Lighter, Longer Reading: Econ Book Recs for the Age of Social Distancing

The last few posts have been err, not exactly uplifting.  Here’s a lighter post for the age of social distancing.

I offered to share some econ book recommendations with my students, on the off chance they find themselves cooped up, with ample free time on their hands, or discover a newfound imperative to support their local independent bookstore. Here’s my current running list, which is admittedly reflective of my research and teaching fields:

Contemporary Econ:

  • The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets by Thomas Philippon (industrial organization, America’s abandonment of anti-trust, and consequences of market consolidation)
  • The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman (income/wealth inequality, tax shelters, and progressive tax policy)

 Macroeconomics/Financial Crises:

  • The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis (the subprime crisis compelling told through the lens of a trio of characters traders betting against subprime—the book is better than the movie, but I’d recommend the movie as well)
  • Irrational Exuberance 3rd ed. by Robert Shiller (behavioral finance and economic bubbles from the prescient, authoritative expert on the subject)
  • The Return Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman* (macroeconomic crises and policy mismanagement: a 20th century survey)
  • After The Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead by Alan Blinder* (the best general survey of the causes and policy responses to the Great Recession, imho)
  • Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy by Joseph Stiglitz (an excellent tomb on the Great Recession, a bit more of a polemic and broadside to the economics profession)
  • In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic by David Wessel* (great inside account the financial crisis of 2007-09 unfolding and policy responses through the lens of the Bernanke Fed)
  • Hall of Mirrors: The Great Depression, the Great Recession, and the Uses-and Misuses-of History by Barry Eichengreen (fascinating comparison of the Great Recession and Great Depression by one of the world’s preeminent macroeconomic historians)
  • The World in Depression, 1929–1939 by Charles Kindleberger (excellent global take on the Great Depression from more of an international political economy and institutionalist angle)
  • The Great Crash: 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith* (great narrative of the stock market crash and onset of the U.S. Great Depression, witty and acerbic to boot)

 Public Finance/Political Economy/Inequality:

  • The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (U.S. federal budget policy through the lens of defunding public goods/emergency response capacity, and terrifyingly prescient)
  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (U.S. housing policy and urban economics through the lens of government-driven segregation and institutionalized racism)
  • Shaky Ground: The Strange Saga of the U. S. Mortgage Giants by Bethany McLean (U.S. housing finance policy and the mortgage meltdown through the lens and fascinating histories of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac)
  • Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy by Stephen Cohen and Brad DeLong (U.S. economic history and growth through the lens of American industrial policy)
  • The Squandering of America: How the Failure of Our Politics Undermines Our Prosperity by Robert Kuttner (U.S. political economy and a remarkably prescient pre-Great Recession take on structural problems with America’s economy, corporate sector, and political institutions)
  • Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class by Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson (two renowned political scientists weigh in on how systemic failures of the U.S. political system have contributed to rising income inequality)
  • Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty (blockbuster tomb on income and wealth inequality in the advanced economies)


*These books are also on my Econ 418: Macroeconomics of Depressions reading list.

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