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How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
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How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  2,319 ratings  ·  252 reviews
A forgotten book by one of history’s greatest thinkers reveals the surprising connections between happiness, virtue, fame, and fortune.

Adam Smith may have become the patron saint of capitalism after he penned his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations. But few people know that when it came to the behavior of individuals—the way we perceive ourselves, the way we treat othe
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Hardcover, 261 pages
Published October 9th 2014 by Portfolio (first published October 2014)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Ken Montville
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book really goes a long way in taking a work written in the mid-1700s and making it relevant for the 21st Century.

Adam Smith, of course, is famous as the father of modern economics through his book The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations. This book is based on an earlier work The Theory of Moral Sentiments in which he philosophises about human nature and human interaction.

It is amazing how similar we are now as to how we were then. How similar ou
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Amy
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: and-a-half
2.5 Stars
I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I appreciate the author's passion for Adam Smith and desire to convey his theories and work to modern readers.
On the other hand, one of the first things you learn in academic writing is not to bore your reader with block quotes. And this book contains many block quotes.
Russ Roberts is an Adam Smith fangirl who wishes to share his passion for the author and desires to turn Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments into a modern d
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Andy
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think the author did a really nice job taking a 1700s tome I was never going to read and turning it into a little book that made some sense. There was nothing Earth-shattering in it: the main point seemed to be that happiness comes from trying to be a good person. The reason this is important though is the source—Adam Smith—who is generally used as the mouthpiece for dog-eat-dog laissez-faire materialistic capitalism.
Imran Kazi
Apr 13, 2017 rated it liked it
The author probably thought that his readers have an average age of twelve, I could not think of any other reason for so many explanations and elaborations on so many self-explanatory things. Or else, he wanted to give his book a respectable size.
Lulu
Apr 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A quick, interesting read about Adam Smith's lesser-known work The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Roberts shows how Smith's advice and observations - made a few centuries ago - ring just as true today. Chapters with advice on how to make the world a better place and how to be "lovely" in Smith's sense of the word are upbeat and easy to digest.
Albert W Tu
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Delightful and useful

This book is easily comparable to "How Proust Can Change Your Life" and Russ Roberts mentions Alain de Botton's book as an inspiration in the acknowledgements at the end. Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments is much lesser known than Wealth of Nations but no less important. Readers will be thankful that Roberts has digested Adam Smith's difficult to read text - I love an obtusely written book and my copy of TMS has sat on the shelf unconquered for close to two decades -
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Joel
Oct 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Finally, an economist finishes and thoughtfully considers the other (and arguably more important) half of Adam Smith's seminal treatise on human behavior. Russ Roberts writes a wonderful narrative that weaves together the main themes of Smith's book, "The Theory of Moral Sentimants." Personally, I've struggled to get through Smith's complex rant on happiness and virtues. It's both repetitious non-linear. But Robert's analysis has convinced me that it may actually be worth the effort to slog thro ...more
Susan Walker
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
easy to read..."If you want to make the world a better place, work on being trustworthy, and honor those who are trustworthy. Be a good friend and surround yourself with worthy friends. Don't gossip. Resist the joke that might hurt someone/s feelings even when it's clever. And try not to laugh when your friend tells you that clever joke at someone's expense. Being good is not just good for you and those around you, but because it helps others be good as well. Set a good example, and by your love ...more
Kimberly
Feb 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is phenomenal! It reviews and distills Adam Smith's first book, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments." I never knew he had written such a book. This first book of Smith's iterates how wealth and fame do not assure happiness, but rather, being prudent and lovely will lead to happiness. Toward the end of the book, I started listing the people to whom I would give this book. I borrowed this book from the library, but I like it so much I am going to purchase it so I can read it again in the fut ...more
Tristan
Jun 11, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to know what Adam Smith said in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, but didn't actually want to read it. Russ Robert's charming little book satisfied that urge. The take-away point is just what you'd expect from a self-help book (although you might not have expected it from the writer of The Wealth of Nations): find happiness locally, and don't pursue money and fame as ends in themselves.

Here are some favourite quotes:

"If you want to get better at what you do, if you want to get better at
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Gavin
May 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting idea of comparing Adam Smith's book with today. I know this type has become a bit of a cottage industry, but this is quite well done. Dealing with celebrity, money, and power amongst other things I found it quite relevant to life.

A long start to finish because I misplace my copy. Glad to finish though.
Stephen
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An economist and a rabbi walk into a bar and co-author a work on the meaning of life. That's not the opening line to a joke, but a near-description of How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life. This little book gives a modern interpretation of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, girding it with references to Rabbi Hillel. The contents are surprising, if your association of "economist" is with strictly matters financial, like stocks and trade deficits. Ironically, writes Russ Roberts, the subjects ...more
Carielyn Mills
Jun 15, 2015 rated it did not like it
this book is a compilation of tidbits of adam smith’s ‘the theory of moral sentiments’ extremely dumbed down, with unnecessary color commentary by the author, and smith’s book’s major points explained (over and over again, in different ways, as if to middle-schoolers). maybe that’s the demographic they were going for, based on the cover image, the simple vocabulary, and the celebrity stories used to explain a couple of smith’s concepts. if you understand english and enjoy reading and can form an ...more
Erik Rostad
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
Delightful book. I'm one who thinks that the original book should be read before reading books about the original, but this one was a quick read that helped set a foundation should I read the original later on. The book in question is The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith. It is his lesser-known book and was written before his more popular Wealth of Nations. Russ Roberts, author of this book, expounds on Adam Smith's contention that "Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be ...more
Michele
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is the closest I've ever encountered to a beach read about the work of Adam Smith. Roberts explores how Smith's other, lesser known book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, applies the same perspective as the Wealth of Nations on how human nature is rather than how it should be, this time with a look at human societies instead of just economies. If you don't have time to read Smith's book yourself, you should read this -- and even if you have, it's worth a read (and a re-read). If you hav ...more
Angie Boyter
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those wonderful books that is very easy to read but has deep ideas. It is fascinating how modern Adam Smith sounds once you get past the vocabulary.
Reread September 2016 for the Sunday Philosophers. Enjoyed it as much the second time around. Makes me want to read Smith's book (I enjoyed the Wealth of Nations in college.)
Ana-shea Fann
Mar 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most user-friendly books I've ever read regarding Adam Smith. Russ Roberts is a phenomenal writer, the subject is wonderful, and I would recommend this to economists and non-economists alike.
Nick Breen
May 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Trung
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"While few people still read "The Wealth of Nations", fewer read or have even heard of Adam Smith's "The Theory of Moral Sentiments"

What is the Good Life?
What role does Virtue play?
Where Morality comes from and Why people can act with Decency and Virtue even when it conflicts with their own self-interest?

Even though people can be pretty Selfish, they do care about other people's happiness.

The book changed the way I looked at people, and maybe more important, it changed the way I looked at myself
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Putu Sita Witari
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To my surprise, I spent a week with an economist through Russ Roberts - an economist researcher's eyes. It was daunting at first knowing the background of where the philosophies come from, but page by page diminish the intensity. With his relaxing way in collaborating the second masterpiece of Adam Smith's book 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' with our daily life situations, I am hooked on how much life lessons I gain from this book. Though they serve as a gentle reminder to readers, everyone wo ...more
Dio Mavroyannis
Oct 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The little thought examples that are talked about such as cutting your finger vs people suffering elsewhere are very interesting but they are mostly in the begining. The rest of the book is mostly about how you should not care so much about money. I found that it dragged a bit, the book should have been half the length for how many ideas it explores. Better yet it should have just been "the theory of moral sentiments" but annotated. But I guess Americans are obsessed with putting their names on ...more
Farhad Ahmad
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very insightful book on how we can implement Adman Smith's suggestion in the 21st Century lifestyle; and a comparison of today's life and the 18th Century one. Russ goes into detailed discussion of how our decisions are influenced by our gadgets and our relationships with people, and how we got things for granted. While, some of the gadgets and relationships are means to some end.
Brian
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Think of this as "Adam Smith for Dummies" although it's still a very rich read. More accessible/understandable than the style of writing used in the 1700's (admit it, you struggle with it also...) this book is a guided tour that makes for a much easier journey through the original text. Russ Roberts does an excellent job of leading you through the densely-but-beautifully-written original book, making great observations along the way.

I slogged through Adam Smith's more well known book (The Wealth
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Tom Mobley
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book.

Lots of good points to consider.
Brian Denton
Dec 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Listened to this on the drive from South Carolina to Florida. I liked it. Really spoke to my wife now. She wants it on her Audible.
Janet Bufton
Jan 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
An engaging an easy read outlining the contributions to moral philosophy by Adam Smith for those who aren't inclined to read The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Hopefully one that will inspire readers to reconsider that inclination.
Darren
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
Most people will have heard of Adam Smith and possibly have a vague recollection that he was responsible for a classic economics text. Students of economics and related subjects would be best advised to give up now if their reaction is Adam Who?

So this was a surprisingly quirky, different book that draws on a lesser-known Smith book to show how we can live better lives in the 21st century. Yes, it seemed a miraculous, brave claim to make but as you dig through the text it does make a fair bit of
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Puck
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
I got this as an audible daily deal. It's not what I expected, when I started it I thought "Oh no, self help" it's not that either really.

I found it quite interesting - it has some wonderful insights into human nature.

Standing at Edinburgh Castle's wall and looking out over the city listening to this book, as it explained Smith's theories of contentment on a sunny day was a pretty special moment.

I don't know how far out of my way I would go to read this one if I'm honest. I don't 100% agree w
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Peter
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biogrpahy, economics
A disappointment. I knew of the author from his great rap videos on Hayed and Keynes. I expected more. I expected some great insight, as I knew of Adam Smith's other book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, but have not read it. I figured that Moral Sentiments, when read in conjuncture with The Wealth of Nations, would provide a clearer picture of capitalism than modern critics often apply. And I still think you have to understand what Smith was arguing in Wealth of Nations through his writings in ...more
Andy Johnson
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Big fan of self help books and big fan of Adam Smith. Although, this is not the Adam Smith would expect from "The Wealth of Nations".

I took one large piece of the book and have began applying it to my life. "To be loved, and to be lovely". I explained the meaning and now six months after I read the book and my wife is now repeating that saying.

Definitely recommend this book if you need a little perspective on life and understanding deeper reasoning to happiness.
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Russ Roberts is the John and Jean De Nault Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He hosts EconTalk, a weekly award-winning podcast. His Keynes-Hayek rap videos (created with John Papola) have been viewed more than 6 million times on YouTube. His blog is Cafe Hayek. His latest web-based project is The Numbers Game, on which he discusses data and charts using annotated videos.

Roberts is the aut
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