Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar

A surprisingly lively (we promise!) history of economics.

By Amanda Lovell

As the world bounces from one fiscal crisis to the next, some of us might wish we knew more about economics—if only the subject weren’t so (a) dry and (b) complicated. Nasar (A Beautiful Mind) solves both these problems by telling us the financial story of the past two centuries (depressions! bank panics! world wars!) through the lives and often racy times of the great economists. Who knew, for instance, that Karl Marx fathered a child with the family’s live-in housekeeper? Or that Socialist Beatrice Webb, with her passion for sexy shoes and brainy men, practically flirted the British welfare state into existence? Some of us may have the odd math-class flashback (wait—does a rise in currency mean more or less inflation?), but if there’s a way to be entertained as well as edified by what critic Thomas Carlyle called the dismal science, this riveting history is it.

First Published August 23, 2011

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