Here's a book you should know about; I've been giving it a real workout for quite a while: A World of Ideas, by Chris Rohmann.
Ever wonder what "progressivism," "conservatism," "libertarianism," or "empiricism" really mean? When I do, this is where I begin. It's in dictionary format, well cross-referenced, full of concise summaries; a great starting point for further research if you're so inclined.
Here are a few snippets from a few of those concise summaries, selected by me, not quite at random...
...from the Adam Smith entry:
"A country that produces the goods it can grow or manufacture most efficiently, and imports the rest, can give its own consumers a greater freedom of choice, thus increasing the national standard of living."
...from the Karl Marx entry:
"Where previous social reformers had attributed social inequality to the unequal distribution of wealth, Marx rooted it in the exploitative relations of production."
...from the John Maynard Keynes entry:
"Like classical economists and their modern heirs, Keynesians believe that a continuous flow of investment into the economy increases both consumption and production. However, they do not believe this happens purely through market forces..."
...from the Supply-side economics entry:
"It disputes the demand-side approach of Keynesian economists, who see growth as tied to the aggregate demand for finished goods and services, stimulated when necessary by government incentives.... [Supply-siders argue that,] as tax rates rise, taking an ever-greater proportion of income, people will respond by decreasing their productive effort and thus decreasing the tax base available to the government.... Tax reductions in the United States [in the 1980s], called 'Reaganomics,' stimulated an economic boom, but critics claimed that this reflected not supply-side but demand-side effects: output rose in response to increased consumer spending as the tax cuts generated higher disposable incomes."
And, last but not least, my favorite entry of all...
"...the word comes from the Greek for 'consideration' or 'doubt.' Skepticism takes two main forms: the belief that no position is certain (including, as is frequently noted, this position) and the view that truth exists but that certain knowledge of it may be beyond our grasp."
Almost forgot. If you're wondering what my favorite nonfiction book is, it can be found here.