Reader Gary P sent me an e-mail about a Planet Money list of “must read” economics books. I had toyed with posting on it, held off because I have a wee conflict of interest as an an author of a book decidedly critical of mainstream economics, but the biases evident in the NPR piece have been nagging at me.
If nothing else, this tally should dispel any idea that NPR is left-leaning:
Bethany McLean and Joe Nocera’s All the Devils Are Here.
Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money.
Michael Lewis’ The Big Short.
Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom.
Greg Ip’s The Little Book of Economics: How the Economy Works in the Real World.
Liaquat Ahamed’s Lords of Finance.
Todd G. Buchholz’ New Ideas from Dead Economists.
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble, and Coming of Age in the Bronx.
John McMillan’s Reinventing the Bazaar.
Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail.
Gary Stern and Ron Feldman’s Too Big To Fail.
Pietra Rivoli’s The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy.
Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist.
Aside from the list being overweight crisis books (including ones that give pride of place to simple, crowd-pleasing conventions over getting to the bottom of things, see our debunking of The Big Short as an example), the books that are hard core economics books are decidedly neoclassical in their bent, and that framework was shown to be fatally flawed in the financial crisis. But I don’t think the list’s author was striving for balance in mixing financial crisis books with ones that hew to the orthodoxy; in fact, I suspect the irony was completely lost on him.
Reader Gary specifically asked for a recommendation on modern monetary theory. The classic there is Randall Wray’s Understanding Modern Money. His query led me to ponder what books belong on a list of economics “must reads”.
I’ve deliberately excluded crisis books from my quick and dirty list (except for one sleeper that discusses general crisis dynamics) and have focused on good heterodox books as well as instructive historical accounts:
The Predator State Jamie Galbraith
Once in Golconda John Brooks
Secrets of the Temple William Greider
Fiasco Frank Partnoy
Traders, Guns and Money Satyajit Das
The Economics of Global Turbulence Robert Brenner
Debunking Economics Steve Keen
The Origin of Financial Crises George Cooper
Treasure Islands NIcholas Shaxson (out now in the UK, out in the US soon)
Zombie Economics John Quiggin
Needless to say, reader input encouraged.