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Niall Ferguson's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Niall Ferguson recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Niall Ferguson's favorite book recommendations of all time.


An Autobiography

Introduction by Stephen Toulmin less
Recommended by Niall Ferguson, and 1 others.

Niall FergusonI discovered this book fairly late in life, after I had written Virtual History, which was my first standard work of historical philosophy. It was only after I came to Harvard [to teach] that I sat down and read his wonderful autobiography. I can’t think of many experiences in my life more exciting than that. It’s a tremendously profound reflection on history and historical method. (Source)

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The Last Days of Mankind

Kraus' masterpiece is generally considered to be the massive satirical play about the First World War, which combines dialogue from contemporary documents with apocalyptic fantasy and commentary from two characters called "the Grumbler" and "the Optimist". Kraus began to write the play in 1915 and first published it as a series of special Fackel issues in 1919. Its epilogue, "Die letzte Nacht" ("The last night") had already been published in 1918 as a special issue.

This edition was abridged and edited by Frederick Ungar. It contains an introduction by the editor and critical...
Recommended by Niall Ferguson, and 1 others.

Niall FergusonWhen I was an undergraduate I went to the Edinburgh festival, and saw a brilliant production of The Last Days of Mankind which changed my life. I was entirely riveted by Kraus’s central theme, which is that the First World War could to some extent be understood as a media-driven event. Kraus’s conceit is that the war was such a great story for the Neue Freie Presse – the New York Times of Vienna... (Source)

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A Tract on Monetary Reform

This treatise, written in 1923 by the renowned proponent of deficit spending, is devoted to the need for stable currency as the indispensable foundation to a healthy world economy. Keynes begins by laying out data showing the serious fluctuations in the value of money that began in 1914 and subjected North America, Europe, and India to injurious cycles of inflation and deflation. He describes the various effects on investors, business people, and wage earners of this erratic underlying influence and makes it clear that policies limiting such fluctuations must be implemented to ensure greater... more
Recommended by Niall Ferguson, and 1 others.

Niall FergusonThat’s true up to a point. The problem is that most developed countries went into the financial crisis with structural deficits in their budgets. When you start from that position, it’s much harder to make Keynesian policies work. (Source)

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War And Peace

War and Peace broadly focuses on Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance and yearning for spiritual fulfillment; Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family behind to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman who intrigues both men.

As Napoleon's army invades, Tolstoy brilliantly follows characters from diverse backgrounds—peasants and nobility, civilians and...

Vanora BennettAlthough it was published in 1869, War and Peace deals with events half a century earlier. This makes it one of the first historical novels – and, all these years later, it’s still the greatest. (Source)

Tendai HuchuTolstoy does something which is very unusual in War and Peace and which, for his time, was pretty profound: he sees the conditions of the ordinary soldier on the battlefield. (Source)

Niall FergusonAs a middle aged man, I react differently to Tolstoy than I did when I first read War and Peace at about 15. (Source)

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The Wealth of Nations

In his book, Smith fervently extolled the simple yet enlightened notion that individuals are fully capable of setting and regulating prices for their own goods and services. He argued passionately in favor of free trade, yet stood up for the little guy. The Wealth of Nations provided the first--and still the most eloquent--integrated description of the workings of a market economy. less

Elon MuskAdam Smith FTW obv. (Source)

Barack ObamaObama, unsurprisingly, appears to be more drawn to stories sympathetic to the working classes than is McCain. Obama cites John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle,” about a labor dispute; Robert Caro’s “Power Broker,” about Robert Moses; and Studs Terkel’s “Working.” But he also includes Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” and “Theory of Moral Sentiments” on his list. (Source)

Neil deGrasse TysonWhich books should be read by every single intelligent person on planet? [...] The Wealth of Nations (Smith) [to learn that capitalism is an economy of greed, a force of nature unto itself]. If you read all of the above works you will glean profound insight into most of what has driven the history of the western world. (Source)

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