An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States by Charles A. Beard
When I was a high school senior interested in U.S. history, a girlfriend's father offered me this book from his private library. It turned out to be the first serious intellectual challenge to my nascent worldview, as well as my first exposure to the power of economic thinking. I kept the book for more than 20 years.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
"Spirit" is an interesting word choice in this fascinating and provocative treatise on "how the West grew rich."
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
This is not the uncritical nod to laissez-faire economics that some would claim it to be. The most memorable part of the book may be Smith's discussion of the importance of specialization and division of labor, but the most impressive part is his examination of why earnings differ across workers. The reasons he suggests -- back in 1776 -- form the foundation for modern labor economics.
Personnel Economics by Edward P. Lazear
Along with the more accessible Personnel Economics for Managers, these books lay the foundation for the next revolution in labor economics (after the one inspired by Adam Smith; see above). Lazear's research on the incentive effects of compensation structure (including the role of pensions) greatly inspired my doctoral dissertation.
Economics, Organization, & Management by Paul Milgrom and John Roberts
A remarkably clear and cogent look into the black box of the firm. These gifted economic theorists did an enormous public service by taking the insights from highly mathematical and abstract areas of economic research and making the results accessible and relevant to students of business and economics.
An Economist Theorist's Book of Tales by George A. Akerlof
A collection of articles from one of the most innovative and original economists of our time (and a Nobel prize winner), this comes as close as any economic research can to being a "real page-turner." Much of what is new in economics today was made possible and/or inspired by Akerlof's work.
Thinking Strategically by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff
Although now 15 years old, I still unapologetically recommend this book to those seeking a great, accessible introduction to the relevance and importance of game theory.
Micro Motives and Macro Behaviors by Thomas C. Schelling
Written by one of the 2005 winners of the Nobel prize in economics, this book is now over 30 years old, and was one of the first books I read by a respected economist that was pitched to a more general audience. An examination of individual choice and its aggregate implications, the book is as relevant today as it was pioneering then.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller br>
The great American novel? Nothing can really fully prepare you for life after college, but this book is fair warning. Anyone bothering to read my assessment of this book certainly doesn't need to.
Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom by Peter Guralnick
This is a fascinating, sometimes inspirational, account of some of the finest music and musicians ever to grace the nation. If you have never heard of "Stax," this is a must read. More than a book about music, this is an important chapter in American history.
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch and Sheila McGraw, and Holes by Louis Sachar
There is nothing I cherish more than the time spent reading to and with my children. These books are about, respectively, what it means to love and what it means to be a child.
Biographical Info: Michael A. Curme is an associate professor of economics at Miami University. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of labor economics and microeconomics.