Meeting Adam Smith

Richard Hughes Gibson in The Hedgehog Review:

Like many readers, I began in early adulthood to keep a mental list of big books that I meant to tackle someday. Thanks to the passage of time and my dilatory nature, that list now includes some entries that I haven’t gotten around to for many years—in a few cases, a decade or more. One such book is Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), which I decided to read back in graduate school after taking a course that featured Smith’s earlier achievement, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). At the time, though, the book seemed just a bit too long, and every time I’ve picked it up since I’ve always been able to manufacture reasons for further delay.

Having just read a biography of Smith and reread Theory of Moral Sentiments in January, I decided that it was truly now or never. And while I recognized that Wealth of Nations would be no War and Peace, I wondered if any pleasures might await in a book that Smith’s contemporaries immediately proclaimed a masterpiece.

More here.