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Some very short economics book reviews

The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume One: Microeconomics, Yoram Bauman & Grady Klein
The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume Two: Macroeconomics, Yoram Bauman & Grady Klein

There are quite a few 'popular economics' books out there (the best are the Freakonomics books, see below), but they generally use economics to explain the world. They might teach you to 'think like an economist' (not a bad ideal by any means), but they don't actually teach you economics. This two volume set does attempt to teach you economics. And by and large Bauman succeeds. Volume 1 is excellent - I can't really fault it. You should start with volume 1, even if you're one of those people who thinks that economics should be mostly about macro. The macroeconomics volume is also very good, and for the most part avoids being too tribal. However, I'm going to stop short of giving it unreserved praise because to some extent it's stuck in the mainstream, and doesn't address controversial theories perhaps as much as it should. An important part of understanding modern macroeconomics is knowing the old theories and knowing a) why those theories came unstuck and b) what came along to replace them as the new mainstream. These subjects are touched on but there are too many generalisations that would suggest more of a consensus than really exists.



Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

You won't learn economics from these, but they're both a lot of fun, and you might learn some critical thinking. Each chapter looks at some curious phenomenon then uses economics (mostly micro) to explain it (for example: they attribute the fall in US crime rates to easier abortion 20 years earlier because there are fewer unwanted children born to poor, bad parents). Each chapter makes sense, and the logic is usually pretty sound. Best of all the writing style is very easy. The economics equivalents of all those 'Isn't science cool?' books that spend lots of time on tricks you can do with superconductors. Both books highly recommended, although there is a faint suspicion that most of the best stuff went into the first book, and when it was such a success they had to scrabble around for material for the sequel.