How Do I Choose the Best Macroeconomics Books?

David Bishop

Macroeconomics is a branch of economics that studies the factors that affect larger-scale economic relationships on a national or global scale, and many books are written on the topic. Some macroeconomics books are published for an academic audience, while others are intended for a more general readership. These books also may follow various schools of thought, depending on the writer’s economic beliefs. Choosing the right macroeconomic books is essential to helping a reader understand the basics of economic theory.

A textbook by 20th century economist Milton Friedman challenged Keynes and developed the theory of monetarism.
A textbook by 20th century economist Milton Friedman challenged Keynes and developed the theory of monetarism.

One place to start looking for macroeconomics texts is in the bookstore of a nearby college or university. Most business students are required to take both microeconomics and macroeconomics for their degrees, and there are often several textbooks available on the subject. Many such bookstores will list the college or university classes that use each book, which can give a buyer an idea of what aspects of the subject the book addresses. Buyers may wish to start with introductory-level macroeconomics books before moving on to more advanced concepts. College-level textbooks also can be purchased new and used from online retailers.

John Maynard Keynes.
John Maynard Keynes.

For a more in-depth understanding, readers may wish to cover some of the more influential works on the subject. One of the earliest texts — and one long considered to be among the most important on the subject — is The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes. This text has influenced economic and political theory since its first publication in 1936.

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Later economists have disputed Keynes’ conclusions and two competing schools of macroeconomic thought have emerged. A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 by Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz challenged Keynes and helped establish the theory of monetarism. The conflict between Keynesian economics and monetarism continues to shape political debate in the U.S. and around the world in 2011.

Another, less popular but still relevant branch of macroeconomics is known as the Austrian school. A book by Carl Menger, the Principles of Economics first published in 1871, is widely considered to be the first seminal work of the Austrian school. While this system of theories fell out of favor for much of the 20th century, some later economic thinkers have attempted to revitalize the school’s theoretical framework. Many modern macroeconomics books in the early 21st century rely on the reader having a basic understanding of these competing monetary theories and the roots of the conflict between them.

In addition to the many academic macroeconomics books, there also are economics texts written for a general audience. Some of these books require a basic understanding of economic theory, while others attempt to explain the subject to laymen. Potential readers may wish to peruse the non-fiction bestseller lists to get an overview of the most recent popular macroeconomics books.

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