cover image Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World

Edible Economics: A Hungry Economist Explains the World

Ha-Joon Chang. PublicAffairs, $28 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5417-0054-3

Chang (Economics: The User’s Guide), a professor of economics at SOAS University of London, blends culinary facts and economic expertise in this rollicking guide that makes “economics more palatable by serving it with stories about food.” “Economics has a direct and massive impact on our lives,” Chang writes, and, in an effort to make knotty concepts accessible to a wide audience, he explains economic theory with culinary anecdotes: okra’s use in gumbo gives way to a discussion of how the vegetable was brought to the U.S. via the slave trade, and how free market economics only grant freedom to some. Bananas lead to a look at the effects of multinational companies on “host economies,” and a personal story about a spice being “taken for granted” leads Chang to extrapolate on unpaid care work, which isn’t included in GDP calculations but “would amount to 30–40% of GDP” if it were. Chang infuses the survey with food-related trivia (strawberries aren’t actually berries, South Koreans consume 10 times more garlic than Italians), covers an impressive swath of economics, and concludes with a call that readers scrutinize, think imaginatively, and be open-minded in their quest for economic knowledge. Lay readers with a taste for the field will find plenty to savor. Agent: Ivan Mulcahy, Mulcahy Sweeney Literary. (Jan.)