Tyler Cowen

Economist and Professor

Tyler Cowen is Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University and serves as chairman and faculty director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. With colleague Alex Tabarrok, Cowen is coauthor of the popular economics blog Marginal Revolution and cofounder of the online educational platform Marginal Revolution University.

A dedicated writer and communicator of economic ideas, Cowen is the author of several bestselling books and is widely published in academic journals and the popular media. Cowen’s latest book is Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Antihero, which Cass Sunstein described as "iconoclastic, charming, [and] wise" and as "essential reading." He writes a column for Bloomberg View; has contributed extensively to national publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Money; and serves on the advisory boards of both Wilson Quarterly and American Interest. His research has been published in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, Ethics, and Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Book Recommendations


Ultralearning

by Scott H. Young

I learned Scott is this guy who learned a whole bunch of languages on his own in just a few months’ time, and he just kind of mastered them. He teaches you his secrets on how to learn things quickly. That’s been an obsession of mine since I was a kid. So, this is a book very much after my own heart.

Tyler Cowen, source
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Uncle Tom's Cabin

by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Very often the books that are vivid to me are books I’ve read recently or in the last year. A book—I think it was very, very famous in it’s time, one of the best sellers of its century, but people have stopped reading it, and that is Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is a book about migration, a book about travel, a book about race, obviously a book about slavery, a book about America in the middle of the nineteenth century. It has vivid characters. The issues maybe for a while seemed obsolete, but they’re highly, highly relevant today. It just bleeds a kind of humanity on virtually every page and communicates what the suffering is like of being in a tragic situation and how there are some structural features of America that tend to breed those kinds of tragedies—slavery in that day, often on migration issues today.

Tyler Cowen, source

Timeless Flight

by Johnny Rogan

The second book I’ll recommend is a book on management, except it’s not really a book about management at all. It’s something else. Let me explain. Well, I’m against most books on management. The worst way to learn management is to read a book on management. I recommend to people read a book on something you know about. So if you’re a football fan, read about Vince Lombardi or read Jerry Kramer’s Instant Replay. My favorite book on management is a book about the classic rock group, The Byrds, B-Y-R-D-S. It’s by Johnny Rogan. It’s called Timeless Flight. It’s hundreds of pages about how The Byrds split up and couldn’t work together, and it’s brilliant. It helps you understand small groups. I work in small groups a lot.

Tyler Cowen, source

Remembrance of Things Past

by Marcel Proust

Reading fiction is important to understand the cross-sectional variation in humanity, to understand how difficult generalizations can be, to just get a sense of how social pieces fit together, and to get a sense of different historical errors. Plus reading fiction is often just plain, flat-out fun. So, I think my fiction read I found the most rewarding was Marcel Proust Remembrance of Things Past, which comes in multiple volumes. It’s a very long read. I’d say about a third of it is quite boring, but the peaks are just amazing, and it’s also hilarious. It’s about how inner monologues work and why expectation matters and what disappointment feels like and what is jealousy like and what’s it mean to be a kind of total failure in a social world or to climb and reach higher levels of status. So I think that’s just a thrilling, remarkable set of volumes.

Tyler Cowen, source


Shakespeare: The Complete Collection

by William Shakespeare

I think the greatest writer is Shakespeare. It’s not necessarily for everyone, and if you did not grow up writing and reading English it’s probably not for you, but that would be one start.

Tyler Cowen, source

The Western Canon

by Harold Bloom

I would start with Harold Bloom’s book The Western Canon, which has a list and surveys a lot of his favorite works, a few of which are nonfiction by the way, and dig in there and just find what you love and pursue it.

Tyler Cowen, source