50 Economics Classics: Tom Butler-Bowdon
July 19th, 2017
Tom Butler-Bowdon has recently added another title, 50 Economics Classics, to his long-running and super-effective 50 Classics series.
Part of the genius of this book is broadening the content beyond the people we normally associate with Economics as a discipline and field of study (Adam Smith, Karl Marx, Joseph Schumpeter and so on), to those from other disciplines who have had impact on the field, such as Michael Lewis, Eric Brynjolfsson & Andrew McAfee, Jane Jacobs and John C. Bogle. The centrality of people, as well as institutions and disciplines, shines throughout, especially in the entries on such titles as Gary Becker’s Human Capital and Elinor Ostrom’s Governing the Commons. And I was pleased to see the inclusion of Peter Drucker’s 1985 classic Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
The format here echoes that of his earlier books (such as on Success, Psychology, Self-Help, Spirituality and others), and it remains ultra-informative: books are described in six or seven pages, with a lead-off quote, an “In a Nutshell” explanation, similar titles, and brief biographical material on the authors. The material is lucidly explained, placed in context and shown why it is important and worth reading.
There are a number of recent influential books, such as Thomas Piketty ‘s Capital in the Twenty-First Century; Richard Thaler’s Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics, Robert J. Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth, Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid and Ha-Joon Chang’s 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism. Tom ends with brief descriptions of “50 More Economics Classics,” such as Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation and David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years.
50 Economics Classics has been getting great reaction, including:
Book review in the LSE Review of Books (Tom is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science.)
A post from Diane Coyle, whose 2014 book GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History is one of the included titles
Book review in E&T/Engineering and Technology
Book review in AccountingWeb
I have written about Tom and his books a number of times previously, both for USA TODAY (including my 2008 Q&A with him, “Author believes prosperity requires taking a ‘leap into the dark’”) and for my blog, including a 2010 interview and my review of his 2013 book 50 Philosophy Classics. In addition, I interviewed and wrote about him in my 2013 book, Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way.
Reading the descriptions in 50 Economics Classics is a reminder that a basic understanding and staying on top of this subject provides important insights into what is happening in the world today, and just as crucially, where it might go tomorrow. We can then decide what our role might be to improve life for ourselves and others, uncertainty and all.