Thomas Sowell Books: Summary and Rating

The following is a summary of Thomas Sowell's most popular books, arranged in order of publication dates (newest to oldest). Both Amazon (am) and Goodreads (gr) ratings are listed for each book, as well. 

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Discrimination and Disparities (2018) 
am - 4.9/5 stars gr - 4.54/5 stars 

Written so that the average man or woman with no knowledge of economics can pick it up and read it, yet packed full of empirical evidence to back up its premise, this book challenges the popular idea that many economists hold about economics. While so many people believe that economic disparities can be explained by certain factors - i.e. race, heritage, genetics - Sowell disagrees vehemently. This book backs up his thoughts and maintains that these fallacies are the reason so many government plans to fix the economy have gone so horribly wrong. 

Wealth, Poverty and Politics, 2nd edition (2015/2016) 
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.38/5 stars 

This book challenges all of the most popular ideas about wealth inequality. In it, Sowell chastises liberals, especially, for using income inequality as an excuse for welfare. He also challenges the reader to stop focusing on the distribution of wealth and focus instead on the production of wealth and the factors that influence it, such as geography, culture, and demography. 

Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy, 5th edition (2015) 
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.3/5 stars 

This is the fifth edition of one of Sowell's most famous books. It was written for people who want to learn all about practical economics but don't have the first clue about how the economy works. In plain, easy to understand language, the book discusses the general, founding principles of the world's various types of economies and shows the reader how to understand and question economic policies on how they actually perform, as opposed to how they were designed to perform. 

Intellectuals and Race (2013) 
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.35/5 stars 

Packed full of historical evidence, Intellectuals and Race challenges the underlying assumptions about race and racial tensions that have been posited and studied by the most scholarly of scholars. Sowell also theorizes on the motives behind these posited assumptions and examines the effects these assumptions have had on people, culture, and events of the world. 

Intellectuals and Society (2010) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.2/5 stars 

This book is a study of intellectuals and the changes for which they have advocated in the past. It also analyzes the reasons behind the things for which they advocated and the challenges and perils they faced while doing so. The book goes on to chastise intellectuals for refusing to change their stance on certain things even after empirical evidence has proven that the consequences of implementing their proposed changes would be disastrous. 

The Housing Boom and Bust, revised edition (2010) 
am - 4.5/5 stars gr - 4.11/5 stars 

In yet another example of Sowell putting things into plain, easy to understand language that readers of any intelligence level can understand, this book examines the dirty dealings of politicians, financiers, marketing and advertising professionals, and other dishonest employees of the housing and lending market who contributed to the economic disaster referred to as the housing boom and bust. Sowell also shows, with unflinching clarity, the consequences of the government meddling in the business sector. 

Applied Economics:Thinking Beyond Stage One (2009) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.14/5 stars 

At its core, this book is a study of incentives and consequences. It discusses many different themes, including the interplay of politics and economics, the hidden motives behind certain policies and plans, and perhaps most importantly, the consequences of what will happen in the long run when some of the "fix it quick" policies are put into place as band-aids for bigger, more extensive problems. 

Economic Facts and Fallacies (2008) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.2/5 stars 

This book is an easy to read, fast-paced, enjoyable expose' of some of the United States' most wide-spread misconceptions about popular economic issues such as gender wage gaps, racial income inequalities, common problems in urban areas, the world of academia, and the United States' relationship and supposed exploitation of Third World countries. Sowell also discusses the illogical logic behind why these misconceptions, though false in every way, continue to persist in the minds of average Americans. 

A Man of Letters (2007)
am - 4.4/5 stars gr - 4.24/5 stars 

This book traces Sowell's own life, career, and commentaries he's made on controversial issues during the previous four decades of his life. It does all of this via letters he sent to and received from his friends and family. 

On Classical Economics (2006)  
am - 4.4/5 stars gr - 3.79/5 stars 

Praised for both its study of economics and history, this book discusses numerous historical and economical people, concepts, implications, and controversies of the past several decades. It is also an in-depth study of both the analysis and history of macroeconomics and microeconomics. 

Black Rednecks and White Liberals (2005)
am - 4.8/5 stars gr - 4.35/5 stars 

This book is a collection of six essays which are each full of shocking, eye-opening insights about race, culture, biases, and stereotypes. It takes every notion and vision the reader has of rednecks and liberals and turns them upside down. The final essay is a critical look at the supposed benefits of multiculturalism that will shake the reader to his or her core. 

Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study (2004)
am - 4.2/5 stars gr - 4.24/5 stars 

In this book, Sowell - a known critic of affirmative action - analyzes the effects of similar affirmative action policies on four different countries with histories of multiculturalism and compares the results of his analyses with the affirmative action situation as it is happening in the United States. His findings are not positive. 

The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late (2001)
am - 4.4/5 stars gr - 3.92/5 stars 

A follow-up to his 1997 book Late-Talking Children, this book continues Sowell's theories on children who talk later than their peers, specifically those who do not delay talking due to any cognitive dysfunction or retardation. Sowell talks about how these kids often become brighter than average and how to recognize the signs that a parent's delayed talker might be one of these extraordinary kids. 

A Personal Odyssey (2000)
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.29/5 stars 

This is Sowell's autobiography; it examines his life from his childhood in Harlem, to his time in the marines, to his acceptance into an Ivy League University, and beyond. 

The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999)
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.33/5 stars 

Part of Sowell's A Conflict of Visions series, this book also criticizes the need for intellectuals, politicians, and world leaders to "fix" the world and make it into a perfect Utopia of harmony and equality. Sowell maintains that this cannot be done and more importantly, should not be done because the results are always disastrous. 

Conquests and Cultures: An International History (1998)  
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.27/5 stars 

This book is the culmination of Sowell's travels around the world and his quest to understand the role of the cultural differences both inside of nations and between different nations throughout history. It also focuses on how these differences shape the economic and social fates of people, society, and civilizations. 

Late-Talking Children (1997)
am - 3.8/5 stars gr - 3.83/5 stars 

Written by Sowell in response to his own late-talking child, this book explores how painful and frightening having late-talking children can be for parents. It also explores the mystery behind why some children choose not to speak until much later than their peers and maintains that some of these children will turn out to be very bright and intelligent adults. 

Migrations and Cultures: A World View (1996) 
am - 4.8/5 stars gr - 4.26/5 stars 

This book examines immigration throughout history. It delves into the reasons behind immigration - economic strife, knowledge, and persecution, just to name a few - and what people bring with them when they migrate to another land, such as their customs, their food, their ideas, etc. 

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy (1995)
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.33/5 stars 

Another book in Sowell's Vision series, this one berates people for continuing to praise politicians and leaders for their radical ideas about change even after those changes have been implemented and reaped devastating consequences. It focuses on themes such as the dangers of blindly praising leaders, the tendency to believe stubbornly in something even after it has been discredited, and the lack of evidence that is sought out before implementing new and radical plans. 

Race and Culture: A World View (1994)
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.23/5

This book is the culmination of over ten years of research and travel by Sowell. In it, he posits that cultural capital has vastly more impact on the economic and social fates of different groups of people than does racism, prejudice, politics, genetics, or any other factor. 

Inside American Education: The Decline, The Deception, The Dogmas (1993) 
am - 4.5/5 stars gr - 4.09/5 stars 

In this book, Sowell takes a long, hard look at the American education system and finds it lacking. He criticizes the tendency of Americans to adopt fads in their teaching styles, the low skill level of teachers, double standards in secondary education, and poor instructors teaching at the college level. 

Preferential Policies: An International Perspective (1990) 
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.59/5 stars 

This book examines civilizations and governments all over the world and their tendency to "play favorites" and treat certain groups of people better than others and how detrimental this is to society as a whole. 

Choosing a College: A Guide for Parents and Students (1989) 
am - 4.4/5 stars gr - 4.06/5 stars 

This book is exactly what it says it is - a guide for parents and students looking to pick the right college after high school. It examines different colleges and universities across the country, their pros and cons, their financial aid offerings, their academic setting, and all other aspects of attending college at that particular university. 

A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles (1987) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.31/5 stars 

The main theme of this book revolves around Sowell's idea of the two visions he believes people have of America: the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision. People who believe in the "constrained" vision of America believe that human nature is unchanging and selfish; people who believe in the "unconstrained" vision of American believe that human nature is both malleable and perfectible. In this book, Sowell contends and expounds upon the fact that the conflict between these two groups of people is the underlying source of all major conflict in America. 

This book was later revised in 2007 to modify the book to stay more current with current social and political struggles---however, the central premise is very much still intact.


Marxism: Philosophy and Economics (1985) 
am - 4.4/5 stars gr - 4/5 stars 

This is Sowell's take on Karl Marx. It outlines the details of Marxism for the reader and dispels some of the most wide-spread and erroneous beliefs about the principles of Marxism. 

Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality (1984) 
am - 4.8/5 stars gr - 4.36/5 stars 

In this book, Sowell examines America in the decades since Roe vs. Wade. He examines the actual outcomes of desegregation and compares them to the original rhetoric of what was supposed to have happened socially, culturally, and economically after the desegregation of America. He discusses the elements that worked out correctly and the ones that did not. 

The Economics and Politics of Race: An International Perspective (1983) 
am - 4.8/5 stars gr - 4.19/5 stars 

This book is yet another examination of race, economics, and the factors that affect the economic status of different groups of people. Specifically, Sowell discusses how a certain racial group's economic fate can be determined by the society in which that group lives. 

Ethnic America: A History (1981) 
am - 4.8/5 stars gr - 4.24/5 stars 

This book traces the history of the nine most common ethnic groups that make up America. It is a detailed history of the African Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Germans, Jews, Mexicans, Europeans, and Puerto Ricans. 

Markets and Minorities (1981)  
am - 5/5 stars gr - 3.97/5 stars 

Sowell argues against the idea of systematic racism in this economic analysis. He compares American multiculturalism to the multicultural societies of other countries, such as India, China, and Japan and berates Americans for constantly using race as an excuse for economic issues. 

Knowledge and Decisions (1980) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.38 stars 

In Knowledge and Decisions, Sowell discusses how knowledge is spread throughout America - all the ways that knowledge is communicated to the average American. He also talks about how dangerously large the gap between knowledge and decision making is growing and proposes way to lessen the information gap between decision makers and private citizens. 

Race and Economics (1975) 
am - 4.7/5 stars gr - 4.2/5 stars 

This is another study of how race, ethnicity, and economics are all intertwined and related in America. It is also a history book, of sorts, as Sowell discusses slavery and the antebellum south in great detail. He also examines such things as minimum wage, affirmative action, and rent control; he finishes up the book by proposing different plans of action that might help America's economic situation. 

Say's Law: An Historical Analysis (1972) 
am - 4.6/5 stars gr - 4.27/5 stars 

This book is Sowell's examination of Say's Law, which is the idea that supply will create its own demand. He traces this idea from its conception over two centuries ago and follows it throughout history, including all the controversies it has inspired. 

Black Education: Myths and Tragedies (1972) 
am - 5/5 stars gr - 5/5 stars 

In this book, Sowell pulls from his own personal experiences as a teacher, a student, and a well-respected researcher and documenter of the American education system. The book is an open, honest, and disturbing look at how little society, the government, and even the parents of black children care about whether or not African Americans receive a decent education.

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