Economics, Daniel Hamermesh likes to point out, is not about money, but about scarcity. In this holiday reading list, he recommends allocating your scarce resources not only to books about economics, but also to books about immigration and history.
1. Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese
This novel from a decade ago should be read by every American interested in immigration. While it deals with a lot of medical details, the essence of it is about urban life in developing countries and about the immigrant experience. It is both moving and thought-provoking.
2. In the Garden of the Beasts, by Erik Larson
At a time of increased danger of totalitarianism in the U.S., reading a history of an insider’s view of its growth in Germany in the 1930s gives a good perspective on our contemporary problems, as well as being fascinating history and biography in its own right.
3. Core Economics by the Core Economics team
You can’t take this book to the beach as a paperback, but you can download it. It represents a revolutionary approach to introductory economics that draws the reader into the subject. It is catching on widely and will affect economic thinking in the population as a whole for a long time.
4. The Worldly Philosophers, by Robert Heilbroner
The first edition of this book, which I read in high school (in 1960), got me to major in economics and devote my career to it. The book’s updated editions are just as good and give a good, not-popularized feel for what the major economic ideas are really about (and also a good feel for the people who created them).
5. Cribsheet, by Emily Oster
A bit of a cheat recommending this, since Emily’s parents, both economists, are old friends of mine. But the book is an easy-reading but evidence-based guide for prospective and new parents.
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