An Economics Reading List

Price Theory and Principles Textbooks

Alchian, Armen and Allen, William, University Economics

Alchian, Armen and Allen, William, Exchange and Production: Theory in Use

    • This book is a classic of modern economics education. If you are looking for an introduction to economics that will entertain without shying from important delicate issues, this book is just the ticket. Samuelson’s


    • may have been the source from which thousands of non-economists learned college economics for over a decade; but Alchian and Allen was the book from which thousands of academic economists got


    • first inspiration. Yes, there are some graphs, some tables, and some simple equations; but the examples and problem sets are replete with exciting questions that continue to motivate and challenge students to go further in economics.

Difficulty Level 1: CollegeBecker, Gary, Economic Theory

    • No list of price theory textbooks would be complete without this influential book based on Becker’s lectures. However, it is not for the faint of heart. But, if you prefer to just have the material laid out in the form of power-packed, succinct explanations and their associated equations, from algebraic to calculus, this book has exactly the right stuff. (Plus, the discovery that in one instance Gary Becker has two pages of calculations to do what ought to be no more than a three-line proof has motivated many a graduate student with pride.) And, those succinct explanations really do contain some of the most clear explanations extant, which is a joy that accompanies getting the mathematical nuances.

Difficulty Level 2: Grad SchoolFriedman, David, Price Theory: An Intermediate Text

    • David Friedman’s textbook is an excellent choice for a first introduction to the economic way of thinking for someone with no economics background. Written with a light touch, and full of entertaining and innovative examples, this book is fun to read, and full of perfectly worded explanations of even the most complex and subtle economic ideas. A highly motivating book. The online version is the complete second edition, with the addition of two chapters from the first edition that did not appear in the printed second edition.

Difficulty Level 1: CollegeFriedman, Milton, Price Theory

    • Milton Friedman’s book is a classic in graduate school education. It is one of the few graduate textbooks to present clear graphical and verbal explanations of income and substitution effects, and one of the first textbooks to talk about expected utility, the basis of rational expectations. It’s not an introduction for someone who is not motivated or is not interested in equations and graphs to clarify the details, though.

Difficulty Level 2: Grad SchoolGwartney, James and Richard Stroup, Economics: Public and Private Choice

Heyne, Paul, The Economic Way of Thinking

    • Most beginning texts in economics have become encyclopedias that go on for a thousand or more pages and introduce the student to a countless number of different topics with what seems to be an endless series of diagrams. The result is that most students come away convinced that economics is lots of pain with little gain, and have not the foggiest notion of the few basics that are essential to economic literacy. Heyne’s book has gotten a bit longer over successive editions, but is still less than half as long as most principles text. But more important is that Heyne emphasizes the basics, applies them to a few issues, keeps the diagrams simple and relatively few, and follows up each chapter with a long list of “Questions for Discussion” that show how economics applies to a host of everyday activities. And the clear exposition, with a comfortable conversational quality, makes the book a pleasure to read.

The Economic Way of Thinking

    • is a bona fide economics textbook, but one that recognizes that sometimes students can get more with less.

Difficulty Level 1: CollegeHirshleifer, Jack and David Hirshleifer, Price Theory and Applications

    • This excellent book is the standard from which most current economists learned the meat of economics before going on to higher level courses. Clearly written, well organized, refined by many years of improvements, and full of time-tested explanations and examples, it’s a classic among textbooks.

Difficulty Level 1: CollegeLandsburg, Steven, Price Theory and Applications

    • This fine, widely used textbook contains entertaining examples and clear explanations with a minimal emphasis on equations. The coverage is thorough, graphical, and with a consistent tone throughout the book. This is an excellent choice for someone who has had no economics background but wants to get a feeling of excitement for what economics is really about.

Difficulty Level 1: CollegeMalthus, Thomas, Principles of Political Economy, Considered with a View Towards Their Application

Marshall, Alfred, Principles of Economics, 8th edition

Brief ReviewMcCloskey, Donald N., Applied Theory of Price Difficulty Level 1: College

McCulloch, J. R., Principles of Political Economy

Menger, Carl, Principles of Economics

Mill, John Stuart, Principles of Political Economy, Ashley edition.

Brief ReviewRicardo, David, On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation

Brief ReviewSay, Jean-Baptiste, A Treatise on Political Economy

Senior, Nassau W., Political Economy

Smith, Adam, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Cannan edition.

Brief ReviewStigler, George, The Theory of Price

    • A classic in graduate school education that is in fact written clearly enough to be readable by a motivated college student. It is one of the few textbooks to present truly clear graphical, table, and verbal explanations of production, including short and long run cost curves, average and marginal cost, and marginal productivity theory. It’s not an introduction for someone who is not motivated or is not interested in graphs or reading through a few tables for the details, but it’s the perfect view for someone looking to clarify puzzles about production that are not clearly explained in other introductory texts.

Difficulty Level 2: Grad SchoolWicksteed, Philip H., The Common Sense of Political Economy

Brief Review