7 books to read if you’re an economics student | Top Universities

7 books to read if you’re an economics student

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Chloe Lane

Updated Feb 04, 2024



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If you’re already an economics student, or are about to start an economics course at university, you probably don’t want to sit through more drab, dull economics textbooks. ‘Why isn’t there a fun way to learn this stuff?’ you think. Fear not! We have selected seven of the most entertaining books out there (which just so happen to be about economics…) Read on, and before you know it, you’ll have tons of interesting economics knowledge, without even realizing you’ve learnt it.

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics book

Freakonomics has often been described as one of the most popular economics books of all time – and there is a reason for this! If you’ve ever wondered why drug dealers tend to live with their mothers, what real estate agents and the KKK have in common, and which is more dangerous: a gun or a swimming pool, then this is the book for you. Freakonomics answers the questions that no one thought to ask – because they were just too absurd! The first of its kind, this novel manages to both amuse you, and make you start seeing the world from an economics perspective – perfect for an economics student!

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

Thinking, Fast and Slow book

Written by Nobel Prize winner, Daniel Kahneman, and mathematical psychologist, Amos Tversky, this is an incredibly insightful book, which challenges the classical economic assumption that people always act rationally. For example, this book explains why it is that we are more likely to believe something written in bold type, and why we are more likely to believe that attractive people are more competent. It’s a novel that helps us understand both the decisions we make ourselves, as well as the decisions made by those around us. Not only does reading this help you make better decisions, but it gives an excellent insight into behavioral economics, which will definitely help you on your economics course at some point.

The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford

The Undercover Economist book

This book has to be one of my personal favorites on this list. Mainly because it opens by explaining why the Starbucks in a London train station charges so much for coffee, and continues to talk through similar real life, relatable scenarios.  This is a book which shows you that economics plays a massive part in every section of your life, and how knowing about the economics behind these everyday things can help you understand the world slightly better.

23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism by Ha-Joon Chang


23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

This book takes the biggest myths in society today and turns them upside down and inside out. For example, it explains why the washing machine has changed lives more than the internet. Chang explains at the start of the novel that despite the name, the book is by no means anti-capitalist and aims not to take sides but to explain the realities, although he does say “despite its problems and limitations, I believe that capitalism is still the best economic system that humanity has invented.” This one will have you questioning everything you know.

Animal Spirits by Akerlof and Shiller

Animal Spirits book

Animal Spirits makes for slightly heavier reading than some of the books on this list, but it’s also one of the most important ones. The book discusses the role played by emotions in economic decision making, which is really interesting, and at the same time gives an excellent overview of basic Keynesian ideas, which is extremely useful if you’re either going into an economics degree course, or currently studying one. Also, this book is loved by lecturers, so you’ll get major brownie points by saying you’ve read it.

The Armchair Economist by Steven E. Landsburg

The Armchair Economist book

The Armchair Economist is a lot like Freakanomics and The Undercover Economist in the way it explains the economics of everyday life, in an amusing and relatable way. The author recognizes this in the intro and explains “Freakonomics is out to dazzle you with facts; The Armchair Economist is out to dazzle you with logic.” You should read The Armchair Economist if you want answers to questions such as ‘Why is it that the safer a car gets, the more crashes the driver has?’ and ‘How much would the average person risk their life for a Starbucks mocha frappachino?’ Don’t act like you don’t want to know!

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nissim Nocholas Taleb

The Black Swan book

This one was on my suggested reading list for my economics course, and although it can be quite dense in parts, the general idea is really cool! The central idea in the book is that even if an event is extremely improbable, such as a black swan existing when no one had ever seen one, it doesn’t mean the event is impossible (as black swans do exist). The book goes on to explain how a significant unexpected event can have massive consequences. This one is also liked by economic lecturers, just in case you were wondering, and is a good one to bring up in class.


Hopefully there will have been something on that list that takes your fancy. Each of the books on the list will give you a good insight into at least one economic theory, and you will be able to reference them in essays etc. whilst at uni, so they are definitely worth a read.

Happy reading!

Image credit: goodreads.com

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