Grand Pursuit by Sylvia Nasar

Grand Pursuit

In the era of huge national deficits and concerns over a balanced budget, Ms. Nasar’s book couldn’t be more timely.  Grand Pursuit, is the story of the science of economics – and how the human race has benefited (and suffered) as a result of the beliefs concerning government actions and its effects.

The book opens in the year 1842 in Charles Dickens’ London.  Dickens himself set out to awaken men’s souls to the hardships of the working class in the hopes that something would be done to ease their plight.  Nasar shows us how two schools of thought (socialism and capitalism) emerged and how, over time, they were tweaked and molded to serve various countries’ interests.

Nasar’s writing style is simply wonderful.  She takes on the history of a science and makes a fascinating story out of it.  Not only does she have a mastery of the subject, her research on the time periods she covers is so thorough, it enables her to connect people. places and events in a compelling and readable manner.

One thing that came across in Grand Pursuit was how reactionary the application of the science has been throughout history.  In my opinion, the problem with this is that our system is so complex, those that seek to influence the direction of an economy must be aware of all the variables in place (a virtual impossibility) before taking action.  At best, we can hope that our lawmakers and fiscal policy setters have a real understanding of economics before they fiddle with anything.  Seeing our legislators appeal to the public for approval on budget cuts or tax increases, makes me doubtful that they have such an understanding (because the public, certainly does not).  Perhaps Grand Pursuit will become required reading in high school.  One can only hope…

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
521 pages
Published in 2011

Bonus Information from publisher:

In a sweeping narrative of the invention of modern economics, the author of the megabestseller A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Nasar, takes us on the epic story of the making of modern economics and how it rescued mankind from squalor and deprivation by placing our material fate in our own hands rather than in Fate.

Nasar’s account starts with Jane Austen. In her world, everyone knew his and her place. The story really 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 then describes the efforts of Marx, Engels, Alfred Marshall, Beatrice and Sydney Webb, and Irving Fisher to put those insights into action—with revolutionary consequences for the world.

From 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, Nasar shows how the insights of these activist thinkers transformed our world.

This is a story with great characters, historical sweep, political and personal drama. Unimaginable less than 200 years ago, Grand Pursuit is a story of trial and error, and ultimately transcendent, rendered here in a stunning and moving narrative.


“[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

“Gripping….This broad-sweep introduction adds an important historical dimension to current debates on the future of the American economy.”—Kirkus

“…Nasar creatively deploys lives-and-times to show the evolution of economics from an explanation of fate into an application of policy.”—Booklist

New York Magazine includes Grand Pursuit in Fall Preview: “The author of A Beautiful Mind, who knows how to humanize big ideas, makes a sweeping case for post-Malthusian economics as the single most important driver of the progress of mankind”

Available for Pre-Order:

Also See:

* Take a surprisingly entertaining stroll through the pages of economic history with Sylvia Nasar, whose new book “Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius” tells the story of modern economics. Watch this animated short that breaks down the key points that got us to where we are today.


About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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