Monday, February 6, 2012

The "Instant Economist": Early Reviews and Reactions

Last week my book The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works was published by Penguin/Plume. For a description of the book, see my January 31 post here.
To buy copies for yourself, as well as for those in your family, club, company, or community,  head for a local or click here for Amazon or here for Barnes and Noble--or just check a copy out of your local library. Here are some early reviews: 

In the February 2012 issue of Better Investing, Angele McQuade has written a view called "Fun With Numbers--Making Economics Make Sense." It's not freely available on-line at this time, but here are a few excerpts: 

"If your only exposure to economics was a class so boring you yawn at even the memory of it, you’re missing out on a lot of useful — and even fascinating — information, says author Timothy Taylor. With so much election year talk of budget deficits, health care costs, wealth disparity, foreign trade and unemployment, it’s not surprising that economic statistics and theories are flying fast and hard. No better time to brush up your knowledge of economics, especially with the help of Taylor’s latest book, The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works. ..."
"What I liked: That Taylor branches beyond a purely domestic viewpoint into the heavily interconnected world of international economics. There’s a reason economists care so much about international trade, and Taylor does an excellent job explaining its importance. ..."

"What I loved: How truly relevant Taylor’s lessons are.Yes, we all hear and read economic statistics all the time, but how often do we stop to think about their meaning in our daily lives? Taylor seems to delight in pointing out the many ways economics matters, as well as the ways we can put the knowledge he’s offering to use. ..."

"I’m not going to sugarcoat the truth: The Instant Economist isn’t written in a finish-it-over-a-cup-of-coffee style. The content is rich, though, as will be your intellectual reward if you devote even a little effort to it."

In the December 1, 2011, issue of Booklist, Mary Whaley writes: 
"[T]his handbook on economics is a readable, nontextbook approach on the level of an undergraduate introductory course. ... We learn how markets work in the context of goods, labor, and financial capital and also about unregulated markets, including monopoly, the environment, and poverty; he notes that although these issues can attract democratic government involvement, such intervention can fail. He concludes with macroeconomics (an overall view of the economy), with topics including economic growth, unemployment, and inflation. Taylor wants us to respect the power of market forces but understand where those forces fall short; he encourages a belief that government policy can be useful but, in some cases, can be useless or even counterproductive. This guide to the key principles of economics is an important source of information for many library patrons. Excellent book."

From on-line sources, the first review up at Amazon, by Gene Chamson, gives the book five stars and is titled: "Should be required reading for anyone who wants to participate in the economy. In other words, everyone." He adds: 

"I am generally not a fan of books that dumb down important subjects, adding a veneer of folksy prose to make them appealing to "dummies" or "complete idiots". This is not such a book.
"The Instant Economist", despite its simplistic title, is a thoughtful, engaging survey of modern economic principles and issues. In 36 short, easy to digest chapters, the author provides a foundation in economic literacy, beginning with the basics of how markets work, then covering the main topics in microeconomics and macroeconomics. ... Highly recommended."

From the blogosphere, here's Brian L. Belen, a graduate student in economics, writing from the Philippines.

"Economics is such an important field of study, yet it is often perceived as too technical and complex for the everyman.  ... For this reason, there is plenty of room for accessible books that demistify what economics is all about ...  It is in this context that Timothy Taylor makes an important contribution with his new book The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works.

From the title alone, it's obvious that Taylor seeks to achieve two things: to explain the essentials and to do so in a practical way. He manages both quite ably, beginning with the requisite discussion on demand, supply and pricing, and thereafter branching off into weighty topics in macro- and international economics. When he does so, his presentation is often fairly Socratic: he identifies several specific issues (such as the minimum wage), poses an apparently polarizing question about them ("Should it be higher or lower?"), and then proceeds to present both sides, often with some statistics to back up the analysis. As a consequence, readers are left with a very balanced perspective on relevant economic concerns, and are hopefully empowered to make their own judgments accordingly. ....

In fact, there are several chapters that I particularly appreciated, having taught undergraduate macroeconomics myself. For example, the chapter on the monetary system (i.e. Federal Reserve, to use the U.S. case) is excellent, and I wish I had it as a reference back in my teaching days. Likewise, Taylor very capably devotes a chapter to exchange rates, and it is positively enviable that anyone can write so clearly about the subject.

The Instant Economist isn't your usual introductory economics book, even for casual reading. It's a little more than that -- a little more advanced, a little more practical, and arguably a little more interesting. For that reason, it's material well worth having a look at in order to delve a little deeper into topics from Econ101, whether you took it last semester or years ago."