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How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness
Narrated by: Don Hagen
Length: 5 hrs and 29 mins
Categories: Nonfiction, Philosophy
4.5 out of 5 stars (788 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

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 others, and the decisions we make in pursuit of happiness - the Scottish philosopher had just as much to say. He developed his ideas on human nature in an epic, sprawling work titled The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Most economists have never read it, and for most of his life, Russ Roberts was no exception. But when he finally picked up the book by the founder of his field, he realized he’d stumbled upon what might be the greatest self-help book that almost no one has read. In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Roberts examines Smith’s forgotten masterpiece, and finds a treasure trove of timeless, practical wisdom. Smith’s insights into human nature are just as relevant today as they were 300 years ago. What does it take to be truly happy? Should we pursue fame and fortune or the respect of our friends and family? How can we make the world a better place? Smith’s unexpected answers, framed within the rich context of current events, literature, history, and pop culture, are at once profound, counterintuitive, and highly entertaining. By reinvigorating Smith’s neglected classic, Roberts provides us with an invaluable look at human behavior through the lens of one of history’s greatest minds.

©2014 Russ Roberts (P)2014 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

"A great book. Makes you feel better about life, humanity, and yourself. Like having a conversation and a scotch with Adam Smith, or even better, Russ Roberts." (Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan)
"Russ Roberts has taken a brilliant but difficult classic - Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments - and written an engaging and inspiring meditation on virtue, friendship, and happiness. The result is a wonderful guide to living a good life." (Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind)

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Hard to distinguish Roberts from Smith in reading

The book is very good, but the otherwise solid performance has a near fatal flaw in that it's practically impossible to tell where Russ Roberts' text stops and the Adams passages begin (and vice versa.)

That said, the relevance of Smith's writings to the modern condition is incredible and this book provides a great condensation of Theory of Moral Sentiments.

26 people found this helpful

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Excellent

This book gives great insight into Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments and Smith's views on achieving happiness. Many associate Smith with economics and greed so this book shows a completely different side of the man.

Because I'm so used to hearing Russ Roberts' EconTalk podcasts I think this book's performance would have been improved had Roberts narrated it himself (not that Hagen did a bad job).

15 people found this helpful

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  • MM
  • 04-21-15

Don Hagen narrates too many books in this genre!

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I would have a different narrator. Don Hagen is good but he also did the "You Are Not So Smart" books and his voice is too dooms-dayish and monotonous. It's like he's trying to tell you that the circle you are looking at is a square, but you're an idiot for thinking it's a circle.

What could Russ Roberts have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I really cannot recall the stories at all.This is one of the only books on Audible that I listened to mostly and then deleted close to the finish bc I had no desire to continue. And I didn't even recall what I had heard in the first place.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Don Hagen?

Someone more enthusiastic. Maybe a female?

Did How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life inspire you to do anything?

No. Sorry.

18 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Poor narrator, dry content

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

I like Russ Roberts and think he should have done this performance since he does a podcast and does audio recordings all the time.

Would you be willing to try another one of Don Hagen’s performances?

No

11 people found this helpful

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Nice surprise

Simply a lovely book on many levels and much more engaging than I expected. i have a newfound respect for Adam Smith as a complete thinker and for how his two big books complement one another. Better yet, this book has made me a better person-- i have a long way to go, but i now aspire to be more lovely.

1 person found this helpful

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Not bad but not the greatest

I thought it would be more focused on economic insight and not moral sentiment but it was a good read for the price (got it cheap ~$3)

1 person found this helpful

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Worth the listen

Thoughtful and relatively timeless - Russ Roberts offers insights and critiques into Adam Smith’s other work. Found myself wanting to read the original.

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Adam Smith - more than the father of capitalism

Many are aware of Adam Smith (AS) as the author of The Wealth of Nations or as sometimes referred to, "The Father of Capitalism". (BTW, AS was not a fan of excesses in material possessions or lording ones wealth over others) But you probably didn't know he was a keen observer of human motivation and personal interaction. AS wrote a popular, but less famous book called, "The theory of moral sentiments". Russ Roberts' book is essentially a review of that book - with some bits from The wealth of Nations. Most important lesson I learned: Stop thinking of yourself as a Saint or altruistic because all one's actions are motivated by self-interest! That's right - no escaping it. Yes, even when we give to others, because wanting to bless, mentor, support - give - give to others is a need YOU have. (Look up enlightened self-interest for a fuller understanding - or read this book). So stop trying to be selfless. Not possible, in a strict definition of the term. Christ motivated people to give to others by appealing to their self-interest. What!? Blasphemy! Remember, He famously said, "It is more blessed (to you) to give than to receive."

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great insights into human nature

Adams Smith has some great insights into human nature. Russ Roberts did a great job of bringing ng them out of this old text.

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Easy but worthwhile read

Russ Roberts is one of the great thinkers of this era. Very good, will probably read again