Micromotives & Macrobehavior is one of those little economics books that everyone "knows" but few have actually read. It is an amusing little collection of the ways in which "everyday" behavior can yield surprising results in the aggregate scope. We see actions from our own point of view, and it's interesting to formalize how these actions sum up in the big picture -- not always in the way we'd intuitively expect.
As always, Schelling is highly readable, and has great examples and insights. However, this is not a state-of-the-art treatise on behavior systems / preference aggregation / choice processes, nor is it adequate as a standalone introduction to economics for a beginner. Because other reviews of this book seem to be unabashedly positive, let me mention two possible downsides to this book:
--First, is this really economics? It seems more like operations research, or "systems theory," applied to human agents. Operations research and economics are of course deeply intertwined, but it would be a mistake for a layperson to read this book and think that this is what economics is all about. The market aspects of economics are largely left out, as is most of the economist's toolkit, and questions the economist asks. Perhaps a better place for a novice to start, on similar material, to learn more about the "big picture" of economics would be the work of Gary Becker, or (second choice) Paul Krugman.
--Secondly, most, if not all, of this book's content will be old-hat to anyone who has been trained to think like an economist or applied mathematician. The models are very nice, but if you have basic undergraduate-level experience with microeconomics or operations research, you will know what Schelling is about to say before he says it. The book's back cover raves about Schelling's formalization of the concept of a traffic jam, but it's been done before, many times, even before this book's 1978 publication. This is in no way a serious book about such problems for the practitioner or theoretician; the examples are interesting, but the analysis isn't particularly new.
One positive aspect of this book, and one way in which it's a better primer on economics than some others, is that it provides an introduction to the usefulness, power, and also fallacies of using models (or simulations) of human behavior. Schelling's models are very powerful, but it's also easy to see ways in which a slight change in the way the model is set up would drastically change results -- all models are very arbitrary, and maybe Schelling doesn't do enough to warn readers that arbitrary assumptions sometimes drive his results. (For example, the book has a model of a ski chairlift, in which Schelling's "surprising" result is covertly driven by his arbitrary assumption about the speed with which people can seat themselves on the chairs.)
Overall, this is a worthwhile read, even if it's neither a broad overview of economic science, nor cutting-edge theoretical work. Schelling's cleverness in creating models, then explaining them, makes this book "worth it" -- and this can be a good lead-in for Schelling's other work, e.g. "Strategy of Conflict."