Titles are links, columns are sortable (i.e. by rating/date/author); compiled notes link

name author rating comments date published date read
AI Superpowers Kai-Fu Lee ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Discusses how China will be the greatest beneficiary of AI. The world's most qualified person to discuss such matters. September 2018 November 2018
Between Debt and the Devil Adair Turner ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Argues successfully that credit creation is "too important to be left in the hands of the private sector" because commercial banks consistently over-lend by underestimating the risk of real estate. Longer life expectancies, income inequality, urbanization, and Moore's Law all exacerbate this. Explains what a balance sheet recession is (expounded in Koo's book). Recommends measures to reign in finance. January 2015 June 2016
Being Mortal Atul Gawande ⭐️⭐️ Asks important questions about our unhealthy obsession with prologing life at any cost. Well-written and powerfully personal, Being Mortal is an important book that you might want to read while you have the luxury to. October 2014 June 2017
Between the World And Me Ta-Nehisi Coates ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Beautifully written and narrated (I listened to the audiobook (3h 35m)), this book is incredibly evocative. Styled as a letter to his teenage son, Coates discusses and illuminates — especially for non-black readers — the cruel, harsh reality (destruction, dispossession, and disembodiment) of being “drafted into the black race,” and dispels the illusion of America as some shining city on a hill. Viewing this somber message under the lens of an, almost apologetic, parent offering advice, you might be moved to tears by this (audio)book. September 2015 January 2019
Colossus: Rise and Fall of the American Empire Niall Ferguson ⭐️⭐️ Well-written (as Ferguson always does), 'Colossus' argues the case for why America should be considered an empire and draws out where its fall might come from -- essentially a lack of support / political appetite for prolonged military engagements and settlements. In 2017 this proposition looks increasingly fallible due to America's new-found energy independence (expounded in McNally's book). June 2004 May 2016
Contagious: Why Things Catch On Jonah Berger ⭐️⭐️ Despite stilted writing, Wharton professor Berger presents a useful framework to think about what helps a product spread organically and via word of mouth. Especially powerful and salient was the first component of this: social currency-- people share things in order to be perceived of as smarter, more informed, etc. May 2016 December 2017
Crude Volatility Robert McNally ⭐️⭐️ Decent history of the oil industry, offers a nuanced explanation of why crude oil is characterized by inherent price volatility despite concerted efforts to maintain stability. Delves into consequences of US shale oil and new Saudi Arabian oil policy to maintain production, i.e. a reversion to the mean: boom and bust. January 2017 June 2017
Double Entry Jane G-White ⭐️⭐️ The story of double-entry accounting and how it 'changed' the world. It's told as an interesting story, and this part is done well. Funny to think how separating accounts into two separate tables revolutionized finance. October 2013 May 2015
Earning the Rockies Robert Kaplan ⭐️⭐️⭐️ This book redeems itself in the second half wherein Kaplan (partially) derives America's modern hegemonic status to its geographic position, e.g. it was the only modern country that came out of WW2 without surviving significant domestic damage; its waterways 'unite' rather than divide; its monolithic continental shape promotes unity; it was colonized water-rich-east to west, thus allowing for liberal governance. Also talks about the "warrior culture" of non-coastal Americans. January 2017 May 2017
Ego Is the Enemy Ryan Holiday ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Equally short and powerful. Herein, Holiday makes a simple argument well: hard work and humility are the keys to success. However, they're also often the first victims of ego. So make ego public enemy number 1 if you ever wish to enjoy continued success. June 2016 October 2017
Escape from Balance Sheet Recession and the QE Trap Richard Koo ⭐️⭐️ I found this book in the footnotes of Turner's book. It's a relatively stale but not too technical read that does a good job of explaining the situation we're in today post-2008, i.e. a BSR where firms minimize debt at the expense of maximising profits (thereby contravening classical economic theory). October 2014 August 2016
Flash Boys Michael Lewis ⭐️⭐️ Lewis fashions an enjoyable story out of high-frequency trading (HFT) industry, which he strongly argues do more harm than good. Although they are touted to improve market efficiency thanks to the liquidity they provide, this very same liquidity dries up when it's needed most -- in spikes / collapses: in crashes: 85% of inventory is held by HFT firms. March 2014 January 2016
Hillbilly Elegy James Vance ⭐️⭐️ “You will not read a more important book about America this year.” – The Economist. Hillbilly Elegy is about that part of America that elected Trump and that we don't really hear much about: white working-class America, also the most dually pessimistic and proud demographic. Something something about learned helplessness. Should be read with 'Earning the Rockies' (notes available). June 2016 January 2017
Hopes and Prospects Noam Chomsky ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Chomsky is the most cited living author in the world -- and for good reason. Sadly, I never finished my notes on this book, but maybe that's a good thing because you should read it in its entirety. In 'Hopes and Prospects', Chomsky offers trenchant criticism of American foreign policy and shows us how the US became #1, and how South America's modern independence (from NA) movements represent humanity's hopes and prospects. June 2010 November 2015
In Defense of a Liberal Education Fareed Zakaria ⭐️⭐️ Argues that a liberal education is the only thing that can prepare you for constant change, also the importance of writing. March 2015 April 2018
Incerto Trilogy Nassim Taleb ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is a trilogy for which I've written notes / commentary that work best as a reading companion. I was drawn to this by Taleb's famous book 'The Black Swan' and Incerto can be considered a guide to being a more well-informed, less-biased member of society. Can be read with Gigerenzer's book (notes available). 2001-2012 2016
Insane Mode Hamish McKenzie ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3 challenges Tesla faced: fires, range anxiety, and its dealership model; charts the global rise of EVs, especially in China where former Western teams are being enticed (e.g. team behind BMW i8); most startling is fact that batteries will soon (2020+ at current rate of economization) be cheap enough for EV cost-parity. November 2018 December 2018
Lab Rats Dan Lyons ⭐️⭐️ How Silicon Valley is making work miserable: money, job insecurity, change, dehumanization (via automation). Good case studies of successful + good culture firms (Basecamp). October 2018 December 2018
Lifelong Kindergarten Mitchel Resnick ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Resnick, developer of Scratch and the Clubhouse Network, writes on the importance of creativity and how we might remedy today's educational system to help children develop it as a lifelong skill. Strong thesis grounded in principles of iteration and intrinsic motivation. Timely, salient material with the coming advent of ubiquitous, high-quality, personalized education. August 2017 November 2017
Love: A History Simon May ⭐️⭐️⭐️ May offers us rare insight into the Western concept of love. He traces the many philsophers who've contributed to this concept, and along the way refutes many myths. Ultimately, he argues that love is conditional, ephemeral, and selfish. January 2013 September 2018
My Twentieth Century Kazuo Ishiguro ⭐️⭐️ Kazuo Ishiguro’s acceptance speech for his 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature (transcript). Explains the thought-process and chronology behind his books, especially interesting if you've read Remains of the Day and/or The Buried Giant. December 2017 January 2019
New Confessions of an Economic Hitman John Perkins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In 'New Confessions', Perkins updates his earlier 2004 novel in which he explains how the US government / corporatocracy collude to deceive, abuse, and economically exploit economically developing nations. E.g. offer loans to insolvent governments with kickbacks for corrupt officials in order to take over national assets. This book works well with prior readings of Ha-Joon Chang's work such as 'Kicking Away the Ladder', which goes into how the IMF / World Bank are also complicit in this. Also should be read with 'The Wikileaks Files' (notes available). February 2016 December 2016
Neuroteach Whitman, & Kelleher ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Informed by the latest research in neuroscience, the authors draw out the relevance of these advances to the field of education. Fun activity: look at the list of "worst pedagogical methods" at the bottom and see how many you experienced while in school. June 2016 October 2017
Oil Vaclav Smil ⭐️⭐️ The 2nd, revised, edition of Smil's useful primer to understanding (one of) the most consequential industries today. Bill Gates writes: "There is no author whose books I look forward to more than Vaclav Smil." January 2018 April 2018
One World Schoolhouse Salman Khan ⭐️⭐️ Salman Khan of Khan Academy writes a short, readable (and sadly common) critique of modern education, as well as the story of how the Khan Academy came to be. Personally, each deserves its own book and should be separated in such a way. Also unforunate is that because of the publishing date, Khan's new physical school initiative isn't written about. October 2012 August 2017
Risky Savvy Gerd Gigerenzer ⭐️⭐️ Full title: 'Risky Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions', interesting case studies, similar in concept to Taleb's Incerto series. Notes in reading companion version. March 2015 April 2016
Skin in the Game Nassim Taleb ⭐️⭐️ Having read his Incerto trilogy, I felt rather compelled to read this Taleb’s latest. It was kind of repetitive and not particularly coherent; basically, people learn best through direct experience and work best when they have something at stake. Interestingly the latter is something that was codified in ancient societies (Hammurabi’s Law and even the Bible’s lex talonis), but that we’ve lost since… Taleb’s favorite example: Bob Rubin. February 2018 September 2018
Superforecasting Philip Tetlock ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Superforecasting is another book in the long series of decision-making-related books I've now read. It is, however, one of the better ones. Tetlock discusses the need for accountability in prediction-making and the common traits that superforecasters share. September 2016 September 2017
The Ajax Dilemma Paul Woodruff ⭐️ Short but not really sweet. Explores an important managerial problem: the allocation of rewards/recognition, but doesn't come to the most useful conclusions. In short: fairness isn't a great guiding principle, and a leader's problem remains preventing team cohesion from being undermined by an inevitable difference in reward allocation. March 2014 May 2018
The Buy Side Turney Duff ⭐️⭐️ Duff, a journalism major from Ohio State vividly recounts his experiences as a buy-side trader on Wall St from the 90s to the 00s. What makes this book so entertaining is Duff’s ability to write what is presumably a factual account of his own experiences and his willingness to go to into incredibly sordid details regarding his cocaine/alcohol addiction, which his book suggests is the norm of Wall St’s buy-side (at least back then). I was fascinated by his crediting his success to his interpersonal skills — something which I imagine has in no small part have to do with him being the only son (of a demanding, cold father, see Drama of the Gifted Child) but youngest of 4 children… June 2014 January 2019
The Coddling of the American Mind Lukianoff & Haidt ⭐️⭐️ An expanded version of the original 2015 article, but goes into great detail explaining 6 potential causes of the recent safetyism/victimhood culture arising on campuses and spelling out why it's problematic for kids today. Basically, it makes them fragile. September 2018 January 2019
The Conservative Heart Arthur Brooks ⭐️⭐️ A well-written defense of traditional conservatism (not the modern day mutation) that makes a good case for the values of conservatism: more work and fulfillment and fewer giveaways. July 2015 March 2017
The Drama of the Gifted Child Alice Miller ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Miller's seminal, blockbuster work, this book is something that I think everyone can relate to in some part (or at least acknowledge its powerful, inescapable conclusions) regarding the cyclical nature of parenting, i.e. how we unintentionally reproduce/internalize behaviors (often undesirable) in our own children. Most importantly, she offers us the tidbit from her own decades of experience as a psychologist that the only solution for individuals tormented by their childhood - which is basically everyone, in some way or another — is much-needed but much-avoided internal dialogue. November 1996 January 2019
The End of Alchemy Mervyn King ⭐️⭐️⭐️ The former governor of the Bank of England, King offers a nuanced understanding of finance and what he terms financial alchemy. He offers an alternative central banking model that appears very promising: the idea of a pawnbroker for all seasons (vs. lender of last resort) that would reduce moral hazard. March 2016 September 2016
The End of Average Todd Rose ⭐️⭐️ Offers an interesting historical perspective of why the modern educational system is shaped the way it is (read: factories and Frederick Taylor) and why it's no longer suitable today and thus needs replacement. Does what few books do successfully, however, and that is to suggest good improvements / alternatives e.g. (1) grant credentials not diplomas, (2) replace grades with competency, (3) let students determine their educational pathway January 2016 March 2016
The Everything Store Brad Stone ⭐️⭐️ Stone had unpredecented access to Bezos and employees of Amazon to write this, and in it he offers readers a look under the hood of Amazon's corporate policies such as "top grading", bias for action, and the eschewing of PowerPoints and presentations. He doesn't offer a very rosy picture of Bezos as a character, and Bezos' wife wrote an (unsubstantiated) rebuttal to Stone's portrayal. Pretty interesting. March 2015 November 2015
The Fifth Risk Michael Lewis ⭐️⭐️ Lewis uncovers some of the hidden complexities of the US government in this book, taking examples from the Department of Energy (half of whose budget goes towards maintaining the nuclear arsenal, namely waste), the Department of Commerce (which is misnamed, it should really be the Department of Data — all of weather data comes from sub-department NOAA), and the Department of Agriculture (whose $200B bank funds rural development). Basically, the book is about short-termism and through reading it one uncovers how Trump might be the epitome (both indirectly (lack of preparation) and directly (continued ignorance)) of it. Honestly, terrifying. October 2018 January 2019
The Four Scott Galloway ⭐️⭐️ Galloway, a marketing professor at NYU Stern, mounts a reasoned attack on the tech companies (Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Amazon) that are increasingly ruling our lives these days. An important read for this age. October 2016 January 2018
The Greatest Empire Emily Wilson ⭐️⭐️⭐️ A thoughtful reflection on the writings of Seneca, a prominent Roman politician and stoic philosopher in Nero's court, Wilson's writings expose the contradictions between Seneca's teachings and his lived actions. There is much we might learn from his life, indeed the greatest empire is to 'conquer oneself.' October 2014 March 2018
The Road To Character David Brooks ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Brooks argues that we, as a society, have lost our moral vocabulary, and this leads to pernicious consequences for us as individuals. Struggle, Brooks maintains, is crucial to moral development. Fortunately for the reader, by exploring the complex and often painful lives of figures who've gone down in the history books, Brooks hopes to offer transferable advice. September 2016 March 2018
The Seventh Sense Joshua Cooper Ramo ⭐️⭐️⭐️ An important book for today's networked world. "An entrepreneur with the Seventh Sense looks at a spare bedroom and sees the possibility of a network to unseat hotels" June 2016 November 2017
The Shallows Nicholas Carr ⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is a book (Pulitzer Prize finalist) about how the Internet is rewiring our brains, and most likely for the worse. It should be essential reading for anyone of this generation. Learn about how you should be reading more books and less Internet junk -- because your brain is really plastic!! June 2011 February 2016
The Square and the Tower Niall Ferguson ⭐️⭐️ Ferguson tries to rewrite the historiological paradigm that has understated the power of networks in explaining history, i.e. ascribing too much agency/influence to individuals. Too much? January 2018 May 2018
The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire WikiLeaks ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Great introduction by Julian Assange. This book defines an empire (a definition encompassing the US), describes the 4 phases of US foreign policy, and analyzes specific cables on WikiLeaks that offer an insight into how the US operates. E.g, the State Department enforcing a preference of Airbus over Boeing in Bahrain and the adoption of GMO in Europe. Issues such as the "Invade Hague Act", censorship, and America's current Dollar Wall-St and Virtual Senate system (expounded in Perkin's and Chomsky's books) are explored. September 2016 February 2017
The Wisdom of Finance Mihir Desai ⭐️⭐️ Explains basic financial concepts through various cultural references (history/lit/music/movies) in order to humanize it. The ideas of living life with or without leverage (comparing Jeff Koons' and Orwell's approaches), and seeing the principal-agent problem in parenting, were particularly thought-provoking. May 2017 January 2019
Utopia For Realists Rutger Bregman ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Bregman makes great cases for giving money to the poor, implementing a UBI, reducing the work week, and more. His TED talk on poverty is quite moving and well-worth watching. March 2017 July 2017
ValueWeb Chris Skinner ⭐️⭐️ Debunks some FinTech myths such as that the big banks today aren't moving or that they even need to move. (Correctly) paints the future as belonging to Blockchain and mobile. April 2016 May 2016
World Without Mind Franklin Foer ⭐️⭐️⭐️ Foer writes presciently on the subject of 'bad tech,'and how good intentions on behalf of Silicon Valley to reduce the burden of 'thinking' poses an existential threat to our humanity. September 2017 January 2018
You Only Have to Be Right Once Randall Lane ⭐️⭐️ A good airplane book that looks at 16 Silicon Valley success stories, e.g. DropBox, WhatsApp, Facebook, Palantir... more factual than insight. March 2016 May 2016