Thursday, July 11, 2013

Essential Wall Street Summer Reading List

Andrew Ross Sorkin, journalist and financial columnist at the New York Times, has come up with his list of essential readings about Wall Street and business. Although you might not think of it, many of these books are great reads even during the long hot summer days. Let me list his recommendations and add a few of mine to round off your  financial and business "reading education" during this summer:

- "Michael Ovitz, the former Creative Artists Agency agent turned investor, used to give away a copy of "The Art of War". Even if you find the underlying message repugnant, it is an interesting window into the soul and strategy of much of the corporate world."

- "If you want an even deeper examination of modern management and strategy techniques, it is always worth reading the ultimate philosophical classic: “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli."

- ""Den of Thieves" is a masterful look at the insider trading scandals and greed on Wall Street of the late 1980s and mirrors much of the current narrative with a colorful cast of characters like Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken."

-" Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, who chronicled what was at the time the largest takeover in history, the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts;

- "“Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis, a romp through his time as a young trader at Salomon Brothers."

- “The Informant” by Kurt Eichenwald is about the Archer Daniels Midland price-fixing scandal...and reads like a John Grisham thriller that just happens to be true and happens to  be about business."

- "Indecent Expousre" is a rollicking good read about a Hollywood scandal and the ultimate boardroom power struggle at Columbia Pictures."

- "“Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman, a seminal work that helped frame a long and heated debate about capitalism vs. socialism that is still at the heart of the American discussion of the economy and politics"

- "If you’re trying to better understand what’s going on in our economy now ....a good place to start is “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World” by Liaquat Ahamed, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his historical look at the many crises that led up to the Great Depression. It is a favorite book of Ben S. Bernanke and Timothy F. Geithner.

- "Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century”  changed the way we think about global business, competitiveness and the implication for far-flung economies, governments, education and more."

-“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, provides remarkable insight into the eccentricities and drive of Mr. Jobs.

- "Ron Chernow’s “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.” provides a glimpse into important and crucial moments in business history."

 - "The one “must” book on the list that will help you think about Wall Street, investing and, surprisingly, life is “The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing” by Benjamin Graham."

Sofar, Mr. Sorkin's suggestions. Here are a few of my recommendations. Not all are "light" reading with some having page counts of over 600 pages, but definitely worth your while, even if it takes this reading into the fall.

-"The Game in Wall Street" is an appealing little book that offers insight into what the world of Wall Street was like "back in the day"  in the 19th century. Still a fascinating addition in every investor's library.

-  "Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse" released in April 2011 by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation, is the most damning official report to date on Wall Street's role in the financial crisis of 2008. It offers four very clear causes of the financial crisis and it names culprits.

- "The Life of P.T. Barnum",is the autobiography of this world-renowned showman. It is "a remarkable story, abounding in fascinating incidents, thrilling episodes, and marvelous achievements." Barnum wrote. His adventures will entertain business people and others.

- "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator"  by Edwin Lefèvre is the 1923 biography of Jesse Livermore, who made and lost his fortune several times over on Wall Street. Not only very entertainingly written, but valuable for its observations about investing, speculating, and the nature of the market itself, and still relevant for today's investor.

-  "The History of the Standard Oil Company" from 1904 by Ida Tarbell, one of the leading investigative journalists of her time, exposes the history of the Standard Oil Company in this American classic with an introduction by current day investigative reporter Danny Schechter.

-"Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" first published in 1841 across multiple volumes but presented here in one omnibus volume, explores many societal delusions, including historic economic bubbles, such as: the Mississippi Scheme; the South Sea Bubble  involving the shares of the South Sea Company; and the infamous tulip mania that seized Holland in the 1600s. It shows mankind never seems to learn from previous mistakes.

- "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Nobel Prize–winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz exposes the efforts of well-heeled interests to compound their wealth in ways that have stifled true, dynamic capitalism,  and offers a vision for a more prosperous future.

Enjoy your summer reading!

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