The best books about economists

2 authors have picked their favorite books about economists and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Provocative Joan Robinson: The Making of a Cambridge Economist

The Provocative Joan Robinson: The Making of a Cambridge Economist

By Nahid Aslanbegui, Guy Oakes,

Why this book?

Joan Robinson is widely considered to be the woman who should have received the Nobel Memorial Prize in economics but never did. This book is the story about how she managed to forge a career as an economic theorist, at a time when such a career path was unusual, in the misogynistic environment of Cambridge. Not only did she succeed in writing a book that arguably changed the way firms and markets were analysed, but she also became involved in the Keynesian revolution. Her career did not just happen: it needed to be promoted and for that strategy was important.…

From the list:

The best biographies of late 20th century economists

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

Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman

By Jeremy Adelman,

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…

From the list:

The best biographies of late 20th century economists

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

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

By Richard Parker,

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…

From the list:

The best biographies of late 20th century economists

Book cover of Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes

Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes

By Richard Davenport-Hines,

Why this book?

My fourth pick is another biography, of the economist John Maynard Keynes. Richard Davenport-Hines has divided up his account into ‘seven lives’. Yet by taking his personal life and sexual identity seriously, Davenport-Hines achieves an outstanding unification. Seriousness is not solemnity: readers will find here a delightful story about Keynes admiring Alan Turing’s fingernails at King’s College, Cambridge. There is much more to illustrate the extraordinary King’s College ambiance in which Turing found his home, and deeper connections: in late 1946, both were crossing the Atlantic, Keynes to rescue the British economy, Turing on his start-up of the computer industry.…
From the list:

The best books to widen your picture of Alan Turing’s world

Book cover of Lionel Robbins

Lionel Robbins

By Susan Howson,

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…

From the list:

The best biographies of late 20th century economists

Book cover of The City as Subject, 13: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka

The City as Subject, 13: Seki Hajime and the Reinvention of Modern Osaka

By Jeffrey E. Haynes,

Why this book?

Osaka became an industrial giant during the Meiji period, remaining one of the world’s fastest-growing cities throughout the later decades of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth.  The city outgrew Tokyo in both population and industrial production for a brief period during the 1930s.  This was a time when social displacement, horrendous public health and housing failings, and labor unrest threatened communal wellbeing.  The city responded with some of the most innovative social policies of the era, especially under the leadership of Mayor Seki Hajime.  As Hanes uncovers, Seki used his training as a social economist to…

From the list:

The best books for understanding Japanese urban history

Book cover of Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism

Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism

By Rick Kuhn,

Why this book?

Rick Kuhn’s book brings to our attention the ideas of the most important Marxist economist of the 20th century, previously forgotten and ignored. A Polish Jew and Communist, Grossman revives Marx’s economic theory in a clear fashion after the misunderstandings and distortions of Marx’s epigones. Grossman’s ideas, written in the 1920s and 1930s, are still relevant 100 years later.
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Book cover of Markings

Markings

By Dag Hammarskjöld, W.H. Auden (translator), L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg (translator)

Why this book?

Markings consists of profound thoughts, quotes, and poems of the Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld was a successful man yet his reflections in the book depict that if success is not motivated by a higher purpose it can’t provide genuine fulfillment. I enjoy the fact that the passages in the book are contemplative and can be read during quiet hours to ponder over.

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The best books for living a life of purpose

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