“Five Years from now, you’re the same person except for the people you’ve met and the books you’ve read.”
Unintended Consequences – Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong, by Edward Conard. I’m opposed to his politics but I must admit he offers the best description I’ve read of the mortgage crisis of 2008. Made me more sympathetic toward inequality, because I’m a contrarian cuss.
Nickel and Dimed – On Not Getting By In America, by Barbara Ehrenreich. Want to understand what it’s like to be part of the structurally poor in America? No? Well you won’t ever see it depicted in mainstream media, but here’s a good place to start.
Plutocrats – The Rise of The New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, by Chrystia Freeland. I have a few quibbles on tone but this is a very interesting analysis of the extraordinary wealthy.
The Death And Life Of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs. This classic on urban planning policy from 1960 struck me as entirely relevant today. Jacobs writes convincingly on low-income housing policy, the problem with parks, the benefits of walkable cities, the importance of mixed uses, the essential nature of diversity in great cities.
Cities and the Wealth of Nations, by Jane Jacobs. By switching the economic unit of analysis from nations to cities, Jacobs offers still-relevant insights into development, inequality, currency regimes, and the decline of empire.
The Price of Inequality, by Joseph Stigliz. I started out sympathetic to his politics but his style of argumentation – hammer, hammer, hammer – is tedious. Also made me more in favor of inequality, because I’m a contrarian cuss.
On Personal Finance
Peace and Plenty, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The worst personal finance book I’ve ever read, by the narcissistic, materialistic, unreflective author of Simple Abundance, a popular book from the 1990s endorsed by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey.
Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes, by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich. The authors translate Behavioral Economics research with memorable anecdotes and illustrations to help us understand why we make sub-optimal personal finance decisions.
The Richest Man In Babylon, by George Clason. ”Babylonian” fables written in the 1920s that retain timeless wisdom about of thrift, savings, skepticism, and self-reliance.
25 Myths You’ve Got to Avoid If You Want to Manage Your Money Right, by Jonathan Clements. Useful contrarian advice bursting the ‘myths’ of personal finance, from a long-time Wall Street Journal columnist
Your First Financial Steps – Managing Your Money When You’re Just Starting Out, by Nancy Dunnan. A personal finance book, from the mid-1990s, that did not age well. Anachronistic. Amazon Link to “Your First Financial Steps”
Secrets of the Millionaire Mind: Mastering the Inner Game of Wealth, by T. Harv Eker. Some interesting points to make on psychological limitations we may have about money, along with cognitive behavior techniques to overcome those limitations, but unfortunately told by a seminar-upselling jackass.
The Way To Wealth, by Benjamin Franklin. A greatest-hits of memorable aphorisms about thrift and industry by the founding father Benjamin Franklin, in his persona as Poor Richard.
Master Math – Business and Personal Finance Math, by Mary Hansen. This book’s focus on just the personal finance math, rather than the advice, makes it quite useful.
Investing Demystified: How To Invest Without Speculation And Sleepless Nights, by Lars Kroijer. A former hedge funder offers a simple, low-cost way to construct an effective global portfolio, keeping in mind the efficient market hypothesis (you don’t have an edge!) and the efficient frontier theory of portfolio construction.
How To Make Your Kid A Millionaire: 11 Easy Ways Anyone Can Secure A Child’s Financial Future, by Kevin McKinley. A financial planner offers practical advice for using time, plus savings, to provide future material well-being.
Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth, by Nick Murray. A personal favorite, showing how a calm and steady investment in equity mutual funds – over the long run – leads to inevitable wealth accumulation.
The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, & Broke by Suze Orman. Solid advice for the target audience but I had a hard time getting past her annoying, robotic, schtick.
Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy And Its Consequences, by John Allen Paulos. An interesting and entertaining book on the importance of mathematical literacy, although I don’t think one of the intended audiences – innumerates – would ever read it.
If Your Money Talked What Secrets Would It Tell, by Gary Sirak. Sirak offers real-life illustrations of his 8 Principles of Money, based on his career as a financial advisor for the last 30 years. He also argues persuasively that most of our trouble with money is caused by our own personal beliefs about money.
The Millionaire Next Door – Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, by Thomas J. Stanley and William Danko. An influential (at least in my life) best-seller on the difference between having wealth and displaying wealth, and solid ideas on how to accumulate wealth.
The Millionaire Mind, by Thomas Stanley. Attributes of wealthy folks, such as their frugality, monogamy, purchasing habits, entrepreneurship.
The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, by Andrew Tobias. Funny and Useful, it’s a personal finance guide that actually lives up to its hyperbolic name.
My Vast Personal Fortune, by Andrew Tobias. Funny, quirky, and revealing anecdotes on real estate and advertising. Features Tobias’ obsession with auto-insurance.
Mathematics Standard Level for the International Baccalaureate, by Alan Wicks. I didn’t actually review this book, but just referred to it in my discussion of compound interest. The International Baccalaureate is how I learned about “Sequences and Series,” the mathematics behind compound interest. Also, this was written by my high school advisor and math teacher, so you should buy it!
Bailout – An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street, by Neil Barofsky. Barofsky, a personal hero of mine, blasts his way out of Washington DC, where he served as top financial cop for the 2008 bailout known as TARP.
Money and Power – How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, by William Cohan. Cohan doesn’t answer the question in the title, and he cherry-picks a series of embarrassing episodes from Goldman’s history to offer it up as a scapegoat. The one useful section is his chapter on the mortgage department, in the years just prior to Crisis of 2008.
The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham. My kids will be reading this when they get old enough, because, 65 years later, it’s still fresh, and it will still be fresh in another 15-20 years.
Systems of Survival – A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics, by Jane Jacobs. This isn’t about Wall Street, but rather about two interdependent systems of survival. Guardians (government functions) and Commercials (business functions) work well together but operate by separate precepts. Each has its own internally consistent moral code, but the breach and mixing of precepts can lead to monstrosities. I love this book as it practically explains everything you need to know about Left-Right/Democrat-Republican/Government-Business debates.
I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, by John Lanchester. Lanchester is a super-clear and entertaining writer who explains the 2008 Crisis better than most.
Boomerang – Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis. The silliest of Lewis’ Wall Street books, but nevertheless entertaining cultural snapshots of countries in the 2008 Crisis.
The Big Short – Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis. Funny and accurate review of the 2008 Crisis, in which Lewis does what no other journalists did – he makes the short-sellers the heroes.
Liar’s Poker, by Michael Lewis. The original classic. Start your Wall Street reading here, about Lewis’ short stint as a bond salesman, at Solomon Brothers, in the mid-1980s.
The House of Morgan, by Ron Chernow. Fascinating history of the origins of JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank (which absorbed the UK’s Morgan Grenfell). Even does much more in a few short chapters on recent history to explain how Goldman Sachs “came to rule the world,” than does Cohan’s book by that title.
Too Big To Fail, by Andrew Ross Sorkin. Should be titled “Too Connected to Criticize” as Sorkin protects his present and future sources – the Wall Street CEOS of 2008 – from any criticism or real analysis of their responsibility for 2008.
Black Swan – The Impact of the Highly Improbable, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb explains how the unexpected tends to shape everything, and our models never see the unexpected before it’s too late. Also, his timing on this book, right before the 2008 crisis, was awesome.
Fooled by Randomness, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb’s first book blasts the traditional Wall Street world-view with his empirical skepticism and brash, take-no-prisoners, style.
The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope. A book review by a friend, of a favorite book and favorite author, featuring the 19th Century British Bernie Madoff.
Capital, by John Lanchester. This book review, by Michael Lewis, contains great observations about English writing, and English attitudes towards capitalism.
Theory of Knowledge
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, by Ali Almossawi. Almossawi’s online book is a pleasurably illustrated taxonomy of terrible logic, of the kind we so often hear from political pundits or members of the Financial Infotainment Industrial Complex.
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t, by Nate Silver. Silver argues that applying Bayesian probabilistic thinking to a wide range of complex phenomena like sports betting, weather, earthquakes, Texas Hold ‘Em Poker, and politics help us understand the present and forecast the future far more than most legacy models we work with.
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