The Top Dozen Books on Austrian Economics
The list begins with books that are easier to read. The list gets progressively more rigorous.
1. What Has Government Done to Our Money? (1964), by Murray Rothbard. This is an easy to read book. It is short: a long article. It introduces a crucial topic, one which is central to Austrian school economics: money. Rothbard's presentation sets forth his view of how central banking has undermined reliable, predictable money.
2. The Case for a 100% Gold Dollar (1962), by Rothbard. This extends his discussion in the first book. It is another long article.
3. Mises on Money (2012), by Gary North. This presents the main ideas of the Austrian theory of the business cycle, as first presented by Mises.
4. America's Great Depression (1963), by Rothbard. This book presents the case against the Federal Reserve in the 1920's and against Herbert Hoover's interventions, 1930-33.
5. Bureaucracy (1944), by Ludwig von Mises. This short book shows the differences between profit management (free market) and bureaucracy (state). It is about 130 pages. It is easy to read. It shows why business techniques of efficiency are useless for reforming government. The funding is different.
6. The Road to Serfdom (1944), by F. A. Hayek. This is the most widely known book from an Austrian standpoint. It was a best-seller. It presents the case against government intervention in the name of liberty, not efficiency. Chapter 10 is great: "Why the Worst Get on Top."
7. Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth (1920), by Mises. This short book converted a generation of young socialists to the free market. Hayek was one of them. Mises showed how socialism is inherently irrational, for it has no rational pricing system.
8. Socialism (1922), by Mises. This extended his discussion in the previous book. It is the classic book ever written against all forms of socialism.
9. Human Action (1949), by Mises. This is his magnum opus. This was the first book to defend free market economic theory consistently in every area of the economy that is governed by the price system. It is comprehensive as no previous economics book had been.
10. Man, Economy, and State (1962), by Rothbard. This presents Human Action with the paraphernalia of college-level economics. It has lots of graphs. It has lots of footnotes. It is well organized. It is clear, as Rothbard's books always are.
11. Economic Logic (3rd ed.), by Mark Skousen. This is an Economics 1 college textbook. It covers the basics. If you ever have to take a beginning course in economics, read this book in the month before you enroll.
12. Individualism and Economic Order (1948), by Hayek. This is a collection of his articles. The key article is Chapter 4 on decentralized economic knowledge.
Not for the fainthearted:
13. Market Theory and the Price System (1963), by Israel Kirzner. This is an upper division college textbook in price theory. It is tough slogging. It went out of print half a century ago. He never revised it. He later abandoned all traces of the #1 methodological tool of analysis of all such textbooks: equilibrium. The idea of equilibrium is based on a hypothetical and inherently misleading assumption, perfect foreknowledge. Far better is this book:
14. Competition and Entrepreneurship (1973), by Kirzner. He made his academic reputation with this book. It distinguishes between risk and uncertainty, a distinction that goes back to Frank Knight's greatest book, Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (1921). Mises favorably cited Knight's book in Human Action. Kirzner's book undermines all of the graphs in Market Theory and the Price System. Textbook graphs assume equilibrium. There is no better book refuting equilibrium than Competition and Entrepreneurship. There is not one graph and not one mathematical formula in the book.
Most of these books are available from the Mises Institute, either as printed books or as free PDF's. Skim each one online. If you like it, order a printed version. Then read it, pencil or highlighter in hand.