The most recommended books on value in economics

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to value in economics, and here are their favorite value in economics books.
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Book cover of Epistemological Problems of Economics. Ludwig Von Mises

Jasper Becker Author Of Made in China: Wuhan, Covid and the Quest for Biotech Supremacy

From my list on understanding the history of communism.

Who am I?

Jasper Becker is a foreign correspondent who spent decades reporting on China and the Far East. His the author of numerous books including Hungry Ghosts – Mao’s Secret Famine, Rogue Regime – Kim Jong Il and the looming threat of North Korea, City of Heavenly Tranquillity, and most recently Made in China – Wuhan, COVID and the Quest for Biotech Supremacy.

Jasper's book list on understanding the history of communism

Jasper Becker Why did Jasper love 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.

By Ludwig von Mises,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Epistemological Problems of Economics. Ludwig Von Mises as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in German in 1933 and in English in 1960, Epistemological Problems of Economics presents Ludwig von Mises’s views on the logical and epistemological features of social interpretation as well as his argument that the Austrian theory of value is the core element of a general theory of human behavior that transcends traditional limitations of economic science.

This volume is unique among Mises’s works in that it contains a collection of essays in which he contested the theories of intellectuals he respected such as Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, and Max Weber. Mises describes how value theory applies to…


Book cover of Tulipmania: Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age

Hugh Aldersey-Williams Author Of Dutch Light

From my list on understanding the Dutch Golden Age.

Who am I?

In my writing about science, I am always keen to include the artistic and literary dimension that links the science to the broader culture. In Huygens, a product of the Dutch Golden Age, I found a biographical subject for whom it would have been quite impossible not to embrace these riches. This context – including painting, music, poetry, mechanics, architecture, gardens, fashion and leisure – is crucial to understanding the life that Huygens led and the breakthroughs he was able to make.

Hugh's book list on understanding the Dutch Golden Age

Hugh Aldersey-Williams Why did Hugh love this book?

Perhaps no one object was more demonstrative of the Dutch thirst for beauty, novelty and showing-off-but-not-showing-off riches than the tulip. The famous mania for these exotic bulbs, bred to produce ever more exotic flowers and to command ever higher prices, supposedly produced the world’s first economic bubble, which burst spectacularly in February 1637.

The truth is less spectacular (few people were involved in the trade and even fewer were ruined) but, in Goldgar’s skilful telling, much richer and more nuanced than the myth. The episode tells us about the growth of maritime trade and the emergence of the modern financial industry (including the important concept of risk) as well as the cultural interests of Dutch people at this exciting time in their history when the accumulation and subtle display of wealth vied in importance with the quest for aesthetic novelty and genuine curiosity about the natural world. One fashion-conscious doctor…

By Anne Goldgar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In the 1630s, the Netherlands was gripped by tulipmania: a speculative fever unprecedented in scale and, as popular history would have it, folly. We all know the outline of the story - how otherwise sensible merchants, nobles, and artisans spent all they had (and much that they didn't) on tulip bulbs. We have heard how these bulbs changed hands hundreds of times in a single day, and how some bulbs, sold and resold for thousands of guilders, never even existed. Tulipmania is seen as an example of the gullibility of crowds and the dangers of financial speculation.But it wasn't like…


Book cover of Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life

Jonathan Chevreau Author Of Findependence Day

From my list on financial independence and retirement.

Who am I?

I am a veteran semi-retired Canadian financial journalist who has long made a distinction between the terms “Retirement” and “Financial Independence.” I  recently turned 70 and have been financially independent since my early 60s BUT I am not yet retired. I coined the term Findependence in my financial novel Findependence Day, and since 2014 have been running the Financial Independence Hub blog, with new blogs every business day.

Jonathan's book list on financial independence and retirement

Jonathan Chevreau Why did Jonathan love this book?

The late Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard Group, published this excellent book in 2009.

Consider the following apophyrical tale related in Chapter 10 of Enough: “Too Much Success, Not Enough Character.” It concerns an old greyhound who spent his days at a race track chasing a mechanical rabbit. Over the years, the dog had won over a million dollars for his owner but ultimately decided to quit: not because he was mistreated or had become disabled but because “I found out that the rabbit I was chasing wasn’t even real.”

Those who accumulate more money than they need in life and end up as the richest denizen in the cemetery would do well to reflect on the main premises of Enough. Remember, financial independence is about having income exceed expenses, no matter how modest those expenses might be. It’s about working only because you want to, not because you…

By John C. Bogle,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

John Bogle puts our obsession with financial success in perspective Throughout his legendary career, John C. Bogle-founder of the Vanguard Mutual Fund Group and creator of the first index mutual fund-has helped investors build wealth the right way and led a tireless campaign to restore common sense to the investment world. Along the way, he's seen how destructive an obsession with financial success can be. Now, with Enough., he puts this dilemma in perspective. Inspired in large measure by the hundreds of lectures Bogle has delivered to professional groups and college students in recent years, Enough. seeks, paraphrasing Kurt Vonnegut,…


Book cover of Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children

Paula S. Fass Author Of The End of American Childhood: A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child

From my list on understanding American parenting.

Who am I?

As a social historian, I have helped to direct scholarly attention to the history of family life and helped to create the field of history of children. I'm the editor of a pioneering three-volume encyclopedia on the history of children and the author of six books and editor of three others based on extensive research about children’s experiences in the United States and the Western world. I've also been widely interviewed on the subject. The End of American Childhood brings this research experience and broad expertise in the field to a subject of urgent interest to today’s parents who want to understand how their own views about children and their child-rearing perspectives are grounded historically. 

Paula's book list on understanding American parenting

Paula S. Fass Why did Paula love this book?

Sociologist Viviana Zelizer began the research quest to understand modern American childhood and policies toward children by proposing that how we understand the value of children changed radically in the late nineteenth century. 

By redefining children as emotional assets rather than as economic investmentsas objects of love and caretaking, rather than contributors to the household and public economyAmerican parenting was revolutionized.

This fundamental transformation offers the basis for understanding policy changes, a new commitment to schooling, and other efforts on behalf of children that took root at the turn of the twentieth century.

By Viviana A. Zelizer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pricing the Priceless Child as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this landmark book, sociologist Viviana Zelizer traces the emergence of the modern child, at once economically "useless" and emotionally "priceless," from the late 1800s to the 1930s. Having established laws removing many children from the marketplace, turn-of-the-century America was discovering new, sentimental criteria to determine a child's monetary worth. The heightened emotional status of children resulted, for example, in the legal justification of children's life insurance policies and in large damages awarded by courts to their parents in the event of death. A vivid account of changing attitudes toward children, this book dramatically illustrates the limits of economic views…


Book cover of The Ethics of Authenticity

Adam Ellwanger Author Of Metanoia: Rhetoric, Authenticity, and the Transformation of the Self

From my list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless.

Who am I?

I'm a professor of rhetoric at the University of Houston – Downtown. In addition to my academic research, I write political and cultural commentary for a variety of right-of-center online publications. Much of my own work focuses on how individuals come to be persuaded about who they are. I argue that much of the frustration people feel when searching for their authentic identity is due to the fact that the existence of the hidden ‘true self’ is an illusion. The quest for authenticity is never complete. The good news, though, is that you can put an end to the suffering… only if you’re willing to give up the fevered pursuit of the “true self.”

Adam's book list on why looking for your ‘true self’ is pointless

Adam Ellwanger Why did Adam love this book?

If you want to learn about the history of the concept of authenticity and how it is understood in the western world, this is probably the best book to read (after my book, of course!). Charles Taylor is one of the most prominent living philosophers of selfhood, and this book (topping out at only a little over 100 pages) is an easy-to-read digestion of the ideas that he elaborated in his much-longer book Sources of the Self. Taylor is ambivalent about whether personal authenticity is a good or a bad thing in our era. He recognizes the harms imposed by some of the debased forms that it takes in modern society, but Taylor also tries to articulate an ethics that could rehabilitate authenticity in a way that affirms the dignity of and respect for each individual. I don’t like the fence-sitting, but this remains required reading.

By Charles Taylor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Everywhere we hear talk of decline, of a world that was better once, maybe fifty years ago, maybe centuries ago, but certainly before modernity drew us along its dubious path. While some lament the slide of Western culture into relativism and nihilism and others celebrate the trend as a liberating sort of progress, Charles Taylor calls on us to face the moral and political crises of our time, and to make the most of modernity's challenges.

"The great merit of Taylor's brief, non-technical, powerful book...is the vigor with which he restates the point which Hegel (and later Dewey) urged against…


Book cover of Boggs: A Comedy of Values

Ben Orlin Author Of Math with Bad Drawings: Illuminating the Ideas That Shape Our Reality

From Ben's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Who am I?

Author Math lover Bad at drawing

Ben's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Ben Orlin Why did Ben love this book?

I grabbed this book off a bargain shelf, unsure whether it was fiction. That was a perfect misconception. I encourage you to buy the book without finding out.

Read this description and nothing else: Boggs is an artist. His work: exquisite duplicates of currency notes. Not counterfeits! Boggs always emphasizes that his bills are art, not currency. Nevertheless, he attempts to “spend” them. After running up a restaurant tab for $87, he offers to “pay” his server a drawing of a $100 bill—which, of course, is hard to price, being art, but he’s willing to value it at, let’s say…how does $100 sound?

His work, then, is not just the bills. It is the bizarre interactions with strangers, the way he challenges them to think about value, money, currency, art, exchange… all very interesting, in a good way. But when the Secret Service gets involved, it’s interesting in a less…

By Lawrence Weschler,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this text, Lawrence Weschler chronicles the antics of J.S.G. Boggs, a young artist with a certain panache, a certain flair, an artist whose consuming passion is money, or perhaps, more precisely, value. What Boggs likes to do is to draw money - actual paper notes in the denominations of standard currencies from all over the world - and then to go out and try to spend those drawings. Instead of selling his money drawings outright to interested collectors, Boggs looks for merchants who will accept his drawings in lieu of cash payment for their wares or services as part…


Book cover of What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures

Peter A. Bamberger Author Of Exposing Pay: Pay Transparency and What It Means for Employees, Employers, and Public Policy

From my list on (mis)managing people at work.

Who am I?

I've been studying people at work for over 40 years, starting as an undergraduate at Cornell’s School of Labor Relations. As a student, I got involved with the trade union movement in the US, and worked as an assembly-line worker and fruit picker on kibbutzim in Israel. These hands-on experiences made me want to understand and have an impact on the way people spend most of their working hours. I’ve collected survey data from literally thousands of workers in dozens of studies conducted around the world. I’ve published more articles in scholarly journals than I ever imagined possible. And while I’m still passionate about the study of work, I’ve yet to really understand it.

Peter's book list on (mis)managing people at work

Peter A. Bamberger Why did Peter love this book?

Malcom Gladwell is undoubtedly the best translator of social science research writing these days. 

What the Dog Saw is a compendium of New Yorker essays penned by Gladwell, several of which have a direct link to managing people. Two of my favorites are “Late Bloomers” – an essay on the fallacy of inherent talent, and “Most Likely to Succeed”.

These essays say a lot about employee selection and development, challenging the assumptions held by too many managers that good staff are born, not made, and that selecting top talent is the key to competitive advantage. Gladwell goes with the evidence, but does so in a super-engaging manner. 

By Malcolm Gladwell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What the Dog Saw as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Malcolm Gladwell is the master of playful yet profound insight. His ability to see underneath the surface of the seemingly mundane taps into a fundamental human impulse: curiosity. From criminology to ketchup, job interviews to dog training, Malcolm Gladwell takes everyday subjects and shows us surprising new ways of looking at them, and the world around us. Are smart people overrated? What can pit bulls teach us about crime? Why are problems like homelessness easier to solve than to manage? How do we hire when we can't tell who's right for the job? Gladwell explores the minor geniuses, the underdogs…


Book cover of The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy

Dietrich Vollrath Author Of Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy Is a Sign of Success

From my list on the economic challenges of the 2020s.

Who am I?

I’m a professor of economics at the University of Houston, with a focus on long-run growth and development rather than things like quarterly stock returns. I write a blog on growth economics where I try hard to boil down technical topics to their core intuition, and I’m the co-author of a popular textbook on economic growth.

Dietrich's book list on the economic challenges of the 2020s

Dietrich Vollrath Why did Dietrich love this book?

I like this book because it takes a giant step back and asks what “the economy” means. What we measure, and what we choose to classify as “economic activity”, is a choice, not a given. By opting to classify some things as true economic activity (e.g. finance) but others as not (e.g. raising kids) we implicitly make choices about economic policy, as it can only deal with what it can count. It opens up the idea that we could stop and think about what should matter to the economy, and what may not.

By Mariana Mazzucato,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Modern economies reward activities that extract value rather than create it. This must change to ensure a capitalism that works for us all.

Shortlisted for the FT & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

A scathing indictment of our current global financial system, The Value of Everything rigorously scrutinizes the way in which economic value has been accounted and reveals how economic theory has failed to clearly delineate the difference between value creation and value extraction. Mariana Mazzucato argues that the increasingly blurry distinction between the two categories has allowed certain actors in the economy to portray themselves as…


Book cover of What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets

Maurizio Pugno Author Of Well-being and Growth in Advanced Economies: The Need to Prioritise Human Development

From my list on human development in advanced economies.

Who am I?

'Human development' indicates an advancement that I would like to find in any kind of progress. Different disciplines define 'human development' in different ways, but my research is to identify the common core in order to link both the individual- with the social dimension, and natural evolution with changes due to personal choices and policies. Through such research, I have been able to take a new perspective on my academic subjects: economic growth and happiness. My belief is that it is possible to make human development, economic growth, and happiness go together. But unfortunately, this is not what is occurring, and understanding why is key.

Maurizio's book list on human development in advanced economies

Maurizio Pugno Why did Maurizio love this book?

This book is one of the most effective attacks against the market tendency to commercialize any good, ending up corroding what is most intrinsically human in social relationships and in people's intimate lives.

The effectiveness of the book lies in the examples, ranging from the sale of kidneys to paying someone to be substituted in the queue.

The most important lesson of the book is that market-driven economic growth has not only transformed the environment to make our lives more comfortable, thus hitting the limit in environmental degradation, but it has also transformed ourselves, because it has made us more consumers and less human.

This silent transformation - the philosopher Sandel teaches us - must be limited.

By Michael J Sandel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked What Money Can't Buy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In What Money Can't Buy, renowned political philosopher Michael J. Sandel rethinks the role that markets and money should play in our society.

Should we pay children to read books or to get good grades? Should we put a price on human life to decide how much pollution to allow? Is it ethical to pay people to test risky new drugs or to donate their organs? What about hiring mercenaries to fight our wars, outsourcing inmates to for-profit prisons, auctioning admission to elite universities, or selling citizenship to immigrants willing to pay?

In his New York Times bestseller What Money…


Book cover of A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

John Iceland Author Of Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice vs. Social Order

From my list on explaining political polarization.

Who am I?

I’m a Penn State professor of sociology and demography who is interested in social inequality, demography, and public opinion. My family moved frequently when I was growing up—I lived in Colombia, Greece, and Mexico. I attended Brown University and worked at the U.S. Census Bureau as an analyst and Branch Chief for several years before returning to academia. My interest in inequality dates back to living in different countries with different cultures, politics, and standards of living. While I have long been interested in the demographics of poverty and inequality, in more recent years I’ve become interested in political polarization and why people disagree about a variety of social issues.

John's book list on explaining political polarization

John Iceland Why did John love this book?

Liberals and conservatives strongly disagree on the appropriate scope of government. No book has helped me understand why more than Thomas Sowell’s Conflict of Visions.

He describes how the ideological difference results from disagreements about the malleability of human nature. The unconstrained vision, typically associated with liberals, sees human nature as altruistic and perfectible. The government should be used expansively to promote social justice and equality to realize this vision. 

In contrast, the constrained vision, typically associated with conservatives, sees human nature as limited, selfish, and imperfectible. The government should play a limited role in society, as elites cannot hope to restructure society without unintended destructive consequences.

By Thomas Sowell,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this classic work, Thomas Sowell analyzes the two competing visions that shape our debates about the nature of reason, justice, equality, and power: the constrained" vision, which sees human nature as unchanging and selfish, and the unconstrained" vision, in which human nature is malleable and perfectible. He describes how these two radically opposed views have manifested themselves in the political controversies of the past two centuries, including such contemporary issues as welfare reform, social justice, and crime. Updated to include sweeping political changes since its first publication in 1987, this revised edition of A Conflict of Visions offers a…