The Forgotten Depression: 1921, the Crash That Cured Itself / James Grant

The enormity of fiscal and monetary stimulus thrown by this country at the crisis of 2007-2009 is entirely without precedent — and it bought us the slowest economic recovery ever. To the acerbic James Grant, this is no surprise, and he longs for the halcyon days of the business depression that followed the sudden end of WW1. The nascent Federal Reserve raised interest rates in the teeth of this massive deflation, and the fiscal authorities moved — if you can even believe this — to balance the budget. There was no stimulus or intervention of any kind — leaving wages and prices quickly to fall to market-clearing levels. The Depression burned itself out in 18 months, to be followed by the unprecedented boom of the 1920s.

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels / Alex Epstein

There are over 7 billion human beings in the world. The International Energy Agency classifies 3 billion of these as not having “adequate electricity,” including 1.3 billion who have none at all. Yet for the past half century, predictions of environmental disaster wreaked by fossil fuels, together with draconian proposals for cutting back their use, have held sway, despite the fact that none of these predictions have come true. The author asks what our standard of value is. If it is the quality, not to say the sanctity, of human life, than the world needs more rather than less electricity. And the only way to generate sufficient electricity — once nuclear and hydro are off the table, as the environmental religion decrees that they must be — is by burning more fossil fuels. (Of course, if human life is not our standard of value, then we are left to wonder what is.) The reader will find this book a profoundly moral exercise.

Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid that Avenged Pearl Harbor / James M. Scott

Even as we mark the 70th Anniversary of WWII, and that generation of citizen soldiers passes away, the literature of the war continues to add spectacular books. This first account of the Doolittle Raid that can be termed definitive is a case in point. Mr. Scott has not only rendered the most detailed and authoritative account of the men and the mission, but has developed as no one before a complete history of the aftermath, and the terrible reprisals carried out by the Japanese against the Chinese who aided the fliers. Only two of the 79 raiders remain with us, including Doolittle’s co-pilot, Richard Cole, who turned 100 on Labor Day. Target Tokyo evokes the memory of these gallant Americans, all of whom volunteered for what they knew to be a one-way mission.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics / Richard Thaler

It is only in the last 40 years that we have come to realize that investor behavior rather than investment performance is the dominant determinant of real-life financial outcomes. In Misbehaving, the godfather of behavioral economics, Richard Thaler, takes us on that four-decade, epiphany by epiphany journey in an account that advisors will find even more spritely than scholarly. Along the way, we meet the other actors in this quest, including Daniel Kahneman, his late (and bitterly lamented) colleague, Amos Tversky, and many of the lesser known but important contributors to the science. This is the best account of that development we will ever have, and a joy to read — because in addition to all his other sterling qualities, Professor Thaler turns out to be a genuinely funny guy.

Reagan: The Life / H.W. Brands

The two great presidents of the 20th Century — intriguingly from diametric opposite ends of the political/economic spectrum are Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. But it has taken a decade since Reagan’s passing for there to appear a rigorous, fair-minded, one volume biography. This book gives us an astonishingly good read: his chapter on Reagan and Gorbachev at Reykjavik is the most lucid I’ve read. Roosevelt and Reagan were certainly opposed in their political philosophies. But they were alike in their supreme faith in America’s future, and that’s the quality that shines through this luminous biography.

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader / Brent Schlender & Rick Tetzeli

Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs — published within a month of his subject’s death — could hardly have been expected to be definitive, however much one admired it for its timeliness. And over time, it has become clear that no few people who were quite close to Jobs disagreed fundamentally with Isaacson’s half-genius, half-jerk characterization. This new volume is most welcome. Based on the primary author’s quarter century acquaintance with Jobs, it’s key idea is the first word of the title: to Schlender Jobs was always in the process of becoming. The book does not absolve Jobs of his titanic faults, but portrays a person gradually but significantly growing out of many of them. It would have been fascinating to see how the man in full might have turned out.

The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier and More Prosperous America / Arthur Brooks

Conservatives are seen (too often by themselves) as advocating for such values as fiscal discipline and curbing the debt as ends in themselves — as austerity for its own sake, or to protect and advance the interests of the “rich.” Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, would have us realize, and testify to the fact, that fiscal soundness is the only way to sustain the social safety net in the long run — otherwise we become Greece, or Detroit. Likewise, we do not seek to curb soaring dependency on the state out of some animus against the poor. On the contrary, we seek to endow them with the dignity of productive work and self-sufficiency. Going into an election cycle in which the extreme left is already demonizing conservatives as insatiably greedy, hard-hearted and even racist, the thoughtful advisor will welcome this genuinely beautiful book.

America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve / Roger Lowenstein

The idea of a central bank has always been an anathema to a wide swath of Americans — and, albeit for different reasons than those espoused by Jefferson and especially Jackson, and remains so today. Only the IRS is hated more than the Federal Reserve in public surveys. Lowenstein, the earliest and most perceptive biographer of Buffet, and the chronicler of Long-term Capital Management, brings to life in this new book the tortuous political and legislative path which culminated finally in endowing the United States with a lender of last resort. One wonders if the legislation which created an independent Federal Reserve could pass today — and doubts it. America’s Bank is a splendid book of economic history by a first-rate writer, with resonances in this morning’s headlines.

Manias, Panics, and Crashes / Charles P. Kindleberger

In light of current events on the business front I have been dipping into a classic text that provides historical perspective for understanding the events of today. In this classic, Kindleberger provides 10 chapters that give a succinct history of economic crises plus a conclusion – The Lessons of History.

Readability – Easy to read, plenty of examples
Technical Level – Not technical
Knowledge Gained – How to invest your retirement money to provide a lifelong stream of reliable income

Good To Great / Jim Collins

Excellent book for entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s been a number of years since I read this, but it had great significance in how we structured our business. Why would anyone want to do business with a “good business” if they could go with a “great business”?

Readability – Easy to read and follow. Loved the case studies
Technical Level – Not technical
Knowledge Gained – How to build a great reputation and why everyone benefits

The Age of Turbulence / Alan Greenspan

A great read on what goes on behind the scenes. I used to blame Mr. Greenspan for keeping interest at zero for 50 long. I cam still not convinced of his argument but I walked away feeling that some bureaucrats working behind the scenes are really trying to do the right thing. This book will shed lots of light on reasoning that goes on during the Fed’s decisions and perhaps most importantly, give us the impression that the Fed might not necessarily have a grip on this complex and vast economy.

Readability – Flows well; does not use complicated concepts
Technical Level – No financial jargon
Knowledge Gained – Macro economic decisions, past presidents’ economic reasoning and a gentle reminder of how being around power and building a solid reputation can lead to big things

The Theory of Money and Credit / Ludwig von Mises

It is probably best known as the volume which first set out the distinctive Austrian theory of the trade cycle. For that alone, it deserves a place on the bookshelf of everyone who cares about such things (and more people should). But there’s much more to it than that. This volume sets out a complete and groundbreaking theory of money itself: what it is, where it comes from, what it means to speak of its “value,” the differences between commodity money and fiat money, the demand for money and what it has to do with banking, and – crucially – the jiggery-pokery that becomes possible when the State starts messing around with unsound monetary policy.

This edition also includes a section on “Monetary Reconstruction” written in 1952 (and first included in the 1953 Yale University Press edition).

Readability – For non-financial types, this will be a challenging read
Technical Level – Fairly technical
Knowledge Gained – Banking system that America adopted from Austrian model, based on central bank, ARA: Federal Reserve

Asset Allocation / Roger C. Gibson

Why is a long-term, successful portfolio constructed the way it is? Read this classic for the answers. After our recent market melt-down and the subsequent rebounding trend, re-read it! Whether you are in the business or a serious investor who wants to be in the know; this is the book for you. Even though I’ve been through a CFP® prep program and have passed the CFP® Certification Exam, I don’t profess to know it all – especially not in-depth in certain areas. This is a book that I’ll revisit over the years. Mr. Gibson is an acknowledged expert in the field and I learned much from this up-to-date edition. This book will always stay on my shelf.

Readability – Easy to follow and understand
Technical Level – Concepts anyone curious to know and understand concepts of investment, diversification, will be able to follow
Knowledge Gained – Value of diversification, how to construct portfolios, and why it works.

Fooled by Randomness / Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Excellent read for all, especially those that never quite got the grasp of statistics. The author is a bit full of himself, but once you get over that, it becomes more enjoyable, and a very useful reminder of how random variables can be a real game.

Readability – Readers will have to stay alert on this one
Technical Level – Complex
Knowledge Gained – Practical statistics and how they play a roll in each of our lives, particularly investments

Winning the Loser’s Game / Charles D. Ellis

Peter Drucker referred to Winning the Loser’s Game as by far the best book on investment policy and management. Now, in it’s fifth edition, this investing classic has been updated and improved. With refreshing candor, straight talk, and good humor, Winning the Loser’s Game helps individual investors succeed with their investments and control their financial futures. Ellis, dubbed Wall Street’s Wisest Man by Money magazine, has been showing investors for three decades how stock markets really work and what individuals can do to be sure they are long-term winners. Applying wisdom gained from a half a century of working with the leading investment managers and securities firms around the world, Ellis explains how to avoid common traps and get on the road to investment success. Winning the Loser’s Game helps you set realistic objectives and develop a sensible strategy. You will learn how to:

  • Create an investment program based on the realities of markets
  • Use the unfair index fund to succeed, even in tumultuous markets
  • Institute an annual review process to steer your investments well into the future
  • Maximize investing success through five stages, from earning and saving through investing, estate planning, and giving
  • The need for a trustworthy investing guide has never been greater. Sixty million individuals with 401(k)s are now responsible for making important investment decisions. They know they’re not experts but don’t know who to trust.

Readability – Easy to follow
Technical Level – Not technical
Knowledge Gained – Diversification concepts and strategies. A good follow-up on Asset Allocation

Unbroken(A WWII story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption) / Laura Hillenbrand

One of my favorite books. I read the review from Wall Street Journal and went ahead and ordered it. Very well done, thoroughly researched by Ms. Hillenbrand (the author of best seller, Seabiscuit). I lost three nights of sleep last winter on this one, but well worth it. Even my 10th grader liked it!

Readability – Light reading
Technical Level – Non-technical
Knowledge Gained – Life and times of “The Greatest Generation”. The power of God’s grace and mercy.

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