One of the few sad things about becoming a grad student is that I read books less and less. That means less econ and less non-econ books. Well, the non-econ group was limited before too... According to Goodreads, I only read 28 books in 2015, down from the 70's a few years ago. But most of those are textbooks or collections of articles that I read enough of to justify saying I "read" them.
Economics, at least much of modern economics, is dominated by journals and that is reflected in my reading habits. Whenever my wife asks what I did all day and I say "read and wrote" (it should be the reverse, whoops), that means articles. I still probably actually read more than I should (compared to skimming/"reading" for research).
Because of this, I can't do those fun posts about the best books I read in 2015 like other blogs or like I did last year. I need to get back to books soon... I miss books :'(
Anyways, where was I? Oh yes. Those old articles.
Well, some of the articles I read were actually good and after some feedback on Twitter I decided to do an end of the year recap of those articles. Most of them I read since June for silly-things-about-Phd-programs reasons. I'm thankful for many of these suggestions which came from my good friends on social media. They might seem a bit eclectic, but I liked them... The one's related to my research are marked with a *, if anyone can reconstruct what I'm working on. In no particular order, (some gated)
Come to think of it. They weren't all old. I'm still read some new articles too that were a lot of fun.
So there they are. They each taught me a lot and were fun for me to read. I don't know how many other people will find them fun, but I sure did.
I can't imagine how much fun stuff I'll get to read in 2016. I love this job!
Seeing other people's lists of their favorite books of the year, like Ryan Decker's, inspired me to read a few more books and add A LOT to my "To Read" pile. Perhaps my list of the best books I read in 2014 will inspire others.
Economics Books for Everybody
I fell in love with economics through books written for non-economists, like Thomas Sowell's Basic Economics. Even during my academic work, I try to continue reading economics books that highlight the beauty of economic reasoning in the world around us. Here are two books to help you see the world as an economist:
- The New World of Economics by Richard McKenzie and Gordon Tullock- Long before Freakonomics, and even before Steven Landsburg's fantastic An Armchair Economist, The New World of Economics showed the wonder of economics. If you're first economics class was deathly boring, this little book could have spiced it up. Published in 1975, this book still enthralled me with vivid insights about the world. Even economists who think they know supply and demand analysis could benefit from a (re)reading of this classic. With whole sections on sex, it's not some boring textbook.
- An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for Everyday Foodies by Tyler Cowen- I love food. One of the highlights of the past few years has been my discovery of better food. Tyler Cowen largely influenced me through his older book, Discover Your Inner Economist. If you're interested in learning about food, which you should be, and are interested in how an economist looks at the problem, which you definitely should be, pick up An Economist Gets Lunch immediately. You'll start finding cheaper and better food without much effort. I certainly have.
Economics Books for Economists
This list is geared toward economists. It is more technical, although all the books would be accessible for someone with an interest in economics. Continue reading
As I'm sitting here, reading Theory of Price instead of doing my problem sets, I am reminded of advise from Deirdre McCloskey (pg 489) that I took to heart-
But if a world famous economist suggest casually in conversation that you might want to read, say The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, I want to see you buying it that very afternoon, skipping your econometrics homework, and going back to the professor with the book thoroughly read, asking her to discuss it with you.
The great part about the blogosphere is that world famous economists are always recommending stuff to read. The hard part about the blogosphere is that world famous economists are always recommending stuff to read. Sometimes they even discuss them with dumbies like me.
Or maybe this is just my excuse for skipping my econometrics homework...
Beyond classwork (and MWG, Stigler, and Rothbard), I am always trying to read stuff that I want to read for its own sake. Some reading is a consumption good.
I think of myself as a subjectivist and think I understand subjectivist economics. In this book, James Buchanan takes it to another level.The most important concept in economics is opportunity cost, which is a completely subjective idea in the mind of an actor. It is something we can never measure. How then can we use it in analysis? James Buchanan builds his story through the history of thought on how to apply opportunity cost to economics. It has been very interesting.
Somewhere between philosophy, epistemology, and economics, lies Time and Ignorance. Rizzo and O'Driscoll are trying to explain two extremely difficulty subjects in one book. Two subjects that economics does not have a good answer for. I probably won't get through this anytime soon, but it is intriguing.
The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
A book on prediction does not seem like something for an economist who enjoys Mises and Hayek, but this book is great. It has changed my mind on so many things about prediction. We all need to make predictions all the time in life. Why not try to do it right? To say that prediction is impossible, while a good impulse, does not get me very far. Instead, this book treats prediction like a "science." Not in the sense that we can find big T truth, but in the sense of applying a systematic approach to analysis. This book has turned me into a Bayesian.
Witness by Whittaker Chambers
This is my favorite book and I "reviewed" it before. I recommend it to everyone. The second time is just as enjoyable as the first.