All-Time Classics

The Analects, Confucius. Over 2,000 years old and still startlingly current, this collection of dialogues between the great sage and his disciples covers lots of ground, much of which revolves around what it means to live a moral life.

A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. A story so classic it introduced a new word for miserly — “Scrooge” — Dickens spins the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge who, after encounters with his former business partner and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, turns at last into a decent fellow.

The Way to Wealth, Benjamin Franklin. An essay, published in 1758, compiling Franklin’s wit & wisdom on work, spending, saving, as originally published in Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Oeconomicus, Xenophon. Straight out of 4th century BCE Greece, Xenophon was an Athenian landowner, war veteran, and friend of Socrates who wrote one of the first advice manuals on household finance and management.

Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Our Fathers), Compilation. An ancient rabbinic text, compiled over centuries over 1,500 years ago, Pirkei Avot contains a series of pithy ethical principles for everyday life.

Nagara Sutta, The Buddha. In this teaching, the Buddha provides his students with instruction on the Noble Eightfold Path, which includes “moral virtues” like “right speech, right action, and right livelihood.”

The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith. Written in 1759, this book by the Scottish philosopher and economist laid out his vision of the role that virtue and ethics play in everyday life — importantly, in the context of the marketplace. This book provided the foundation for Smith’s later work, including Wealth of Nations, written in 1776.

“Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”, John Maynard Keynes.

The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day. The autobiography of homegrown American saint Dorothy Day, who committed her life to creating community and serving the poor.

It’s important to note that virtually every sacred scripture, across the world’s varied religious and spiritual traditions, has something illuminating to say about wealth, work, and how to lead a good life in the here-and-now. These works include, but are not limited to, Tankah: the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, The Qur’an, the Mahabharata, the Suttas of the Buddha, and many others.

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