Brown’s Most Expensive Books

  • What's the most expensive required textbook at Brown?
  • What's the most expensive class?
  • What's the most expensive department?


To answer these questions, we'll mine data from Courses@Brown (Brown's course-enrollment portal). Crucially, for each course, this portal reports:

So as to not succumb to sensationalism, we'll only consider the minimum price of required textbooks (unless otherwise noted).

Even so, given the eye-popping expenses that will follow, it's probably false to believe that all students purchase the required textbooks, or that they pay Brown Bookstore's prices for them.

Most Expensive Books

The $264.50 Investments, by Bodie, Kane & Marcus tops out as the most expensive required textbook of Fall 2020.

The top-20 most-expensive required textbooks of Fall 2020 are as follows:

$245.749780134472089Options, Futures, and Other Derivatives
$235.749780132275590Physics for Scientists & Engineers
$217.769781260045246Avanti! Beginning Italian
$200.759780471254249Chemical Reaction Engineering
$195.819781429219617Biology of Plants
$194.659781319013387Introduction to the Practice of Statistics
$187.509781337558860Introductory Econometrics
$187.509781305580350Organic Chemistry
$184.999780138147570Signals and Systems
$180.009781305652972Fundamental Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences
$171.709781429277044Environmental Chemistry
$168.739781319105266Public Finance and Public Policy
$166.889780471510949Chemical Applications of Group Theory
$165.509780132745659Statistics for Business and Economics
$165.009780073523453Operations Research
$164.169781429250788Modern Physics
$159.999781305581982Chemical Principals

Most Expensive Classes

With a total required textbook cost of $462.47, POLS2320 Ethnic Conflict is the most expensive class of Fall 2020.

The top-20 most-expensive classes of 2020 are as follows:

CostDeptCodeCourse Title
$462.47POLS2320Ethnic Conflict
$330.43AMST2020EIntroduction to Interdisciplinary American Studies
$318.04ANTH2501Principles of Archaeology
$301.56SOC2962CKnowledge Cultural Sociology
$278.59AFRI0670Global Black Radicalism
$264.50ECON1710Investments I
$245.74ECON1750Investments II
$236.25ECON2030Introduction to Econometrics I
$235.74PHYS0050Foundations of Mechanics
$226.27AMST2220BCulture, Politics and the Metropolitan Built Environment
$225.74ECON1210Intermediate Macroeconomics
$222.50CHEM0360Organic Chemistry
$220.70HIST2971INew Perspectives on Medieval History
$217.76ITAL0100Elementary Italian
$214.46SOC1315Macro-Organizational Theory
$212.37SOC2040Classical Sociological Theory
$210.06JUDS1635Problems in Israelite History
$207.62URBN1870MUrban Regimes in the American Republic
$200.75ENGN1120Reaction Kinetics and Reactor Design
$197.45PHYS2410Solid State Physics I

Gross Domestic Department Product

The above ranking of most-expensive courses is dominated by popular classes such as Investments and Foundations of Mechanics. In these cases, it is not merely that the course's required textbooks are expensive, but that many students are subject to purchasing those expensive books! So, let's ditch our previous individual perspective and instead try to estimate the gross domestic product of Brown's courses and departments.

Course GDP

We'll estimate the "GDP" of a course as its enrollment multiplied by the total cost of its required textbooks.

With a staggering GDP of $82,325.00, CHEM0360 Organic Chemistry trounces all competition. The top-25 courses with the highest GDP follow:

$82,325.00370$222.50CHEM0360Organic Chemistry
$41,526.50157$529.00ECON1710Investments I
$33,861.00150$451.48ECON1210Intermediate Macroeconomics
$30,750.00205$150.00APMA1650Statistical Inference I
$30,475.50165$184.70CHEM0330Equilibrium, Rate, and Structure
$24,163.00146$165.50ECON1620Introduction to Econometrics
$21,924.00189$116.00PHYS0030Basic Physics A
$20,790.00126$165.00APMA1210Operations Research: Deterministic Models
$20,043.12138$145.24BIOL0530Principles of Immunology
$19,293.75147$131.25POLS1120Campaigns and Elections
$18,575.92152$122.21POLS1010Topics in American Constitutional Law
$18,184.7674$245.74ECON1750Investments II
$17,737.50215$82.50NEUR0010The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience
$15,118.56144$104.99MATH0100Introductory Calculus, Part II
$14,909.34141$105.74MATH0180Intermediate Calculus
$14,790.00102$145.00SOC1100Introductory Statistics for Social Research
$13,725.4464$214.46SOC1315Macro-Organizational Theory
$13,534.00134$101.00CSCI1410Artificial Intelligence
$13,500.0075$180.00CLPS0900Statistical Methods
$13,350.0089$150.00APMA1655Statistical Inference I

Department GDP

Next, we'll estimate the "GDP" of a department as the combined GDP of its courses.

Once again, ECON astounds: if all Fall 2020 economics enrollees purchased their required textbooks at Brown Bookstore's minimum price, together they'd spend $174,861.60! The top-20 departments by GDP are as follows:


University Textbook GDP

Finally, we'll estimate the university's textbook GDP as the combined GDP of its departments: $1,268,445.51 in Fall 2020!


As this was just an afternoon project, I haven't meaningfully checked any of these figures—so please don't treat them as authoritative! Rather, if you are interested in diving deeper, please reach out! I'm happy to share my underlying data.

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