I've just finished my New Year's Resolution to read 40 books this year. These are some of the best - the must reads.
1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius 🏛
A must read and tonic for the soul. Also really interesting how Stoicism converges with Taoism (I also enjoyed 道德经) and converges with new behavioural economics - many of the meditations really center around taming System 1 thinking with System 2 thinking, to let go of ego and find inner peace.
2. How Asia Works 🌏: Success and Failure in the World's Most Dynamic Region by Studwell
This is a must read for anyone vaguely interested in Asia, who wants an alternative to the Euro-American centric economic history we are taught. It also helps conceptualise the current stages of development of Asian economies (and institutions) in the context of their development - and a convincingly nuanced perspective of why comparing "Western" society to "Eastern" is like comparing apples to oranges.
3. World After Capital 🤑 -->👩🏻🎓 by Albert Wegner
This was the last book to make the 40 I wanted to read this year. It's just fantastic. It's a incredible analysis and prediction of how our fundamental ways of thinking and organizations (as a species) must evolve, and the consequences if it does not. Loved the Universal Basic Income (UBI) drive-by too, as I'd been meaning to read up on it.
4. The Psychology 🧠 of Human Misjudgement by Munger
A must read primer on human psychology and irrationality - all things in life boil down to human behaviour - either our own or others, so it is important to know why we are irrational, and control that, and also to see that behaviour in others, to warn them of it too.
24 Standard Causes of Human Misjudgment
1) Under-recognition of the power of what psychologists call “reinforcement” and economists call “incentives”
2) Simple psychological denial
3) Incentive-cause bias
4) Bias from consistency and commitment tendency
5) Bias from Pavlovian association
6) Bias from reciprocation tendency
7) Bias from over-influence by social proof
8) Better to be roughly right than precisely wrong
9) Bias from contrast-caused distortions of sensation, perception and cognition 10) Bias from over-influence by authority
11) Bias from deprival super-reaction syndrome
12) Bias from envy/jealousy
13) Bias from chemical dependency
14) Bias from mis-gambling compulsion
15) Bias from liking distortion
16) Bias from the non-mathematical nature of the human brain
17) Bias from over-influence by extra-vivid evidence
18) Mental confusion caused by information not arrayed in the mind
19) Other normal limitations of sensation, memory, cognition and knowledge
20) Stress-induced mental changes
21) Other common mental illnesses and declines
22) Mental and organizational confusion from say-something syndrome
5. The Snowball 🧊: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Schroeder
Warren Buffet's authorised biography. An incredible look in one of the best investors.
“When I was a kid,” Warren would later say, “I got all kinds of good things. I had the advantage of a home where people talked about interesting things, and I had intelligent parents and I went to decent schools. I don’t think I could have been raised with a better pair of parents. That was enormously important. I didn’t get money from my parents, and I really didn’t want it. But I was born at the right time and place. I won the ‘Ovarian Lottery.’”
.... “Whenever my version is different from somebody else’s, Alice, use the less flattering version.”
He dreaded falling prey to what a Harvard Law School classmate of his had called “the Shoe Button Complex.” [...] Cornering the market on shoe buttons made him an expert on everything. Warren and I have always sensed it would be a big mistake to behave that way.”
On taking risks and straying from the pack
It might seem easier to go through life as the echo—but only until the other guy plays a wrong note.
.. his Inner Scorecard—a toughness about financial decisions that had infused him for as long as anyone could remember—kept him from wavering.
On startups and tech (aka the famous Sun Valley Conference)
That was so even though Herbert Allen himself thought the “new paradigm” for valuing technology and media stocks—based on clicks and eyeballs and projections of far-off growth rather than a company’s ability to earn cold hard cash—was bunk. “New paradigm,” he sniffed. “It’s like new sex. There just isn’t any such thing.”
On Graham and investing
Warren felt there was a conflict of interest inherent in the business. [...] “You can’t make a living that way. The system pits your interests against your clients.”
6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo 💃🏼 by Reid
Perhaps one of the best fiction books I've read in a while. I recommended it to my best friend who devoured it. It's a tour-de-force. A profoundly human book - about struggle and hustle, love and lust, shame and power. It's unintentionally a great study on human nature, with a romance for the ages.
On human nature
“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.”
“No one is just a victim or a victor. Everyone is somewhere in between. People who go around casting themselves as one or the other are not only kidding themselves, but they’re also painfully unoriginal.”
When you're given an opportunity to change your life, be ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen. The world doesn't give things, you take things.”
“...do yourself a favor and learn to grab life by the balls, dear. Don’t be so tied up in trying to do the right thing when the smart thing is so painfully clear.”
“Isn't it awfully convenient,” Harry added, “that when men make the rules, the one thing that's looked down on the most is the one thing that would bear them the greatest threat? Imagine if every single woman on the planet wanted something in exchange when she gave up her body. You'd all be ruling the place. An armed populace. Only men like me would stand a chance against you. And that's the last thing those assholes want, a world run by people like you and me.”
“You wonder what it must be like to be a man, to be so confident that the final say is yours.”
“I love you so much, sweetheart. So, so much. And it's in part because of things like that. You're an idealist and a romantic, and you have a beautiful soul. And I wish the world was ready to be the way you see it. I wish that the rest of the people on earth with us were capable of living up to your expectations. But they aren't. The world is ugly, and no one wants to give anyone the benefit of the doubt about anything. When we lose our work and our reputations, when we lose our friends and, eventually, what money we have, we will be destitute. I've lived that life before. And I cannot let it happen to you. I will do whatever I can to prevent you from living that way. Do you hear me? I love you too much to let you live only for me.” For a moment, I thought she might flood the backyard. “I love you,” she said. “I love you, too,” I whispered into her ear. “I love you more than anything else in the entire world.” “It’s not wrong,” Celia said. “It shouldn’t be wrong, to love you. How can it be wrong?” “It’s not wrong, sweetheart. It’s not,” I said. “They’re wrong.”
“It is two A.M., and you are tired. You miss the love of your life. You want to go home. You would rather be with her, in bed, hearing the light buzz of her snoring, watching her sleep, than be here. [...] You imagine a world where the two of you can go out to dinner together on a Saturday night and no one thinks twice about it. It makes you want to cry, the simplicity of it, the smallness of it. You have worked so hard for a life so grand. And now all you want are the smallest freedoms. The daily peace of loving plainly.”
Special mention to other great books read just before 2020
1. 死神永生 (三體 ,#3)
3. The Intelligent Investor
3. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer