Books that should be read before starting a Ph.D. in economics

Ajay Shah points to some books one should read before starting a PHD in economics:

 I thought it’s useful to pick a set of books that touch on the great themes of the world, often going into troublesome terrain that the models aren’t very good at, so as to lay a foundation of background knowledge and historical knowledge which can pave the way to usefully assimilating what’s taught in the economics Ph.D. Of course, they should be books that are fun to read and un-putdownable.

Here’s my suggested compact checklist of books worth reading. Please do suggest books, and disagree with this list, in the comments to this post.

  1. The evolution of cooperation, by Robert M. Axelrod
  2. Good capitalism, bad capitalism, and the economics of growth and prosperity by William J. Baumol, Robert E. Litan and Carl J. Schramm
  3. A splendid exchange: How trade shaped the world by William J. Bernstein
  4. The elusive quest for growth by William Russell Easterly
  5. Invisible engines: How software platforms drive innovation and transform industries by David S. Evans, Andrei Hagiu and Richard Schmalensee
  6. The ascent of money by Niall Ferguson
  7. Economic gangsters: Corruption, violence and the poverty of nations by Raymond Fisman and Edward Miguel
  8. Capitalism and freedom by Milton Friedman
  9. The great crash of 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith
  10. The age of uncertainty by John Kenneth Galbraith
  11. Exit, voice, loyalty by Albert O. Hirschman
  12. Development, geography and economic theory by Paul Krugman
  13. More money than God: Hedge funds and the making of a new elite by Sebastian Mallaby
  14. Reinventing the bazaar: A natural history of markets by John McMillan
  15. Readings in applied microeconomics: The power of the market edited by Craig Newmark
  16. From the corn laws to free trade: Interests, ideas and institutions in historical perspective by Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey
  17. Seeing like a State by James C. Scott
  18. The company of strangers by Paul Seabright
  19. Information rules: A strategic guide to the network economy by Carl Shapiro and Hal R. Varian

 He says one could disagree/add more books on the comments section. I am not mch into reading economics books (for lack of time) so not much to say or add. Still would add Keynes epic — The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Also some books from the recent crisis to point the importance of understanding crisis and crashes.

12 Responses to “Books that should be read before starting a Ph.D. in economics”

  1. Jimmy Says:

    Human Action by Mises

  2. Michael Walker Says:

    Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt should be read by EVERYONE.

    Anything by Frederic Bastiat (esp The Law)

    Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard

  3. Roger Vertes Says:

    In addition to all the mentioned above I would also add:

    “This Time Is Different”, by Reinhart and Rogoff
    as well as
    “Manias, Panics and Crashes” by Kindleberger
    “Dying of Money” by Jens O’Parsons.

  4. Greg Ransom Says:

    A couple more:

    The Making of an Economist, Redux by David Colander

    The Cult of Statistical Significance by Stephen Ziliak & Deidre McCloskey

    Machine Dreams by Philip Mirowski

    Hayek’s Challenge by Bruce Caldwell

    More Heat than Light by Philip Mirowksi

  5. Nathanael Snow Says:

    Newmark taught my section of intermediate Micro. Great prof.

  6. Alex Says:

    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefevre

  7. Krishanu Says:

    Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher, as a reminder that the human touch is yet important in the wake of neo classical production and output ideals.

  8. Rick Geissal Says:

    To see how things can go disastrously wrong, or bizarrely different – getting radically different perspectives – concepts that may be foreign to Ph.D. econ students, read something entirely different:

    Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)

    Cat’s Cradle (Kurt Vonnegut)

  9. Lisa Says:

    Das Kapital by Marx & Engels

  10. Gabriel Aguilera Says:

    The Economic Institutions of Capitalism, 1985. Williamson. How is this not in your top 10?!?

  11. josh chaffin Says:

    “The Worldly Philosophers”

  12. Willard Says:

    Hello! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the excellent work!

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