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Industry and Financial Reads

Are you looking for some good reading that might help you at work too? This page offers suggestions from QuantyPhi, and maybe, some friends of ours. If you have a suggestion of what you think we might like to read, please let us know so we can enjoy it as well.

Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises

Remember Timothy Geithner, the man who delivered the biggest disappointing presentation during the Great Financial Crises? He wrote a book where he places blame in many directions away from himself, explains away the moral hazard they created as avoiding moral hazard, and in an extraordinarily long chapter in a collection of long chapters, takes credit for the formation of the CFPB. Read this at your own risk. -KPC

While America Aged

Another from author Roger Lowenstein, this time about the aging of the U.S. worker, and it’s impact on the pension system. While this story is specific to one aspect of our business expenses, the real lesson is in the lack of foresight into the longer-term effects of decisions made for the short-term benefits. -KPC

The Money Culture

A now thirty-year-old collection of insights into the world of finance by Michael Lewis, written around the time of his first and seminal book on the foolishness of Wall Street. The last several articles on Japan are interesting to anyone who can see how those stories evolved since. However, for credit unions and staff who interact with the investment world, close reading on the story of Wall Street taking the Savings and Loans on a ride. The lessons for credit unions can be very instructive. -KPC

A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Best Investment Guide That Money Can Buy

Now in the 13th edition, this classic by Burton Malkiel still is worth reading. Malkiel’s case for passive investment management is required reading for believers and non-believers alike. Whether you are for or against the idea of passive investing, you should read this book and understand the case Malkiel makes. -KPC

Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society

This is a recommendation to read this book, not for the literal conclusion, but how we might think about risk control for our financial institutions and our balance sheets. Author Jim Manzi writes about inexact science and how we cannot really understand the outcome of changes without experimenting. Our desire to rely on models without actually understanding the inexact features of these models can, and will lead to unforeseen negative outcomes. -KPC

Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life

There are many books written to give an opinion on how to improve your life. This is one of them. The difference is the author, Vitaliy Katsenelson, is a finance person and manages to weave in the life of a finance person to the life of a person. This collection of relatable stories gives some useful advice on life as it intermingles with finance. -KPC

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

A very quick read, this story demonstrates some useful team dynamics. Patrick Lencioni spins a tale about a dysfunctional team and the steps necessary to make the team function. -KPC

The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes

With heightened attention on money expansion, inflation, and central bank intervention, now is a great time to review the history of money in our world. Stephan Eich has plenty of background to help understand how we got to this point with our monetary system. The reader can draw their own conclusions as to what we need to do, if anything, to address money today. -KPC

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

No business reading list would be complete without something about Warren Buffet. This lengthy account of the life of today’s most admired investor is long on details, light on criticism, but as good of a biography as you may ever get on Buffet. -KPC

Everyday Survival: Why Smart People Do Stupid Things

Lauren Gonzales takes a look at our decision-making process, explaining why we are prone to doing “stupid things." She asks why we human beings have lost our curiosity and become lazy thinkers? Her thoughts are motivation to those willing to ask a tough question of themselves. -KPC

The Illusion of Control: Why Financial Crises Happen, and What We Can (and Can’t) Do About It

Author Jón Daníelsson discusses the processes of risk management in financial institutions and uncovers reasons why they don’t work. His clear description lays out an argument that our current practices of risk management do not work and have not worked in the past. -KPC

Panic: The Betrayal of Capitalism by Wall Street and Washington

Richard Vigilante and Andrew Redleaf present an interesting look at the mortgage meltdown of 2008. Both of these authors were early in recognizing the problem in underwriting and are very open on their view of what went wrong, and how it should have been handled. -KPC

All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis

Author Bethany McLean uses a title borrowed from Shakespeare to describe her telling of the financial crises of 2008. This book does a masterful job describing not just the product failings in the mortgage securities markets but describes the firms and people behind the failings. McLean was one of the first journalists to uncover the Enron scandal and shines again in this review of some difficult concepts. -KPC

The Revolution That Wasn't: GameStop, Reddit, and the Fleecing of Small Investors

Author Spencer Jakab reviews the trading frenzy that was fueled, in part, by people stranded at home with pandemic stimulus money. Unless you were paying very close attention, you probably don’t know the actual story of who made out, who lost and exactly what caused this to happen. The lessons in the final chapter are worth the time spend on the build up before that last chapter. -KPC

Damsel in Distressed: My Life in the Golden Age of Hedge Funds

In this behind the scenes look at the golden age of hedge funds, author Dominique Mielle gives some insight into strategy and development of the asset class. Interested readers will have to pick through the opinionated comments on politics and unsupported accusations to get to the rather entertaining discussion of the topic advertised in the title. -KPC

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Author and reformed data capitalist Cathy O’Neil reveals big data models used to better understand life’s unpredictable conundrums. The author, unfortunately, allows her personal biases to cloud an otherwise well written look at model flaws and results. If you can separate the facts from the opinions this is a good book to help understand how to avoid bad model outcomes. -KPC

The Bond King: How One Man Made a Market, Built an Empire, and Lost It All

Author Mary Childs gives a very well researched review of the rise and fall of Bill Gross, the Bond King. While salacious details are not often worth the time, the specifics of how Gross operated in fixed income markets and provided value to investors make this an interesting read. -KPC

Better than Alpha: Three Steps to Capturing Excess Returns in a Changing World

In this slightly more technical but interesting book, author Christopher M. Schelling exactly what alpha is, how so many mistake what alpha is, and how we might look to avoid common traps in the search for excess returns in the investment portfolio. This is highly slanted toward investing in equities, but the lessons learned here are very appropriate for credit union investors. -KPC

Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever

Have you ever wondered how the indexing investment strategy started? Author Robin Wigglesworth looks at the academics (including the noted sweater vest wearing Harry Markowitz) and visionaries who saw it first. Details include the recent developments in proxy wars and warnings about the perils of the movement to passive investing. -KPC

The Lords of Easy Money: How the Federal Reserve Broke the American Economy

Author Christopher Leonard reviews the actions of the Federal Reserve during the financial crises in 2008 through the pandemic outbreak. There are a few details that are incorrect and there is more than a hint of opinion splashed into the otherwise well written discussion of the opaque function of the Fed. The overall message makes this worth the time to read. -KPC

The Caesars Palace Coup: How a Billionaire Brawl Over the Famous Casino Exposed the Power and Greed of Wall Street

In this tell all review of what may be the bloodiest bankruptcy case in the history of the United States, authors Max Frumes and Sujeet Indap go into a very detailed review of the case. If you ever wondered what goes on in the bankruptcy courts, or why some are enriched more than others, this may help bring this into light. -KPC

Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology

Something with a different slant. Read how authors Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay, and Mickey McManus envision a new world of computer architecture. Atop trillions mountain, a less complex vision of our computing world is described. Yet to be seen is the accuracy of a prediction with so many fortunes at stake. -KPC

The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction

Richard Bookstaber reviews many financial crises and how the use if financial modeling overlooked the human element behind many failings. In no way does the author suggest removing modeling, rather, understanding the shortcomings, improving them and avoiding overreliance on a flawed process. -KPC

An Economist Walks into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk

In a delightfully lighthearted book, Economist Allison Schrager visits the concept of risk management, risk measurement and risk taking, via non-financial risk takers. Learn how big wave surfers, military leaders and, yes, brothel workers handle the risk inherent in their lives. Understanding the risks they face can help us understand how to better approach our decision making approach. -KPC

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder (Incerto)

Another in a series by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb where he looks at life a little differently. In this effort, Taleb explains how our efforts to create more safety in systems leads to greater risk to the unknowns. This book has real meaning to an insudtry striving for results in many different market conditions. -KPC

Think for Yourself: Restoring Common Sense in an Age of Experts and Artificial Intelligence

Vikram Mansharamani writes a splendid book showing us exactly how we have outsourced our thinking, in many areas of our lives, to experts, to our own detriment. After reading this you will want to recapture control of your decisions. Learn how to recognize what you don’t know and how to think critically and solve your problems. -KPC

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story

Author Michael Lewis tells us about three separate people thrust into real time crises during the reaction to the COVID pandemic outbreak. Read how the Wolverines acted while facing resistance from entrenched bureaucracy and learn how to act like Churchill, not Chamberlain. -KPC

Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely

Author Don A. Moore reviews how we make decisions, our biases and, more importantly, how we become quite overconfident in our process. This suggestion is an important book to understand to help us develop a decision process and stop expecting good decisions to come from gut reactions. -KPC

The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron

Author Bethany McLean gives a very detailed review of some of the more complex transactions and accounting practices that took the once unbeatable Enron into the ash heap of financial history. If you read the 2008 version of this book, stick around for the concluding chapter where the author adds her discussion on the 2008 crises, even the part she assigns virtue to what proved to be part of that problem as well. -KPC

Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves

In this detailed re-telling of the near collapse of the entire financial system in 2008, New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin gives painstaking details, including, for some reason, the wardrobe of the subjects being described, of the several weeks that nearly ended the world financial system. If you are ever seeing your business reaching new heights with unlimited upside, read this book and regain your humility. -KPC

A Colossal Failure of Common Sense: The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers

Author Lawrence McDonald gives a vivid description of the inner workings of Lehman Brothers, one of the more infamous stories of the financial crises of the late 2000’s. Coming from someone who was there, the story of the collapse has all of the usual suspects, reckless pursuit of more, leverage and a large helping of hubris. If you think you have it all figured out, just read this book to get yourself appropriately tuned in to your potential shortcomings. -KPC

Too Smart for Our Own Good: Ingenious Investment Strategies, Illusions of Safety, and Market Crashes

Author Bruce Jacobs takes a more detailed look at selected, well known financial failures and the causes of each. While there are some details misrepresented, the overall problem with these failures all revolve around the misuse of leverage and a misunderstanding of the detrimental impacts of that leverage when things don’t work as hoped. -KPC

The Power of Discipline: How to Use Self Control and Mental Toughness to Achieve Your Goals

Author Daniel Walter gives a short and direct outline on how to keep your focus on important outcomes. In an industry with several distractions, some of which are designed to divert our focus from doing what we know is right, keeping our attention directed toward our goals is critical. -KPC

Everyone Believes It; Most Will Be Wrong: Motley Thoughts on Investing and the Economy

A little different type of suggestion this time. Motley Fool writer Morgan Housel offers a collection of columns showing how horrible an expert opinion proves to be. These should help a reader understand that being skeptical about common narratives can be very rewarding. -KPC

Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business

Aswath Damodaran summarizes the need to deliver both the numbers and the narrative when valuing investments. We chose this suggestion because, as investors, we need to understand what we are being told in the story, and why it may or may not be a valid story. If you understand how the story was developed, you may find the story’s inaccuracy. -KPC

Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know

Author Adam Grant tells us how to think more like a scientist and less like a preacher. Letting go of what we think we know, question our wisdom and be open to lifelong learning. A confident humility can offset the errors that come from believing we know what we do not really know. -KPC

The Geometry of Wealth: How to shape a life of money and meaning

Brian Portnoy gives us a little different view of how we can think about money, investing and our goals. While more focused on personal finance, the psychological aspects and how we have to fight our instincts have a clear parallel to managing credit union portfolios. -KPC

Seeking Virtue in Finance: Contributing to Society in a Conflicted Industry

 Author J. C. deSwan takes an intriguing look at several individuals who try to add more to the world than they take from it, using modern finance as a force for good. Despite several weak arguments on their behalf, this book is helpful in starting a review of our role in making the world a little better. If you are looking for something to start your next conversation supporting your work, this is a great place to start. -KPC

Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

Reading this work by Peter C. Brown and Henry L. Roediger III, we can learn techniques to absorb and retain new material. Using learning blocks and recall by frequent quizzing will help us efficiently learn and recall important information better than simple memorization, a valuable skill for all of us with more to learn. -KPC

Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life

Author and Harvard Business School Professor Francesca Gino shows is how and when to break the rules of business, not the regulations but the behavioral expectations. These easy to read stories tell us how and when we should buck the conventional wisdom. This, however, is not a license to do whatever we like, rather, to understand when going against the convention can pay off. -KPC

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

Author and mathematician Jordan Ellenberg looks at the world through math and helps explain how to think like a mathematician. We are reminded that “mathematics has a nasty habit of showing that, what’s obviously true is absolutely wrong”, “more of a good thing isn’t always better” and “improbable things happen”. Read this to learn out why these are true, or more precisely, not false. -KPC

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Author Erik Larson has a detailed account of the first year of Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister during the war including several chapters on both sides during the raids on England. This is one of the better and more detailed look at the Churchill the leader, the person and how he was able to project his optimistic leadership as all seemed lost. Readers will see hints of scenario planning, attention to detail and several leadership traits worth emulating. -KPC

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are

Author and former Google data analyst Seth Stephens-Davidowitz explains how big data is transforming our understanding, and our misunderstanding of life’s great (and not so great) questions. Pay special attention to the section on too much data before accepting the belief that more is better. -KPC

Thinking in Bets – Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

Author and poker champion Annie Duke presents a delightful look at life’s decisions through the lens of a poker player. She reminds us life is more like poker than chess, and not all bad outcomes come from bad decision-making processes. -KPC

Finance for Normal People – How Investors and Markets Behave

Author Meir Statman gives a thorough look at how we humans make decisions, rational or otherwise, regarding our investments. Beside the arguable point on selling versus collecting dividends, Statman points out many of the flaws behind standard finance theory and how we are drawn to poor financial outcomes. Learn the flaws of human thinking to avoid repeating avoidable mistakes. -KPC

Number Freaking

Rather than another suggestion on how to use statistics, author Gary Rimmer lists several rather interesting numbers, and how to use numbers in many areas of life beyond work related topics. -KPC

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Another addition from author Malcom Gladwell. Like most of Gladwell’s work, there are holes in a few points, but we can learn about turning weaknesses into strengths to overcome what may seem a large disadvantage. -KPC

Why Ireland Never Invaded America

Author Conor Cunneen spins a tale with a wink to Irish storytelling and an insightful dose of business acumen. You will enjoy the light hearted reminder of some basic business strategies. This book comes recommended by my mother and her proud Irish heritage. -KPC

Naked Statistics – Stripping the Dread From the Data

Charles Wheelan will quickly and plainly walk us through statistics (really) and how you can better understand what you are being told. Rest assured, most who are reporting the latest study do not understand what they are talking about either. After you read this, you will. -KPC

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Dan Ariely takes us through many life decisions, our seemingly endless desire to decide incorrectly, and how we might recognize the errors. The reader can see through various experiments in many life settings just how we make predictable bad decisions. -KPC

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution

Wall Street Journal writer Gregory Zuckerman introduces the reader to one of the pioneers in quantitative investing. Learn about the group that created the idea of investing without worrying about the company in which you have invested. -KPC

Big Debt Crises

Hedge fund master Ray Dalio reviews the history of several financial crises, the impact of leverage on each and how nations tend to respond, right or wrong. This topic should be reviewed every ten years or so as we repeat the mistakes. -KPC

How Money Became Dangerous: The Inside Story of Our Turbulent Relationship with Modern Finance

An insider’s look into the complications of our current money system, from a commercial banker to and investment banker, and how every bad idea starts out a as good idea. -KPC

Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events

Nobel winner Robert Shiller reveals the narrative stories and how they resemble the spread of an actual virus. Recognizing the narrative can help avoid falling for the message and make better decisions based on actual data rather than the narrative. -KPC

The Behavioral Investor

A thorough look at how to better manage investment portfolios through a system-based process. Money decisions, especially investment decisions can be improved by understanding human behavior and why we are programmed to underperform when relying on human emotion. - KPC

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don't Know

Malcom Gladwell takes a look at what we think we know about people based upon what we see. Why is it we think we understand what people think based upon actions, expressions and outward signs. - KPC

How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In

Jim Collins, who gave US Built to Last AND Good to Great, take s a slightly different viewpoint; a comprehensive look at companies that were once great and since have failed. The best time to review this is when you are doing well to help avoid the mistakes that can be fatal. -KPC

Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That Matter the Most

How do we make important decisions? Steven Johnson takes a look at many important decisions that have been made without the benefit of solid decision making matrices, and how these bad outcomes could have been avoided with better techniques. -KPC

How to Lie With Statistics

Darrell Huff takes a lighthearted but interesting view of what we all thought we knew; public opinion polls, growth statistics and even growth figures. This book can help you understand what many don’t and, build a healthy level of skepticism that is necessary to know how the world really works. -KPC

Money Anxiety

Dan Geller, Ph. D., introduces the next stage in behavioral economics with this book on financial anxiety. Many have read about elasticity of demand, but Geller moves one step further to measure how we behave with deposits in various steps in the economic cycle. Financial institutions would do well to understand this behavior. -KPC

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics

Nobel Prize winner Richard Thaler reveals how the science of behavioral economics developed over years; extending pioneering work by Kahneman and Tversky through his work at University of Chicago. This book can help readers think like an Econ and understand why most people simply don’t think that way, despite what traditional economic models presume. -KPC

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

In this book, Nobel winner Richard Thaler uses the decision-making framework and thought making process to help build better outcomes. Suggesting a more libertarian “helping” process, he looks at how we have consistently made poor decisions and how leaders might “nudge” others to make better decisions with just the right amount, and the right kind of encouragement. -KPC

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Why do rational human beings often make irrational decisions? Author and Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman explores the psychology of thinking and how our thinking irrationally disrupts the rational science of economics. Kahneman reveals the two types of thought and how we can focus on the rational when we are inclined to rely on the reactive. He also reminds us what we see is not all there is. - KPC

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets (Incerto)

Interesting read from a money manager who has seen styles come and go. This will help define the role of luck, probability and human error in the process of making money decisions. -KPC

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds

Michael Lewis introduces the reader to two academics on the forefront of behavioral study and the human element in the decision-making process. -KPC

Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World

Remember the credit crises? Read Michael Lewis’ stories about how people got caught up in the rush to riches in the 2000’s and how it all came undone. There is an extra bonus for those looking for a way to curse in German. -KPC

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

Michael Lewis brings the mortgage market in the 2000’s to life. Meet some of the “smart” characters who brought you the CDO and “liar loans”. -KPC

Liar's Poker

The first of many masterpieces by Michael Lewis. The heady days of Salomon Brothers are exposed here with all the hubris you may have heard about. Don’t care to read this, then its “Equities in Dallas” for you. -KPC

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management

Roger Lowenstein shows us the principals that brought us Long-Term Capital Management, the arrogance of certainty and how even Nobel Prize winners can get things very wrong. Everything works great while it’s working; until it stops working. -KPC

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some Don't

Ever wonder how weather forecasts just don’t seem to work? Why does a 10% chance of rain not always mean it might rain? Nate Silver tells the reader how to separate actual predictive data from the noise in many aspects of daily life. You will also learn how he predicted all 538 congressional races, hence 538.com. -KPC