Help me find some economics reading material.
June 18, 2006 5:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be starting a Master's degree in economics in September and I've never taken an economics course in my life. My undergraduate degree was in pure mathematics. I've been given a few economics textbooks to help get me up to speed. I was wondering if anyone could suggest to me any light reading that would help introduce me to economics and more financially based mathematics. Thanks.
posted by jplank to Education (17 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
You might enjoy New Ideas From Dead Economists by Todd Buccholz. Provides a nice, easy-to-read overview of the development of economic theory.
posted by roomwithaview at 6:39 PM on June 18, 2006

One thing I would suggest: Read Freakonomics. I am not an economist, but it radically opened my eyes to what sorts of problems you can analyze with economic tools.
posted by griffey at 6:53 PM on June 18, 2006

I teach economics. Get an undergraduate economics textbook (micro/macro combined) and work your way through it. It doesn't really matter which one as long as it's basic college level. With your mathematics background, the math will be easy; what will trip you up will be the economic concepts -- they won't bother teaching you supply and demand or the money multiplier in graduate classes. The other books might be interesting, but won't help you in class. Have fun.
posted by dness2 at 7:02 PM on June 18, 2006

Start reading the Post-Autistic Economics Review.
posted by scalefree at 7:17 PM on June 18, 2006

I second Freakonomics plus the The Undercover Economist. Start reading the Economist - especially the Economics Focus bit.

Dness2 is right - it'll be the concepts and "thinking like an economist" that'll get you.
posted by TrashyRambo at 7:39 PM on June 18, 2006

I'd like to hear from economics folks on their opinion of the Freakonomics book. Seeing it high up on the bestseller list makes me leery of it ...
posted by intermod at 8:17 PM on June 18, 2006

dness2 is correct in saying that Freakonomics and the Undercover Economist are interesting reading but not terribly useful. The Post-Autistic Economics stuff is very much at the extremes of economics, and is totally not written for people about to embark on an orthodox economics course.
posted by matthewr at 8:33 PM on June 18, 2006

The Afluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith is simply amazing, albeit controversial. Certainly worth the read.
posted by tnoetz01 at 8:54 PM on June 18, 2006

If you want to learn the basics of game theory, you should be able to get through Straffin's Game Theory and Strategy pretty quickly. It doesn't go into great depth (required mathematical background: basic probability and high school algebra), and is short on proofs, but it has plenty of well-explained examples. Overall it's a good way to get started before diving into a more complicated text.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:01 PM on June 18, 2006

Along the lines of what dness2 suggested, Paul Krugman (Princeton prof. I'm sure you've heard of) wrote great introductory books that deal with both Micro and Macroeconomics. Amazon has them. This will get you the basic concepts that will follow you through your entire studies. However, be warned, that these concepts can be tricky. More power to you if you figure them out after reading them once, but most students do not get it the first time around.

Since you're a math major, you've probably seen some statistical analysis, but maybe not enough. A great book that I've used is "Statistics for Business & Economics", by Newbold, Carlson, and Thorne. This will give you basic concepts (mean, median, mode, probabillity with 1 or multiple variables, regressions, z-test, t-test, chi-squared, etc) needed for a basic Econometrics background (extremely useful since these concepts are so practical in the real world).

In addition, I would suggest "Essentials of Investments", by Bodie, Kane, and Marcus. This is more finance than economics, but it's again extremely practical and gives you an advantage over other economics students because you're able to incorporate business/finance/accounting with your economics degree.

Finally, "Development Economics" by Debraj Ray is a seminal work in the area of growth economics, including micro-finance, measures of poverty, measures of globalization, and many other development-related issues.

Economics can be a lot of fun, but you're going to need to focus. You didn't mention this in the original post, but I'm assuming you already have something in mind. Tell us what that is and I'm sure more specific suggestions can be made. FWIW, I majored in Economics (among other things), graduated with a 3.5 in my degree, and am also planning on pursuing either a Masters in Econ, or a JD/MBA in the next year. My last Finance instructor (who was working on his Ph.D) got a Masters in Econ but took mostly finance-related courses. He seemed to like the more tangible, practical, capitalistic nature of econ, as opposed to me, who loves Development Economics and Emerging Foreign Markets.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:59 PM on June 18, 2006

This thread has suggestions (include my own) for someone looking for corporate finance texts. Perhaps not exactly what you're looking for, but related.
posted by mullacc at 11:12 PM on June 18, 2006

There are a lot of blogs which you would find helpful along with the text books. Some of my favorites (and less political than Brad DeLong) would be:
Aplia Econ Blog News for Econ Students
Roubini Global Economics
Beat the Press Economically speaking
posted by ptm at 1:30 AM on June 19, 2006

If you do read 'Freakonomics', read it as fiction. Take the Gladwell endorsement on the cover with a pinch of salt as well.

Apologies, but it's a nasty book.
posted by grahamwell at 3:13 AM on June 19, 2006

For an alternative, more humanistic economics view I suggest Small is Beautiful by Fritz Schumacher, former Chief Economic Advisor to the UK National Coal Board and protege of John Keynes.
posted by concourse at 8:45 AM on June 19, 2006

It has been quite a few years but I was a Finance major and reading The Worldly Philosophers clarified where a number of basic economic ideas came from for me.

As I remember, it was an easy read but may be a little more basic than what you are looking for.
posted by Carbolic at 10:16 AM on June 19, 2006

Here are the books I would recommend you;
"Simon and Blume" to give you an idea for basic mathematics that you will need,
Mankiw's "Intro Macro" and "Intro Micro" to give you an general idea of economics, and can be used to understand the general intuition that is employed in economics. I think these 2 are the best introductory textbooks available for economics. Then you can jump to "advanced" texts (aka graduate level),
for micro, I like "Jehle and Reny" it is clear and simple, there is also "Varian", well some people like it. Finally for micro, "Mas-Colell" is the "hardest" textbook available. If you can handle this book, you'll be definitely fine for the rest of your life.
for macro, I don't know any good "advanced" texts, not because it doesn't exist but because of my ignorance.
Finally, if you would like to read something about the history of economic thought, I think "Blaug" is the best text available and I believe that if you read this book, you'll probably know about how things evolved through out the history of economics more than most of the academician economists.
For Econometrics, "Wooldridge", "Kennedy", "Greene" would be good starters since you will need econometrics for financial analysis.
posted by caelumluna at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

You may be interested in checking out some econ podcasts as well. I am taking an intermediate micro course in the fall and found two pretty informative ones to help prep myself, you might find them useful as well. Introductory Game Theory from the University of Canterbury and Economic Analysis - Microeconomics from UC Berkeley.
posted by adamdrici at 5:21 PM on June 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

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