☆ Bay Area profs nominate smart, instructive, playful economics books you can bank on (part 2)

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For this installment, Opp Now visited the office hours of three econ professor–researchers (San Jose State dept chair Matthew Holian and prof Tom Means, and Stanford prof Alvin Roth) with one big question: What books could yield the most acumen for folks digging into economics, whether as novices or savants or somewhere in between? An Opp Now exclusive.

Matthew Holian, San Jose State University economics department chair:

I’d recommend “Principles of Economics” by N. Gregory Mankiw. It’s a textbook, but reading it would be the single best way to understand economics.

Tom Means, San Jose State University economics professor:

Basic introductory texts for college students:

“Principles of Economics” by N Gregory Mankiw

From the publisher: “In writing this textbook, Mankiw has tried to put himself in the position of someone seeing economics for the first time. The author’s conversational writing style is superb for presenting the politics and science of economic theories to tomorrow’s decision-makers. Because Mankiw wrote it for the students, the book stands out among all other principles texts by encouraging students to apply an economic way of thinking in their daily lives.”

“Principles of Economics” by Robert Frank, Ben Bernanke, Kate Antonovics & Ori Heffetz

From the publisher: “Principles of Economics focuses on seven core principles to produce economic naturalists through active learning. By eliminating overwhelming detail and focusing on core principles, students from all backgrounds are able to gain a deeper understanding of economics. Focused on helping students become ‘economic naturalists,’ people who employ basic economic principles to understand and explain what they observe in the world around them.”

For general readers:

“Economics In One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics,” by Henry Hazlitt

From the publisher: “Considered among the leading economic thinkers of the ‘Austrian School,’ which includes Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich (F.A.) Hayek, and others, Henry Hazlitt wrote Economics in One Lesson in 1946. Concise and instructive, it is also deceptively prescient and far-reaching in its efforts to dissemble economic fallacies that are so prevalent they have almost become a new orthodoxy.”

“Freakonomics Revised and Expanded Edition: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

From the publisher: “Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Which should be feared more: snakes or french fries? Why do sumo wrestlers cheat? In this groundbreaking book, leading economist Steven Levitt—Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the American Economic Association’s John Bates Clark medal for the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to the discipline—reveals the answers.”

For readers interested in local politics and economics:

“All Politics is Local: The Economic and Political Guide to Local Policy Issues,” by Tom Means

From the publisher: “All Politics is Local. This book suggests that what happens at the local government level is more important than what happens at the state and federal levels. Residents are more concerned about the impact of local development on issues like traffic, parking, neighborhoods, schools, and policies that will improve their quality of life. Readers of this book will see another side to serving in local government.”

Alvin Roth, Stanford University economics professor:

I don’t know what the best economics book is to recommend to others. But I’ve had lots of good conversations about economics with Silicon Valley people who have read my book, “Who Gets What ― and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design,” which talks about how markets are human artifacts (ancient ones at that), and how market design has been transformed by the advent of computer aided marketplaces.


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