Number 1: Freakonomics Levitt & Dubner
This book gives you a really different view of economics but helps lay down the basics of thinking economically. The collaboration between young economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, quickly became an economic phenomenon in itself, shooting up to the top of many bestseller lists on publication and hovering nearby for much of the rest of 2005.
Number 2: Choice and Consequence by Thomas C. SchellingThomas Schelling is a political economist conspicuous for wandering an errant economist. In Choice and Consequence, he ventures into the area where rationality is ambiguous in order to look at the tricks people use to try to quit smoking or lose weight.
Number 3: The Economics of Life by Gary and Guity BeckerBecker made some radical changes to economics and the thinking process. His writing spawned the above books and made room for many other strands of economic thinking. My recent post on Becker is here.
Number 4: The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Writing in a very different age when shipping was the main source of trade Adam Smith was the original liberalist. He criticised the mercantile system and suggested more free trade. This alternative view is akin to Smith's view, in that it makes a sharp distinction between productive and unproductive labor, but it provides a far narrower definition of productive labor than does Smith. In his time productive labor is limited to agricultural production, now the system has changed but the theory is based on some fundamental assumptions Smith coined.
This writer gives an introduction into the failures of the financial markets and indicate how so much hinges on them running. It is a classic. Lowenstein captures the gripping roller-coaster ride of Long-Term Capital Management. Drawing on confidential internal memos and interviews with dozens of key players, Lowenstein explains not just how the fund made and lost its money but also how they got there.
Number 5: When Genius Failed by Lowenstein
Number 6: The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert AxelrodA fascinating book that shows how game theory really works, with an extremely surprising insight into which simple strategy is most successful.
Number 7: Das Kapital by MarxAlthough Marx does not give any other suggestions to how the system can work, he does provide a scathing review of how it is.
Number 8: Basic Economics, by SowellEconomics may appear to be the study of complicated tables and charts, statistics and numbers, but, more specifically, it is the study of what constitutes rational human behavior in the endeavor to fulfill needs and wants.
To study these things, economics makes the assumption that human beings will aim to fulfill their self-interests. It also assumes that individuals are rational in their efforts to fulfill their unlimited wants and needs. Economics, therefore, is a social science, which examines people behaving according to their self-interests. The definition set out at the turn of the twentieth century by Alfred Marshall, author of "The Principles Of Economics" (1890), reflects the complexity underlying economics: "Thus it is on one side the study of wealth; and on the other, and more important side, a part of the study of man."
Number 9: The Economics Book, DKPerhaps a some what controversial suggestion as this one seems a little like a kids book this book packs quite a large amount of content in an easy to understand manner. The Economics Book is the essential reference for students and anyone else with an interest in how economies work.
Number 10: Keynes Hayek, The Clash that Defined Modern Economics, Nicholas WapshottThe age old battle of the economics titans is well summed up in this book. “Nicholas Wapshott’s new book, Keynes Hayek, does an excellent job of setting out the broader history behind this revival of the old debates. Wapshott brings the personalities to life, provides more useful information on the debates than any other source, and miraculously manages to write for both the lay reader and the expert at the same time. Virtually every page is gripping, and yet even the professional economist will glean some insight...” (Tyler Cowen - National Review)
If you think I have missed anything or you feel that these books deserve a different review, I welcome your comments below.