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I'm a high school student. Some of the teachers at my school announced that the school may introduce electives in the next school year. One of the options for electives to be introduced was economics, so I decided to do some research about the most popular introduction to economics books and have come to the conclusion that Robert Frank's principles of economics and Mankiw's principles of economics are the most popular. I obtained their pdf copies and got a good look on their contents and their preface; however, I don't think that was very helpful, for I've never studied economics before, so I would appreciate the help of someone more experienced in the field.

I have more than one question.

  1. Are they, in fact, the most popular introduction to economics books?
  2. What are the main differences between them (teaching style, content covered, etc.) and which one, in your opinion, is better?
  3. Are the books a good fit for a high school elective, if not, what books would you recommend?
  4. Are the books a good fit for a self-studying high school student, if not, what books would you recommend?
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Are they, in fact, the most popular introduction to economics books?

I don't think this can be directly answered because I do not think there is statistics showing sale numbers of all major textbooks. The Mankiw's Principles of Economics are quite popular, and it is very well ranked textbook (see Inomics). According to Harvard website with Mankiw's biography the book sold over 2 million copies, so saying its a popular textbook would be an understatement.

This being said for example, Samuelson's legendary Economics sold over 4 million copies (according to Wikipedia). However, Samuelson's Economics is now a bit dated as well. Also Samuelson's Economics (first published 1948) was first written decades before Mankiw's principles (published in 1997). If we would divide the sales by years since first publication Mankiw's book would have 80000 sales per year whereas Samuelson's book would have 54054 sales per year. However, one could argue this is because over time as population increases there are more econ students and Samuelson's book is less used now because its dated.

For Frank's book I wasn't even able to find sales numbers. So this question cant really be objectively answered. This being said both books are routinely used at undergraduate level.

What are the main differences between them (teaching style, content covered, etc.)?

There really aren't any major differences. Mankiw has little bit more extra discussions, the textbook is bit longer. If you like to read a lot you might light that, if you are person who doesn't like reading you wont. Regarding teaching style I think Frank has more math exercises whereas Mankiw focuses more on providing intuitions (but that is a subjective impression).

To be honest in modern Economics there aren't many differences in textbooks. Unless we are talking about some fringe author, all standard textbooks cover more or less the same area. The differences are mostly in how well written the text is and price. I personally like more Mankiw writing style but that's subjective opinion.

Are the books a good fit for a high school elective, if not, what books would you recommend?

Yes although if you are just a high schooler (as opposed to college undergraduate), I would not read them cover to cover. Look in syllabus what topics your high school course will cover and focus on chapters that cover the same topic. At a high school level you should be able to understand whole book, but if you are not sure if you want to pursue economics in your future life it's waste of time to invest too much of your limited time to single subject. But if you are really passionate about the field and want to also pursue it in university or college then it will definitely give you head start.

There are also textbooks that are crafted purely for high schoolers. For example, Krugman's Economics for AP. However, frankly there aren't again any huge differences. Books specially crafted for high school will omit some more complex stuff, but you can always skip difficult problem/part of a slightly more advanced undergraduate book. Undergraduate books are still written in a way that presumes no prior knowledge of subject from high school.

Are the books a good fit for a self-studying high school student, if not, what books would you recommend?

Yes, they both are good fit. There isn't any big difference between major econ textbooks (e.g. Mankiw Principles, Krugman Economics etc). Normally I would recommend getting one that you can get most cheaply from your local university textbook second hand market provided written by respected economist. From the two you currently have I would recommend Mankiw but frankly no matter whether you go with Mankiw or Frank you will learn the same thing.

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