Economics Textbooks

Steven Clarke asked in a comment on an earlier post about recommendations for an intro economics textbook. Here are my thoughts. Others might want to add their comments.

He has started reading Samuelson, which is a good choice – a classic – so carrying on with it is fine.

The current market leader is Greg Mankiw’s [amazon_link id=”0030259517″ target=”_blank” ]Principles of Economics[/amazon_link] – apparently it has 70% of the US market.

Others often used in UK undergraduate courses are:
Sloman – [amazon_link id=”0273763121″ target=”_blank” ]Economics[/amazon_link]
Lipsey and Chrystal – [amazon_link id=”0199286418″ target=”_blank” ]Economics[/amazon_link]
Begg – [amazon_link id=”0077107756″ target=”_blank” ]Economics[/amazon_link]

There is a CC download of an intro textbook by Preston McAfee – I haven’t read it but it looks pretty encouraging and is free so might be worth looking at for comparison.

The trouble with the textbooks in economics is that they contain things we economists know to be wrong. The brilliant John Sutton at LSE has long complained about this, and Steve Keen made much of it in [amazon_link id=”1848139926″ target=”_blank” ]Debunking Economics[/amazon_link]. So it is also worth reading some of the more popular books that don’t cover the technical grounding but do explain what economists actually do. My favourite is Tim Harford’s [amazon_link id=”0349119856″ target=”_blank” ]The Undercover Economist[/amazon_link]. My own book Sex, Drugs and Economics (pdf) is fabulous, and free, but a bit out of date. I’m not so keen on [amazon_link id=”0141019018″ target=”_blank” ]Freakonomics[/amazon_link] – it’s a good read but takes to a gimmicky extreme the Becker school of economics that says you can analyse decisions to commit crime or have babies or get married just like decisions to buy a new pair of shoes. There is some insight in this but it’s not the whole story.

[amazon_image id=”0349119856″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Undercover Economist[/amazon_image]

Finally, Geoff Riley of Tutor2u has a great booklist of enrichment reading specifically for economics students.

8 thoughts on “Economics Textbooks

  1. My favourite non-technical book is Charles Whelan’s Naked Economist, which recommend to all students moving from AS to A2 Economics.

  2. The Truth About Markets by John Kay is also good. As is the similarly named The Trouble With Markets by Roger Bootle.

  3. Mankiw’s introductory text is horrible. For American readers, I think by far the best intro text is Cowen and Tabarrok, at least for micro. The macro part cannot be recommended however.
    I also like the books by Ormerod – Butterfly Economics and Why Things Fail.

    • I didn’t mean to imply any approval of the Mankiw book, although that isn’t clear. I agree with you! For macro I’d go for Wendy Carlin and David Soskice’s textbook, myself. And yes to Paul Ormerod’s books.

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