Book Review: The Little Book of Economics

I should begin by noting that this book doesn’t, in my opinion, solve every problem that a beginner may have about understanding macroeconomics. That being said, this book probably comes the closest to answering most questions that you might have, if you’re looking to scale Mount Macro.

Macroeconomics is an inherently confusing unknowable subject. The Economist magazine recently wrote a very nice article on Nick Rowe, and how good he was at making a difficult subject slightly easier – but the larger point is that this is hard stuff.

The Little Book of Economics works in the sense that it doesn’t try to teach macro, it looks at the world and asks “why is this the way it is?”. For example, on globalization, Ip begins with Israel and asks why it flourishes as much as it does, given all of its geopolitical problem. Read the chapter to find out the answer (interdependencies, if you want it in a nutshell), but each chapter begins with a real world problem.

The book is also refreshingly free of jargon, which owes much to the fact that Greg Ip is a journalist, and has written a book with the layperson in mind. But the fact (and I can’t love this story enough) that his mother was an economist who indexed his pocket money to inflation also seems to have helped: it is clear that Greg Ip is a person who has thought deeply about the economy, and also possesses the ability to write clearly and concisely about it. A rare enough combination at the best of times, even rarer when it comes to macroeconomics.

If you read and like the book, you might want to also read another book by Ip, called Foolproof.

Here’s a useful list of podcasts over on the EconTalk website that might also prove to be useful with regard to Greg Ip’s work.

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