The topic of economics is rich with great writing, and many books are being published which tackle economic issues for a popular audience. Here is our list of ten of the bestselling books in the area of economics: whether you're a seasoned academic economist wanting to see what the public image of your discipline is, or whether you're just an interested layperson who wants to learn more, these ten titles are all must-reads.
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1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Nobel prize winner in economics Daniel Kahneman's book is still topping best seller lists even five years after it was first published. Covering his areas of research – on cognitive biases, prospect theory, and on happiness, this book is both academically respected and readable for a lay audience.
2. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell might not be the most beloved figure among serious researchers, but his huge public influence is undeniable. Outliers is a book about unexpected factors which go into achieving great success, and it features the now-famous “10,000-hour rule” which states that becoming an expert in any topic takes around 10,000 hours of practice.
3. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
COO of Facebook and former VP of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google, Sheryl Sandberg, made a splash with her first book, which deals with women in the workplace. She addresses the reasons that women continue to find less success in the workplace than men, even after the passing of equal pay laws, and encourages women to promote themselves more aggressively in their careers.
4. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Freakonomics deliberately blends pop culture topics with the theories of economics by discussing specific amusing or interesting examples – for example, how cheating operates in different businesses including teaching, sumo wrestling, and bagel selling. The light tone and fun content have made this book a big hit with the public, and it has stayed on bestseller lists since it was first published in 2005.
5. The Upside of Inequality by Edward Conard
Former managing director of Bain Capital and prominent neoliberal Edward Conard has written another book about the social benefits of inequality, arguing against the commonly held view that the wealthy 1% of US citizens are the cause of many social problems. This controversial topic makes for interesting reading, whether or not you agree with the premise it sets.
6. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
Another big hit with the public, Predictably Irrational covers the ways in which we think and act which are not as rational as we might assume. It presents psychological experiments and discusses cognitive biases in situations such as decision making. Economists will be particularly interested in the chapter on the fallacy of supply and demand.
7. Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason
Paul Mason, the former economics editor of the British TV channel Channel 4, looks at the current state of global politics and attempts to predict the macroeconomic future of the planet. In the traditional vein of Marxist anti-capitalism, the politics argued for feel somewhat dated, but the broad principles discussed will be appealing to many left-leaning readers.
8. This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein
Another famed anti-capitalist, Naomi Klein, tackles the subject of how environmental concerns will affect capitalist politics in her most recent book. She portrays the solving of the climate crisis as being directly at odds with neoliberal thinking, and requiring an ecological revolution for it to be fully addressed.
9. Guns, Germs and Steel: A Short History of Everbody for the Last 13000 Years by Jared Diamond
Another beloved classic, Guns, Germs and Steel covers aspect of geography, history, and economics in order to explain why European and Asian societies have been historically more prosperous than societies in other parts of the world.
10. The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley
Finally, this book covers topics in both psychology and economics in its argument that the human tendency towards the trading of goods and services is the beneficial trait which has allowed humanity to prosper. A highly interesting read for any economist looking beyond the boundaries of their discipline.
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