PRINCIPLES OF ECONOMICS
by N. GREGORY MANKIW
( http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/ )
Copy Right 2009 Cengage Learning Inc.
Book reviewed by : Ron Cronovich ( Kenosha, WI ); August 8, 2004
” Simply put, the best economics textbook on the market…”
UPDATE: This is the 3rd edition. The 4th edition just came out, and it is excellent.
I have read every page, and will post a review as soon as I have time.
But in the meantime, do not buy the 3rd edition. (I’m not sure why Amazon is still
selling this now outdated edition.)
The rest of my review of the 3rd edition follows:
For 10 years, I have taught intro-level economics courses at a university. I have used a variety of books, and read many others (to steal their best ideas and examples for my teaching!). Mankiw is the one I like best.
More importantly, Mankiw is the one my students consistently like best. I often survey students near the end of the semester about their satisfaction with different aspects of the textbook, including: clarity, brevity, real-world relevance, effective layout & use of color, quality of the diagrams, and so forth. I tell my students not to sign their survey – I want their responses to be anonymous and completely candid. I tell students “If this book doesn’t work for you, PLEASE tell me so that I can use a better one for my next batch of students.”
More than any other textbook I’ve used, Mankiw’s Economics textbook gets the highest student ratings in every category.
It might also be helpful for you to know about the difficulty level of Mankiw. I would describe it as average. For comparison, I would describe the following as above average difficulty level: Stockman, Stiglitz, Baumol/Blinder, Case/Fair, and Parkin. I would describe these books as below average difficulty level: Tucker, Miller, Bade/Parkin, Boyes/Melvin, and O’Sullivan/Sheffrin. I think the difficulty level of Mankiw is roughly comparable to that of Schiller, Colander, McConnell/Brue, and McEachern.
Despite that Mankiw is merely “average” difficulty level, it maintains a fairly good degree of analytical rigor.
Also, the writing style is student-friendly (but definitely not too informal), and, unlike other textbooks, Mankiw avoids introducing a lot of terms that won’t be important for anything later in the book. The layout is attractive, yet clean and uncluttered, with lots of space in the margins for students to jot notes if they wish. Students find the end-of-chapter exercises very helpful.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the macroeconomics chapters is Mankiw’s innovative approach. He first covers long-run topics: What determines a country’s standard of living in the long run? What is the cause of the long-run upward trend in the cost of living? Why is there unemployment when things are “normal” (i.e. not a recession)? And many others (including saving, investment, the government budget deficit, the trade balance – all things you hear about on the evening news every day).
Then, he turns to short-run issues, such as recessions and booms.
Why treat the long run first? Because it’s easier to learn the short-run analysis after students have learned the long-run equilibrium around which the economy fluctuates. (Also, there is much more agreement in the profession about the long-run analysis, whereas there’s a fair amount of controversy over some of the details of the short-run analysis.)
How is this approach received? Very well, as evidenced by the fact that many other textbooks have copied it AFTER Mankiw first popularized it with the first edition of his Principles book, and before that, the first edition of his excellent intermediate macroeconomics textbook.
Mankiw is a superstar in the profession – and outside of it, as well. President Bush tapped him to be the Chairperson of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Mankiw briefs the President once or twice every week (in addition to many other important responsibilities.)
Despite working for a Republican Administration, Mankiw presents a very balanced treatment of economics in his textbooks (and I am telling you this as a Democrat). In fact, Mankiw prefers GOOD ideas, whether Republican or Democrat. For example, he recently argued for a gas tax increase to encourage conservation, and suggested the revenue be given back to consumers in the form of an income tax cut. Mankiw clearly does not just “push the Party line.” This is integrity.
The company that publishes Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbooks, Thomson/South-Western, invests a lot of resources into continually improving this book. Compared to any other textbook publisher I know, they hire more student and teacher reviewers and devote more time and effort and money into obtaining, processing, and incorporating critical user feedback so that each edition, and accompanying supplements, are the very best they can be.
All in all, I readily recommend Mankiw’s Principles of Economics textbook.