When I was younger I read a lot. It was a way for me to kind of escape reality. Not that my reality was terrible, but getting to live so many different lives is exciting. When I went to college I stopped reading, which is ironic, but I was too busy doing college kid things to read and learn. I dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. It wasn’t until 2011 when I deployed to Afghanistan that I started to read again. I had tons of time to read, and little else to do most of the time. When I came back I stopped reading again because all that time was now taken up by people, the internet, beer, sleeping in a bed, and other little things.

This year I made it a point to read. This was inspired by many things. In 2015 I started actually saving and investing my money. Something about having kids and realizing you don’t want to work until you die drove me to that. I had very little knowledge about investing, so I started reading here and there. I started listening to podcasts centered around saving money and investing. One common theme is that those people read a lot of books. Patrick O’Shaughnessy is probably the most famous “reader” in that little community. I joined Twitter to get closer to these people and started expanding my “FinTwit” web. Following guys like Morgan Housel, Patrick, Michael Batnick, Josh Brown, and many others has led to some incredible books.

This year so far I have read north of 35 books. I wanted to write a few notes about each one. This list is sort of chronological but I can’t remember the exact order I read them in.

One Up On Wall Street-Peter Lynch presents a strong case for contrarian investing. His track record is remarkable. He basically plowed huge sums of money into solid companies that were being unfairly beaten up for various reasons. This was one of my early introduction in the Efficient Market Hypothesis. I still think in the long-term markets are efficient, but short term people completely destroy any efficiency. I believe Peter proves this with his performance. 4/5

The Undoing Project-This was the first Michael Lewis book I read. He covers wonderfully the relationship between Amos Tversky and Danial Kahneman and their contributions (read: invention of) Behavioral Economics. He does a great job going into their lives as well, and it led me to want to learn more about the wars that Israel fought. One book on my nightstand covers the Six Day War and I’m excited to reach it in the queue. This book inevitably led me to other Michael Lewis books. I loaned this particular one to my boss and he dropped it in a bathtub of water…5/5

Moneyball-I saw the movie so I knew vaguely what to expect. Being a life-long St. Louis Cardinals devotee and baseball player I was excited for this one. The story, as all Lewis-told stories are, is told exceptionally well. This opened my eyes to lots of aspects of the game I hadn’t yet known. It also illustrates how people react when their reality is challenged. As it turns out, people don’t particularly like it when they’re proven wrong. 4/5

Where Are The Customer’s Yachts-This book is hilarious, and makes you think a lot. If you don’t know the background you could read the whole thing thinking it was written in this decade. The closest thing I know of to Fred Schwed today is Jason Zweig. Any industry where you are supposed to be of service to somebody but you enrich your own life more than their own is probably worth being dismantled. 4/5

The Lost City Of Z-This was brought to my attention thanks to a screenshot Michael Batnick posted on Twitter. It tracks an explorers mysterious expedition into the Amazon to search for a lost city he referred to as Z. It was amazing to me that guys did this with their lives just for the glory, because it paid very little and was incredibly dangerous. The expedition was lost, and nobody quite knows what happened to them. It wasn’t until very recently that people realized he was probably right, and we are still discovering very large Amazon civilizations that were far more sophisticated than we ever knew. 5/5

Thinking Fast And Slow-The Undoing Project turned me to this one, and it was outstanding. This is one book I’ll read again. Daniel Kahneman puts his entire life’s work into these pages and you have an incredible path into his genius mind. It is pretty easy to read, and is eye-opening. 5/5

Flash Boys-Another Lewis book which could probably be a movie. I had no idea that High Frequency Trading existed, but this is a great story told inside that industry. While I’m not sure how I feel about HFT, it is hard to like it after reading this book. Sometimes things just aren’t as they seem. 4/5

Misbehaving-Part of my Rabbit Hole Expedition into Behavioral Economics. Written by Richard Thaler, this is a great extension of Thinking Fast and Slow and was the first books I felt I needed to write in the margins. Another one I’ll read again, but is incredibly helpful to get your brain thinking about things in different ways. 5/5

Nudge-Yep, more Thaler. This time with Cass Sunstein they cover how to influence decisions using Libertarian Paternalism. After reading this books a lot of things from the Obama Administration made more sense. I put some of the idea into practice and it has changed the way I interact with people all the way down to my children. 4/5

River of Doubt-Another Batnick one. This books tells the story of Teddy Roosevelt’s Amazon expedition after he was President of the United States. It is amazing to think that a former US President would embark on such a journey. The story was great, and I learned that Teddy could have become a main course for some Amazonian cannibal tribes. 5/5

The Big Short-Another Lewis book that turned into a movie. I have seen the movie, and was please to see the book was pretty similar. This story is remarkable, and we still haven’t learned much from this event. After recently finishing Liars Poker I realized that nothing has changed and we will repeat these mistakes about every ten years. 4/5

When Genius Failed-I had no idea what Long Term Capital Management was until this book. Another great study on people making incredibly mistakes with their money. Like I mentioned earlier, this seems to happen about every ten years. 4/5

Fooled By Randomness-Nassim Taleb is hard to read sometimes, he is either way too smart for me or a rambling idiot. Either way, this was a great book that ties in well to LTCM, the GFC, and other financial events that we never saw coming. What I got out of this is to question people, no matter how “expert” they seem, this includes Mr. Taleb. 4/5

Too Big To Fail-A pretty comprehensive run-down of the GFC. It is hard to believe that nobody went to jail for this crap, but they didn’t. Everything is great until it isn’t. 4/5

Boomerang-Another Lewis book. This wasn’t one of my favorites of his, it seems rushed and impersonal. What I did get out of this is to expect something bad to happen in the global financial markets soon. Not everything is at it seems and we are stretched thin. 3/5

Against the Gods-The classic book on risk. This was eye-opening for me. It combines EMH, history, and money. I had not realized that the way we deal with risk is fairly new, and changes constantly. Some of the things we take for granted today were revolutionary ideas a hundred years ago. We will never deal with risk perfectly, but we are getting better. 5/5

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman-This was a really fun book to read. Written by the guy who helped build the A-bomb and also won a Nobel in Physics, Mr. Feynman showed me that knowing something is different from understanding it. It helped my change the way I approach learning, and has helped tremendously. This guy knew how to live. 5/5

Shoe Dog-The story of Nike as told my Phil Knight. This guy lived at 100 miles an hour building this company and showed how long it takes to become an overnight success. I read this in two days, and enjoyed it thoroughly. 5/5

The Black Swan-Nassim Taleb brings another one, but I liked Fooled by Randomness better. I almost wish I didn’t read this book because it kind of ruined Taleb for me. His hostility toward those who don’t agree with him is hypocritical in the least. Oh well, he still makes some good points no matter how closed off his mind has become. 2/5

Algorithms To Live By-This was fun, and I suck at math. The grass is always greener, I know now that has been mathematically proven. It has also helped me adjust how I decide things and arrive at conclusions. I’ll likely read this one again. 4/5

The Great Crash 1929-I knew of the Great Depression, everyone does. But I didn’t know really what caused it or how it came about. This book covers it well, and is pretty close to primary source. 4/5

The Aquariums of Pyongyang-This is written by a guy who spent ten years in a North Korean gulag and survived. He then escaped to China and then South Korea. The brutality in NK is mind-boggling. This was another book I finished in a day. 5/5

DIY Financial Advisor-A pretty helpful book written by Dr. Wesley Gray and a few others. This convinced me to reposition my portfolio and simplify, something I knew I needed to do but this gave me the courage. 4/5

Organization Alpha-While I’m not a money manager this was helpful to see how people do manage large sums of capital and things to look out for. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again. 4/5

Adaptive Markets-I really wanted to like this book more, but it should have been half as long. Andrew Lo goes into great detail on the inner working of his AMH that doesn’t so much as challenge EMH as it does complement it. He doesn’t really get into it under the second half of the book and even then it appeared haphazard. It was Thinking Fast and Slow, Nudge, Misbehaving, and several other books all rolled up but unorganized. He still makes some wonderful points and I do think this is a good way to look at markets. 3/5

Endurance-Another Batnick recommendation. I read this book quick, it was wonderful. This made me want to go on adventures but finding them is even more challenging these days. 5/5

The Cardinals Way-This was a Moneyball type book but written about the St. Louis Cardinals. It was interesting to get a deep look into the organization but the book was so poorly written and organized. The author writes columns on baseball, and you can tell, this was just a bunch of columns thrown together. The book had little direction, and I suffered through it. If I didn’t love the Cardinals I would have quit. 2/5

Liar’s Poker-Yep, Lewis again. This was another fast read because he tells stories so incredibly well. The parallels between this and the Big Short are incredible. Just bankers being bankers. 4/5

Fooling Some of the People all of the Time-Written by David Einhorn about his short of Allied Capital. I was pleasantly surprised by this book which I had little hope for once I started. I thought to myself that a book written about one short couldn’t possibly be worth it, especially for how long it was. It was great to see what these guys look for and it peels back the layers on some questionable actions on both sides. 4/5

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance-A coworker recommended that I read this book and I’m glad that I did. It has very little to do with motorcycle maintenance. The book tracks the author’s cross country motorcycle trip with his son and his struggle with sanity. It is worth a read, and has left an impact on me so large that I keep the book on my desk and read parts of it during down time. 5/5

Modern Monopolies-A recommendation from Patrick O’Shaughnessy. This was a great read on platform companies and how they grow and succeed or fail. It was pretty eye opening and allowed me to see companies from several different angles. This is one I’ll probably read again and was one of the more informative books for me. 5/5

How to Lie With Statistics-An older book written in the ‘50s but still incredibly applicable to today. I’m glad I read it because it gave me a new lens to view statistics. As a result I have an incredibly hard time believing anything that is quoted in stats these days. 4/5

Who Gets What and Why-Written by Nobel Laureate Alvin E. Roth this book was actually pretty disappointing. The information on market construction was interesting but it was incredibly repetitive and seemed rather self-aggrandizing. The author just talks about the great things he has done in market construction for 200 some odd pages. Could have been a 20 page white letter. 3/5

Dead Companies Walking-A recommendation from a Twitter friend. This was a fun book to read because Scott Fearon writes like he is just talking to you. He talks in depth about some of his best, and worst, shorts and even some longs he has entered into. It was fun to see another way to view businesses and identify some red flags. 4/5

The Three Body Problem-This is a science fiction book written by a Chinese author. I never read sci-fi but Twitter recommendations were overwhelming. This was an incredible start to the trilogy, and was wonderfully entertaining. The author weaves history, physics and fantasy into a very readable format that kept my attention to the last page. 5/5

The Dark Forest- The second installment in the “Three Body” series. Just as good if not better than the first book, it goes deeper into the science aspect and was really fun. The author explores game theory and society with approachable simplicity and really gets you thinking. I’ve got the last book in the trilogy and can’t wait to start it. 5/5

Finance for Normal People-This book can be summed up as a nice summary of Kahneman, Thaler, Sunstein, Ritholtz and just about everybody else who has explored behavioral economics and how it applies to individuals. This was fun, but at time hard to get through just because the material was mostly a repeat from what I read. If I had read this before all the others I’m sure I would have enjoyed it much more. 4/5



One thought on “Books

  1. Thanks Gunn,
    really love these recommendations, especially with the personal note on your own experience. Looking forward to follow-ups in time! 🙂
    And I added half a dozen books I never even heard of before to my reading list!


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