Here is a collection of recommended books in various topics. Note while I think these books are worth a read I’m not claiming they are “right”. Some of these I broadly agree with. Others not so much but all may help get a conversation going.
Recommended Books In Decision Making
The area of decision-making has some excellent popular books. Many are fun bedtime reading. When you teach many of these can be set to non-PhD students. I deliberately have chosen decent reads. At least mostly.
Daniel Kahneman Thinking Fast and Slow. A Popular book that explains many of the ideas that got him the Nobel Prize in economics. I have got to say this was quite an achievement for a psychologist.
Gerd Gigerenzer Rationality for Mortals & Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Compare Gigerenzer’s view of decision making to Kahneman’s. I appreciate Gigerenzer’s more positive view. He is less about failure and more about how decision-making is a series of simple rules that work. (At least they work most of the time).
George Akerlof and Robert Shiller Animal Spirits is a classic on Behavioral Finance. Another book Phishing for Fools, I thought this was a bit simplistic on marketing. Ironically I thought it represented a book written by traditional economists about marketing. As a result they didn’t really make sense from a marketing perspective, see here. That said, it is still worth a read.
Antonio Damasio Descarte’s Error. Neuro-science and decision making. Good decisions can be driven by emotions. This helps get us away from the idea that emotions are things that take us away from rationality.
Dan Ariely Predictably Irrational & The Upside of Irrationality. Popular books that describe some wonderful experiments. I must confess to not liking the approach to ‘irrationality’. That said, this should not detract from an engaging and informative book.
Analytics and Prediction
Nate Silver The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t. A great introduction to analytics and predictions. Silver is a force behind the data journalism/prediction site FiveThirtyEight
Public Policy Books
Here are some public policy and general economics recommended books.
Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein Nudge. This well-known, and well-liked, book considers the policy implications of behavioral economics. I highly recommend it. (My blog has a lot on Nudges, https://neilbendle.com/?s=nudge)
Peter Ubel Free Market Madness. Medical decision-making and what this means for public policy. Honestly, I just can’t understand US healthcare. Free markets require consumer knowledge but you get random bills for loads of things you didn’t know were happening. (I wrote this when I lived in Canada. Since moved back to the US. Honestly, it is much more bizarre than I could possibly have imagined. Can a free market exist with proper information? No, of course not.)
Bryan Caplan The Myth of the Rational Voter. Great question to address. Basically, I’m not on board with his view of “rationality”. Still it is but worth knowing what he is saying. For my thoughts, see https://neilbendle.com/rational-voters/
Caplan follows up with a book questioning the value of higher education. Again, I don’t agree with a lot of what he says but he picks great topics, see here.
General Social Science Books
Tim Hartford, The Logic of Life. Entertaining view of economic rationality from a journalist. Also see here.
Duncan Watts, Everything is Obvious. Great survey of a variety of social science findings.
Behavioral Economics And Rational Book Recommendations
Discussions of decision-making and economics are often quite interesting. It helps that there are often strong feelings on all sides.
David Levine Is Behavioral Economics Doomed? Got to say this is a bit cantankerous but worth thinking about.
Richard Thaler Misbehaving, Comprehensive view of behavioral economics including personal anecdotes. This is about as good a book as you want on the topic.
Herb Gintis Bounds of Reason. More academic than most in the list and as a consequence harder to read than some others but interesting.
Vernon Smith Rationality in Economics. Again some sections are quite challenging. Still, I would say it is worth it. I love his footnote on page 39, “I am unable to provide a citation”. We all remember stuff but can’t find it. I guess it is fair that earning a Nobel prize cuts you some slack.
These are popular books with an evolutionary edge. I’m not qualified to speak on the biology. Still, hopefully this will get the reader thinking. For more on evolution and strategy see here.
Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene. Popular biology classic. Discusses whether thinking about whether selfish genes implies selfish people.
Douglas Kenrick Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life, Evolutionary Psychology. The books often try to be a bit controversial but worth reading even if you find you don’t agree.
Robert Trivers The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life, Evolutionary biology, veers off later into his personal views that may annoy many readers. (To be clear I don’t agree with a decent amount he says. Honestly, he really needs an editor).
Robert Frank The Economic Naturalist & The Darwin Economy. An entertaining and informative take on economics.
Martin Nowak Super Cooperators. Social behavior investigated using math. One to read if you want to be positive about people which is nice.
Robert Wright The Moral Animal, Interesting but opinionated. Philosophical implications of evolutionary psychology.
Game Theory Recommended Books
Here are some books on game theory. These are generally pretty accessible. Game theory can be mathy. Still, it really doesn’t need to be.