Our economy is huge, incomprehensible and potentially deadly if you take a wrong step — just like space, in fact. So when it comes to understanding the fundamentals of economics, you need to read some classic and recent science fiction novels. Luckily, Paul Krugman and Noah Smith have provided a reading list.

Smith started the meme off with his own blog post about SF for economists:

Really, most science fiction is about economics. What makes most future visions interesting is not just the technical particulars of the cool new Stuff, but the social ramifications. Here are some of the sci-fi books that I thought dealt with important economic issues in the most insightful and interesting ways. I also chose only books that I think are well-written, with well-conceived characters, engaging plots, and skillful writing.

Smith's selections also happen to be all excellent books, with a heavy emphasis on Vernor Vinge, Charles Stross, Cory Doctorow, Ursula K. Le Guin and Neal Stephenson.

Paul Krugman followed up with his own suggestions, not surprisingly including his favorite books, Asimov's Foundation series. But he also put in a passionate plug for "any Iain Banks Culture novel; Use of Weapons was my gateway, but Consider Phlebas, or actually any of them, will do. Banks is terminally ill, so his work should be especially treasured now."

And then over at Forbes, Tim Worstall came out with some fantasy suggestions, most notably Terry Pratchett:

Although Terry Pratchett has rather left “genre” behind and is simply writing extraordinarily good novels that just happen to take place in a fantasy universe. Making Money is one of the best refutations of goldbuggery that you’ll find. And hugely amusing to boot. It even has a hydraulic model of the economy along Keynesian lines which is based upon the Moniac. Although with the interesting distinction that the fictional one actually works both ways, influencing reality as well as describing it.

So which science fiction (or fantasy) novels would you recommend to someone who wanted to learn more about economics, or the ways that economies function? I haven't read all of them, but I'm still going to put in a plug for Kage Baker's novels about The Company.