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I recently made my first trip to a foreign country. I'm quite amazed by how things work. Why are things priced differently at different places? Is the bed-sheet that I bought from that country worth the same in my country? I brought my bed-sheet there in \$40 while the same will cost less than \$10 in my country.

Also, I learnt about utility through this video. I'm just in an awe. These things are so beautiful yet not visibly understandable to me. I'm sad as well as happy I didn't learn about any of these in my school. Sad because I potentially wouldn't have ever studied it. Happy because I can learn this thing with interest, as the school and university I attended have usually taught me in a way that makes things dull.

My background is bachelors in Computer Science. I'm decent at maths. I would like to ask you for book recommendations that will help me get some idea of how things work from an economic standpoint. How banks work, how loan works, what is money etc.

I would like you to suggest me two kinds of books:

  1. That are example based, easy, concise, less mathematical but more story based.
  2. That are mathematical and cover these theory in details.

Thanks.

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It's great that you're developing an interest in economics. I would suggest Mankiw's Principles of Economics to start with. I believe it meets both your requirements and covers the two major areas of economics, microeconomics and macroeconomics, so you would get a decent overview of this field of study. Good luck!

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Chetna! This seems really interesting. $\endgroup$ – Laschet Jain Feb 28 '19 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm currenty reading Macroeconomics from Mankiw. It's really a great book, easy to understand, you can also find some historical fact behind the theories. Unforutantely my book is a little bit old. It's the 3rd edition from about 1997 which does not include the history of the 2008 recession, and the new instruments used by central banks. $\endgroup$ – Jónás Balázs Mar 1 '19 at 11:49
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In the first category of books that are story-based and very well done, supported by academic research, I recommend the Freakonomics books by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner.

  • Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.
  • SuperFreakonomics.

The Freakonomics Blog with a radio program is also amazing.

Update

Why is Freakonomics worth reading?

  1. Steve Levitt is a top economist and was the winner of the 2003 John Bates Clark Medal, awarded by the American Economic Association to "that American economist under the age of forty who is adjudged to have made a significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge". The chapters are based on Levitt's academic papers, which are peer-reviewed and published in top journals.
  2. Steven Dubner is an award-winning author, journalist, and podcast and radio host. Check and listen to Freakonomics Radio.
  3. A person who has no idea about what economics is can easily connect with the content of the book.
  4. Freakonomics is a best seller. First published in the U.S. in 2005, it went on to sell more than 4 million copies around the world, in 35 languages. Many reviews of the book have been published. I like this recent one. At least I share this feeling:

What I particularly liked about it was that although the majority of the time you are reading the book [...] you feel like there is no structure. But in the end, you realize that like most things, everything in the world is connected in a weird yet magical way. It’s a weird thought. It allowed the book to flow because you felt like with every chapter you were learning about something new and unique — as if the book was just a “fun facts” book — but overall, you realize that the core concepts were all driven by the same thing: incentives.

  1. Almost every chapter has strong advocates for and against! I see controversy as an important driver for good research. The book was first published in 2005 and some empirical results, based on good data (another good point of the book) have been re-examined.
  2. The book has attracted criticism and ... envy! Ariel Rubinstein, another top economist, criticized the book in a fun way. In one of his afterwords he wondered: "Am I envious of Steve Levitt?" Perhaps...
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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @emeryvile. I came across this book but the suggestions on goodreads rate this one has horrible! goodreads.com/book/show/1202.Freakonomics. It would be great if you can convince me to still give it a shot! Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Laschet Jain Feb 28 '19 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ I will but is 3.95/5 on 610,338 ratings with 33% of 5* and 39% of 4* an horrible rating? $\endgroup$ – emeryville Feb 28 '19 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, not the rating but the top comments. $\endgroup$ – Laschet Jain Feb 28 '19 at 16:24
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In the story category I also very much recommend Robert Frank's the economic naturalist. It is basically a collection of stories written by his students explaining everyday's little mysteries with economic principles such as that benefits need to outweigh costs, competition and when it does (not) work, and disagreement between socially desired and market outcomes.

Robert Frank also has a textbook together with Ben Bernanke, Kate Antonovics and Ori Heffetz, but I haven't had the opportunity to look at it yet.

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