Courtesy of Elizabeth Baldwin at Oxford, I was reminded of a list of classic novels economists should read, something I posted here a few years ago. I had forgotten about it, and must immodestly say it’s a great list. Here it is again, below.
However, it could be better. Even in my own cultural tradition, I haven’t read the great Russian authors on the whole. Which of those are particularly economics-relevant? I hate Henry James and Dickens (school aversion therapy) but accept novels like Little Dorrit could count. What about African, Indian, Chinese classics? Should modern classics be added, Vonnegut’s Player Piano, say? Suggestions please.
The 2013 list:
Nostromo, Joseph Conrad: the heart of colonialism
Germinal, Emile Zola: the fuel of the Industrial Revolution – coal and human life
North and South or Mary Barton, Mrs Gaskell: the social effects of industrialisation with a special eye on women. Mary Barton is set in my home city, Manchester.
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov: the murderous insanity of Soviet dictatorship – Professor Woland, Game Theorist? I’ve only just read this, having seen the truly, madly, deeply brilliant Theatre de Complicite staging earlier this year.
The Charterhouse of Palma, Stendhal: pre-unification Italy and European politics
The Leopard, Giuseppe de Lampedusa: The Risorgimento, and modernity.
The Whirlpool, George Gissing: in fact anything by Gissing – as he summed it up, “Not enough money,” in Britain’s newly industrialising cities
Middlemarch, George Eliot (or again, pretty much anything by her): astute political and psychological analysis of 19th century social change. Bonnets and frocks without the saccharine.
Roxana, Daniel Defoe: the economic status of women, by one of the unsung feminist heroes, who was also a famous economic journalist in his day.
We, Yevgeny Zamyatin: collectivism, conformity – the dark side of the early 20th century. Another recent discovery, courtesy of Nick Reynolds.
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo: need I say anything? I even loved the recent musical movie version
My Antonia and O Pioneers, Willa Cather: the harsh life of the American frontier, and the strength of women.
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald: the Roaring 20s in a glamorous nutshell. I haven’t yet seen the new Baz Luhrmann movie version.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, Robert Tressel: not the greatest literature but a novel that still speaks to working people struggling for money.
Castle Rackrent, Maria Edgeworth: She was contemporary with Jane Austen, but lived a lot longer.