Essay:GeeJayK’s Guide to the dismal science of economics

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Unfinished, but it will be done soon.


How did you choose the books?

I tried to create a comprehensible list with many different authors and views. Most of them are mainstream authors, though I’ve added a few heterodox economists and I’ll perhaps make a (very strict) list of het economics at the end.

What’s wrong with heterodox economics anyway? Teach the controversy!!!!

It’s fine to be a heterodox economist, there are many good heterodox economists, you can’t compare them to a Holocaust denier historian, a creationist biologist or a flat-earther geologist. But unless you’re well-versed in basic economics you’re building the roof of your house before the walls, as people say in my country. Cranks aside, economists disagree a lot less than you might believe and if you’re reading this list you're probably still a layman, and I believe you should study the more consensual stuff before trying to dismantle things that people have been studying for decades, especially considering how some prominent heterodox economists tend to strawman the mainstream a lot.

Why there aren't many classics? Where is Adam Smith and Karl Marx? Two reasons. 1 I'm not that well versed on them. 2 As a science, economics evolves. Can you still learn interesting stuff by reading Darwin and Mendel? Sure, but you'll learn more by spending your time reading a newer textbook. Of course, being a more abstract, social science, economics age better than hard science, but my opinion is that reading newer books is the best way to learn.

Some of these authors have pages on RW saying they are wingnuts or moonbats.

Most of these articles aren’t very good in my opinion and focus more on these authors personal opinons rather than their academic work, which usually received more praise. Most of the books here aren’t even mentioned on the articles.

Did you read all of them?

I’ve read most of them (around 60%), skimmed or read some chapters of the others. There are a few that I haven’t touched yet, but I know what they are about and I know from people I trust that they’re good.

Do I need to read all of them?

When it comes to the introductory textbooks, no. One of each section will be enough. On the others sections, the more the better.

Do I need to read the textbooks before the others?

Although I highly recommend you to read at least one textbook, not at all. Especially on the development economics, these books are akin to popular science books and everyone can read them.

Some of the books appear twice

That's because they are useful in more than one section.

Will this list be ever finished?

I might eventually stop updating it, but as any other science, the Dismal Science is always evolving, so hopefully, no.

Can I recommend a book to your list?

Sure, just ping me on the talk page so I’ll see it.

Can I suggest you to drop one of the books?

Same as above.

Can you recommend me a book that is not on the list?

Just give me the subject and I'll do my best.

I don’t like your list and/or I don't think your list is useful.

There are many other lists on the internet with a similar purpose, just get one of them. If you want, however, do talk about something you dislike on the list as a whole, or about an specific point it will be a pleasure.

Introductory textbooks[edit]

Most of these books are teaching almost same thing. The suggestions on Econometrics aside, there is some slight political bias in all of them, but they differ more in form than in substance, and not even that much. Overall, if you can read and know basic numeration you’ll understand them, though a few of them might need some math. The main challenge here is their sheer size (usually over 800 pages, sometimes more than 1.000) and the price of the books.

General intro (start here)[edit]

It should be noticed that if you want to, you can buy only the macroeconomics and the microenomics section of most of the books below.

  • Principles of Economics, by N. Gregory Mankiw. This is by far today’s most popular textbook. Not sure if it’s my favorite nowadays, but you should probably start here if you want to learn something since it's indeed the most used. Mankiw is conservative, and he sometimes shows his bias, like in the tax sections, but it's overall an impartial book.
  • Economics, by Paul Krugman and his wife, Robin Wells, it's probably the second most popular textbook nowadays. Wait, Krugman? Doesn’t this one have a left bias? No. It’s an introductory book, and very similar to others written by more conservative authors, like Mankiw, even if it's slightly more left-leaning. If anything, it might get you angry if you expect Krugman to berate the markets. Don’t mistake Dr. Krugman, the academic, with Mr. Krueger, the journalist.
  • Economics, by Paul Samuelson and Robert Nordhaus. The best-selling economics textbook of all time, written by two Nobel prize winners. Kinda fell out of favor over the last few years, but it’s still an important reference. Samuelson is usually considered center-left leaning (because of his squabbles on Newsweek with Milton Friedman, maybe), while Nordhaus is somewhere in the center. They start the book with a “Centrist proclamation”, and, again the book basically covers consensual topics.
  • Modern Principles of Economics, by the George Mason University professors Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok. This one is less famous than other titles in this list, but right now I think it's my favorite. Slightly more inclined to economic liberalism than the other books, but just like lefties with the Krugman's textbook, right-wing libertarians might get angry if they're expecting a staunch defense for laissez-faire, the authors work with more consensual thesis here. You should also check their blog and their YouTube channel (more on that later).
  • Principles of Economics, by Daron Acemoglu, David Laibson and John List. I admit, I haven’t even skimmed this one, but Acemoglu is my favorite economist alive, so it’s probably a safe bet.

After you finished the introductory textbook, you might want to learn more about Macro and Micro. So here is a complementary list. It’s more common to want to learn more microeconomics than macroeconomics after reading an introductory textbook (even if people tend to like macro better than micro), but that’s not always the case. If you don't want, you can skip the next two sections.


  • Macroeconomics by Olivier Blanchard, is probably the best.
  • Macroeconomics, by Rudiger Dornbusch, Stanley Fischer and Richard Startz. Haven’t read this one actually, but some people I trust say it’s very good.


  • Intermediate Macroeconomics by Hal Varian. Kinda misnomer, it’s probably the easiest microeconomics books around. A dry reading, but without any math.
  • Microeconomic Theory, by Walter Nicholson and Christopher M. Snyder. Will need more math (but not that much). Easier to read in my opinion though.
  • Microeconomics, by Robert Pindyck and Daniel Rubinfeld. I admit I haven’t touched this book in years, but I think it doesn’t need any math.
  • Microeconomics, by by Austan Goolsbee , Steven Levitt and Chad Syverson. Just like in Acemoglu's case I haven't even skimmed this one, but I trust Levitt enough to put it here without reading it.

International economics[edit]

  • International Economics: Theory and Policy. If you got pissed at Krugman on his other textbook because it mostly supports the markets, his support for international trade here will get you insane.
  • International Economics: Trade and Finance, by by Dominick Salvatore. Good, but not as good as Krugman’s book.


  • Basic Econometrics, by Dadomar Gujarati, Dawn Porter and Sangeetha Gunasekar.
  • Introductory Econometrics: A Modern Approach, by Jeffrey M. Wooldridge.

These books require more logic than Math, but Math will help. You don't need to learn everything about econometrics, but it will help you to understand the methodology that social sciences tend to use and if you want to do research it will also help you.

  • Mastering 'Metrics: The Path from Cause to Effect, by Joshua Angrist and Jorn-Steffen Pischke. More intuitive, not a textbook. You guys have no idea how happy I was when Angrist won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2021.


Unfortunately, most of the books I know in the subjects of math, statistics, linear algebra, Mathematical finance, etc were written in Brazilian Portuguese, my mother language, by Brazilian professors, so I won't be able to help you a lot here unless you speak ptbr.

  • The Calculus series, by James Stewart, is the most famous.
  • Applied Calculus, by the Calculus Consortium is an easy way to go if just like me you are not very good at math
  • Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics, by Alpha Chiang is a major reference on the subject.

History of economic thought[edit]

  • The Worldy Philosophers, by Robert Heilbroner. Second best-selling economics book of all time. Very fun and readable, but also very short. Some of Heilbroner's picks and omissions might also be considered... odd for some of the readers, especially those with some knowledge on the subject.
  • An Outline of the History of Economic Thought, by by Ernesto Screpanti and Stefano Zamagni. There are few good things Marxist economists are good. History of the economic thought is one of them. A more exhaustive approach as they cover everything. This one was first published in Italian.
  • Main Currents in Modern Economics by Ben B Seligman. Just like the last two books in this list Seligman is very left-leaning, but he is more biased. It’s by far the longest book of this section, a despite the name, and doesn't even actually cover “modern” economics anymore since it was published in 1960. Still an amazing research of the economics thought between 1870 and 1960.
  • The Economics Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. Part of DK’s Big Ideas collection. Covers most of the major economists, giving them one to six pages. If you want to read only one economic book, read this one.
  • A History of Economic Thought, by Lionel Robbins.
  • Essays in the history of economics, by George Stigler. I trust Stigler so much that I can put it here even though I haven't read this book.
  • Penguin History Of Economics by Roger E Backhouse. Basically a history of the world with the evolution of the economic thought. I don't know why more HET books don't have the same structure of this one.

Development economics[edit]

Many of the books will repeat in the following sections. This is not economic growthWikipedia, which is a Macroeconomics subject.

  • Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson, is probably most important book on the subject nowadays. We'll these authors and especially this book a lot here.
  • The Narrow Corridor, by the same authors. I didn't like this one that much, actually, but it's still decent.
  • Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance, by the Nobel Prize winner Douglass North. Similar to Why Nations Fail, albeit older.
  • Development as Freedom, by the Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. One of my greatest passions. Just read it.
  • Poor Economics, by the Nobel prize winners Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Markets are sticky, and that can be bad. Distorting the markets can be even worse. What can we do then?
  • The End of Poverty, by Jeffrey Sacks. I remember when I saw this book in an airport bookstore in 2006. Changed my life, as I started to write about poverty on Wikipedia only a few weeks after it.
  • The Tyranny of Experts, by William Easterly. A great examinqtion in our failing efforts to fight global poverty.
  • The Elusive Quest for Growth, also by Easterly.
  • How the West Grew Rich, by Nathan Rosenberg and L.E. Birdzell. This one is a personal favorite of mine. Not that readable, but still very good.
  • Bourgeois Equality by Deirdre N. McCloskey. Professor McCloskey argue here that ideas, not institutions or capital, make the world rich.
  • Civilization, by Niall Ferguson. Ferguson can't decide if he's an historian or an economomic historian. This one is similar to other books in the list, as it believes that institutions are the key to economic prosperity. If you are biased agains Ferguson, just skip it, there are better books in this list.
  • Making Poor Nations Rich, by Benjamin Powell. Has some controversial statements, but overall a good book.
  • Pillars of Prosperity, by Timothy Besley and Torsten Persson. I still have to read this one actually, but I known from people I trust it's good.
  • The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State, by Deirdre McCloskey. Here, professor McClosk refutes the 2013 book The Entrepreneurial State by the Italian economist Mariana Mazzucato.

Economic history[edit]

  • Poverty and Famines, by Amartya Sen. A bleak, albeit important book.
  • A Monetary History of the United States, by Milton Friedman and Anne Schwartz. Now, you might think this book looks boring by the name and the theme. Trust me, it’s worse. But it is, perhaps, the single most important book in economic history of the second half of the XXth century.
    • The Great Contraction, the part of the book where they discuss the Great Depression is however the only one that you actually should read. It’s the basis of the most accepted theories on the Great Depression.
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty. A groundbreaking book, but you need to check some of the critics too. The research is great, but the conclusions are questionable.
  • Capital and Ideology, also by Thomas Piketty. Twice as long as the other door stopper. Haven’t read it, but I believe it’s good, even if it didn’t cause the ruckus of the other book.
  • The Haves and the Have-Nots by Branko Milanovic. An often overlooked masterpiece about inequality around the world.
  • Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson. See the entry on development economics.
  • How the West Grew Rich, see the entry on development economics.
  • Civilization, by Niall Ferguson, see the etntry on development economics.
  • The Ascent of Money, also by Niall Ferguson.
  • America’s Bank, by Roger Lowenstein. The history of the founding of the FED. Still have to read this one, actually.
  • Manias, Panics, and Crashes, by Charles Kindleberger. About the history of the financial crisis. Also haven't read it yet, but some friends I trust praise this book a lot.
  • The Macroeconomics of Populism in Latin America, organized by Sebastián Edwards. Self-explanatory. You can find it on NBER for free, I think.
  • The Unbound Prometheus, by David Landes. A classic.
  • Global economic history, by Bob Allen.
  • Man's Worldly Goods, by Leo Hurberman. Kinda outdate and biased, but decent.
  • Economics and World History, by Paul Bairoch. Bairoch here sets the record straight on twenty commonly held myths about economic history.
  • Before the Industrial Revolution, by Carlo M. Cipolla. Covers 1000 to 1700. Probably the best out there on the European Economic History.
  • The Great Escape, by the Nobel prize winner Angus Deaton. The World is, on average getting better? Well, yes. But that doesn't mean we don't have challenges, like inequality ahead.
  • Capitalism in America by Alan Greenspan Probably the most famous book on the economic history of America.
  • An Economic History of the U.S.S.R., by Alec Nove. Nove wrote many other books on the subject.
    • Was Stalin Really Necessary? being my favourite.
  • The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850, by Joel Mokyr. Since we have many British users I had to add one about the UK Economic History, but I've only skimmed through it.
  • A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy, also by Joel Mokyr.

Political economy[edit]

Many (but not all) of the books here are very abstract and heavy on philosophy. Not an easy section, but rewardful. Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson. See the entry on development economics.

  • The Narrow Corridor, also by Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson. See the entry in development economics.
  • Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy, by the same authors.
  • Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen. See the entry in development economics.
  • The Mystery Of Capital, by Hernando De Soto. The great Peruvian economist here explains why capitalism failed in many countries. According to him, these countries have to develop institutions, like an effective government that provides some goods and protect the property rights. It hurts, but it feels really good.
  • Combating Inequality: Rethinking Government's Role, organized by Olivier Blanchard and Dani Rodrik. Best book on inequality I've read.
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty. See the economic history section.
  • Capital and Ideology, also by Thomas Piketty. See the economic history section
  • Austerity: When it Works and When it Doesn't by Alberto Alesina. Still mad that Alesina died so young, one of the greatest economists of our time. Austerity is usually good, but it's not a silver bullet, and there are many ways to do it.
  • Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, by Joseph Schumpeter. I don’t usually recommend books written in the 1940s, but this one is still as up to date as ever.
  • The Constitution of Liberty, by the Nobel Prize winner Friedrich Hayek. 60% political theory, 40% economics. The most jawdropping thing is probably Hayek's education, but it's still a very important book on the principles of a limited government.
  • Law, Legislation and Libery, by the same author. Even more abstract and hard to read, but still a masterpiece, even if there are some unhinged statements. Here, Hayek focus more on the institutions that ensure liberty than on its principles.
  • Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History, by Randall Holcombe.
  • The Myth of the Rational Voter, by Brian Caplan. Why elected leaders often fail to follow simple policies recommended by economists.
  • The Calculus of Consent, by James Buchanan (no, not the president, a Nobel Prize winner) and Gordon Tullock (an absurd that this guy didn’t win the Nobel too), a seminal book on the “public choice” theory where the authors study the “logical foundations of constitutional democracy”.
  • Democracy in Deficit, also by James Buchanan. Buchanan here criticizes Keynesian economics and its impact on democracy.
  • Limits of Liberty, also by James Buchanan. More political philosophy. Read it if you're into ContractualismWikipedia.

Fun/armchair stuff[edit]

Books for a more general audience. For those who don’t actually want to learn stuff in the academic level and just want to learn a bit about the logic. Selections of articles published on newspapers should come here. If you have any suggestion, please post on the talk page. I guarantee you that you still can read most of the other books in this list withour being an expert and still have fun nonetheless.

  • The Armchair Economist, by Steven E. Landsburg. The name says everything.
  • Freakonomics, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner. You saw this coming, didn't you?
  • The Undercover Economist, by Tim Harford, somehow similar, though focused on bigger themes.
  • Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu and Jim Robinson. This is how much I love this book, it's the fourth list it appears. See the entry on development economics.
  • Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital, by Kimberly Clausing. Everyone, including you, benefits from interactions with the rest of the world.
  • The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity, by Carlo Cipolla. Try it. You'll like it, even if it hurts your feelings.
  • Economics for the Common Good, by Jean Tirole. If you want something more optimistic.
  • Nudge, by Richard Thaler. If you want to fix your life, here's a good book.
  • The Wordly Philosophers, by Robert Heilbroner. See the History of the economic thought section.
  • The Economics Book by DK. See the History of the economic thought section.
  • Good Economics for Hard Times, by Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee and Esther Duflo. The challenges of the world economy, and how to fight them.
  • Pop Internationalism, by Paul Krugman. Having a collection of academic papers turned into a book for a general audience is a privilege of gifted writers. Krugman is one of them.
  • Whither Socialism?, by Joseph Stiglitz. Here, the left-leaning Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz criticizes both socialism and laissez-faire capitalism (though I'm not sure Stiglitz and me share the same definition of laissez-faire).
  • Basic Economics, by Thomas Sowell. This might be the most controversial entry on this list, and some can argue that it should be in another section. With more than 700 pages, it's also the longest. Even if you disagree with Sowell, I believe he does give some interesting insights and exemples here.
    • Applied Economics, also by Sowell. Same, but slighly more advanced.
  • Who Gets What - And Why, by the Nobel Prize winner Alvin Roth. How not only the choices we make, but also the ones we have, impact in our lives.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, edited by David Henderson.
  • Misbehaving – The Making of Behavioral Economics, by Richard Thaler. Economics with Psychology? More likely than you think.
  • Uncommon Sense, by the Nobel prize winner Gary Becker Richard A. Posner. Freakonomics for grown-ups. Somwhow dated though.
  • Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman. I actually like Free to Choose a lot better (more on it in another section later), but this one is an important counterpart to our next book.
  • The Affluent Society, by John Galbraith. Even if he didn't win the Nobel Prize, Galbraith is one of the most influential economists of his time, and an important book for left-leaning policies.
  • Rethinking Housing Bubbles, by the Nobel Prize winner Vernon Smith. I haven't read this one yet, but I know from some of my friends that it's very good.


This is a subject that I find extra boring, so I'm quite ignorant, even if it's somehow the most useful. Not a very good list therefore.

  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street, by Burton Malkiel. An all time classic on investing techniques.
  • The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Samuel Clason. Another classic that you knew it was going to be on the list.
  • 'House of Debt, by Atif Mian. Saving money will not only save your life, but the whole world.
  • Get a Financial Life, by Beth Kobliner aimed for those in their 20s and 30s, probably a good one for most people on this site.
  • How to Make Your Money Last, by Jane Bryant Quinn. This one is about retirement,
  • Irrational Exuberance, by the Nobel Prize winner Robert Shiller. Because things can always get worse.

Not actually economics, but useful somehow[edit]

  • A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. One of the greatest books of the XXth century. I think it should help public policy makers to decide whatt's correct.
  • Anarchy, State and Utopia, by Robert Nozick. If you read A Theory of Justice you must read this one and vice versa.
  • Debt: The First 5,000 Years, by the anthropologist David Graeber. It's huge and looks boring, but it's actually good. Graeber defies some very established concepts, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World, by Michael Rostovtzeff. A history book, and not an easy one to find, but I really wanted to put something about Ancient Greece and Rome.
  • The Social and Economic History of the Roman Empire, also by Michael Ivanovitch Rostovtzef. Two huge volumes. Same as above.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. Diamond is actually a Geographer, not an economist, and I think his hypothesis was been debunked, but his book is still relevant enough to be here.
  • The Age of Capital, by Eric Hobsbawm. I don't know any other book on this subject. You should read the whole trilogy, while skipping The Age of Extremes, but that's offtopic.
  • The Third Reich in Power, by Richard J Evans. Again, read the whole trilogy (or tetralogy?).
  • For Good and Evil, by Charles Adams. A great book about taxes, written by a lawyer.
  • Patterns of Democracy, by Arend Lijphart. Maybe my favorite PolSci book of all time. About the institutions of 36 democracies in the world.
  • The Road from Mont Pèlerin, edited by Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe. About the rise of the Mont Pélerin societyWikipedia and Neoliberalism. I wasn't very sure where to put this one actually, maybe not the best category.
  • Solomon's Knot, by Robert Cooter. How Law can help us fighting poverty.
  • The Wages of Destruction, by Adam Tooze. About the economics of the Nazi Germany. Haven't read it. According to some friends it is not that good, but I wanted to add it anyway.

What you shouldn’t read[edit]

I just want to massage my confirmation bias[edit]

Here is the biased and/or heterodox stuff fo you to read then.


Useful links[edit]