In The Literary Book of Economics
, economist Michael Watts presents a fresh approach to economic education and literacy. Professor Watts uses seventy-eight selections from classic and contemporary fiction, drama, poetry, and prose to give flesh to more than twenty major economic concepts, issues, and themes.
In Watts's hands, selections from Robert Frost, Sebastian Junger, and John Steinbeck illuminate the nature of property rights; Theodore Dreiser and Sherwood Anderson speak to specialization and the division of labor; John Dos Passos and Joseph Heller provide commentary on entrepreneurship; Charles Dickens and Arundhati Roy illustrate the concepts of public goods and externalities; Benjamin Franklin, George Orwell, and F. Scott Fitzgerald give readers a better sense of how labor markets and unions work; and Shakespeare and Kurt Vonnegut discuss economic inequality. And there is much more, including passages from John Milton, Mark Twain, Jonathan Swift, Arthur Miller, Amy Tan, Ivan Doig, and many others.
The Literary Book of Economics is one of the most innovative approaches to economic education and literacy ever published. As empirical research has demonstrated, economics is taught more effectively when integrated into other fields, and is perhaps particularly effective when coupled with the classic literary works of Western culture, which allows great authors to use their erudition to convey economic concepts and topics too often treated only theoretically. Teachers and students of literature and economics have much to gain by studying economic topics and concepts in this way. With each sectionand each individual selectionpreceded by Watts's insightful analysis, and the inclusion of a helpful introduction and appendices that further explain the relationship between economics and literature, The Literary Book of Economics makes study of the "dismal science" an enlightening and invigorating enterprise.
What They're Saying...
"[A] gem of a book, with nice little asides."
— Wall Street Journal
A free society is rare. Equally rare is so lucid an account of how liberty evolved. While enlightening us, Professor Danford leaves us better prepared to defend our hard-won freedom.
— Doug Bandow, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
"[I]t serves as an excellent introduction toor reminder ofsome outstanding literature, and is ideal as a seasonal gift."
— Toronto Globe and Mail
"The result is a wonderfully rich and vivid survey of the economic realm."
— Boston Globe
"The Literary Book of Economics is the perfect marriage of Michael Watts's life long love of economics and his enduring passion for literature. With a skillful mix a classical and contemporary literature, this book makes a wonderful classroom text for the economist seeking a fresh approach for making relevant the ideas that form the foundation of economic thinking. This innovative pedagogical technique is a boon for the professor trying to capture the attention of those students who claim to enjoy economics the least. Students who are intimidated by math and graphs can appreciate economics when they have the flexibility to gain understanding through media as universal as literature, drama, and poetry. This book is also a necessary addition to the collection of any economist who loves literature or wants to experience the economic discipline in a new and exciting context."
— Gail M. Hoyt, Professor of Economics, University of Kentucky
"Watts is adept at finding common ground between literature and economics and ably proves that the leap from Keats to Keynes may not be as big as it seems."
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"I have used many of these selections in senior level economics classes. Students find the exercise interesting. They enjoy making connections across boundaries that initially look insurmountable. I suspect they also enjoy using their newly acquired insights to impress their humanities professors."
— John Siegfried, Professor of Economics, Vanderbilt University
"“The author has perused great writings and found wonderful examples of economic ideas. Paul Krugman is a pretty good writer, but if you want to bring alive the idea of opportunity cost, bag the text and read Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. Our training as economists gives us a lens through which to view many phenomena. In this book, Michael Watts extends that notion to the reading of literature. There are so many clever examples that picking out just a few is fairly arbitrary and doesn’t really do justice to the 200-plus pages of selected literature. But I’ll try anyway….”
— Jim Levinsohn, Journal of Economic Literature
"This book demonstrates delightfully that literature offers subtle and stimulating insights on matters well outside its own domain. The many and well selected examples on a broad range of economic issues will please the student and the general reader alike, and permit comprehension of overtones not readily conveyed by the necessarily nuanceless prose in the technical writings of the specialists."
— William Baumol, Professor of Economics, New York University
"For the past twenty years, Professor Michael Watts has been giving presentations across the country on the use of literature in the teaching of economics. He has finally committed to text his seemingly inexhaustible supply of examples ranging from Shakespeare to Ayn Rand. This is a must-have book for the shelves of every teacher of economics."
— William E. Becker, Professor of Economics, Indiana University and Executive Editor of the Journal of Economic Education