Business and economics can often come across as inaccessible in academia. It can feel like fancy words are designed to complicate things that your average man or woman on the street can comprehend. The economy dominates the world around us, yet the subject is often made difficult to grasp. Here are some books that can bring them to life which are perfect for both business and non-business student alike.
The Deficit Myth – Stephanie Kelton
This, more than any book I have ever read, has changed my view of the world and how it operates. Providing a new way of looking at money, Stephanie Kelton dismisses ideas that government borrowing is inherently bad. The book introduces “Modern Monetary Theory”, a lens for understanding government borrowing and printing of money.
Kelton reimagines the world on monetary (and therefore fiscal) policy in a way that offers new hope for ending many of society’s problems. She is cautious yet optimistic about the power of the lens of MMT. There are no airs and graces about this book – it is simply good ideas and good writing.
The Most Important Thing – Howard Marks
Howard Marks (not to be confused with Karl), was an investor with Oaktree Capital, and outlays “The Most Important Thing” when it comes to investing. Incidentally, there are 20 “Most Important Things”, which Marks lays out chapter by chapter.
Patient opportunism, defensive investing, and deeper thinking are all traits espoused by this book. The author rails against excessive risk-taking, or at least risk of the wrong kind. For wannabe day traders, or anyone looking to invest their pocket money, this book offers insight and caution in equal quantities.
The Psychology of Money – Morgan Housel
This book, put simply, is brilliant. Housel boils down financial success to behaviour, rather than spreadsheets and investment strategy. This book is short, digestible, and approachable. Despite what the above quote might suggest, Housel is realistic about limitations to those on lower incomes. The book is full of nuggets of wisdom for any income group.
The author teaches lessons of financial success for normal people, through 19 short stories. A common theme of the book is self-discipline and understanding of your own ego. As Housel says, “Spending money to show people how much money you have is the fastest way to have less money.”
Misbehaving – Richard Thaler
Nobel Memorial Prize winner, Richard Thaler, details his life and work in this fantastic book. Thaler describes his journey from a run of the mill economics graduate to one of the founding fathers of Behavioural Economics.
By telling us of anomalies of human behaviour through witty anecdotes, the author explores the bizarre world of human decision making. While Behavioural Economics is now relatively mainstream (UCD even offer a master’s in it), Thaler faced large backlash throughout his time, making this great reading on both intellectual and personal levels.
Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth
Kate Raworth’s critique of economics is equally matched with solutions. Her new model for the economy is based on a ringed doughnut – outside of which is beyond Earth’s planetary limits and inside is below the social floor of any dignified society. This book, along with Kelton’s Deficit Myth represent two of the best up and coming economic thoughts of the 21st century and are specifically built for it.
This structure has noteworthy supporters, notably President Higgins. Raworth critiques the outdated introductory models taught to economics students and one may argue that this book should be their replacement.
Angrynomics – Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth
This short, conversation-based book tries to make sense of the sometimes legitimate, sometimes misplaced anger that is felt in today’s world. The authors, Eric Lonergan and Mark Blyth are semi-regular guests on the David McWilliams podcast.
As the book is posed as a conversation between two friends (who happen to be financial experts), the book is low on jargon and high on ideas. It delves away from a lot of the typical ideas for our increasingly fragmented world and offers doable solutions. The book is short and sweet, so even if you don’t love the conversational format, it is easy to get through.
Arguing with Zombies – Paul Krugman
Nobel Memorial Prize winner Paul Krugman is one of the world’s most famous economists. This book is a series of articles and blog posts he has written, railing against the Zombies of American (and world) public policy – the bad ideas that just won’t die.
The book can nearly be viewed as a preamble to the 2020 presidential election, as it outlines the path America has taken since the Bush administration at the start of the century. The book is not written with the advantage of hindsight, so we get to see Krugman’s thoughts on policy decisions as they happen. He is critical of all but does not pander to the ideas that “both sides” are equally guilty of bad policy. In other words, this is bad reading for American Republicans.
Conor Bergin – Business Correspondent