An Economics Reading List

Novels, Short Stories, and Science Fiction

Marcet, Jane H., Glamorgan Essays and John Hopkins’s Notions on Political Economy

    These economic fairy tales and parables published by Jane Marcet in the 1830s charm with their light-hearted wit. In language less difficult than that of Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, and Mill, she illustrates such topics as the economics of wages and income distribution. The John Hopkins series reprinted and expanded on the popular earlier Glamorgan Essays. Marcet originally earned her fame by writing about chemistry for the layman (in the process influencing Michael Faraday), and branched out with equal success to other fields, including primarily economics. Difficulty Level 0: High School

Read, Leonard, I, Pencil.

Rand, Ayn, Atlas Shrugged.

    This novel has probably done more to get young people enthusiastic about freedom and responsibility as fostered and protected by the discipline of the free market than any book ever written. Unfortunately, this enthusiasm is commonly extinguished by the first course in economics. The novel celebrates the heroism of individuals who mount a crusade against the evils of statist privilege and plunder and who triumph on the basis of principle, perseverance and competence. As commonly taught, economics downplays the importance of any individual, pointing to the social benefits achieved by ordinary people, pursuing mundane objectives by making marginal adjustments to market prices. It is clearly important to understand how the market can transform the behavior of ordinary people into an extraordinary pattern of cooperation and accomplishment, but beginning economics could be made much more appealing to young people, without reducing its intellectual integrity, by doing more to stress the importance of entrepreneurs and visionaries who have made nonmarginal (“creative destruction”) contributions to society through their efforts. Such a course would be a fabulous follow up for the student who has been energized by Atlas Shrugged. Difficulty Level 1: College

Roberts, Russell, The Invisible Heart, An Economic Romance.

    Two parallel dramas about freedom and economics play out before our eyes: a couple in love spar over their different economic viewpoints, while a government agency tries to bring down a cut-throat businessman. This entertaining book presents the hidden ways in which economic freedom benefits rather than hampers life. Difficulty Level 0: High School

Stephenson, Neal, Snow Crash.

    Blue Ribbon, Top Econlib PickRollicking fantasy exploration of technology and society in a world where traditional governments have been succeeded by free markets in government competition for citizens. Inventive language, adept educational and symbolic drawings from ancient religion to futuristic computer technology, memorable characters and scenes, and a fast-paced plot permeate this extraordinary book. Something for everyone, from high school to senior citizen, reader of science fiction to abstruse academic texts, looking for intellectual enlightenment or riveting entertainment. Difficulty Level 0: High School

Stephenson, Neal, Cryptonomicon.

    Code-cracking in WWII and the parallels with encryption in the modern world of computers and high-stakes business are the central themes in this historical novel. The characters’ lives, loves, jobs, and goals intertwine in a worldwide plot that brings places from Manila to Finland to Wales to life. It’s as fascinating when you are done to research which islands are real and which events occurred historically as it is to read the book. Well-researched book with an ending that is fun but a little rushed compared to the intellectual pace of the rest of the book. Difficulty Level 1: College