The most popular text for this purpose, till recent times, seems to be "Economics" by Paul Samuelson and William Nordhaus. However, N. Gregory Mankiw's "Principles of Economics" seems to be becoming increasingly popular these days. Fortunately for me, both of these books are available in cheap Indian editions. I flipped through the pages of these books in a bookshop and I must say that Prof. Mankiw's book looks far more approachable to a layman.
I notice that Paul Krugman has also come out with such a book titled "Economics", though I couldn't locate an Indian edition for the book. There are also freely-available economics text-books published on-line like "Introduction to Economic Analysis" by R. Preston McAfee (an "open-source book") and "Principles of Economics" by Timothy Taylor (an advertisement-supported book). I do not like reading lots of text on the computer screen and I cannot order the "dead-tree" versions of these books until I know for sure that they really are better than the more popular alternatives (viz. the books by Prof. Samuelson and Prof. Mankiw).
I would like to ask those of you who are more knowledgeable in economics: what book would you recommend for this purpose?