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Best Economics Books for Non-Economists

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Economics is an intimidating topic that could easily trick you into thinking it's none of your business. But understanding key topics like negotiation, investment, and the psychology of money is incredibly useful to everyone—both personally and professionally.

That's why some of the best economics books for non-economists are the ones that show how vital the subject is and how it affects all aspects of our lives. The MarketWatch 2024 Survey on Generational Banking Trends reveals a big gap between younger generations and their interest in economics. While money talk is becoming less taboo, only half of Gen Z workers are financially illiterate.

Whether you’re planning how to spend your first paycheck or plotting out your retirement, here are 11 of the best books for learning about economics.

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Our picks for the best economics books for beginners

Here's how we put together this list of economics books: We focused on the best economics books that offer an introductory or overview approach—ideal for beginners. Given how broad the subject is, we organized them into categories ranging from microeconomics to personal finance. Take a look at our top recommendations:

Best for a general introduction to economics

“The Armchair Economist,” by Steven E. Landsburg

What is the best book to learn economics? This might be it. The Armchair Economist gives a witty and instructive introduction to microeconomics—the study of how individuals and businesses make decisions and how these decisions interact in markets. Using real-world examples, Professor Landsburg demystifies fundamental economic principles, making it an excellent starting point for anyone new to the subject.

Best for big picture economics

“The Undercover Economist,” by Tim Harford

Tim Harford’s engaging writing style in The Undercover Economist brings economics to life. The book explains how basic economic principles affect our daily decisions, like why coffee costs so much or how supermarkets price their goods. Covering topics from market forces to the hidden role of incentives, it's a solid foundation in both micro and macroeconomics.

Best for understanding strategic thinking

“Thinking Strategically,” by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff

Need a hand for dealing with competitive situations? Thinking Strategically uses game theory to explore how individuals and businesses make strategic decisions in stressful environments. Filled with practical examples and valuable insights, this book will help you understand competitive behavior in various contexts, from business negotiations to everyday life.

Best for behavioral economics

“The Psychology of Money,” by Morgan Housel

Morgan Housel delves into the psychological aspects of financial decisions in The Psychology of Money. Through 19 short stories, a mix of real-life case studies and illustrative anecdotes, Housel illustrates how people think about money, highlighting the irrational behaviors and emotional influences that drive our financial choices. It's a valuable read to understand what goes behind the numbers.

Best for understanding finance

“A Random Walk Down Wall Street,” by Burton G. Malkiel

Considered a classic guide to investing, A Random Walk Down Wall Street covers everything from stocks and bonds to real estate and mutual funds, advocating for a straightforward, evidence-based approach. It's an essential read for anyone looking to navigate the financial markets with confidence.

Best for achieving financial independence

“Quit Like a Millionaire,” by Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung

In addition to books written by renowned economists and academics, it can be inspiring to read real people's stories like that of Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung, who retired at 31 to travel the world and want to show you how you can do the same.

Quit Like a Millionaire provides a practical roadmap to financial independence. The authors share strategies for saving, investing, and retiring early, using personal anecdotes and a no-nonsense approach to make complex financial concepts accessible and relatable.

More independent-wealth inspo: How to Retire Early: 5 Tips to Achieve Early Retirement

Best for economic history

“The Worldly Philosophers,” by Robert Heilbroner

The Worldly Philosophers summarizes the lives and ideas of great economists from Adam Smith to Karl Marx. This bestselling classic provides context for their theories and explains how their work has shaped modern economic thought, making it a great overview of the history of economic ideas.

Best for understanding time and money

“The Harried Leisure Class,” by Staffan B. Linder

Based on Gary Becker's 1965 paper A Theory of the Allocation of Time, Staffan B. Linder's The Harried Leisure Class explores the relationship between time and money. It's a dive into the concept that earning money means trading your valuable time—an essential lesson for understanding your worth in the job market. The book examines the trade-offs people make as they chase wealth, leading to eye-opening insights into balancing ambition and well-being.

Best for decision-making skills

“Thinking, Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow explores the human mind and its two systems—one fast and one slow—that influence all aspects of life. It explains how these systems are responsible for everything, from overconfidence in the workplace to cognitive bias and even decisions like where to vacation next. Psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman advises when to trust your intuition, when not to, and how to avoid common pitfalls in both personal and professional decisions.

Best for understanding inequality

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by Thomas Piketty

A New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, and winner of the Financial Times and 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 Europe and the United States.

It explores the societal damage caused by such inequality and the dichotomy between economic growth and wealth inequality. Understanding these dynamics can help us recognize the importance of policies that promote fair wealth distribution, leading to a more just society.

Best for starting with personal finance

“Finance for the People,” by Paco de Leon

Finance for the People is a true 101 on personal finance—a practical guide to navigating your financial life, regardless of your financial situation. The book combines practical advice with an empathetic look at systemic issues, offering exercises and mesmerizing illustrations to help readers understand and manage their finances. It's an easy read for anyone ready to change their relationship with money and take control of their financial future.