There are many sorts of books; but good ones are the sort for the young to read. remember that. They are a great, an inestimable, and unspeakable means of improvement.
— Mark Twain in "Advice to Youth" (1882)

Titles are links and column headers are sortable

Recommended use: (1) sort by date or rating, (2) find book with interesting comments, (3) read high-level summary/notes linked in name, (4) buy book and read it, (5) withstand the relentless and ruthless passing of time and loss of memory, (6) refresh memory by reading notes again

Link to compiled notes here

name author rating comments date published date read
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
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
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
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
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
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 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 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 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
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 Min 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