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Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius [Hardcover]

Sylvia Nasar
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 2011
In a sweeping narrative, the author of the megabestseller A Beautiful Mind takes us on a journey through modern history with the men and women who changed the lives of every single person on the planet. It’s the epic story of the making of modern economics, and of how economics rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing its material fate in its own hands rather than in Fate.

Nasar’s account begins with Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew observing and publishing the condition of the poor majority in mid-nineteenth-century London, the richest and most glittering place in the world. This was a new pursuit. She describes the often heroic efforts of Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, and the American Irving Fisher to put those insights into action—with revolutionary consequences for the world.

From the great John Maynard Keynes to Schumpeter, Hayek, Keynes’s disciple Joan Robinson, the influential American economists Paul Samuelson and Milton Freedman, and India’s Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen, she shows how the insights of these activist thinkers transformed the world—from one city, London, to the developed nations in Europe and America, and now to the entire planet. In Nasar’s dramatic narrative of these discoverers we witness men and women responding to personal crises, world wars, revolutions, economic upheavals, and each other’s ideas to turn back Malthus and transform the dismal science into a triumph over mankind’s hitherto age-old destiny of misery and early death. This idea, unimaginable less than 200 years ago, is a story of trial and error, but ultimately transcendent, as it is rendered here in a stunning and moving narrative.

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Review

“Nasar brilliantly brings to life game-changing economists from Marx to Hayek and from Sidney Webb to Milton Friedman, tracing the evolution of modern economic thinking through the richly detailed stories of the men and woman who reshaped how we think of life’s possibilities. . . . This is an utterly fascinating book on many levels. . . . A Beautiful Mind, Nasar’s previous book, was about an economist named John Nash, but Nasar’s mind is pretty good, too. No lesser mind could have written a book so rich, so compelling, so important, and so much fun.”
--Mickey Edwards, The Boston Globe

“A fascinating excursion into the economic ideas and personalities that have deposited most of us at a standard of living unparalleled in human history…engrossing…Nasar, who wrote A Beautiful Mind, …is drawn to intellectual giants. They stomp across the idiosyncratic and readable pages of Grand Pursuit, which unfurls with a David McCullough-like knack for telling popular history….On these pages, the dismal science shines.”--Karen R. Long, Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Grand Pursuit is a worthy successor to Robert Heilbroner’s The Worldly Philosophers. . . . Nasar’s aim is to put the reader into the lives of the characters of a sweeping historical drama that extends from Victorian England to modern-day India. That she largely succeeds reflects the depth and breadth of her research but also the elegance of her prose.”
--Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post

“Nasar is a superb writer. . . . The book is a kind of portrait gallery of economic thinkers, each artfully set down in his or her time and place. . . . You can’t help becoming engrossed in their lives.”
--James Grant, The Wall Street Journal

“[This] is the story of the evolution of a radical, planet-reshaping idea…The canvas is epic…The details are fresh, at times startling…At the same time, gnarly but critical concepts…shine through in all their richness and complexity. If only Econ 101 had been this interesting!” Fortune

“Grand Pursuit is a history of economics which is full of flesh, bloom and warmth. The author demonstrates that there is far more to economics than Thomas Carlyle’s “dismal science”. And she does so with all the style and panache that you would expect from the author of the 1998 bestseller, A Beautiful Mind. . . . A wonderful book. Grand Pursuit deserves a place not only in every economist’s study but also on every serious reader’s bedside table.”
--The Economist

“One of the many wonderful things about Nasar’s book is that in it, economic genius isn’t limited to the usual suspects….Even when exploring famous economic minds, Nasar brings out the humanity in the dismal science by showing their ideas are nearly always rooted in formative experiences.”
-- TIME Magazine

“Nasar has written a compelling history of modern economics, a story of the theorists as well as of their theories. . . . Grand Pursuit is artfully rendered and a delight to read. . . . One suspects that future economics textbooks will warrant some revisions. All the same, their authors would profit from consulting Grand Pursuit.”
-- Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s **FIVE STAR** Review

“A timely reminder of the importance of the so-called dismal science. . . . Written almost as a novel and aimed at those without a background in economics, the book charts capitalism's evolution through the eyes of the people who invented it. . . . It is compellingly written, full of detail and vivid anecdotes, and with a refreshing focus on people rather than prices.”
--Gregor Hunter, The Nation

From the Back Cover

If faced with the terrifying realization that you had no choice but to amputate your own leg with a pocketknife in order to survive, would you be able to do it?

Extreme Outdoor Adventures explores twenty gripping, true-life stories such as these, of heroic men and women who were forced to muster the psychological and physical strength necessary to cheat death while left helpless in the wilderness in the most extreme of situations.

Stories include a deadly hand-to-claw cougar fight, a plane crash in the Alaska wilderness, an alligator trapping episode gone bad, epic battles with hypothermia, a wild boar attack, daring wilderness rescues, and many more terrifying adventure tales.

Extreme Outdoor Adventures brings to life the adrenaline-pumping scenarios these survivors endured and reveals how each was victorious in the fight to live.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Loses credibility early Oct. 21 2012
Format:Paperback
Reading a non-fiction book in a field in which you are not an expert yourself, requires the author to establish credibility as an expert early on. Sylvia Nasar loses that in her first prologue by butchering an analysis of A Christmas Carol. It is immediately clear that she a) has never read the story, just used a search engine to capture useful quotes, b) has a tin ear for irony - witness her complete mis-representation of Dickens' description of the Cratchit Christmas dinner, and/or c) deliberately distorted the story to suit the thesis of her book. The last is the most damning for it raised doubt in my mind about what she would do with other sources about which I was less familiar than I was with Dickens' arguably most well-known work.

That lack of credibility is Nasar's great flaw - she comes across as a glib journalist with a story to tell, not as an accomplished economic historian with a thesis to argue. The story is certainly interesting - and in Heilbroner's hands was absolutely enlightening - but the nagging feeling that she was playing fast-and-loose with her sources finally stopped me from finishing it.

If you want a good presentation of the history of modern economic ideas, read The Worldly Philosophers. If you want to read about Keynes, read Skidelsky's biography - a long, but fulfilling commitment, or read Keynes' Economic Consequences of the Peace - a tour-de-force of economic analysis and political journalism. Read almost anything in the field, but skip Grand Pursuit.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ambitious pursuit fulfilled Oct. 16 2011
By Vlad Thelad TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book, written in fluid and elegant prose, is a hybrid of biographies, a recount of economic theories and a narration of historical events of the last 200 years. The reader could surely feel that other economists should have been included, or even that some of those in the book not quite merit being there. Also, the reader might agree or not with some of the statements and interpretations regarding the economist's theories. It is clear that the author has very legitimate preferences and does not shy away from making them known, and this is something I applaud.
All in all, it is an excellent read, an opportunity to know more about leading economists, the world that shaped their ideas and the world these helped shape.
As for the causal relationship between economic thought and reality, I will borrow a sentence from a main newspaper review: "Economists no more set the world to producing and consuming than baseball statisticians hit home runs..."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brings economics to life and life to economics Dec 6 2013
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Sylvia Nasar takes what can be a dry subject to most many people (not me) and takes it out of isolation by placing it into the context of history. We see the human side of the economists and the people they rub up against. I have to confess that I know much of the story before reading the book; however the best book are those that tell you what you already know but with a different set of eyes.

I was disappointed to find many of my favorites missing from the book completely. Stuart M. Speiser author of "A Piece of the Action." Louis O. Kelso author of "The Capitalist Manifesto."

Still all in all this is not a book to be overlooked.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings economics to life and life to economics Nov. 2 2013
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Sylvia Nasar takes what can be a dry subject to most many people (not me) and takes it out of isolation by placing it into the context of history. We see the human side of the economists and the people they rub up against. I have to confess that I know much of the story before reading the book; however the best book are those that tell you what you already know but with a different set of eyes.

I was disappointed to find many of my favorites missing from the book completely. Stuart M. Speiser author of "A Piece of the Action." Louis O. Kelso author of "The Capitalist Manifesto."

Still all in all this is not a book to be overlooked.
Was this review helpful to you?
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