The 9 Best Economics Books

Learn more about economics with these top picks

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Understanding economics, the study of the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, is an important aspect of understanding and managing your finances. Learn more about economics and how it affects your finances with our picks for the best economics books.

Key Takeaways

  • "Economics in One Lesson" gets our nod for the best economics book overall.
  • "Thinking Fast and Slow" might appeal to those who appreciate the psychological roots of economics.
  • "Common Sense Economics" can be a good choice for new-to-the-game investors.

Best Overall: Economics in One Lesson

Economics in One Lesson

Courtesy of Walmart

Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” earned the top spot on our list for its no-nonsense approach to economic theory, the intersection of government and the economy, and the importance of the free market. Written in 1946, it's sold more than a million copies, a testament to the staying power of Hazlitt’s lessons. Think anti-deficit approaches to the markets and economic liberty.

An economist and journalist, Hazlitt was a founding co-president of the Foundation for Economic Education and an editor of The Freeman magazine.

Best on Microeconomics: Freakonomics


Courtesy of Amazon

You’ve probably heard of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s runaway hit “Freakonomics.” It tackles everyday questions and explores the answers through the lens of an economist, and an unconventional one at that. Some of the questions may sound a bit out there, like, “What’s more dangerous, a gun or a pool?” or “How much do parents really matter?” But the answers tell us a lot about what incentivizes people, how we make decisions, and how we call conventional wisdom into question.

Levitt is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago. Dubner is an award-winning journalist and radio and TV personality.

Best Psychological Take: Thinking Fast and Slow

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Courtesy of Walmart

Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow” delves into the human mind and the two systems that power everything, one fast and one slow. It explains how these two systems are responsible for everything from overconfidence in the workplace to cognitive bias and how we make decisions on where to vacation next. But Kahneman takes it a step further, delving into when to trust our intuitions, when not to, and how to avoid common pitfalls when making decisions in both our personal and professional lives.

Kahneman is a psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Related: The Best Personal Finance Books

Best on Income Inequality: Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Courtesy of Walmart

A New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, winner of the Financial Times and a McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award, Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” offers an unparalleled take on the history of wealth inequality in both Europe and the United States. It explores the havoc that such inequality can wreak. The book explains in no uncertain detail that when the rate of return in a country is greater than the rate of economic growth, wealth inequality will continue to flourish, and not in a good way.

Piketty is a French economist and a professor at the Paris School of Economics and the London School of Economics International Inequalities Institute.

Best for Beginners: Common Sense Economics

Common Sense Economics

Courtesy of Amazon

Written by top economists James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee, “Common Sense Economics” answers beginners' pressing questions on the genre, from how an economy works to redistributing wealth. It explains important economic concepts like supply and demand, trade, and private ownership. This pick tells why an understanding of economics is important and it does so in clear, easy-to-understand prose.

Related: The Best Investing Books for Beginners

Best on Economic History: The Road to Serfdom

The Road to Serfdom

Courtesy of Walmart

First published in 1944, F. A. Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” has been established as something akin to the gospel in the world of economic writing. Hayek’s work served up what was then a controversial warning against state control over the production of goods. It has sold more than 400,000 copies and has been translated into more than 20 languages.

The updated version includes a foreword by Bruce Caldwell, a Hayek scholar who adds clarification and modern takes on Hayek’s works, which have often been misinterpreted.

Hayek, a recipient of the Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, taught at the University of London, the University of Chicago, and the University of Freiburg.

Best on Behavioral Economics: Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

Misbehaving : The Making of Behavioral Economics

Courtesy of Walmart

Richard H. Thaler’s “Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics” turns classic economic theory on its head. It denounces the idea that much of economic theory is based on: the behavior of rational actors. According to Thaler, humans are inherently flawed and easily succumb to bias and emotional decision making. This sets a ripple effect on the economy into motion. Thaler schools readers on how to avoid these emotional pitfalls and make smarter decisions using this theory.

Thaler is a Professor of Economics and Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Related: The Best Stock Market Books

Best on Applied Economics: The Armchair Economist

The Armchair Economist

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

Steven Landsburg’s “The Armchair Economist” applies real-world situations to economic theory. Why do celebrity endorsements sell products? Do government deficits matter? Why do women pay more at the dry cleaners? The revised edition of this book tackles all this and more, making the economic concepts that much more understandable.

Landsburg is a Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester and the author of “More Sex Is Safer Sex" and “Fair Play,” two textbooks on economics. He's also the author of the "Everyday Economics" column in Slate magazine.

Best Cerebral Pick: Good Economics for Hard Times

Good Economics for Hard Times

Courtesy of Barnes & Noble

Ever wondered why economics matters? MIT economists Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo explain just that in their book, “Good Economics for Hard Times.” It tackles the pressing economic issues of our age, from climate change to globalization to immigration and inequality, and it couples that with modern economic takes that could very well be the solutions to the world’s biggest issues.

Final Verdict

Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson,” available at Amazon, earned the best overall spot in part for its comprehensive take on basic economic theory, the intersection of the government and economics, and its anti-deficit position. First written in 1946, this text also has staying power.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the definition of economic theory?

    An economic theory is an explanation of how economies work. There's not one single economic theory. At least one theory is credited with blaming poor economic growth on high wages.

  • What does it mean to redistribute wealth?

    Wealth redistribution is the process of transferring income, property or assets from one group or class to another, usually on a large scale. Your "wealth" may not be in the millions, but it's nonetheless redistributed when you pay taxes and the government then uses that money to fund social programs.

Why Trust The Balance?

Rachel Morgan Cautero has a master's degree in journalism from New York University and more than a decade of journalism experience, most in the personal finance sector. She was the managing editor of DailyWorth, a finance-based media destination for women. She’s been published in SmartAsset, The Balance, The Atlantic, Life & Money, Parents, WealthRocket, and Yahoo Finance. These titles were selected based on author credentials, reader reviews, and any relevant awards. 

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cambridge Dictionary. "Economic Theory."

  2. Open Education Sociology Dictionary. "Redistribution of Wealth."

Related Articles