2019 – What I’m Reading
This is a running list of books I’ve read in 2019 with the most recent first. Would love any recommendations you might have. First, here’s a link to our firm’s book club list (goes back to 2011): St. Louis Trust Book Club List
101. Ten Drugs: How Plants, Powders, and Pills Have Shaped the History of Medicine, by Thomas Hager. This book was a fascinating look at the science (and luck) of how drugs are developed. It deep dives into ten drugs (or ten classes of drugs), including Opium, Opiods, Anti-Psychotics, birth control pills, erectile disfunction pills, statins, antibiotics, and vaccines. This book tells the story of some of the most important drugs we’ve discovered. It paints big pharma as neither good nor bad, but does expose some of its underbelly. Its a very well-written and fast moving book. I learned a ton. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
100. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. I’ve been reading books on writing as I try to become a better writer – you’ll see other such books in the list below. This book was so good. I laughed out loud countless times and loved how she made her points with stories, humility, humor and neuroticism. Even though this book was about writing fiction (which I don’t do), I still found it informative. Most interesting, just like Stephen King in his book On Writing, Anne Lamott espouses creating characters but not laying out a plot. Instead she and Stephen King both suggest writing from your subconscious and allow the characters to decide what they are going to do. RECOMMENDED.
99. Writing to be Understood: What Works and Why, by Anne Janzer. This was a well-written (I’d hope so) book about writing non-fiction. It was full of great advice, such as how to use humor, setting tone, using stories and organizing content. Solid book.
98. Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. I’ve read this book a few times over the years. To say it is about mindfulness meditation (which it is) doesn’t do this beautiful book justice. It is about how to live so as to be aware of the bloom of the present moment. It provides some meditation practice sessions as well. Amazing book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
97. Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope, by Mark Manson. I loved the author’s prior book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. I enjoyed this book, but not as much as his prior book. This book is about why having hope/focusing on hope is merely a distraction and is counterproductive. It’s better to realize that life is about pain and we’re all going to die. With that knowledge and focus, we should live in the moment and enjoy the miracle of being alive. Overall, a solid book.
96. Will and Testament: A Novel, by Vigdis Hjorth. This book takes place in Norway and was written in Norwegian. The main character, Bergljot, is in her 50s at the time the main events take place. She has been estranged from her family for over 20 years and as the book progesses the family secret that caused the estrangement comes to light. Bergljot is pulled back into dealings with her family and her other three siblings when her parents leave two summer cabins to two of the siblings and leave the other two out. The style of the book is intense and you really get a sense of Bergljot’s emotions as she deals with here family.
95. Nothing to See Here, by Kevin Wilson. I loved this book! The main character, Lillian, is asked by a friend to be the nanny for her twin 10-year old stepchildren for the summer. The children, Roland and Bessie, are unusual in that when they get upset they catch on fire. This a super fun read with great character development. It is both funny and touching. RECOMMENDED.
94. The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester. This book, written in 1956, is an underground sci-fi classic. I had long heard of it but hadn’t read it until now. It is amazing that it was written in 1956, the story is a precursor to the cyberpunk sci-fi of the 1980s and seems like it was written during that time period. The book’s main character Gulliver Foyle is a dastardly character with grievous flaws, which makes the book tons of fun. I loved this book and am sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
93. Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann. This book is a tour through a large number of important concepts such as Ockham’s razor, Metcalf Law, anecdotal thinking and the use of Bayesian statistics. Solid book. I learned a lot. RECOMMENDED.
92. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk. The author is a Polish writer who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2018. This book follows an eccentric woman living in rural Poland whose neighbors start dying in mysterious ways. The title of the book is a line from a poem by William Blake. I really liked this book. RECOMMENDED.
91. 1984, by George Orwell. 1984 was written in 1949. I remember being 14 years old in 1984 and thinking that the world, thankfully, was very different that how it was portrayed in the novel. 1984 is an interesting story well told as well as a warning of the dangers of communism and totalitarianism. Unfortunately, there are some themes in 1984 that seem to be increasingly analogous to our modern age.
90. The Dutch House, A Novel, by Ann Patchett. This is the second book I’ve read by Ms. Patchett, the first being her outstanding blockbuster Bel Canto. The Dutch House is the story of siblings Danny and Maeve Conroy. They grew up in a mansion in the outskirts of Philadelphia that had been built in the early 20th century by Dutch cigarette barons. The story traces Danny’s youth through his late 50s. The house, bought by his father as a present for his mother shortly after WWII, had effects on Danny’s family that rolled through decades. Fantastic book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
89. Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. This is the classic style manual for writers. It is packed with grammatical and style advice. It was originally written by Prof. Strunk for his students at Cornell and was revised and expanded for publication as a book 38 years later by his student E.B. White, of Charlotte’s Web fame. Even though it is a style manual, it is a great read. I learned a lot.
88. Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back): A Memoir of Recording and Discording with Wilco, Etc., by Jeff Tweedy. I listened to this book on Audible. It was narrated by Jeff Tweedy which really added to the experience. I loved this book. I am an Uncle Tupelo and Wilco fan and reading the history and stories of those bands was very interesting. Also, Jeff grew up in Belleville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. It was fun to hear about him playing at venues such as Mississippi Nights and Cicero’s where I have seen concerts. Jeff Tweedy has lived a very normal but also very extraordinary life. His story displays great vulnerability as well as humility. He also is quite wise and I got a lot out of his advice and worldview. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
87. The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society, by Binyamin Appelbaum. This book was fantastic. The author is the lead economics writer for the New York Times. The book is a tour through the history of economic thought, mainly in the 20th century but also somewhat in the 21st century. It covers giants such as Hayek, Keynes, Friedman as well as Federal Reserve Chairmen such as Paul Volker and Alan Greenspan. It delves into various successes and failures of economic policy including monetarism, supply-side economics and Keynesian stimulus. I learned a lot. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
86. The Ninja Daughter, by Tori Eldridge. This was a fun read. The main character, Lily Wong, is a 20-something woman of Chinese and Norwegian descent who has been trained as a ninja. Her main job is working for a women’s shelter and protecting women who are abused. The book focuses on a case of intrigue involving the construction of a new subway line in L.A. I really enjoyed it. Light, easy read.
85. Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II, by Robert Kurson. This is the page-turning story of two divers who discover and then identify a U-Boat wreck lying in 230 feet of water off the coast of New Jersey. It provides an interesting look into the high-risk world of deep water wreck diving. I really enjoyed it. RECOMMENDED.
84. Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About the World, by Tim Marshall. This was a book club selection at work. I thought it was dynamite. I learned so much about the world. The book explores how geography has impacted civilization and politics across most continents. For example, understanding why Crimea is so important to Russia is primarily driven by Russia’s geography and that Crimea represents the only warm-water port to which Russia has access. Excellent book! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
83. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. This is a rare non-fiction book by Stephen King. It is a short memoir of King’s life up to age 53, including nearly being killed when he was hit by a van. The book is primarily his advice on writing. Some if it is grammatical such as his advice to always use the active tense and avoid adverbs. Other parts of it are process oriented, such as the advice to write everyday and produce at least 1,000 words a day. I found it to be a very interesting book and great insight into the mind of one of the world’s great authors.
82. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 1981, I first read this book in the early 1990s. Confederacy of Dunces is a very entertaining, laugh out loud read. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is 30 years old and highly educated but a total sloth. He lives with his mother in New Orleans. The book is about his adventures which include getting a job. Great book. RECOMMENDED.
81. The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts, by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien. The authors of this book are writers of the fantastic blog “Farnam Street.” Great Mental Models is about how to use the concept of mental models to make better decisions. This book covered First Principles Thinking, Occam’s Razor, Hanlon’s Razor and Inversion, among others. I thought this book was a pretty good discussion of mental models. Very helpful.
80. Paradox, by Margaret Cuonzo. The author is the chair of the philosophy department at LIU Brooklyn and, as such, this book on paradoxes is highly philosophical as it dives deep into the different types of paradoxes and potential ways to address them. I learned a lot but found this book to be a challenging read at times given the very in-depth philosophical and logical arguments.
79. Hyperion (Cantos Book 1), by Dan Simmons. Hyperion often makes top Sci-Fi book of all time lists. Written in 1989, it won the Hugo Award in 1990 for best Sci-Fi book. I last read this book in my 20s. It was a delight to read it again. Hyperion is about seven pilgrims who journey to the “Time Tombs” on the planet Hyperion for an audience with “The Shrike” – also known as the “Lord of Pain.” On the pilgrimage, each of the pilgrims shares their story. The next book in the series will detail their reaching the Time Tombs and their interaction with the Shrike. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
78. Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process, by John McPhee. This book is about writing and more specifically on writing non-fiction stories. John McPhee is a long time writer for The New Yorker and before that for Time Magazine. He also teaches writing at Princeton. Draft No. 4 is a beautifully written book that is more a homage to writing that it is an instruction manual. Along the way, he weaves stories and advice together in a seamless web. Great book (especially if you have an interest in writing). RECOMMENDED.
77. Lake Success: A Novel, by Gary Shteyngart. I adored this book. It centers on Barry Cohen, the head of a failing hedge fund who is about to be under investigation by the SEC for insider trading. He leaves his wife and autistic child, ditches his cell phone and credit cards and travels from NYC to San Diego via Greyhound Bus. The book chronicles his meltdown and who he meets with during his travels. The book is a parody of wealthy investment managers and is quite fun. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
76. Get Money: Live the Life You Want, Not Just the Life You Can Afford, by Kristin Wong. Get Money is a great introductory financial literacy book. Ms. Wong does a fantastic job simply explaining complex concepts like income taxes, retirement plans and investing. The book covers budgeting, cash flow, managing and paying down debt, managing your credit score, saving and investing, among other topics. This book should be required reading for all young adults! RECOMMENDED.
75. The Institute: A Novel, by Stephen King. Have you read much by Stephen King? He is a master storyteller and one of the most published living authors. He is know as a horror author, but most of his books are not horror books. The Institute centers on Luke Ellis, a genius 12-year old who is kidnapped from Minnesota and taken to “the institute” in Maine where special children with psychic abilities are used as weapons to assassinate various world figures. Fantastic, page-turning read! So fun and so good. RECOMMENDED.
74. Successful Investing is a Process: Structuring Efficient Portfolios for Outperformance, by Jacques Lussier. This is the third time I’ve read this book. It provides an insightful look at portfolio design. It hits active vs. passive, what factors driver performance, valuation, indexes, asset allocation and rebalancing among other topics. It is a pretty in-depth work and often reads like a textbook, so it’s not for the faint of heart. My favorite point of the book: the objective of investors should not be to outperform the market, but to allow the market to under-perform. Great concept and distinction.
73. News of the World: A Novel, by Paulette Jiles. This book was a National Book Award Finalist. It is a beautifully told story of Captain Jefferson Kidd traveling with a ten-year old girl, Johanna, through Texas in 1870. Johanna was captured by the Kiowa Indians and lived with them from age six to ten. Captain Kidd was charged with returning her to her family in San Antonio. The book has great character development and is a delight. RECOMMENDED.
72. Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. Wow. Leonardo was an amazing genius. In addition to his paintings, he made groundbreaking discoveries in anatomy, physiology, the motion of fluids, optics and physics. Unfortunately, many of his projects were never finished or published. He left over 7,000 pages of notes from his notebooks, but that is considered a fraction of what he actually wrote. I learned a lot from this book. It was quite long, 625 pages, and much of it very detailed in terms of his art and other pursuits. Walter Isaacson is a fantastic biographer. RECOMMENDED.
71. The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. This very long book (just under 800 pages) follows Theo Decker from adolescence through his late twenties and in some respects is a coming of age story. His story is intertwined with that of a painting, The Goldfinch, by Fabritius. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014 and is beautifully written and the story is fantastic. The character development is great as well – you really get a feel for Theo, his best friend Boris and others. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
70. The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. This book was fantastic! I learned so much! Of course I knew that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane and first flew it at Kitty Hawk in 1903. That was about the extent of my knowledge. This book explains how they came up with their groundbreaking technology, even though neither Wilbur or Orville had a college education. It details all their flights and how they pushed ahead aviation science, all while being incredibly humble. Great read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
69. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek. I am conflicted about this book. On one hand he makes a great point that all great companies are focused on their “why” – while many companies instead focus on their “what.” Totally agree. “People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.” Agreed. On the other hand, he makes the same point over and over and over with examples from basically the same companies (Apple and Southwest and Microsoft). I got 90% of what I needed to know from his 18 minute TED talk (which has 50 million views).
68. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo. I adored this book! it is told as a fable and follows Santiago, a shepherd, as he leaves his flock and travels to Africa to follow his “legend.” This is a wonderful read and is packed full of great life lessons. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read and I’ve added to my all-time favorites list. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
67. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. The movie Blade Runner is based on this classic work of Science Fiction, written in the 1960s. It is set in 2021 after a devastating world war which has rendered the earth barely habitable. Much of humanity has emigrated to the moon and Mars. The book focuses on Rick Deckard who is a bounty hunter for the San Francisco police as he tracks down six androids who have escaped Mars and come to Earth. It’s an interesting book.
66. The Power of One – A Novel, by Bryce Courtenay. This novel centers on a boy called Peekay from childhood through high school as he grows up in South Africa in the 1940s and 1950s. He has a tough childhood, but also finds some great friendships and mentors. He develops a goal to be the welterweight champion of the world. This was an amazing and inspiring novel and is one of the better works of fiction I’ve read. It is definitely going on my list of all-time favorite books. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
65. The Success Equation: Untangling Skill From Luck in Business, Sports and investing, by Michael Mauboussin. The Success Equation is one of my favorite books – I read it previously when it was first released in 2012. It has had a huge effect on my thinking in so many areas. The book focuses on the concept of skill vs. luck. How can you tell when results are mostly due to skill (like chess) or due to luck (roulette). Many of the concepts discussed in the book have had a material effect on how we think about investments at my firm. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
64. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo. Ms. Oluo is a black woman and her book on race provided a very valuable, and often uncomfortable, perspective on race in America. Her discussions of white privilege, white supremacy and our culture of oppression really hit me hard. It is really easy for me to just continue on in life in my upper-middle class white male bubble. Reading about a different perspective and how I am contributing to America’s structural race problems was disturbing. At times, I felt defensive and argumentative, but if I stopped and really focused on the author’s point of view I could understand her perspective. I think this is an important book for white people to read. Ms. Oluo really does a great job of explaining the structural issues in our society with respect to race and privilege. RECOMMENDED.
63. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win, by Jeff Haden. The author, a columnist for Inc. Magazine and ghostwriter, provides solid advice and insight into being more effective. Notably, he advises to create a goal, then a process/plan for achieving the goal. At that point, it makes sense to not focus on the goal and really just focus on the plan/process you created. Thinking a lot about goals and the future isn’t effective. Following a process is effective. Good book.
62. The Art of Philosophizing and Other Essays, by Bertrand Russell. This book is a very thought provoking series of essays by philosopher, mathematician and polymath Berrrand Russell. The essays focus on what sort of mindset is necessary to truly be a philosopher and the importance of understanding mathematics and science. At times I just had to put down the book and think. One quote that is spot on IMO: “People’s opinions are mainly designed to make them feel comfortable; truth, for most people is a secondary consideration.”
61. Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection, by Alexander Kane. This book was a very fun read (actually, I listened to it). The book focuses on Andrea who lands a job as administrative assistant to the head of operations for CUP – the Corporation for Ultrahuman Protection. CUP employs superheros who are contracted to protect various cities from crime and evil. Super fun, enjoyable and funny read (listen).
60. Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon. I loved this memoir but I was also disturbed by it. This book is a very personal story of the author’s life. He is black and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, raised by a single mother. The book concerns sex, destructive relationships, gender issues, self-loathing, obsession and addiction. It also is about race. This book allowed me to see our country through the eyes of a person who grew up as a black in the South. His views of white people and white privilege are eye-opening. As are his views of black abundance (of which white people have no clue). The book is very intimate and is written in the form of a letter to his mother. Really amazing book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
59. Frontiers of Modern Asset Allocation, by Paul Kaplan. Dr. Kaplan is the quantitative research director at Morningstar. This book is basically a collection of articles written previously by Dr. Kaplan, sometimes in conjunction with others, on various topics relating to asset allocation. Some of the articles are more basic and some are quite advanced. Interestingly, some of the chapters were moderated interviews with giants in investment theory such as Harry Markowitz, Roger Ibbotsen and Benoit Mandelbrot. The book also contained some debates among experts about various aspects of asset allocation.
58. Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World, by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope. This book is about Jho Low, a Malaysian “businessman” who engineered the establishment of a multi-billion dollar Malaysian sovereign wealth fund (1MDB) and then basically stole the money and spent much of it partying. Very interesting story and totally crazy that he was able to dupe so many people, including banks, law firms, accounting firms and Goldman Sachs. Really hits home how greedy most companies are that they’d overlook obvious signs of fraud.
57. The Rule of the Bone: A Novel, by Russell Banks. The main character of the book is a 14-year old boy named Chappie who later goes by the name “Bone” based on a tattoo he obtained with crossed bones. He has a very tough childhood, gets involved in drugs, gets kicked out of his house and lives as a homeless teen. He has some pretty amazing experiences and ends up in Jamaica. Great book and very interesting story. RECOMMENDED.
56. The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father, by Janny Scott. This book is about the author’s family and the story she tells spans five generations. The family had great wealth and multiple generations lived in separate houses on 800 acres of pristine property on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia. It is a fascinating look inside a family of wealth and their relationships, achievements and misfortune over generations. The Beneficiary is beautifully written and very well researched. I loved it. RECOMMENDED.
55. In a Dark, Dark Wood, by Ruth Ware. This was a classic murder mystery thriller in the style of Agatha Christie. A group of friends goes to a remote house in the woods for a “hen night” (a bachelorette party) and a death ensues. The main character ends up in the hospital with amnesia and is a prime suspect. She needs to remember in order to understand what happened and to clear herself of suspicion. Fun read!
54. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo. As a male, this was a fascinating book to read. The author spent seven years interviewing the three women featured in the book as well as their friends and family. She lived in their communities for awhile as well. The book is an intimate portrayal of the lives of the three women with a focus on their sex lives. Maggie was in a sexual relationship with her teacher as a teenager. Lina is a mother of two and a housewife who is in a loveless marriage. Sloane is a fashionable restaurant owner whose husband likes to see her have sex with other men. It is an engaging and fascinating insight into female desire and relationships.
53. Recursion: A Novel, by Blake Crouch. Recursion was a very interesting book. It is about a scientist who creates a chair that allows people to return to prior memories. This causes a split in time and reality for everyone in the world. The memory chair gets into the wrong hands and unintended consequences take over. This book was very thought provoking in terms of time, cause and effect and the nature of reality.
52. Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success, by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. A book a read a few months ago, The Formula, makes the point that success is really about what others think of you. Executive Presence is about how to act and present yourself as a leader so that you can be perceived as successful. This book is highly researched and full of real life examples and stories. The author posits that having presence is based on three elements: (1) gravitas, (2) communication and (3) appearance. The book makes great points and would help anyone looking to further their career. RECOMMENDED.
51. Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein. Published in 1959 this Hugo Award Winning book is a classic work of science fiction by one of my favorite authors. This is the third or fourth time I’ve read it. AND – the movie of the same name is nothing like the book. The book follows Johnnie Rico who defies his parents and joins the Terran Federation as Mobile Infantry out high school. Mobile Infantry uses powered suits of armor to give them super-human abilities. The book tracks Johnnie’s experience through boot camp, O.C.S. and various battles. It is very philosophical on military service and being a citizen and is often criticized as being a work of military propaganda. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
50. Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. This book is the first in a Trilogy about first interactions between an African tribe and Europeans in the 1800s. Written in 1959, this book is a classic work of African literature an sold more than 20 million copies and has been translated into over 50 languages. It is told from the perspective of Okonkwo, a wealthy and respected member of a tribe. Fantastic Book! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
49. The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins. Loved this book! I guess you’d call it fantasy, but its set in modern times in the current U.S. The main character is Carolyn, a “librarian” who is expert in languages. She has 11 other “siblings” who are also librarians and are expert in other areas, such as healing, warfare, communing with animals, etc. They all have been raised and trained by “Father” a sixty-thousand year old ruler of the universe. Father, the Library and Librarians are all unknown to normal humans. Great plot and character development! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
48. Glory Road, by Robert A. Heinlein. This book was written in 1963 by one of my all-time favorite authors. Robert A. Heinlein is considered one of the three classic great Science Fiction authors (along with Issac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke). Glory Road actually fits within the fantasy genre – rare for Heinlein. This is a fun book that follows Oscar Gordon, a military hero, as he jumps through various universes on a hero’s mission. Fun read!
47. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What a great summer read! Favorite quote: “So we drove toward death through the cooling twilight.” Previously read this book 30ish years ago. The classic story of Nick Carraway, the Bucannans and Jay Gatsby one summer in Long Island in the 1920s. So good. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
46. Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun, by Paul Barrett. This was a really good read. It is the story of the amazing rise of the Glock as the most popular handgun in America. The story of how the Glock was invented in a basement in Austria and then became the go-to weapon for police forces across the country as well as the FBI and ATF is astounding. Glock has had a huge effect on the design of handguns in the U.S. including bigger caliber guns, larger magazines and smaller size. The book also discussed the gun culture in the U.S., the NRA, and the unintended consequences of past gun control laws. RECOMMENDED!
45. The Wisdom of Insecurity, by Alan Watts. Written in 1951, this book was way ahead of its time. It’s a stunning work of modern philosophy, focusing on living in the present, the differences (or lack thereof) between our minds and brains (or “I” and “me”) and the role of religion, faith and belief in life. I highlighted so much of this book and I’ll let it sit and then read it again. Amazing HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
44. Golden Son (The Red Rising Series, Book 2), by Pierce Brown. This is the second book Red Rising 5 book series and a solid follow up to the outstanding first book Red Rising. The book continues the saga of Darrow, a low born Mars miner, a “Red”, who is part of a rebellion against the “Gold” leaders of solar system empire. He is “carved” to appear as a Red and infiltrates their leadership and society. This book takes a darker turn than the first one. Excellent Sci-Fi/Fantasy book!
43. Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World, by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. This was a really good book about company culture and leadership. The nine lies are: (1) people care which company they work for, (2) the best plan wins, (3) the best companies cascade goals, (4) the best people are well-rounded, (5) people need feedback, (6) people can reliably rate other people, (7) people have potential, (8) work-life balance matters most and (9) leadership is a thing. The messages in this book are somewhat counter-intuitive at times, but yet ring true. Really made me think. RECOMMENDED.
42. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business, by Patrick Lencioni. This is fantastic book on leadership and management. Patrick Lencioni is the author many other fantastic leadership books, most notably The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. The Advantage is basically a recap and summary of all his books and concepts. He makes really great points and has very practical suggestions for improving any organization. His main point is that for a business to be successful it needs to be both smart and healthy, yet almost all business education as well as the focus of management is on the smart side. This book is about how executives can focus on healthy. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
41. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. The Graveyard Book is the story of Nobody Owens, a boy whose family was murdered when he was a toddler and was raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The book details his various experiences in the graveyard and his interactions in the world of the living. The stories are all tied together by the specter of his family’s murderer still wanting to kill him hanging over his head. This was a really fun book. I loved it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
40. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past Book 3), by Cixin Liu. This was the third book of the Three Body Problem Trilogy which may be the best Sci-Fi trilogy I’ve ever read (even the Foundation Trilogy) and I included book 2, The Dark Forest as one of my five favorite fiction books of 2018. Death’s End, like the other books in the series, is quite long at just over 600 pages, but worth the effort. Many parts of Death’s End I’d rank up there with The Three Body Problem and The Dark Forest, but overall I wasn’t quite as in to this book as the other two – great book, but the least strong of the three. This third book focuses on Cheng Xin, a physicist that finds herself thrust into being a key decision-maker of some of the most important decisions in the history of humanity. Her story spans a huge length of time as she takes advantage of hibernation technology and then travel at the speed of light. The plot was meandering, yet compelling with many mind-bending philosophical issues. I loved this book and the Trilogy and am very sad that I am done with it! RECOMMENDED.
39. The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love and Meaning, by Scott Galloway. This book was a lot different than I thought it was going to be. I had read Prof. Galloway’s prior book, The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, which was a great read about those companies and expected this book to be an academic treatment of happiness given the author’s academic chops. While The Algebra of Happiness does concern happiness, it is a deeply personal book that consists of life lessons and epiphanies. It covers love, family, relationships, dying, ego, success, health, aging, among others. I loved the writing style and the stories. I found a lot of truth in the lessons the author relayed in the book. I thought this was a really great book and I plan on reading it again after I let it sit a bit. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
38. Washington Black: A Novel, by Esi Edugyan. This novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year. The book follows George Washington Black, a field slave on a sugar plantation in Barbados as he escapes with a white member of the plantation family, develops his artistic talent and helps design the world’s first aquarium. Washington Black spends much of the book on a quest. Dynamite book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
37. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. This book is written as a leadership fable. It centers on the relatively new manager of a manufacturing plant, Alex, as he struggles to bring his plant to profitability within a short timeline given to him by the company’s division head. The author, Eli Goldratt is the world’s leading expert on the “Theory of Constraint” and teaches those lessons throughout the book. I thought this book was dynamite and have been pondering how to apply some of his concepts to a service company such as our firm. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
36. The Formula = The Universal Laws of Success: The Science Behind Why People Succeed or Fail, by Albert-Laslo Barabási. Dr Barabási is a theoretical physicist who is a leader in network science. This fantastic book discusses five laws of success. The laws include: #1 performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success, and #3 previous success x fitness = future success. Great book – I learned a lot. RECOMMENDED.
35. The Circle, by Dave Eggers. I thought this was a profound book. When the main character, Mae Holland, lands a coveted job at the tech firm “The Circle” she quickly gets sucked into it’s culture and ethos. The Circle is a fictional combination of Facebook and Google. Over time Mae becomes more and more immersed in the world the Circle has created and gives up more and more of her self to the company. She ends up being a key diffuse in the Circle’s success in getting most of America to give up their privacy. Great story that was also a chilling parody. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
34. The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You, By Scott E. Page. This book was about models and very thought provoking. Dr. Page is a professor at University of Michigan and teaches a popular course on models. The book relates to the science of models, how to think about models and then covers many different models such as path dependence, random walks, modeling uncertainty, game theory and modeling cooperation. Interesting read.
33. Head On: A Novel of the Near Future, by John Scalzi. This is the sequel to the book listed below. I liked Lock In so much I read the sequel. It’s the same characters pursuing another case. I liked it as much as the first book. RECOMMENDED.
32. Lock In: A Novel of the Near Future, by John Scalzi. Fascinating page-turner! In the near future, millions of people have been infected by a virus that renders them “locked in” – they are fully conscious but cannot move their bodies or move them anyway. They experience reality through robot bodies and have a very vigorous existence in a digital world. The book follows Chris, a locked-in person who is an FBI agent. She/he (the gender is not revealed) works on a case with his/her partner. Great book. RECOMMENDED.
31. Investing: The Last Liberal Art, by Robert Hagstrom. This is a fantastic investing book. It covers various disperse top pics of knowledge, including physics, biology, sociology and psychology. The author skillfully ties what investing lessons we can learn from these other disciplines. Really though provoking book! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
30. Vanguard (Genesis Fleet Book One), by Jack Campbell. This was a fun Sci-Fi book that followed a few characters as they made their way out to new far away colonies. Good character development and a fast moving plot. Solid sci-fi book!
29. The Known, the Unknown, and the Unknowable in Financial Risk Management: Measurement and Theory Advancing Practice, Edited by Neil A. Doherty & Francis X. Diebold. Each chapter of this book is by a different economist and deals with a different aspect of dealing with the known, unknown and unknowable. It’s a pretty heavy read, but a very worthwhile dive into risk management. Outstanding compilation. Recommended for anyone in the financial industry.
28. Dirt Music: A Novel, by Tim Winton. This book is set in a small fishing town in Western Australia. The main character, Georgie, is somewhat adrift in her life. She’s a former nurse who has married a successful and older widower fisherman with two adolescent boys. Georgie meets Lou, a down and out former musician struggling in the wake of tragedy and they upend each other’s lives. I found this book to be beautifully written with really great character development. Good read. RECOMMENDED.
27. Blue Labyrinth, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. This is the 14th book in the Agent Pendergast series by the authors. Over the years I’ve read the prior 13 books and they are among my guilty pleasures. They are action-packed page-turners with one of the most unique main characters in all of thriller fiction: Aloysius Xingu Leng Pendergast. A.X.L. Pendergast is a lone wolf FBI special agent who is highly intelligent, very well educated, from an old New Orleans family of great wealth. This book was a bit darker than most of the Pendergast books, but still a very lively and fun read.
26. The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is a fun book of aphorisms that Nassim Taleb has developed that encompass his view of the world. His writing style, as always, is quite dismissive of the financial establishment, particularly economists. Many of the aphorisms, however, I found on-point and I spent some time reflecting upon. Some of my favorites: “An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion,” “some ideas are born as you write them down, others become dead,” “for the robust, an error is information; for the fragile an error is an error,” and “you can only convince people who think they can benefit from being convinced.”
25. The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics, by Michael Shermer. This was an interesting, winding book that covered a ton of ground, including behavioral biases, evolution, what makes us happy, the benefits of capitalism, statistics, probability and uncertainty. I learned a lot.
24. The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, by Ryan Holiday. I really liked this book. While it seemed a bit preachy at times, it has great advice for living life based on the great Stoic philosophers. A key theme of the book, as the title suggests, is how to take on obstacles and overcome them. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
23. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel, by Taylor Reid Jenkins. This book follows the rise and break-up of a fictional rock band in the 1970s: Daisy Jones & The Six. It is told from the perspective of various band members, friends and supporting crew in the form of interviews. It weaves an interesting story with really good character development. I enjoyed the book very much. RECOMMENDED.
22. Elevation: A Novel, by Stephen King. A short, quick, fun read by a master storyteller. The main character of this book has a problem: he is losing weight. Each day he loses over a pound, but his body remains the same. What will happen when he reaches zero? Fantastic character development as well as an interesting plot.
21. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. This book is a fantastical journey into an unknown world that exists around us. The main character, a man about 50, remembers vividly wildly strange occurrences from when he was 7 years old. The occurrences related to mysterious beasts and magical sorcerers that have existed since the beginning of time. Fun read.
20. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides. This book was a slow-burning page-turner. It focuses on a women accused of killing her husband now residing in a mental institution who has not spoken since the murder and on her therapist who tries to understand what happened and get her to talk. Really fun book Interesting twists and turns. RECOMMENDED.
19. The Holy Sh!t Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant, by James Fell. This book resonated with me – it postulates, based on research studies and examples – that often dramatic change happens with an epiphany or a “holy shit moment” rather than gradually over time. I became vegan in 2002 when I had a holy shit moment and “flipped a switch.” You can’t really lead someone to an epiphany, but the author, a health and wellness writer, provides some great advice and direction for how to achieve a holy shit moment. RECOMMENDED.
18. The Last Samurai, by Helen DeWitt. There are two main characters. The first half of the book is told from the perspective of Sibylla an American who studied at Oxford who finds herself the single mother of a genius, Ludo, who she teaches to read Greek and do algebra at age 3 and knows 20 languages by age 11. Sibylla watches the 1954 classic Japanese film The Seven Samurai to help provide Ludo with male role models. The second half of the book is from Ludo’s perspective as he tries to find out who his father is (Sibylla won’t tell him) and find a father figure. Very strange, well-written, interesting book. A primary point is that the educational system is broken and doesn’t allow children to grow intellectually and to learn to think. RECOMMENDED.
17. And the Wind Sees All, by Guđmundur Andri Thorsson, This book was translated from Icelandic. It takes place in the small fishing village of Valeyri and each chapter of the books tells a story of a villager who observes a character, Kata, riding her bike to a choir concert. It is a beautifully written book and the development of each character in each chapter is impressively done. I enjoyed this book.
16. The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence, by Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard Hudson. Benoit Mandelbrot was the founder of Fractal Geometry. In this fascinating book he details how/why the standard mathematical model of the stock market is flawed and how fractal mathematics provides a much better model. I think this is a must-read for any financial professional. An important book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
15. Stoner, by John Williams. This is a class work of literature written in 1965. It follows the life of William Stoner as a student and then professor at the University of Missouri in the 1910s through the 1950s. Beautifully written, it is about love (and lack of love) of people and books and teaching. It is also about lost opportunity, integrity and knowing who you are. Great book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
14. Bandwidth (An Analog Novel), by Eliot Peper. This novel is sci-fi-esque without being full on sci-fi. The main character, Dag Calhoun, is a top lobbyist whose “feed” is hacked by ethical hackers looking to improve the world. Dag has to determine who he is, what he stands for and what is important to him. A thriller and a page turner.
13. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle, by Steven Pressfield. What the author means by “art” is rather broad – it can apply to being an author, artist, musician, athlete, business person, etc. It applies to people who create. What keeps us from creating and being our best is something that lives within all of us called “the resistance.” The book is about the resistance, how to spot it and some suggestions for overcoming it. Fantastic book if your life has anything to do with being creative. RECOMMENDED.
12. The Future of Humanity: Terraforming Mars, Interstellar Travel, Immortality, and Our Destiny Beyond Earth, by Michio Kaku. In this fascinating book Dr. Kaku, a theoretical physicist, covers a lot of ground about space travel and humanity’s possible future among the stars. The book is written in a non-technical fashion and the author does a great job of explaining complex topics including the physics behind various types of advanced rocket engines, wormholes, and string theory. I learned a lot from this book and really enjoyed it. RECOMMENDED.
11. Chinese Gucci, by Hosho McCreesh. This novel centers on a young adult (I think he’s about 20) named Akira. He longs to be popular and to live a high lifestyle. We learn that his mother recently died and he has a troubled relationship with his father. To earn money to fund his lifestyle Akira travels periodically to Mexico to buy fake designer purses and then sell them on eBay. Akira’s story is spiraling one of self-destruction and self-loathing that escalates throughout the book.
10. The Great Believers, A Novel, by Rebecca Makkai. The setting of this book is split between the mid-to-late 1980s in Chicago and 2015 in Paris. The story centers on a group of gay men living in Chicago during the AIDS epidemic and the aftermath of the epidemic. It is told in the 1980s by Yale, one of the gay men, and in 2015 by Fiona, the sister of one of the men and a friend to the rest of them. This book is extremely well written with fantastic character development. Really gives an insight into the fear and deadliness of the AIDS epidemic. very powerful book. RECOMMENDED.
9. Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World, by Anand Giridharadas. This is a very important book in my opinion. Reading it made me feel uncomfortable and disturbed and re-thinking my whole life. The author’s main point is that our current system of government, politics and capitalism is rigged in favor of global elites. This has resulted in astounding and increasing inequality that is not sustainable. Much of America and the world seems to be rebelling against the global elites and inequality, with examples being the election of Donald Trump and Brexit. Up to now, the global elites (of which I am a very junior member) have tried to do “good” within the system they have created and have benefited themselves. The author does not propose any concrete solutions but rather suggests that battling inequality will require changes to the system, not merely having rich people give to charity, establish B Corporations and engage in impact investing. Eye-opening book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
8. Scale: The Universal Laws of Life, Growth, and Death in Organisms, Cities and Companies, by Geoffrey West. Sometimes you read a book that makes you think “wow” or “holy cow” and you can sense the explosion of dopamine in your brain as you learn new and amazing things. Such books are few and far between, and Scale is one of those books for me. Geoffrey West is a particle physicist and formerly head of high-energy physics at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then served as president of the Santa Fe Institute. He has spent decades, along with other researchers, researching the laws of scale of organisms, cities and companies. It is an area that was scantly researched prior to Dr. West. Scale is a fascinating tour of the power laws relating to the laws of growth. Amazing. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
7. Circe, by Madeline Miller. This book is about the goddess Circe, Titan daughter of Helios. She is also a witch. She was famous for being Odysseus’s lover and for turning sailors into pigs. Circe is the narrator of the book and provides a very interesting perspective of living through centuries as a goddess as mortals come and go and as the various other gods interact and fight. It is beautifully written, a page-turner and all-around great book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
6. The Fox Hunt: A Refugee’s Memoir of Coming to America, by Mohammed Al Samawi. This was a book club selection at work. It tells the amazing story of the author’s childhood in Yemen, his work as an interfaith activist, getting stranded and nearly killed during the civil war in Yemen and his harrowing escape as a refugee to America during said war. This book gives a very interesting insight into growing up in a strict Muslim community and the challenges faced by the 50 million plus people who are currently displaced by wars and sectarian violence. Eye-opening book. RECOMMENDED.
5. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day won the Man Booker prize in 1989 and Mr. Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. His book Never Let Me Go is one of my all-time favorite novels. The Remains of the Day centers on a butler, Stevens, who manages a great house of a Lord in the 1920s through the present day of the story – the 1950s. Stevens takes a road trip to visit a former housekeeper of the house and on that journey thinks back about his career and also about his employer. Themes of the book concern loyalty, duty, the role of friendship, as well as dignity. Really fantastic book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Written in 1967, One Hundred Years of Solitude often ranks high in lists of the best novels of all-time. This was my first time reading it and I loved it. It tells the story of seven generations of the Buendía family in the fictitious town of Macondo, Columbia. Over the course of the book, generations of Buendia’s are born, marry, age and die. A theme that emerges is how history has a pattern and somewhat repeats over time. While a long book (over 400 pages), it is an engaging read. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
3. Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them, by Jennifer Wright. This was a great book: full of facts, interesting to read, surprisingly funny at times (Jennifer Wright has a great sense of humor) and did a great job of relaying important lessons. The book covers the Antonine Plague, the Bubonic Plague, Dancing Plague, Smallpox, Syphillis, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Leprosy, Typhoid, Spanish Flu, Encephalitis Lethargica, Lobotomies, Polio and AIDS (in the Epilogue). A key point made throughout the book is that it is the disease that is the enemy – not the people with the disease. Treating those who have contracted a disease, whether it is Leprosy, Syphillis, or AIDS, with compassion is key to eradicating the disease. Additionally, having strong leaders during a disease outbreak is very important. RECOMMENED. Related IFOD on Pandemic Preparedness.
2. The Secret of Fatima: A Father Kevin Thrall Thriller, by Peter J. Tanous. I read this book because Nassim Taleb tweeted this about the book: “Masterly! This is the page turner par excellence; every new page brings some surprise and it was impossible for me to put the book down. I even read some of it during elevator rides, not being able to resist. And truly sophisticated: Nobody but Peter Tanous would have imagined to cross James Bond with a Catholic priest.” Given my respect for Mr. Taleb’s intellect and given the excellent books of his I have read, I purchased and eagerly dove into The Secret of Fatima. True to Mr. Taleb’s recommendation I found that it was a page-turner with an interesting plot. However, I thought that it wasn’t very well written and quite choppy. It was a bit like a (more) poorly written version of the Da Vinci Code. I don’t recommend it.
1.My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh. I really enjoyed this book. The narrator (we never learn her name) seems to have it all: she’s gorgeous and thin, a recent Columbia grad and is financially secure from an inheritance. However, things are not always as they appear. She only has one friend who she finds irritating. Her parents are dead. She has no motivation and is in a dark hole spiritually. She decides to take a year off and mainly sleep. Her sleeping is assisted by an amazing assortment of psychological drugs she gets from what might be the worst psychiatrist in all of literature. I found it very well written, with great character development and highly engaging. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Five Stars.
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