A spot of summer reading
“Think before you speak. Read before you think.”– Fran Lebowitz
To say I enjoy reading would be an understatement. A large part of my day involves reading — research reports, industry trade articles, investing blogs, and a smattering of geopolitical content.
I also try to read anywhere from 24 to 30 books a year. Reading a great book can offer a lifetime of education or insights that pay off in multiple ways.
One of the most asked questions I get is, “Can you recommend a few books on investing/economics/finance?” Rather than offer up classics and typical tomes I will once again offer some of my more recent favourites to consider for the summertime break.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E Tetlock and Dan Gardner
Oldie but a goodie. This book does a great job of explaining real forecasting, its pitfalls, and ways to improve one's odds of getting it right. The book covers the Good Judgement Project, which involved tens of thousands of people who were engaged in forecasting a myriad of global events. It offers sensible suggestions to improve your odds of predicting the future while also enlightening us on some of the follies of forecasting.
One of my favourite quotes: “…superforecasting demands thinking that is open-minded, careful, curious, and — above all — self-critical.”
Quality Investing: Owning the Best Companies for the Long Term by Lawrence A Cunningham, Torkell T Eide, Patrick Hargreaves
This is a book that really spoke to me in terms of investing. I prescribe to this ethos, so it pretty much locked me in my echo chamber. Still, it would do a great job of introducing a theory to many investors new or old alike.
The book does a great job of giving real life and practical examples of high-quality companies and, more importantly, why they are considered high quality. This will provide an investor with a great framework to analyse and assess various business models, which I think is very important, if not the most critical factor to evaluate when investing.
The book is only about 200 pages, but I had over 100 highlights on the Kindle. Here is one key quote from the book:
“In quality investing, the four most significant challenges are: battling short-term thinking; conquering prevailing preferences for ‘hard' numerical data over subjective assessments of quality; accepting that quality companies are not always the most exciting investments; and accepting that quality stocks will often appear to be expensive.”
Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo
This book is timely, especially for anyone involved in policy decisions. It is maybe even more relevant, given our polarised environment and the whole host of big macro issues that this book tries to tackle.
I found it very enlightening and it challenged a lot of pre-conceived opinions I have had and some possibly misplaced beliefs that get perpetrated by many. It is well researched with some excellent examples that help even those with little interest in economics to process efficiently.
Topics include immigration, inequality, globalisation and technological disruption, economic growth, and even climate change. Well worth the read.
I had over 200 highlighted passages in this one. It also does a great job of poking fun at economists. Here is a joke from the book: “A woman hears from her doctor that she has only half a year to live. The doctor advises her to marry an economist and move to South Dakota. Woman: Will this cure my illness? Doctor: No, but the half year will seem pretty long.”
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger, Joel Lovel
A great read to get ideas on leadership and dealing with complex problems. It also offers fascinating insider takes on Steve Jobs, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm and what was involved in doing those content deals.
It also touches on a gambit of issues seen in the board room that revolves around personal agendas and egos. One great quote: “Don't be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.”
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney
Ok, this is not a finance book. I thought, however, given current circumstances, it would be a good idea to get a sense of what happened historically during the last major pandemic. The Great Influenza by John Barry is often cited as the book to read on the 1918 pandemic, but I find Spinney's version much easier to read with some excellent narrative. How bad was the Spanish flu? Here is the take in the book:
“The Spanish flu infected one in three people on earth, or 500 million human beings. Between the first case recorded on 4 March 1918, and the last sometime in March 1920, it killed 50 to 100 million people, or between 2.5 and 5 per cent of the global population — a range that reflects the uncertainty that still surrounds it. In terms of single events causing major loss of life, it surpassed the First World War (17 million dead), the Second World War (60 million dead) and possibly both put together. It was the greatest tidal wave of death since the Black Death, perhaps in the whole of human history.”
Wear your mask, wash your hands, and maybe stay home to read more this summer.
Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction Kindle Edition by Philip E. Tetlock, Dan Gardner
Quality Investing: Owning the best companies for the long term Kindle Edition by Torkell T. Eide, Lawrence A. Cunningham, Patrick Hargreaves
Good Economics for Hard Times Kindle Edition by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company Hardcover – September 23, 2019 by Robert Iger
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World Kindle Edition
by Laura Spinney
• Nathan Kowalski CPA, CA, CFA, CIM, FCSI is the chief financial officer of Anchor Investment Management Ltd and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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