The Bookshelf

What are we reading? Care to get caught up on some of the most interesting books on the market, economics, and issues that can impact or affect your investments? Check out what we happen to be reading and recommend. We’ll add new books periodically, and will take requests from investors who have great recommendations!

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Pity the Billionaire by Thomas Frank.

I’ve been a fan of Thomas Frank for a long time, since his days at The Baffler Magazine (recently resurrected) and his other books like Boob Jubilee, Commodify Your Dissent and What’s the Matter with Kansas? Thomas Frank is a regular chronicler of America’s corporate excesses and a progressive champion. You may not always agree with his politics, but he is an interesting read when you want to know about the dwindling middle class.

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The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson

Do you know what money is? Where it comes from? What it means when people talk about currency fluctuations? Probably not. At least not as well as Niall Ferguson does. The always interesting and sometimes controversial Ferguson isn’t an economist, but he is an astute professor of history with a witty and easy to understand style. Touching on multiple points of our history to look at the evolution of the financial markets, Ferguson does something that most would assume is impossible. Make it interesting. He is the author of several other books, all interesting, all controversial, and all good reads!

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Paper Promises by Philip Coggan

I like reading the Financial Times. First because I enjoy perspectives about the world that have not been run through the North American filter. Second because American reporting is often terrible and juvenile (there, I said it!). Philip Coggan is a former FT reporter and has done a fantastic job of chronicling the back land forth tension between the worlds of debtors and creditors, where debt comes from and what the gold standard really is (and why it isn’t probably that important). It’s not a light Sunday read, but it is fascinating if you want to really get a grip on the nature of money and financial markets.

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Pinched by Don Peck

Back when everyday was about the financial collapse and its never ending global fallout (in the days before people began to tentatively talk of “global recovery”) Don Peck produced a book that is both of its moment, and aims to look past it. I remember discussing with people in 2009 that the United States was officially and permanently broke, that much of the military would have to be disbanded and the American consumer was no longer an economic force. I ,like many doom-sayser, was wrong. Don Peck aims to look past those immediate shocks and take inventory of what the ongoing long term impact of the changed economy means for everybody. It’s an interesting (if not slightly depressing) look at how our narrowing financial world is changing our lives. For a short book and easy read, it is quite a sobering look at the world.

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As the Future Catches You by Juan Enriquez

Juan Enriquez has a unique view about the world. His book also has a unique approach to conveying information (its a bit like reading an inforgraphic). But his insights are fantastic. Part venture capitalist, part futurist, Juan Enriquez has done several TED Talks looking past the generally accepted understanding of the world around us to educate you in a future that few have a good understanding of. Looking at trends like genomics, robotics, digital information, economics and financial markets Enriquez shows you a world that is changing far more dramatically than you could even guess.

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Boomerang by Michael Lewis

If you don’t know who Michael Lewis is by now, you’ve been living under a rock. A writer with great flair for turning potentially dull subjects into edge of your seat cliffhangers, Lewis has made a name for himself covering the various financial messes across the globe (as well as a couple of sport themed books and movies). Aside from his most recent work, Boomerang stands out as a favourite. A chronicle of how countries, states and towns managed to become the punching bag of the financial crisis, this book both fantastic fun and head shaking in disbelief read. From Iceland to California to Greece, Lewis does an excellent job of capturing some of the worst excesses of financial hysteria and how we all become losers of a system that had grown wildly out of control.

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Debtors’ Prison by Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner falls on the Keynesian side of the economic debates about government intervention in bad markets. His book is an excellent look at why the appeal of austerity economics doesn’t match up to the outcomes expected. While we may decry government bailouts, large public debts and high spending, there are reasons why this approach is still favoured by many economists over austerity. Kuttner’s book is an excellent look at the downsides of the austerity movement by governments and how it impacts the people who live in those economies subject to strict austerity.

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Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George

Ever wonder where everything comes from? I’ve already written about this book, but I thought it needed another plug here. A fascinating looking to the largely invisible world of global shipping, Ninety Percent of Everything is often surprising and answers many questions that you’ve often had but never knew where to look (like why is Liberia a place where so many ships are registered?). I highly recommend this book as informative and entertaining, and will likely read George’s other book The Big Necessity as well.

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Filthy Lucre by Joseph Heath

I am currently reading Joseph Heath’s new book Enlightenment 2.0, but if you ever wanted a great introduction into economics for those that don’t trust economics, I recommend this book. A fascinating account of some of the basic issues that we hear about everyday but may have a hard time really grasping. Filthy Lucre is an easy read that covers a lot of ground that might traditionally seem impenetrable if you had to do it in a textbook like setting. I particularly like his chapters on inflation and on competitiveness. Heath is a professor at the University of Toronto and its nice to have someone in our own back yard to promote.

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The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This is one of those books you have to read. Taleb is a fascinating author, but he works in at a fairly high level, meaning (for me at least) that you may have to re-read a page or two. But his insights into the impact of the unexpected have been so good and profound that this book quickly worked its way into the modern vernacular. He has several other books that cover much of these topics, like Fooled By Randomness and most recently Anti-Fragile, where he claims that people have misunderstood some of his previous work. I have found his work to be enormously influential and it has helped shape my own views on how to invest. I recommend this book to everyone looking to really understand what risk and uncertainty mean in the markets.

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