Books worth reading
When I wrote The Truth about Markets (published in 2003), I tried to explain to the publisher that there was potentially a market for popular books on economics similar to that which currently existed for popular history or popular science. My explanation fell on deaf ears.
Since then, the wind has shifted by 180°. The success of Freakonomics, published in 2005, changed everything. The conventional perception on the part of both readers and publishers had been that economics was a subject for dull people who talked about whether interest rates would rise or fall without any actual foreknowledge of the answer. Suddenly there was recognition that economic reasoning could be used to illuminate everyday life and politically controversial issues. The result was an explosion not just of popular economics writing but of accessible books in the social sciences. Freakonomics provoked spinoffs, inevitably, and fresh books in similar vein, such as the writings of Tim Harford.
These books deal only tangentially with the question that prompted me to write The Truth about Markets – what should an intelligent general reader consult in order to obtain some insight into the subject matter of economics?. Of the various works which have appeared since, the most similar in scope in purpose to The Truth About Markets – though very different in content – is Eric Beinhocker’s The Origin of Wealth. Readers who want an easier, simpler ride might benefit from David Smith’s Free Lunch or Ed Conway’s 50 Economic Ideas. Another option is the open access INET’s new introduction to economics edited by Wendy Carlin.
There are few general books on the application of economics to business that can be recommended to general readers but Dick Rumelt’s Good Strategy – Bad Strategy is an outstanding exception. Michael Porter’s Competitive Strategy was the first popular work to apply economic thinking to business strategy, but for reasons I explain more modern economics is considerably more relevant. Among the works of business gurus, Jim Collins (principally Built to Last written with Gerry Porras) and anything by Charles Handy, deserves a place on the bookshelf.
Power Inc. – David Rothkopf
12 March 2012
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy – Richard Rumelt
04 January 2012
Niche – James Harkin
25 March 2011, Financial Times
Broonland – Christopher Harvie
14 January 2011, Scottish Affairs
Choice – Renata Salecl
01 September 2010, Financial Times
Capitalism 4.0 – Anatole Kaletsky
19 July 2010, Financial Times
Freefall – Joseph Stiglitz
30 January 2010, Financial Times
Scroogenomics – Joel Waldfogel
28 December 2009, Financial Times
Uncommon Sense – Gary Becker and Richard Posner
07 November 2009, Financial Times
Books: the good, the bad and the cheesy
28 May 2008, Financial Times
Ideas – even those about business – often find their best expression in fiction. (more…)
28 August 2007, Financial Times
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