Unaccustomed as I am to impart advice of any value, I thought it’d be good to write up something you don’t usually see on the ESSA website – maybe it will help you procrastinate! But mostly I hope it’s entertaining enough to refresh you after mulling over Bertrand models or something – ahh the joys of oligopoly!
Disclaimer: I probably lack the koalaficiations to compile the most well-informed reading list of economics related books. However, upon interrogation a close source did admit to thinking I was a bookworm. I don’t read that many books on economy, but I do know a thing or two about worm economy (check out one of my older articles on the beguiling topic of economic Darwinism here). Therefore, if you find yourself thinking this article is rubbish, that’s ok, because to all aspiring economists out there: disagreement is always good practice! (For more on this read up Dr Oliver Hartwich’s entertaining article).
(In no particular order)
North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
In the highly secretive proceedings of ESSA’s publications meetings, it was once jokingly suggested that someone should write a reading list, and how absurd it would be to have something like Pride and Prejudice on it! While the only link I could come up with was a passing reference to Sir Thomas in Mansfield Park working in the tobacco trade which employed a large number of slaves, at least Elizabeth Gaskell gave me something more tangible to work with. Touted as “Pride and Prejudice with a social conscience” by the omniscient authority on all books that is some random BBC movie reviewer I happened to stumble upon during late-night cyberspace strolling, Gaskell presents a love story that is complementary to the embattled relationship between employer and factory-worker in the industrialised North England of the 19th century. Female protagonist, Margaret Hale comes from the romantic countryside of the south, thrown into the midst of Industrial Revolution, her initial hate of dirt gives way to a clearer insight on the very real consequences of poverty and employment inequity in a congested urban city.
Freakonomics – Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
Any list without some pop economics book would be illegitimate, right? If you haven’t read this yet, then you need to, otherwise your credibility as an economics student is in danger of being undermined. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner do a great job of telling everyone what economics is really about: regressions analysis. And of course, the underlying motivations for human behaviour…which can only be empirically tested through regressions analysis. Fear not, as the authors provide an unprecedentedly accessible account of the fundamentals of regressions analysis, no mathematical prerequisites are required. Economics is an attempt to model, explain and predict behaviour, whether it be the consumer, the market, or some game-theorist Sumo wrestler in Japan, and this book captures that exactly. Doing it by posing incredibly obscure questions that yield equally obscure results is a bonus and makes it delightful to read.
1984 – George Orwell
Nothing much more needs to be said. Don’t be put off by Winston Smith’s varicose ulcer because Orwell’s extended essay on the horrendous crimes of totalitarian government, disguised as a novel of dystopian fiction, is a masterpiece in its lucidity alone. A study on whether individual liberty can exist in any small or imagined form under an oppressive bureaucracy is the main focus of this book. But Orwell also explains inceptually – in a book within a book – why perpetual war is an instrument of economic peace. He named it 1984 partly because he envisioned that some of his speculations may well be realised in England by then, but it’s 2012, London is about the host the Olympics (in which mayor Boris Johnson expressed a desire to beat the Australians) and the Queen is celebrating her diamond jubilee. Has the danger come to pass? Well, we don’t know. However, you may find that the regulated deprivation of Airstrip One is a promising solution to the call for tighter austerity measures in Europe.
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