age of globalization, notably that building transnational alliances is incredibly difficult work.

The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition

By William Davies,

Book cover of The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition

Why this book?

Davies offers an exceptionally clear and useful definition of neoliberalism: “the disenchantment of politics by economics.” But what really makes this book valuable is the research he has conducted on the office culture of the government officials who are actually implementing neoliberal policy—how they think, what they believe they’re achieving, and how they sometimes deviate from the letter of neoliberal theory while remaining true to its spirit.


Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

By William L. Barney,

Book cover of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

Why this book?

This new 2020 book is a fresh synthesis of the scholarly work that has been done on secession and the young Confederacy in the past 30 years and has much that is new to offer  Its treatment of the weeks in Montgomery is rather brief, but insightful, and overall it makes a fine introduction to the political life of the CSA.


The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

By Heather McGhee,

Book cover of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

Why this book?

The Sum of Us accomplishes two important things: it illustrates the power of public policy to perpetuate racism and racial inequality and demonstrates the negative impact of such policies on white people as well as Black and other people of color. Racism hurts all of us in tangible and measurable ways. The Sum of Us makes those costs abundantly clear, but also offers much-needed hope and action steps for healing our collective wounds. I love Heather McGhee’s concept of the “solidarity dividend”. It reminds me that change is possible!


Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done

By Ian Ayres,

Book cover of Carrots and Sticks: Unlock the Power of Incentives to Get Things Done

Why this book?

Hyperbolic discounting is a term used in behavioral economics to describe our tendency to overvalue immediate gratification while undervaluing future rewards. When asked to choose between getting (A) one apple a year from now or (B) two apples a year and a day from now, people pick (B). However, if the choice is between getting (A) one apple today or (B) two apples tomorrow, people find (A) more attractive. Why is it so difficult to acquire good habits, like going to bed early or getting important work done, instead of playing with our smartphone? The idea of hyperbolic discounting offers a brilliant explanation, shedding light on the troublesome natures we humans possess. Although that’s not the main focus of this book, it’s still an excellent, easy-to-read introduction to behavioral economics.


Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

By Andrea Jain,

Book cover of Selling Yoga: From Counterculture to Pop Culture

Why this book?

The sociologist, Andrea Jain, contextualizes the historical roots of yoga in this well-researched and readable book. For the yogi who has read everything, she provides a refreshing perspective. She addresses the yoga explosion in the West, linking spiritual consumer culture with late-stage capitalism without the typical moralizing, or nostalgia for a so-called golden age of yoga. She shows that yoga was never a fixed historical or essentialist enterprise, but rather, always changing and adapting to the culture that surrounded it. That culture, in turn, re-makes yoga over and over. While serious yogis can respect yoga’s roots, we’re also part of its innovation and evolution. This is a yoga history lesson worth reading, offering much to ponder. 


Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics

By Kalle Lasn (editor), Adbusters (editor),

Book cover of Meme Wars: The Creative Destruction of Neoclassical Economics

Why this book?

From the guy who came up with the phrase “Occupy Wall Street” is a manifesto for questioning authority and turning the tools of advertising and persuasion against the man. Lasn understood what memes really are before the internet trivialized the concept. He reminds us of the transformational power of simple, clear, addictive ideas.


Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company

By Andrew S. Grove,

Book cover of Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company

Why this book?

This book is a guide to surviving an existential crisis – what Grove calls a Strategic Inflection Point – when your business is subjected to one or more of six external forces, which, if powerful enough, could destroy the business.  Some of them are obvious – competitors, regulators, customers, vendors – but others more esoteric, like “the possibility your business could be done a different way”, what today we would call being disrupted.  I read it in 2015, when the company I run, FINCA International, was facing five of these six forces, each of which clobbered us with a 10x force compared to the first three decades of our existence, when competition was weak and most external forces enabled our success. How does a CEO respond to this challenge?  Grove’s answer is summarized in the title: remain in a permanent state of dread, which to outsiders might appear on the verge of psychotic. But by never relaxing or taking anything for granted, even during the best of times, you stand a chance of adapting, turning on a dime at times, and surviving. Grove tells us that in a huge company such as Intel the CEO must build strong connections to the front liners in his organization so that they can sound the alarm when a big change appears to be taking place. I found it to be a very useful framework for understanding everything that was going on and having a strategy for addressing it. I guess it works because both Intel and FINCA are still here.


Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets

By John McMillan,

Book cover of Reinventing the Bazaar: A Natural History of Markets

Why this book?

The right thinks markets are the magic solution to all problems; the left thinks they only let the rich exploit the poor. As always, the truth is more subtle. With rich details of how actual markets operate around the world, well grounded in modern economic theory of information and incentives, and written in a beautifully simple and engaging style, McMillan tells it like it is and explains why. If you have time to read only one book on economics, make it this one.


Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

By Tom Wainwright,

Book cover of Narconomics: How to Run a Drug Cartel

Why this book?

For a closer look at the way drug cartels work, Wainwright suggests we need to think of them in terms of big business, for that is what, underneath the extreme violence and horror, they are.


Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

By Dan Ariely,

Book cover of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Why this book?

People consider themselves as rational beings, but we are notin more than one surprising way. Ariely is giving us examples and sharing stories that show us how irrational we can sometimes really be. Reading this book cannot just allow us to see things more clearly when we make our choices in life. It can also allow us to understand others, and in a weird and funny way maybe even help us be more compassionate when facing other people's mistakes.


The Right Price: A Value-Based Prescription for Drug Costs

By Peter J. Neumann, Joshua T. Cohen, Daniel A. Ollendorf

Book cover of The Right Price: A Value-Based Prescription for Drug Costs

Why this book?

A key issue about drug pricing not covered in Kolchinsky's book relates to value: even if a new therapy is affordable, is it "worth it"? Health economist Peter Neumann and his colleagues have written an authoritative, insightful, and extremely accessible history of efforts to align drugs' prices with their benefits to patients and society. This is a must-read guide for both insiders and non-experts to a topic that will be at the forefront of the drug pricing debate in the coming decade. 

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

By Jeremy Adelman,

Book cover of Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

Why this book?

I have picked this book because it tells a story that should interest anyone even if they have no interest in technical economics. Albert Hirschman was born into a Jewish family in Berlin and in his teens became politically committed as a socialist, at a time when the rise of the Nazi party made this a dangerous activity. The book tells the story of his exploits in Germany and occupied Europe before he ended up in the United States, where he made his career as a specialist on economic development, spending a significant part of his life advising the government of Colombia.

Hopefully, the book gives an account of Hirschman’s economic ideas in a way that will make sense even to readers who don’t know any economics, but even without that, it is a sufficiently gripping story of the life of an exile from inter-war Germany who ended up as a prominent development economist.


How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World

By Nathan Rosenberg, L.E. Birdzell, Jr.,

Book cover of How the West Grew Rich: The Economic Transformation of the Industrial World

Why this book?

In the late eighteenth century, Adam Smith famously asked: Why are some nations rich and others poor? You probably aren’t going to read Smith’s Wealth of Nations to find out the answer. And thanks to Rosenberg and Birdzell’s readable book, you don’t have to. While more recent books offer complementary accounts of wealth and poverty, How the West Grew Rich remains the best.


The Law by Frederic Bastiat

By Frédéric Bastiat,

Book cover of The Law by Frederic Bastiat

Why this book?

The shortest, surest guide to understanding the government’s relationship to the economy. The Law was first published in 1850, but its relevance, importance, and accessibility are perennial. Multiply your value by getting the Foundation for Economic Education’s newest edition, which includes Bastiat’s classic essays “The Broken Window” and “The Candlemakers’ Petition.”

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

By Niall Ferguson,

Book cover of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World

Why this book?

Money is not the root of all evil, as this book makes clear in a highly entertaining romp through the major events in the history of coin and their derivatives. The author, who made his name with Empire, covers everything that really matters including the rise of the loan sharks, historic bubbles, the development of currencies, the egregious behaviour of a few very greedy and/or crooked people, supposedly fool-proof money-making schemes that backfired, and much else. If you want to understand how money works, you can hardly do better.


The Great Crash 1929

By John Kenneth Galbraith,

Book cover of The Great Crash 1929

Why this book?

A classic by the late great liberal economist, this book tells the American story of the greed, naivety and duplicity that laid the foundation for the implosion of Wall Street in 1929. It provides salutary reading for all investors. As Galbraith makes clear, bubbles always burst but few investors including professionals can summon the independence of mind to step aside before it’s too late. The author brings a sardonic rationality to this account of what was an avoidable disaster.


How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! The True Story Revealed

By Thomas W. Gilbert,

Book cover of How Baseball Happened: Outrageous Lies Exposed! The True Story Revealed

Why this book?

Gilbert is both a shrewd historian and a wonderful writer, and in this deeply researched volume, he details how and, convincingly, why the rise of the emerging urban bourgeoisie, extant political currents, and the expansion of railroads took the game of baseball from a game played in New York City and Brooklyn to the most popular sport among both players and spectators from one side of the continent to the other (and beyond).


The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

By Adam Tooze,

Book cover of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy

Why this book?

Tooze uses his mastery of economic sources to construct a brilliant, often startling, reinterpretation of Nazi geopolitics. He offers a comprehensive economic interpretation of the Nazi drive for expansionism in the 1930s, Hitler’s decision for war in 1939, and the timing and shape of the Barbarossa offensive against the Soviet Union in 1941. The Wages of Destruction also explores the economic dimensions of Hitler’s plans to liquidate the European Jews and other racial enemies. Perhaps his most arresting argument is that the rise of the United States as an economic superpower in the early twentieth century drove the politics of German ultranationalism between the wars.


The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

By Wendell Berry,

Book cover of The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

Why this book?

Farmer and author Wendell Berry is a personal hero of mine. From his home in Kentucky, Berry has been writing about regenerative agriculture for decades. The Art of the Commonplace gathers together twenty of his best essays. They articulate a compelling vision for people dissatisfied with the stress, anxiety, disease, and destructiveness of contemporary life. Berry is also the author of numerous works of poetry and fiction.


The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

By Arlie Russell Hochschild,

Book cover of The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling

Why this book?

We all do emotional labor, but most of us don’t get paid for it. Hell, most of us don’t even get noticed for it! The Managed Heart brings this labor out of the shadows, and it’s a life-changing book. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild developed the concept of emotional labor, which is the labor we do to manage our own emotions and the emotions of others in the context of our work. 

Emotional labor is crucial, but it’s nearly always unacknowledged, unsupported, and treated as something you should already know how to do – for free! This book helps you observe the hidden world of emotional labor and develop your own approach to this vital form of work.


Man, Economy, and State, V1: A Treatise on Economic Principles

By Murray N. Rothbard,

Book cover of Man, Economy, and State, V1: A Treatise on Economic Principles

Why this book?

I am an economist by training. I taught economic courses at Rutgers University for two decades but the only economic framework I consider useful for real-world managers is the classical school known as Austrian Economics, of which Murray Rothbard was one of the more eloquent and accessible voices. Mainstream economists busy themselves with complex mathematical models that are in the end utterly useless in explaining the world, or worse, are utterly wrong in predicting the consequences of policies but are provided by “court economists” to support ideologies. Murry Rothbard, in contrast, lays down the principles of economic theory that will guide your investment/competitive strategies based on the most solid and realistic economic reasoning around. The book is not easy to read, but it will change your understanding of the world. It inspired me to get a Ph.D. 


The Fourth Industrial Revolution

By Klaus Schwab,

Book cover of The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Why this book?

Written by the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, this book is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand how the technological revolution will change our lives. It begins to unravel the seemingly irreconcilable differences between our insatiable appetite for convenience and consumption with equity and sustainability. 


A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

By Rajeev Charles Patel, Jason W. Moore,

Book cover of A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet

Why this book?

I was born at the end of the 1980s and the majority of greenhouse gas emissions have been released in my lifetime. That means the world’s emitted more since Seinfeld was first broadcast than in the previous 10 millennia of human history. But this isn’t just a story of the last few decades or of certain bad technologies that use fossil fuels. It’s a story going back centuries, to the emergence of global systems of profit-making that impelled people across the world to seek people and nature to exploit for money. This book has been invaluable in helping me understand that history and in seeing the environmental crisis foremost as a crisis of politics and of the great economic systems that dominate our world. 


The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World

By Adrian Wooldridge,

Book cover of The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World

Why this book?

Genetics, meritocracy, and social mobility are often conflated. I was in awe of the breadth and clarity of this historical overview of how meritocracy overturned millennia of inheritance and patronage. The last half of the book diagnoses what’s gone wrong with meritocracy and suggests how it can be fixed. Adrian Wooldridge is The Economist’s political editor, which shows in the book’s brilliant and entertaining style.  


AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

By Kai-Fu Lee,

Book cover of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

Why this book?

I spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between science in Europe and Asia. Most of my work is historical. But I’m also interested in the future. In AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee gives a first-hand account of the development of artificial intelligence in China and the United States. This book also made me realise that, if you want to know what the future of the digital world will look like, you need to look to China. Even since this book was published, many of the features that Lee describes as characteristic of digital technology in China are now commonplace in the United States and elsewhere. An essential, if somewhat terrifying, vision of the future.


Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm

By Alex Blanchette,

Book cover of Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm

Why this book?

Did you know a single pig can be made into one thousand different products? This ethnography explores the ways humans extract profit from hogs, and simultaneously it is a commentary on the effects of industrialization. I thought I knew the problems with factory farming, but clearly I had only a surface understanding. Plus, rather than just dismissing humans as driven by craven or evil intentions, Blanchette is able to express compassion for the humans who are caught up in these systems of animal exploitation.  I learned so much about thinking and writing about animals and humans from reading this book. A flawless ethnography.   


American Dementia: Brain Health in an Unhealthy Society

By Daniel R. George, Peter J. Whitehouse,

Book cover of American Dementia: Brain Health in an Unhealthy Society

Why this book?

This book explains the tight connection between Alzheimer’s disease and education, health, income, and environment, and why the rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the population actually decreased in the decades following the most important societal changes enacted after World War II. Social safety, environmental protections, and income inequality have had far greater impact than any of the pharmacological approaches ever attempted. The authors make the compelling case that brain health is intimately connected to societal health.


Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

By Ryan Holiday,

Book cover of Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator

Why this book?

I couldn’t help but love this book for the marvelously dishy stories from inside the belly of the beast. You might think Ryan Holiday is dangerous, because he used all kinds of devious PR strategies to get journalists to promote his clients by giving them attention in their publications. He did it by arousing strong emotions, simplifying information, attacking opponents, and appealing to people’s deepest hopes fears, and dreams. But this entertaining read gets profound as Holiday reveals the dangers that can result from placing propaganda in the public sphere. Through rich storytelling, he unpacks the personal, social, and reputational damage caused by the many new media manipulators seeking to profit from controlling your attention.  


Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

By Deirdre Nansen McCloskey,

Book cover of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World

Why this book?

In Bourgeois EqualityMcCloskey presents one of the most intellectually rigorous, and forward-looking critiques of neoliberalism. She identifies that neoliberal institutionalist economists wholly rely on incentives, and material rewards, to incentivize actors to achieve anything. She argues that for the past two centuries of western liberal capitalism, this neoliberal hypothesis for the Great Enrichment of humankind misses on the one hand intrinsic rewards, and on the other hand virtue. She argues that people are motivated by ideals including freedom and dignity. Economists who believe that these can be reduced to rewards that actors can maximize have entirely missed the grandeur of the last two centuries. Hence the neoliberal solution of institutional design with correct incentives overlooks that ideas and virtuous ideals are powerfully transformative and the basis for human progress.


The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street

By Justin Fox,

Book cover of The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street

Why this book?

Perhaps no academic theory has had a more pernicious impact on how we understand and regulate the markets than the “rational market hypothesis” – the theory that “markets know best” and work best if left alone. Justin Fox explains the rise, the rule, and the ruin of this powerful but fundamentally flawed idea in a remarkably engaging way. A delight to read!


Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World

By David T. Courtwright,

Book cover of Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World

Why this book?

Forces of Habit is unbelievably wise and well-written, a tour of force on the drugs-especially illicit ones—can be what they are today. Courtwright looks at the supposedly hard drugs—marijuana, cocaine, and heroin—but also the soft ones—alcohol, nicotine, and even caffeine. I love that he forces all of us to consider how arbitrary the line is between illicit and legal, often depending on current social norms. 


The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good

By Robert H. Frank,

Book cover of The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good

Why this book?

Frank explains why Darwin is a better guide than Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations to the problems the economy raises for almost everyone. The most important market and the only market where almost everyone is a seller instead of a buyer is the labor market. Yet it is the one that Adam Smith got almost completely wrong and Charles Darwin got almost completely right. Frank shows us how the Darwinian process of the labor market makes employers rich at the expense of workers, and how they stitched their advantage into the “Right to Work” (at lower wages) laws.


A Theory of Economic History

By Sir John R. Hicks,

Book cover of A Theory of Economic History

Why this book?

I love this book for two reasons. It condenses a massive amount of economic history into a small book, and it shows how our unequal societies are backtracking to older models of the economy.

The Strategy of Conflict

By Thomas C. Schelling,

Book cover of The Strategy of Conflict

Why this book?

This is the book that brought game theory to life. Eschewing dry mathematical theorems, and conducting rigorous logical analysis through rich examples of strategic use of threats, promises, and brinkmanship in real life, Schelling opened up a whole world of practical applications of the theory. My own thinking and writing about game theory owes a huge debt to Schelling. You should also read his “Arms and Influence,” “Micromotives and Macrobehavior,” and “Choice and Consequence.”


Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

By Milton Friedman, Rose Friedman,

Book cover of Free to Choose: A Personal Statement

Why this book?

To build wealth, we need an environment that allows for unequal outcomes. The Friedmans argue that using societal or governmental force in the name of equality will destroy the environment where we are free to choose how wealth is grown. In their words: Freedom “preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.” Let the market determine the outcome. Bad ideas will wither away, and good ideas will thrive.


The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy

By Dani Rodrik,

Book cover of The Globalization Paradox: Democracy and the Future of the World Economy

Why this book?

Those who advocate most strongly for open borders and free trade – typically economists –focus their arguments on economic growth. Rodrik demonstrates that in opening borders something is lost, however, beyond the typical costs born by laid off manufacturing workers. Free trade can only be achieved with corollary changes in governance: to achieve truly open borders for goods, services, and capital, either democratic responsiveness or national self-determination will be casualties. Rodrik’s case for “you can’t have it all” is compelling.


Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

By Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo,

Book cover of Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty

Why this book?

Banerjee and Duflo examine poverty at ground level, far from grand debates about the miracle of market competition vs. the necessity of aid and instead closer to the people who actually experience poverty. The entire book is centered on a simple question: What works? And how can we figure out what works? The authors have combined economics with psychology and empirical methods to understand the foundations of how the poor make decisions: the answer, it turns out, is that the process follows human decision-making everywhere. The challenge is that circumstances surrounding poverty make “good” decisions much more difficult. The practical approach to poverty pioneered by Bannerjee and Duflo earned a well-deserved Nobel prize in 2019.


Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness

By Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein,

Book cover of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Why this book?

Don't worry, this is not a conspiracy book. This is an optimistic book about the ways we can help people make better choices by designing the system around them betterpreventing car crashes, promoting better nutrition, and even increasing the pool of organ donors. It is a fascinating read about small changes around us that can create big differences.


What Is Global History?

By Sebastian Conrad,

Book cover of What Is Global History?

Why this book?

So, what, exactly is this ‘world’ or ‘global history’? Authors slap the two words on their books, universities offer new courses in it, and government officials across the planet now speak of ‘global this’ and ‘global that’. One could be forgiven for throwing up one’s hands in exasperation for failing to understand what exactly these two words mean. That is until Sebastian Conrad published this gem of a book aptly entitled: What is Global History? Yes, it’s a bit academic, but it’s also clearly written, logically organized, and succeeds brilliantly in explaining what global history is and is not without losing the reader in theoretical jargon. If you want to try something beyond the ‘nation’ and ‘empire’, Conrad’s global history is a great place to start.


The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation

By Lyla Mehta,

Book cover of The Limits to Scarcity: Contesting the Politics of Allocation

Why this book?

This edited volume questions the notion of scarcity, which is the lynchpin of modern economics. Ever since Malthus’s Essay on Population at the turn of the 19th century, there is a myth that human wants are unlimited (and illimitable) and that the world is too small for all of us and our needs. Economists invented this myth to justify capitalism´s perpetuation of inequality and poverty amidst plenty, constructing an ideology of limitless growth as the only possible response to our predicament of this supposed universal and eternal scarcity. The contributions to this volume reveal how this ideology of scarcity plays out till our day, and elites invoke scarcity and limits to control the bodies and desires of marginalized groups. 


Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

By Dorie Clark,

Book cover of Entrepreneurial You: Monetize Your Expertise, Create Multiple Income Streams, and Thrive

Why this book?

So many entrepreneurs work endless hours without finding a way to monetize their work. They achieve success on paper, but don’t actually reap the financial benefits. This book provides a roadmap to monetize your talents in a number of ways – from building your brand to figuring out how to get people to pay for your services. 


Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

By Michael Moss,

Book cover of Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us

Why this book?

Have you ever thought of our current food environment in terms of the tobacco companies? You will after reading this book. Moss goes behind the scenes of the industrialization of food to show how intentionally these companies have tried (and succeeded!) to get everyone addicted to their products. Although some of his other books are interesting too, this one had a huge impact on how I think about our food environment – and what that has done to lower our nutrient intake.

The latest government data shows how important this is: North Americans are now consuming ultra-processed products for more than half of their dietary intake. This means we are voluntarily choosing to consume less than half the micronutrients our parents and grandparents ate.  


Bitter Money

By Parker Shipton,

Book cover of Bitter Money

Why this book?

It isn’t just African politics that is different. Economics is too. If modern economics had been invented by an African, instead of Adam Smith, it would look very different. Wealth would be measured in people rather than material objects, property, and capital. There would be much less emphasis on markets. Some things, should never be sold, and if they were it would create “bitter money” and bad luck. This book is a great place to start to re-think your ideas about economics.


John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics

By Richard Parker,

Book cover of John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics

Why this book?

In the 1950s and 1960s, J. K. Galbraith was probably America’s most famous economist. A Canadian, whose career began as an agricultural economist, Galbraith achieved notoriety in the United States as Director of the wartime Office of Price Administration, until he was forced to resign. He was one of the economists responsible for spreading Keynesian ideas in America, and became active in the Democratic Party, and a close friend and adviser to President John F. Kennedy. He was the author of a string of best-sellers: American Capitalism, The Great Crash:1929, The Affluent Society, and The New Industrial State, as well as a talented essayist and speech-writer, coining phrases that have become well known, including “the conventional wisdom” and “private wealth and public squalor.” Holding radical political views, he became an outsider to an economics profession that increasingly turned away from his non-technical literary style. Parker has written the definitive biography of an economist whose influence was greater outside the field of economics than within it.


Contagious: Why Things Catch on

By Jonan Berger,

Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Why this book?

Creative ideas are nothing without distribution. Social recognition plays an essential role in the creative process, but ideas can’t get recognized without people being exposed to them. Berger’s book provides a manual and framework for how to get your ideas seen, heard, or experienced. He also (successfully) leans on his professorial background to use research to help explain why these tactics work.


If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics

By Marilyn Waring,

Book cover of If Women Counted: A New Feminist Economics

Why this book?

A great—and very readable--explanation of how unpaid work, including care for dependents, has been rendered economically invisible. You may consider the “national income accounts” a hopelessly boring topic. This book will change your mind, and economists today are actually paying attention to it. Sooner rather than later the very concept of “income” is going to be redefined.


The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World

By Alan Greenspan,

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

Why 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.


Consumption Takes Time: Implications for Economic Theory

By Ian Steedman,

Book cover of Consumption Takes Time: Implications for Economic Theory

Why this book?

This looks like it’s the sternest and most boring book ever, but I love Steedman’s cool-and-collected ability to address the implications of the obvious: You can only do one thing at a time. You only have two hands. And when you’re with one set of belongings, you’re neglecting all the other stuff you own.


An Intimate Economy: Enslaved Women, Work, and America's Domestic Slave Trade

By Alexandra J. Finley,

Book cover of An Intimate Economy: Enslaved Women, Work, and America's Domestic Slave Trade

Why this book?

The domestic slave trade business was operated predominantly by white men, but the labor of Black women was critical to making it profitable. Here, Alexandra Finley recovers the stories of Black women who fed and clothed the enslaved in pens and jail, who kept the houses of slave traders, who were commodified for purposes of sexual slavery in the so-called fancy trade, and who sometimes even lived as the concubines and “wives” of traders. Putting enslaved women and their work at the center of the story yields an entirely new angle of vision on the trade.


The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860

By Calvin Schermerhorn,

Book cover of The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860

Why this book?

Much of the recent outpouring of books on the domestic slave trade is an outgrowth of revived debates about the historical relationship between slavery and capitalism in the United States. Calvin Schermerhorn draws that connection as tightly as any historian in recent memory, tracing the financial innovations generated by the trade and following the money around the country and across the Atlantic as a foundation for American economic growth was built on the backs of hundreds of thousands of enslaved people trafficked against their will.


Economic Sophisms and "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen"

By Frédéric Bastiat,

Book cover of Economic Sophisms and "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen"

Why this book?

Bastiat was a 19th-century French economist, writer, and politician. Economic Sophisms is a collection of short and enjoyable essays illustrating the case for free trade and attacking some economic misconceptions. Many of the essays’ themes and arguments are relevant today, and Bastiat’s critiques of big government are often witty.

In one essay, Bastiat presents a “candlemakers petition” to the parliament for protection against the unfair competition of sunlight, which was flooding the market with a superior product at virtually zero price. Modern critiques of zero price “monopolists” (e.g., Facebook or Google) should take note!

In What is Seen and Not Seen Bastiat introduces the “parable of the broken window” to show that economic resources are fundamentally scarce: resources expended on one activity are not available for others. Centuries later, many policymakers are yet to grasp this insight.


Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

By Bryan Caplan, Zach Weinersmith (illustrator),

Book cover of Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration

Why this book?

Before reading this book, I would never have believed that you can effectively address an important political issue by writing a… graphic novel. But economist Bryan Caplan did just that. Whereas Carens’ book makes a philosophical case for open borders, Caplan excels at addressing a variety of practical policy issues. With a combination of eloquent words and powerful images, he shows how immigration can greatly expand freedom and prosperity for migrants and natives alike. He also effectively goes over a wide range of potential downsides of immigration, such as overburdening the welfare state, environmental damage, and much else. 


Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy

By Adam Tooze,

Book cover of Shutdown: How Covid Shook the World's Economy

Why this book?

How can we make sense of the Covid-19 pandemic? Adam Tooze gives us a clear answer: it is the first crisis of the new era of environmental crisis. My work now focuses on the increasingly destabilizing effects that the crisis will bring into the future and how future leaders can be better ready to carry on the struggle under worsening conditions. The responses of current leaders to the pandemic – some good, many poor – are a key resource to learn from. This book is a first bash at learning the lessons from the pandemic. Into the future, more than anything we need leaders and governments who are capable of freeing us from the freezing embrace of fear in face of seemingly insurmountable odds. 


Nudge

By Richard H. Thaler, Cass R. Sunstein,

Book cover of Nudge

Why this book?

After "bias," what is the second-most-popular behavioral science buzzword? Nudge, of course. Some think nudges are a brilliant invention; others claim they're a tool for cynical manipulation. Whether you are in one camp or in the other, the place to start is the book that made the case for "libertarian paternalism," now in a new, "final" edition. If you think you already know what nudges are, you may be surprised to find that "choice architecture," as Thaler and Sunstein call it, is a much more subtle art than you think.

A Most Enterprising Country: North Korea in the Global Economy

By Justin V. Hastings,

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

Why 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. 


Unveiling the North Korean Economy: Collapse and Transition

By Byung-Yeon Kim,

Book cover of Unveiling the North Korean Economy: Collapse and Transition

Why this book?

For those with some economics background and willing to do their homework, Kim’s book is the state of the art. He has sorted through all the shards of data out there—on prices, output, and trade--and pulled them together into a compelling mosaic. Of particular interest is his discussion of possible transition paths--were the regime to change course--as well as the possibility that the system might come crashing down altogether.


Essentials of Statistics for Business & Economics

By David R. Anderson, Dennis J. Sweeney, Thomas A. Williams, Jeffrey D. Camm, James J. Cochran

Book cover of Essentials of Statistics for Business & Economics

Why this book?

Here’s some bad news for non-STEM people: You’re going to have to learn a little about statistics. Otherwise, at some point, you going to get, as Nassim Nicholas Taleb puts it, “fooled by randomness.” An example: Suppose you’ve been a sales manager for a long time but recently you failed to close a string of prospects. How unusual is this? It could be just a run of bad luck, or is it time to make some significant personnel moves? Basic knowledge of statistics can help. If your math is rusty, you might want to take a stat course for non-math majors. Otherwise, here’s a book that I used with my MBA students that features scenarios from businesses.  


The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality

By Katharina Pistor,

Book cover of The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality

Why this book?

This book is important for all those interested in the systemic change needed to reduce inequality and alter the current socio-economic status quo. Pistor explains how the structure of modern legal frameworks and practice of law has led to an entrenched and limited distribution of capital and financial opportunity. It is not a technical book but very readable and for those working in this area like myself, it is a very important book.


Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs--from Delhi to Detroit--Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley

By Alexandre Lazarow,

Book cover of Out-Innovate: How Global Entrepreneurs--from Delhi to Detroit--Are Rewriting the Rules of Silicon Valley

Why this book?

Alex Lazarow is one of those rare people who can observe things taking place around the world and package them for us in a way we can comprehend that an important change in the way things used to be done is taking place, and if we want to keep up we need to pay attention.  The change Alex sees is in the way start-ups are happening and companies are being structured.  Whereas investors and entrepreneurs alike used to try to create “unicorns” – i.e., companies that “disrupted” an existing sector with little capital investment and could scale from thousands to millions in sales in less than a year, and IPO the next year to achieve a market cap of billions – Alex thinks the future is with “Camels”, which do not try to scale recklessly to achieve a gigantic short term payday but rather try to build something that is resilient and will probably be around for the long run.  Another big change at work is that Silicon Valley will not be the “only game in town” when it comes to finding the building blocks and resources required by start-ups; Alex thinks they will be found globally, even in Emerging Markets.  Loaded with interesting stories about which companies are “making it” and why, I think Alex’s book is a must for anyone starting and building their own company or investing in one.


Stumbling on Happiness

By Daniel Gilbert,

Book cover of Stumbling on Happiness

Why this book?

Knowing what we want can be tricky. In order to do that, we need to imagine our future selves and guess what they will be satisfied with. Surprisingly, knowing what you want might be much trickier than you think. Gilbert's book is full of insights and scientific discoveries about human nature that are fascinating, witty, and many times insightful. Happiness is a state of mind, and the mind is full of surprises.


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

By Naomi Klein,

Book cover of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Why this book?

I read Klein’s No Logo as a teenager and it formed a very deep impression on me, I’ve been a follower of her work ever since. I’m constantly confused and fascinated by people who claim that the climate crisis will be solved by ‘market solutions’ despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary, much of which is skillfully unpacked here. Important and enlightening. 


The New Geography of Jobs

By Enrico Moretti,

Book cover of The New Geography of Jobs

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).


The E Myth Revisited

By Michael E. Gerber,

Book cover of The E Myth Revisited

Why this book?

There is a difference between good at what you do and creating a business. This book will help you learn the value of working on your business, not just in your business. The book explains why 80% of small businesses fail, and how to ensure yours isn’t among those. Learn why you need to build a company that’s based on processes and systems and not on the work of a single person and their talent.


Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality

By Patrick Sharkey,

Book cover of Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality

Why this book?

Pat Sharkey draws on a rich longitudinal dataset (the Panel Study of Income Dynamics) that follows individuals and households over decades and keeps track of them as they change, move, and form new households. He uses it to show that Black Americans are unique in the degree to which they are confined to poor and disadvantaged neighborhoods across time and the generations, and how neighborhood disadvantage works so powerfully to perpetuate poverty and stymie upward mobility.


How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

By Walter Rodney,

Book cover of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

Why this book?

The canon of anti-colonial, anti-racism writing from and about Africa includes many authors whose passion and insights are sometimes muddied by turgid or masculinist prose. For me, Rodney stands out – and stands the test of time – by the way he so masterfully weaves history into a compelling narrative that utterly demolishes the lies and conceits about supposed Western benevolence toward the continent. Scales fell from my eyes the first time (of many) I read this book. And yes, Rodney is almost as androcentric in his language, sources, and arguments as was the norm in those days. But his acknowledgment of the dignity of African women is implicit, and his discussion of the regressive elements of the colonial economy and education for African women and girls presaged a field of scholarly enquiry and activism that still intrigues me.


Lionel Robbins

By Susan Howson,

Book cover of Lionel Robbins

Why this book?

Lionel Robbins was very important in twentieth-century British economics, primarily because he was a key figure at the London School of Economics, which by mid-century came to dominate the field. Susan Howson tells the story of his life, from his birth on a farm just outside London, through his military service in the First World War to his career as an economist. His views brought him into conflict with Keynes over how government should (or should not) take action to cure the Great Depression, and he was responsible for bringing the Austrian economist, Friedrich Hayek, to London. In the Second World War, he worked alongside Keynes in what later became the Government Economic Service. However, he was much more than an economist and after the war he became a major public figure, important for the arts and laying out a blueprint for the development of British higher education. It is a big book but that is because there are so many sides to Robbins’s activities.


A People's Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics

By Hadas Thier,

Book cover of A People's Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics

Why this book?

A People’s Guide is just a lively, accessible, and up-to-date guide to the basics of capitalism. Hadas Thier explains complex ideas in a simple and engaging way with excellent day-to-day examples. It’s economics for those who want to understand and dismantle the world of the 1%. And it’s written not from an academic but from an activist viewpoint.

The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education

By W. Edwards Deming,

Book cover of The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education

Why this book?

Deming’s work is classic. He understood how messed up the corporate world was getting way back in the 1960s. But we Americans wouldn’t listen, so he went and helped Japan, and most notably, Toyota. It’s fascinating to read his work that was way ahead of its time and notice the things we are just starting to implement today. It’s also a great prophecy of what’s to come.


Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

By Joshua Eisenman,

Book cover of Red China's Green Revolution: Technological Innovation, Institutional Change, and Economic Development Under the Commune

Why this book?

This book, like Mao and After, credits the era of Mao with far more achievements than they are given by the political and intellectual elite in post-Mao China. This book particularly focuses on the collective system or what was called the Commune and exploits the technical innovation and economic developments under the Commune. This is in total contrast to the accepted wisdom that there was economic stagnation in the era of Mao

Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World

By Andrew Phillips, J.C. Sharman,

Book cover of Outsourcing Empire: How Company-States Made the Modern World

Why this book?

The “company-states” of the book’s title include the East India companies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and their peers in other regions, like the Hudson’s Bay Company. These corporations enjoyed many of the powers of states: they hired troops, armed ships, waged war, and signed treaties with foreign rulers. Some came to govern empires. The authors explain how these hybrid geopolitical actors—part capitalist businesses, part polities—came to acquire a key role in global politics, and why they subsequently lost it. Modern multinationals can be geopolitical actors too, we imagine, but Phillips and Sharman show how different the capitalist order of the past was from the world we live in today.


Limits of Organization

By Kenneth J. Arrow,

Book cover of Limits of Organization

Why this book?

The core question in social science may well be this: markets or central planning? This short book contains one person’s take on that big question. That person, Ken Arrow, many believe to be the greatest economic theorist of the past hundred years. His clarity, constraint, and curiosity inspire awe. Arrow, who derived the fundamental welfare theorems of economics,  describes the advantages markets as only he can without being blind to their shortcomings; markets reward selfishness and fail to include any defensible distribution of income. His rich, prescient analysis of formal organizations goes far beyond the standard transaction costs logic and includes remarks on path dependence, communications costs, and the difficulty of determining optimal organizational structures.  

Though central, the markets versus central planning reading obscure Arrow’s profound observations on invisible institutions: trust, ethics, and morality. Much to contemplate here including his observation that informational asymmetries limit the value of considering the welfare of others when taking individual actions. 


The Third Wave: The Classic Study of Tomorrow

By Alvin Toffler,

Book cover of The Third Wave: The Classic Study of Tomorrow

Why this book?

I like to look at the big picture. This book’s picture is huge: it explains three waves of human civilization, from agriculture and land ownership, to centralization and mass manufacturing, to distributed and custom everything—the wave we are in now. It was originally published in 1980 and predicted our current culture and technology with astonishing accuracy. I, and many entrepreneurs of the time, tried to use those predictions to guide our businesses, and many, like Amazon, succeeded as a result. Are there still more third wave things to invent? Yes—think of how streaming video channels are just now taking over from cable and broadcast, not to mention movie theatres. Will this help you invent the next big thing? Maybe. And what will the fourth wave be?


The Lessons of History

By Will Durant, Ariel Durant,

Book cover of The Lessons of History

Why 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.  


Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy

By Philip Evans, Thomas S. Wurster,

Book cover of Blown to Bits: How the New Economics of Information Transforms Strategy

Why this book?

This book described the economics of the internet age as the web was taking off. It remains a classic in that it not only predicted many of the transformations that were to play out on the web, including social media, and it continues to be useful as a template for predicting the coming transformations that will be wrought by Web3 and Blockchain.


The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy

By Steve Stoute,

Book cover of The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy

Why this book?

Reputations are formed in many ways, leveraging off demonstrated behaviours, network choices, and narrative strategies. This book has it all, capturing how hip hop became the defining cultural driver of its time through a brilliantly woven story of cross-cultural tension and appropriation in America. Stoute draws from his expertise and networks in the music and marketing industries to create an inspiring story of how hip-hop became the embodiment of cool, uniting people from across the entire spectrum of society. This is a book that will remain contemporary for many decades to come.  


The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

By Daniel Bell,

Book cover of The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism

Why this book?

Bell, one of the greatest sociologists of the twentieth century, argues that having the right culture is essential for capitalism (or any other economic or political system) to flourish – and I certainly agree. But he goes further: he worries that over time the economic gains that capitalism delivers end up undermining the cultural conditions that allow capitalism to flourish in the first place. His book is about the role of culture more broadly, not religion in particular, but religion certainly fits within the overall argument.


Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort

By Franz Neumann, Herbert Marcuse, Otto Kirchheimer

Book cover of Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effort

Why this book?

This is certainly the nerdiest of my selections. It is simply a collection of analytical assessments from the sharpest minds to study Nazi Germany during WWII. The authors of these reports, most of them Jewish intellectual academics who fled the Third Reich, joined America’s embryonic intelligence community before the CIA existed. The documents show how their deep knowledge of German social forces enabled them to counter the more superficial analysis of military and political officials about Germany’s likely course. As I wrote in my own book, if America had only had comparable experts on Afghanistan, the war there might not have ended as it did.


Negotiation

By Roy Lewicki, Bruce Barry, David Saunders

Book cover of Negotiation

Why this book?

I got this book when I was in law school and found it to be filled with insights that I never expected nor got anywhere else. It must be good because it’s on its 8th edition now! However, I should warn you that it’s dense (over 600 pages) and designed for students. But for the reader who wants to become a serious professional negotiator, this is the book I keep referring back to. This is for the person who wants a really deep dive into the subject of negotiations. It covers every aspect from psychology to economics to closing the deal. 


The Making Of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy Of American Empire

By Leo Panitch, Sam Gindin,

Book cover of The Making Of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy Of American Empire

Why this book?

This book adds the international dimension to the Neoliberal story. Gindin and Panitch argue that the U.S. national state and “American MNCs” found key allies abroad among many dominant groups, as various state elites and dominant class fractions worldwide stood to gain through neoliberal reforms. The authors argue that supranational organizations developed largely along U.S. strategic lines. They explain for example how U.S. representatives hold inordinate influence through supranational forums such as the Bank for International Settlements, the World Trade Organization, and the International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, legal reforms (with U.S. support) have been made in many countries to limit the influence that voters have on economic policy with, for example, the de-politicization of trade policy. This is the story we tell for the U.S. writ large.


Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life

By Jane Jacobs,

Book cover of Cities and the Wealth of Nations: Principles of Economic Life

Why this book?

I was introduced to Jane Jacobs as required reading during graduate school. I’m convinced that most urban planners who claim to adore Jacobs have not actually read her, particularly Cities and the Wealth of Nations, which is my favorite. Its thoroughly brutal logic stands in contrast to nearly everything we still do to manage our cities. Jacobs is an insightful genius.


Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence

By Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb

Book cover of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence

Why this book?

This book lays out one of the most useful big-picture ways to put AI to use:  as a predictive tool. The central point of the book is that from a business/economic standpoint, AI increases accuracy and reduces the cost of making data-driven predictions. The benefit of reducing the cost of predicting in business is enormous and this book lays that out clearly. And the rest of it is focused on how that will affect the world around us. I recommend this book highly to any manager who is thinking through what AI means for their firm. The writing style is clear – not excessively technical. A great read for everyone!


The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

By Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee,

Book cover of The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies

Why this book?

One of the biggest questions surrounding AI is the impact it will have on jobs. Just as manufacturing jobs are affected by mechanical automation, many white- and blue-collar jobs are going to be affected by AI-driven automation in the future. The question is whether AI will be like all technologies in the past (which have created more jobs than they have destroyed) or whether it is unique in its ability to automate and displace human jobs at a faster pace than the jobs it creates. Many commentators have asked the question and there are dozens of books exploring how AI will affect jobs.

Among all the books out there on the impact of AI-driven automation, this is one of my favorites. While offering a fundamentally optimistic take, the authors also warn the reader that our education systems will need to change and people will need to upskill themselves and public policy will need to keep up in order for us to successfully manage the transition. If you are under 40 years of age or have children who will be entering the workforce in the future, you should read this to understand how to adapt to AI.


Birds of Passage: Migrant Labor and Industrial Societies

By Michael J. Piore,

Book cover of Birds of Passage: Migrant Labor and Industrial Societies

Why this book?

This is an “oldie but goodie” – a classic text that has stood the test of time. Its critique of neoclassical economic theories shifted the paradigm for understanding labor migration. One key takeaway is Piore’s argument that the primary driver of immigration is employer demand for low-wage labor; the “push” factors previous commentators often emphasized are secondary. Another is that even when migrants themselves, and/or the countries that receive them, expect them to be temporary sojourners who will soon return to their countries of origin, most end up settling permanently, encouraging their children’s aspirations for upward mobility. Drawing on rich fieldwork from around the world as well as deep historical research, this book illuminates not only the past but also immigration developments since its publication over four decades ago.


Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago

By Carol Willis,

Book cover of Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and Chicago

Why this book?

A great account of the interaction between economics and architecture in the rise of the New York and Chicago skylines. Willis is the founder and director of the Skyscraper Museum in New York City. This book was one of the first that I read as I started to do research on the economics of skyscrapers. I was fascinated by Willis' account. Arguably, this book, more than any other, helped to define my 15 years of research on the topic.


Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

By Saskia Sassen,

Book cover of Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy

Why this book?

The important argument lying at the heart of this beautifully written book is that the trajectory of the current global economy, driven by neoliberal logics, is fundamentally one of expulsions: that is, expelling the poor, the biosphere, democracy, and anything else that gets in the way of maximizing profit. This book takes massive case studiesfrom palm oil production in Malaysia and Indonesia to water bottling by large corporations in the USand demonstrates how they are ultimately about pushing people out instead of inviting people in. It raises important questions about who the economy is for, and what ends we are ultimately building toward as a global society. I don’t have a pithy personal story about this book; I just think you should read it.


The Elf Tangent

By Lindsay Buroker,

Book cover of The Elf Tangent

Why this book?

The Elf Tangent is an adorable (yet surprisingly dangerous) romp through the woods. Our heroine, Aldari, is an intellectual princess who has reluctantly agreed to marry the prince of a neighboring kingdom (sight unseen!) to save her own people. As she travels to her wedding day, her party is attacked and she and her bodyguard are kidnapped by elves who need her help to break a generations-old curse. For once, someone needs—and appreciates—her brains! Caught between the needs of her people and the intriguing puzzle presented by the elves (oh, and the enticing commander of their party), Aldari must use her wit—and at one point a shovel—to get out of her predicament.