Hi, my name is Nelson. And I read a lot of books.
Normal book review blog posts are boring and the only reason people read them is to get a free book that’s probably not very exciting in the first place. By condensing five book reviews into one post, I’m going to try and liven up the concept a little. Will I succeed? Only Italics Man knows for sure.
A Man for All Markets
Ed Thorp is an interesting guy and A Man for All Markets was an entertaining autobiography with only a couple of faults.
After a distinguished academic career as a high school and college student, Thorp ends up teaching at MIT where he invents the card counting system still used by blackjack players today. He ends up partnering with some pretty unsavory backers and uses his system to take Las Vegas for a lot of money. Then he and another professor pal invent a rudimentary computer — remember it is the 1960s at this point — to give them an edge at roulette. He also invents a system to get an edge at baccarat.
Thorp then turns his attention to the stock market, where he ran one of the biggest long/short hedge funds for 20 years before the thing ran into regulatory problems. He follows that up with consulting for some of the world’s top hedge funds and money managers, including running into Bernie Madoff in the early 1990s. Thorp claims he knew Madoff was a fraud even then.
The second half of the book is far more disappointing. Thorp talks about elementary topics like indexing and paying down debt, offering little insight that isn’t already available on your average personal finance blog.
Overall rank: 4/5
Burn Your Mortgage
Burn Your Mortgage is Sean Cooper’s how-to tale of how he paid off $255,000 in mortgage debt in three years, an inspiring tale that was featured in almost every major Canadian media outlet, mostly because Cooper pimped the living crap out of it.
The CRTL and V keys fell off his keyboard the very next day
The book isn’t just about mortgages. It touches on everything from (very basic) personal finance tips to how to get your offer accepted in a red-hot Toronto real estate market. Cooper encourages people to make non-conditional “bully offers” to get the house they might want, ignoring 1) such advice is only applicable in Toronto (or perhaps Vancouver when he wrote the book) and 2) non-conditional offers can be really dangerous, especially to someone who knows so little about real estate they’re reading a how-to guide.
It’s like if someone asked for me for a simple ETF portfolio and I started telling them about merger arbitrage.
He also barely touches on the key to his success, which was making an assload of money. There’s dozens and dozens of pages giving simplistic advice like “don’t play the lottery” and very little on earning more money. He mentions a few times he did extra work, but that’s it. It’s really too bad. That would have made his story much more compelling.
Keep in mind I’ve very much anti-pay-off-the-mortgage-at-all-costs, so I might be a little biased here.
Overall rank: 2/5
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Matthew Desmond’s book Evicted takes a look at the difficulties Milwaukee’s poorest residents have in finding housing, and the impact this has on the rest of their lives.
Desmond tries really hard to maintain impartial throughout the book, but his personal politics end up oozing through every page. That gets a little annoying at times, but it’s to be expected. My favorite part was when Desmond profiled Sherrena Tarver, a former teacher-turned-landlord who ended up owning more than a dozen units that offered cap rates of 20% or more.
The book is far more fun if you look at it as a how-to guide for the slumlording business, rather than feeling sorry for the tenants. Sure, a lot of tenants did perhaps get kicked out unfairly, they bring a lot of these problems onto themselves.
Overall ranking: 3.5/5
Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor
I thought Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor was going to be a biography of one of the more interesting billionaires out there. It was not.
All it really did was take a bunch of Munger’s public quotes and add a little context. It was basically 220 pages of inspirational investing quotes, explained. It least Munger’s quotes themselves were often laugh out loud funny.
If you’re unfamiliar with Munger or are relatively new at investing, this book probably wouldn’t be so bad. If you’re quite familiar with the awesomeness of Charlie Munger, don’t waste your time.
Overall rank: 3/5
100 Baggers: Stocks That Return 100-To-1 and How to Find Them
I’ll let Italics Man sum this one up:
But Nelson, if he really knows how to find stocks that will turn $1 to $100, why would he reveal that info?
Cynicism aside, I didn’t hate 100 Baggers. I thought author Christopher Mayer did a nice job outlining some of the things these stocks had in common. Basically you need a company with a ton of growth potential with the ability to internally finance itself for a very long time. Oh, and these companies usually also have strong insider ownership positions and strong returns on equity.
Not surprisingly, these are not easy to find, which is what makes reading this book a little unsatisfying. But the book will help you develop the mindset to help identify these types of stocks, which is really all it can do.
Overall rank: 4/5
Have you kids read any good books lately? Comment away, yo.
Just about every successful person reads. Many of them like to read business biographies.
Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right hand man, has said a lot about reading over the years. My favorite quote is “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.”
Or as your favorite blogger once said, “duh, me like to read lots because me’s smart. (fart)”
Both Munger and Buffett spend much of their time reading, and I do too. Each day is started by skimming the best of a new different news sources, as well as reading stuff I find on the Twitter. After writing all morning I take a leisurely lunch, which is usually spent reading something. After supper is when I work out (while listening to audio books) and then more time dedicated to reading, usually working on whatever my latest book is. Sometimes I spend time with my wife, too.
My favorite are business biographies. There’s a huge amount of wisdom you can learn from the average memoir. The author is forced to condense the subject’s life into just a few hundred pages, which allows the reader to get a quick version of what made successful business people the way they are. It covers the big picture stuff and enough of the details for you to figure out how they did it.
Or, to put it another way, think of a business biography as a rich person’s life condensed down to all the good stuff. You get the person’s highs and lows, without the nose picking and only a sentence or two about the year the subject went to South Korea to “find himself”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.
Anyhoo, here are 17 of my favorite business biographies.
1. The Snowball
I gotta start with The Snowball. It might be my favorite book of all time.
Buffett’s business life has been fascinating. He started out as a value investor, owning obscure micro-caps for his partnership. That was followed up by taking control of Berkshire Hathaway, which really got the compounding machine going. Buffett eventually became the richest man in the world, all without sacrificing his morals or integrity.
His personal life might be even more interesting. He essentially had two wives for a while. He managed to grow a world-class company out of a nondescript office building in Omaha, Nebraska, of all places. And he did it all while maintaining a folksy, guy-next-door persona.
If you haven’t already read The Snowball, do so now.
Bonus: I interviewed Warren Buffett once. Okay, maybe it was his evil twin.
2. The Patriarch: The remarkable life and turbulent times of Joseph P. Kennedy
The Patriarch is equal parts business and political biography.
Joe Kennedy grew up an Irish Catholic from the wrong part of Boston. Through sheer will and incredible ambition, he became one of the richest men in America, partially though investing aggressively into the sexy growth stocks of the 1920s, movie studios. He also did a little insider trading back when such a practice was legal.
Kennedy then went to serve in Franklin Roosevelt’s cabinet, followed that up with becoming the Ambassador to England, and then dedicated his life to helping his son become president. He did all that while travelling immensely and having several girlfriends on the side.
We could all aspire to learn from Joe Kennedy, minus the mistress part.
Warren Buffett will always be my favorite billionaire. But Jimmy Pattison isn’t far behind.
Pattison turned a single car dealership purchased in his early 30s into one of Canada’s largest business empires. The Jim Pattison Group owns grocery stores, TV and radio stations, magazine distributors, real estate, food manufacturers, tourist attractions, and a million other things. He’s basically Canada’s Warren Buffett.
I reviewed Jimmy’s book about a year ago. You’ll love the story of Jimmy’s short-lived experiment as a silver speculator.
4. Confessions of a Street Addict
Jim Cramer has a bunch of books on investing that he clearly didn’t write. Millions of people buy them because he holds up the latest one during THE LIGHTNING ROUND of Mad Money and they all think it’s cute.
Confessions of a Street Addict is completely different.
Cramer talks about his life and what led him to the world of hedge funds. He openly discusses the soaring highs and the heart-breaking lows of the industry. Cramer then journeyed to journalism, both at CNBC and through The Street, a website he’s still very involved with to this way.
5. Steve Jobs
If you had any interest in reading this book, chances are you’ve read it by now. It was incredibly popular.
We tend to only remember the good parts of Steve Jobs. He was truly a visionary, building Apple from a dream to the world’s foremost technology company. Then he was ousted. A decade later he came back and did it again.
He was also a megalomaniac, with little regard to others’ feelings. He denied his daughter’s existence for years and pushed his employees to the edge of mental breakdowns. And when he got the cancer that eventually killed him, he tried to cure it by going on some stupid all fruit diet.
6. Sam Walton – Made in America
A lot of people don’t like Sam Walton’s autobiography, saying they think the ‘aw shucks’ attitude was more phony than a $7 bill.
Underneath the first impression is a very important message, however. Walton might not have been retail’s smartest guy. But he was terrific at execution. Wal-Mart became the world’s top retailer because it did everything better than competitors. They had lower prices. They had the best distribution network. And they invested in technology before anyone else did.
7. The Billionaire Who Wasn’t
You know all those duty free stores you see at the airport? Chuck Feeney was the guy who essentially invented the concept. The company he founded eventually grew to be worth several billion.
After stepping away from day-to-day operations in the 1980s, Feeney dedicated his life to giving away his fortune. If you’re interested in philanthropy at all, you’ll enjoy The Billionaire Who Wasn’t.
8. The Richest Woman in America: Hetty Green in the Gilded Age
In an era where women were expected to play a secondary role, Hetty Green leveraged a decent-sized estate from her father into one of the biggest fortunes ever accumulated.
Plus, her frugality was legendary. She reportedly would wear clothes until they were falling apart and stay in ran-down rooming houses even after she became a billionaire. There’s even a story (which has been debunked, much to my chagrin) that her son lost his leg because she was too cheap to pay for proper medical care.
Bonus: I wrote about Hetty Green here.
9. Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster who Created Vegas Poker
I find the mob history of Las Vegas to be fascinating. They were good capitalists who just happened to be into illegal stuff, that’s all.
Benny Binion was one of the originals. Binion got his start in Dallas before leaving town after it was revealed a few of his rivals were looking to whack him. He then moved to Vegas, where he operated the Horseshoe (it’s called Binion’s today) casino on Fremont Street.
He then created the World Series of Poker, almost by accident. All he wanted was a way to draw in crowds during the slow season.
10. Buffett: The Making of An American Capitalist
The Snowball focuses a lot on Buffett’s personal life. Roger Lowenstein’s book focuses much more on his business career. Think of it as his business biography, while the other is more focused on his personal life.
I wrote about why Warren Buffett would be a bad personal finance blogger.
11. Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.
A lot of people hated John D. Rockefeller. They thought he was a ruthless capitalist who wouldn’t think twice before ruining his workers, competitors, or even the whole country. Standard Oil grew so big the feds felt compelled to break it up.
Rockefeller was a true business visionary. He mastered vertical integration before there was even a term for it. He aggressively expanded, even buying out competitors at crazy prices. And he was the first oil refiner to really invest in technology, which strengthened his dominance. This stuff is standard today. Rockefeller basically invented it.
And then he retired, turning from a capitalist to philanthropist, giving away billions to education, health care, and religious causes. He also golfed a lot and would flirt with all the other lady widowers after his wife kicked it.
12. The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Cornelius Vanderbilt was America’s first tycoon. Hence the title of the book.
After controlling the steamship market in the United States, Vanderbilt realized railroads would take over. So he invested aggressively in the new technology, securing his dominant position even as the world around him changed.
13. Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was an interesting guy.
We all know about his life story. He built U.S. Steel into one of the world’s biggest companies. And then he gave away all of his money.
What’s more interesting is the way he did it. Carnegie regularly took time off to write, travel, or just spend time with friends. We sometimes think we need to work relentlessly to get rich. Carnegie proves you don’t have to.
14. Shoe Dog
Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his old man in the 1960s to launch a company that would import high-quality running shoes from Japan. Yes, Japan used to be the world’s China.
The rest reads almost like fiction. He weaves all sorts of lessons about personal growth, goals, and tenacity into the book, all while telling the fascinating story of his life. Nike has become not only the gold-standard for athletic brands, it might even be the world’s best brand. Period.
15. Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald’s
Here’s a fun fact: Ray Kroc didn’t get involved with McDonald’s until he was 52 years old. He discovered the McDonald brothers when he showed up to sell them a milk shake mixer.
Kroc was a hard-ass. He would regularly “fire” employees who would quietly be hired back by one of his other execs. But he revolutionized the restaurant business, creating the modern supply chain. McDonald’s even engineered their own potato, one that fried up crispy and golden each time.
16. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
OH THE IRONY OF THIS BEING SOLD AT AMAZON.
There’s a reason why Jeff Bezos is one of the world’s five richest men. He relentlessly improved Amazon over the years by focusing on the things that didn’t change about the retail business.
Everything at Amazon comes down to a couple of common factors. Selection continues to get bigger, prices decrease, and shipping continues to get quicker. Bezos’s genius was he figured out the more things change, the more they stay the same.
17. The Richest Man Who Ever Lived
The Richest Man Who Ever Lived is the biography of Jakob Fugger, who lived from 1459-1525.
Fugger turned a textile import/export business into something much bigger when he started lending money to the Austrian Royal Family. As collateral for his loans, he’d take royalties on the state’s gold, silver, or copper mines. After non-payment, he’d own the asset. This happened a lot.
He wasn’t a completely ruthless capitalist, however. He founded Germany’s first social housing project in 1515.
Okay kids, let’s wrap this up. There’s enough reading to keep you busy here for months.
And if you’re so inclined, feel free to mention your favorite business biographies in the comments, or leave a note or two about the ones you have read.
So for those of you who are new here, I’m not exactly a fan of the whole retiring super early thing. I think that the people who would rather take it easy at 35 than do something they’re passionate about are a special kind of silly. I fully applaud their goals to accumulate all of the money. I just don’t agree with the slacking off part that immediately follows.
Related: Embrace selfish employment rather than early retirement
Saying that, I’m still relatively interested in the notion of financial independence. I like the idea of getting there, mostly as a safety net. What’s the point of spending all this time on our finances if the goal isn’t security?
And every time I write one of these anti-retire-early posts, I get accusations that I don’t understand the notion of early retirement. Because hey, what better way to deflect valid criticisms than to claim the person making them has things all wrong?
So I decided I’d read THE GOOD BOOK. No, not the Bible, dummy. I had some time to kill on a plane recently, so I decided I’d read Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker. This is my review.
I think I’ll separate out this review into stuff I liked and stuff I didn’t like, followed by a conclusion. Groundbreaking concept, I know.
Let’s start with the bad stuff.
I’m not sure how familiar you guys are with Fisker, but if you’re a personal finance aficionado, chances are you’ve at least heard of his website, which has the same title as the book. And to be frank, he’s kind of a dick. He’s smarter than most of the people reading, and he knows it. There’s not a whole lot of humility in the book, and Fisker couldn’t give two craps if you’re entertained. Thus, the whole thing reads like a textbook.
Early Retirement Extreme is split into two halves. The first half is all about the psychological aspect of early retirement. You not only have to want to retire early, but you have to know the intimate details of why you want it. Luckily for the people who don’t spend as much time thinking as Fisker does, he’s got you covered. Does he ever. The first hundred or so pages drag because of this.
Fisker spends a lot of time discussing what a so-called renaissance man spends time doing. It’s not enough to learn about something like programming, because Fisker wants you do understand everything from how to build a PC to knowing how a hard drive works. As in, how to assemble one. Essentially, only a man who knows a bit about a lot of different subjects is fit for an early retirement, because he doesn’t have to depend on others to repair his computer or unplug his sink.
(Aside: he’s also obsessed with egg boilers. He mentions how wasteful they are about every 20th page. He really needed an editor [naturally, he edited the book himself] to eliminate stuff like that)
Fisker has a very clear picture of what the ideal early retiree should look like. I find that to be very interesting, especially considering the types of comebacks you typically hear from that crowd. (Think “personal finance is personal”, but about early retirement) There aren’t many of them who take Fisker’s opinion on becoming a proper renaissance man seriously.
Finally, after many pages of Fisker explaining exactly why his version of spending $10,000 per year is more noble than everyone else’s habits, we get to the good part of the book.
Fisker spends much of Early Retirement Extreme pointing out how he’s not going to give many “how-to tips” or anything like that. Other blogs do that, and he’s above that. Which I can at least respect.
And yet, the parts of the book when he explains exactly what he does and how he accomplishes it are by far the most interesting parts. It’s full of useful suggestions like shopping around sales at the grocery store instead of making a meal plan, and not owning stuff you’ll only use once or twice a year. There are also good tips on how to cut your housing costs down to practically nothing and the importance of learning to cook cheaply.
Fisker’s ability to cut costs was oddly inspiring, and by the end of the book I was searching for ways to cut the fat out of my spending. I think most people who read it would probably agree.
I awaited the investing section of the book in great interest. It was also a disappointment.
Fisker presents the same math I’ve seen a million times, stating that if you can save say 50% of your income, you only have to work every second year. If you can save 80% you only have to work every fifth year, and so on. If you can maintain a savings rate that high for a while, you can retire early.
Fisker makes many comments about how he’s a successful investor and how he can easily figure out what’s a good investment or what isn’t, but that’s about it. The details are sorely lacking. He plays around a lot with return simulators and withdrawal schedules without telling people how to invest in the first place. His advice on investing can be boiled down into a few sentences that are no more complex than you’d see on the average frugality blog. And yet, he proclaims himself an expert.
I liked the part where he told us about the things he actually did. The philosophy stuff got old fast, and so did his holier than thou attitude on why his way of life was better than ours. The part on investing was also woefully incomplete.
I’ll give it 2.5/5. You’ll probably like Early Retirement Extreme if you think early retirement is going to make all of your non-sexual dreams come true, but I’m going to need something better to be won over.
“NO GIRLS ALLOWED IN THE COOL BOOK FORT.”
Let me start off this post with a bit of a scandalous statement. I know, WHAT A SURPRISE, huh?
Most personal finance books are trash.
Okay, they’re not trash. It’s just that if you’re an intermediate or advanced student of the subject, most will be filled with stuff you already know. Authors cater to the lowest common denominator, because that’s where the dollars are, yo.
For people just starting out, this isn’t a bad thing. If you know nothing, everything is going to be enlightening. But for people who already know the basics, you’re going to have to wade through a bunch of the same stuff over and over again. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.
Since I’ve read approximately 5929582950285296205025 (that’s a lot of fives) personal finance books in my day, I figure I can help you guys out. Let me sort through the trash for you, leaving you with a list of stuff that’s actually good. We’ll cover everything from the basics to advanced investing stuff, meaning just about anyone can find something in this list that appeals to them. If not, you’re not really trying.
Let’s do this thang.
1. The Wealthy Barber
Fun fact. I discovered The Wealthy Barber in my sister’s bathroom when I was in grade nine. Yes, my love affair with money literally began because I wanted reading material while emptying my bowels.
David Chilton’s tale of a small-town barber teaching the basics of finance while cutting hair is a classic because it’s presented in an easy to read manner with an actual entertaining story attached. It outlines the basics of everything from investing to insurance to saving, with plenty of other stuff.
I’ve also been known to give this book as a gift at weddings. It’s about as popular as you’d think.
2. The Wealthy Barber Returns
Read my review here, including when David Chilton actually shows up and says nice things.
Some 20 years after the original, David Chilton is back, updating his classic book. The Wealthy Barber Returns is a little different than the first, sort of written like a blog. Chilton covers everything from emergency funds to index investing, all in small bite-sized chunks for today’s busy Canadian. This, somewhat ironically, makes it the perfect book to have in the bathroom.
3. The Richest Man in Babylon
Yeah, it’s basic, but the message is easy and timeless. The Richest Man in Babylon is a series of fables set in Babylon, which teach the reader the basics of finance and building wealth. It’s basically a bunch of fairy tales.
4. Think and Grow Rich
As much as I think attitude is one of the more overrated parts of finance, I may be biased because I’ve never really had a problem with getting excited about being rich. So after reading Think and Grow Rich!, I was a little disappointed. I thought it was a little light on nuts and bolts, and a little heavy on inspirational stuff. But with so many people loving it, maybe there’s more to this inspirational stuff than I think.
5. Rich Dad Poor Dad
Look, I know Robert Kiyosaki is nothing but a relentless shill. His Rich Dad seminars are filled with high-pressure sales tactics and other questionable business practices. Hell, there’s even evidence that his “rich dad” didn’t actually exist. But the overall message of Rich Dad Poor Dad is sound, and will question some of your beliefs on things like whether your home is an asset, and how debt is bad.
6. The Millionaire Next Door
The Millionaire Next Door is a flawed book rife with confirmation bias (it’s obvious that a certain kind of millionaire would best respond to the authors’ incentives), but you should still read it, even for the inspiration factor alone. Too many people think you need a flashy title or job to become a millionaire. The Millionaire Next Door busts that myth.
7. The Millionaire Teacher
Read my review of it here.
Andrew Hallam, the author of Millionaire Teacher might be the nicest guy on the whole internet. He also built a million dollar portfolio on only a teacher’s salary by successfully value investing, before switching to ETFs. Oh, and he runs marathons and has beaten cancer. These days, he travels around the world teaching expats about investing. Pretty sweet gig if you ask me.
8. How To Win Friends and Influence People
I know, I know. How to Win Friends and Influence People is cheesy as all hell. It was originally published in the 1930s, and I’m pretty sure it was cheesy back then. But getting people to like you is important, and so is communicating in ways where you get people to want to do things for you. It seems like salesmanship when you’re reading, but it works, dammit.
Oh, and once you’re done reading it, you can totally tell who has also read it. I had a boss who LURVED the criticism sandwich (a complement, followed by the criticism, followed by another compliment). I started doing it back just to troll him. I’m not sure it worked, but I had fun with it.
9. The Uncommon Investor III
Although my version of value investing is pretty unique, if I were to compare it to one person, I’d probably say Benj Gallander of Contra The Heard. The Uncommon Investor III is the layman’s introduction to Gallander’s investment philosophy, told in a similar fashion to The Wealthy Barber. Plus, it includes a same-sex couple, because GASP WON’T SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN.
10. The Intelligent Investor
If you’ve spent longer than a minute reading about investing, you already know what The Intelligent Investor is all about. This timeless text by Benjamin Graham should be required reading before you get to pick individual stocks. It’s a little dry, but there’s a reason why it might be the most universally loved book on value investing. If you’re too lazy to read the whole book, Warren Buffett says his favorite chapters are 8 and 20.
11. Security Analysis
The Intelligent Investor is for the layman, which you might not think after reading it. If you’re a serious student of value investing, then it’s time to take the next step, reading Security Analysis. Yeah, it reads like a textbook, and it’s more than 700 pages, but I guarantee you will be a better investor if you wade your way through it.
12. You Too Can Be A Stock Market Genius
Joel Greenblatt is sort of like Walter Schloss. As in, he might be the smartest investor you’ve never heard of.
Greenblatt’s penultimate work is You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, which is a simple look at not only value investing, but things like bankruptcies, mergers, spinoffs, and other sorts of special situations. You’ll find they have a lot in common with value ideas, which make them a simple add-on for any value portfolio.
13. The Value of Simple
Written by friend of the blog John Robertson, The Value of Simple is the book for anyone who is still a rookie at the investing stuff. It’s an easy to read guide (including plenty of pictures, graphs, and so on) on everything from TFSAs to RESPs, mostly focusing on avoiding fees while building a portfolio that tracks the index. It’s basic, but that’s all it’s supposed to be.
There are a bunch of books out there that I’m going to bunch into the other category. These books are anything from biographies of masters to specific books on specific topics only loosely related to personal finance. Yeah, it sort of strays from the personal finance books for Canadians theme, but they’re still all worth your time.
14. The Snowball
Author Alice Schroeder was given full access to Warren Buffett for years, interviewing his friends and family, as well as unrestricted access to his business records. And apparently after reading The Snowball, Buffett was so pissed off that he hasn’t talked to Schroeder since. That’s the kind of book I can get excited about.
The Snowball is admittedly light on investing tips, but it does have all sorts of timeless lessons on compound interest, doing what you love, and how doing things the right way is incredibly important.
At first glance, a book on baseball seems like pretty much the opposite of something that will help you with your finances. But what’s important about Moneyball is what it teaches you about thinking outside of the box. If you translate the lessons used by the Oakland A’s to your own life, I guarantee you can make things better.
John D. Rockefeller was a business pioneer. Things like we take for granted as sound business practices today — like controlling your own supply, consolidating competition, and using technology to increase production — were practically invented by Rockefeller. Sure, he stumbled upon the oil business at a pretty opportune time, but I’m convinced he would have ended up rich no matter what he did. Not only was Rockefeller the richest man of his time, but he ended up as perhaps the richest of all time once you adjust for inflation. Anyway, just read Titan already.
17. The Dip
Knowing when to quit something is one of the most difficult things any of us deal with. The Dip will help you through the decision, teaching you to separate the difference between the dip (when a new job reaches its low point) and when it’s time to quit. It also busts the myth that winners never quit. Winners do quit. All the time.
18. Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping
If you have trouble with picking up impulse items at the grocery store, Why We Buy: The Science Of Shopping is going to be endlessly fascinating. It outlines all the tricks stores use to get people to put things in their carts. You’ll learn the secrets of why disorganized displays sell better than pyramids of cans, and why the placement of products on the shelf matters. The world of convincing you to buy stuff is surprisingly complicated.
19. Atlas Shrugged
More than a decade after reading it for the first time, I still have to say Atlas Shrugged is my favorite book — even though Ayn Rand isn’t the greatest writer and the book is about 200 pages too long. She doesn’t so much as suggest her philosophy onto you, but does her best to beat you into submission with it.
But there’s a whole bunch of good with Atlas Shrugged too, including a great story, and a way of looking at the world which will either change your life or make you want to strangle a puppy (or, depending on how seriously you take it, sometimes both!). If it doesn’t inspire you to build your own future, then I’m pretty sure you’re a robot.
20. Too Big to Fail
Andrew Ross Sorkin (who looks like he’s 25), pens Too Big to Fail, an incredibly detailed look at the financial crisis, with all sorts of insider stories that will leave your mouth agape for about half of the book.
21. Confessions of a Street Addict
Have you ever wondered what actually goes on behind the scenes of a hedge fund? Before he was making goofy sounds and saying BOOYA! on CNBC, Jim Cramer ran a successful hedge fund. Confessions of a Street Addict is his fascinating inside look at the industry, including some stories about throwing telephones across the room. It’s the only Cramer book reading.
22. Cold Hard Truth: On Business, Money, & Life
If you’re like me and find Kevin O’Leary hilarious, you’ll enjoy Cold Hard Truth. In it, O’Leary takes stories from his own life and weaves them into lessons that can benefit most everyone. Plus, you’ll giggle a few times.
Did I forget any?
That’s about it. Feel free to any of your favorites to the comment section. All complaints can be sent to GoToHell@IDon’tCare.com.
Authors of the smash hit Freakanomics are back with more of the same, with the most predictably titled book of all time, Superfreakanomics.
The book is essentially an extension on the first. Why mess with a good thing, right? They explore topics that, at first glance, seem pretty trivial. Once they delve into them though, they become pretty interesting. Most of the time, the authors seek to defy conventional thinking on a topic.
The book is an easy read, checking in at a little over 200 pages. The authors do a good job taking subjects that could potentially be pretty dry and keeping them interesting. The Amazon reviews generally don’t care for the jokes the authors used, but I thought they were fine.
Various topics covered in the book include:
Is it safer to walk or drive drunk? It turns out that on a per mile basis, driving is much safer than walking. At least, for the driver it is anyway. The more interesting fact of that discussion is that 1 out of every 140 miles driven in the US is driven by a drunk driver. That’s certainly more than I expected.
How is a prostitute like a department store santa? Probably the best chapter in the entire book. It talks about the business of prostitution, using mountains of data collected from the same guy who collected the data on street gangs for the first Freakanomics. Absolutely fascinating chapter about capitalism at its purest form.
Why should suicide bombers buy life insurance? This chapter talks about the work being done by computer programmers to catch all sorts of people who are doing things we don’t want them to do. Most of the chapter focuses on stopping terrorists and some of the interesting ways computers are being used to screen the potential bad guys based on their banking habits.
Unbelievable stories about apathy and altruism: The main argument in this chapter is that we’re arguably more selfish than we’d like to believe. Probably the weakest chapter in the book.
The fix is in- and it’s cheap and easy: This chapter talks about how a quick and easy solution to a problem is often the best. They talk about how doctors simply washing their hands more would lead to many saved lives. They talk about the effectiveness of car seats for children over 2 (maybe my favorite part of the book) and unconventional ways to lessen the severity of hurricanes.
What do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo have in common: This is the chapter all the controversy is all about. The authors suggest some cures for global warming that are very, uh, out there. If you enter the chapter with an open mind, I think you’ll find it interesting. If you already have a preconception about global warming, then you probably won’t agree with these guys.
All in all, I probably didn’t enjoy the sequel as much as the original, which is pretty standard for a sequel. It’s still a solid read, definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a think outside of the box kind of person.
Ranking: 4 uproars out of 6 calm situations