It's about a month until another group of
fools young economists start math camp before their first year. One month after that, they are starting actual class. Oh what a joyous time!
In the meantime, students are frantically trying to prepare, turning a 9 month school year into 12. At least that's what my friends and I did.
After an article about what law students should read, Pete Boettke asked what should economists read?
Before spending months with your face in MWG (micro), SLP (macro) or maybe Greene (econometrics), take the summer to read other stuff. These are the books I'd read if I was just 12 months younger.
Books To Stay Excited About Economics
For me, the hardest part of first year is staying excited about economics. First year is a long slog (it's frickin' boring) and it's easy to forget why you decided to become an economist. Take the summer to build back up that excitement.
- Knowledge and Decisions by Thomas Sowell- I reread this book during the academic year. It was a good reminder of how to see the world through a good ole Chicago style reasoning, mixed with some Austrian market process. It reminded me that economics (not the stuff you learn first year) is vitally important to understand processes in a society.
- The Armchair Economist by Steven Landsburg- Everything in the world can be understood with economic logic. Landsburg is the best at reminding me how to do that.
- New World of Economics by Richard McKenzie and Gordon Tullock- This book plays the same role as Landsburg's, but with different insights. Read both.
- Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell- If you're interested in applying economics to policy, the basic economics in this book can remind you of how powerful economic reasoning can help.
- Competition and Entrepreneurship by Israel Kirzner- This book is the reason I became an economist. Reread whatever originally excited you about economics.
Books To Put First Year in Perspective
It's easy to get lost in all the Lagrangians and proofs. Take the summer to read some books about how to do economics beyond first year.
- What Should Economists Do? by James Buchanan- I've reread the first five chapters at least four times. The whole book is worth a thorough read, but the beginning makes me think deeper about what it means to do economics than anything else I've read.
- How to be Human *: * Though an Economist by Deirdre McCloskey- I love anything McCloskey writes on economic me. This is a great collection of essays.
- Living Economics by Peter Boettke- For anyone sympathetic to Austrian economics, Boettke offers a fresh perspective on doing economics. This is the only book I'm aware of that is specifically geared toward incoming economics students. I read it before my masters and again before my PhD. It's worth it.
Books to Prep for First Year
Learning technical skills before first year will help. However, don't overestimate how much you will learn on your own. If you're like me, you'll learn more in a few weeks of class than through all of summer. But if you want to work on technical skills, I'd stay basic.
- Book of Proof by Richard Hammack- For my first year, given my training, learning proofs was the biggest hurdle. This book brought me from 0 to okay in no time. I wish I had used it earlier in the year.
- Economic Theory by Gary Becker- This book can teach an immense amount about price theory. While price theory is out of vogue in most schools, the material in here would have helped me greatly during consumer and producer theory.
I'd say don't pick up any books you are going to read during the year. You have 9 months to torture yourself with those book. Pick up something else.
All of these recommendations are biased toward the reasons I feel in love with economics (I'm weird) and what it took me to get through a year at Minnesota. But hey, that's all I know. Good luck!
What am I missing? What should be skipped?