Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Tim Harford

Tim Harford is the author of The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, Why the Poor Are Poor -- And Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!.

Steven D. Levitt, author of Freakonomics, called The Undercover Economist "a rare specimen: a book on economics that will enthrall its readers. Beautifully written and argued, it brings the power of economics to life. This book should be required reading for every elected official, business leader, and university student."

I recently asked Harford what he was reading. His reply:
For the past few months I've been mixing business and pleasure. As I work on my new book, so have been studying research from some great economists young and old: Thomas Schelling, Michael Kremer, Gary Becker, Steve Levitt, Ed Glaeser, Roland Fryer, Daron Acemoglu and many others. Schelling's books are particularly accessible to a general audience: I strongly recommend Micromotives and Macrobehavior and Choice and Consequence.

I was lucky enough to interview some of the world's best poker players as part of my research for the book and had lots of fun reading up about the game. I enjoyed Aces and Kings, Positively Fifth Street and Total Poker, as well as Prisoner's Dilemma, the biography of John von Neumann that got me thinking about the relationship between poker and economics.

One of the privileges of writing The Undercover Economist is that publishers now send me other popular economics books. I reviewed The Soulful Science and More Sex is Safer Sex, both of which are new appearances from famliar economics writers, Diane Coyle and Steve Landsburg - readers can find links to the reviews on my website but the quick version is that I enjoyed them both and learned plenty. Tyler Cowen of "Marginal Revolution" also has a book coming out in a few months; I've said nice things about it on the back jacket. It's like no economics book I've ever read and is lots and lots of fun.

Now that I am emerging from the bubble of economics - albeit the unusual economics of pregnancy, racism and politics - I plan to read a few novels. Any suggestions?
Read an excerpt from The Undercover Economist and some praise for the book.

The American Enterprise Institute posted video to their website of a panel discussion of The Undercover Economist with Harford, Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution and Sebastian Mallaby of The Washington Post (the link to the video is in the upper right box).

John Reeves of The Motley Fool, an investment advice website, interviewed Harford in October 2005. Harford shared his thoughts on how he would invest his money, and provided his analysis specifically of GM, Apple and the U.S. real estate market. By my reckoning, as of January 2007, he got two out of the three right -- which, if you could do it all the time, should make you a very rich person.

"The Undercover Economist" appears regularly in Slate; Harford also writes about economics for the Financial Times, including its "Dear Economist" column which "answers readers' personal problems with the tools of Adam Smith."

--Marshal Zeringue