2019 is turning out to be another great year for knowledge compounding by reading a wide variety of books. I took a conscientious decision in the recent years to quit some social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and whittling away my overusage of Twitter. I still see a lot of value in Twitter, so I find it hard to quit completely — especially since I get to connect with some brilliant people and have/follow interesting ideas and conversations.
In addition to quitting social media, I made a decision to reduce my consumption of news. Most of today’s news – be it financial media, political media etc is nothing but drivel that generates excessive noise, and I wanted to get rid of that from my life. These little changes opened up so much time; allowing me to do more of what I wanted to do for the past few years: read more books.
I have a goal of reading 25 books in 2019 and sure enough, I’ve made good progress on that front, completing 16 in the first half of the year. Here’s a summary of the books and my short take on each.
- Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat – While the intent was good after a personal tragedy in the author’s life, this book was poorly written mixed with religious/spiritual beliefs in a search for happiness. Verdict: ★
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck – Not sure why this book is popular. The message about Fixed vs Growth mindset can be conveyed in a blog post instead of a book. The author has a hammer and everything looks like a nail….spending countless stories repeating the same message over and over. Verdict: ★
- Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKE by Phil Knight – Usually I don’t enjoy memoirs, but this one came highly recommended and I am glad I read it. It was a fascinating story to read Phil Knight’s journey from the very beginning and the struggles and risks taken to build Nike. A private and introverted person, I did not know anything about Nike’s history, but I am glad he wrote this and shared it with the world. Some parts of the book read like fiction and I found Phil’s writing style to be a joy as he paints a wonderful picture and takes you on the entrepreneurial journey of the founding of Blue Ribbon, which later became Nike Inc. Highly recommended. Verdict: ★★★★★
- Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond – While the contents of the book were good and interesting, this book is a failure on the editor’s part. The book is tediously long. What should really take one page to communicate, takes the author about 15 pages (no exaggeration). The author explains millions of hypotheticals for why something did not occur in history before getting to the main point of how something came about to exist. Verdict: ★★★
- Capital Compounders: How to Beat the Market and Make Money Investing in Growth Stocks by Robin Speziale – This is the second book I read from Robin after enjoying the Market Masters book. This book was a good walkthrough of metrics to use for identifying and picking growth stocks. The author lists some good thought-provoking points and also enlists various techniques used by other successful investors. There were a few sections that seemed like they didn’t belong and could’ve been omitted from the book. Verdict: ★★★★
- Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke – An instant classic! Annie has brought her learnings from Poker and psychology and written a masterpiece on decision making. She highlights various mental models and nudges the reader to change the framing of questions on decisions. A must-read for everyone. She has also appeared on various podcasts and I found a lot of value in listening to her speak. Highly recommend following her work. Verdict: ★★★★★
- Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker – Another instant classic. Sleep is probably the least understood aspect of human wellbeing and Matt Walker dives deep into the importance of sleep and how it is tied to everything in our life – from basic learnings & functioning day-to-day, to diseases we develop due to lack of sleep. A brilliant communicator, he shares a lot of anecdotes to help understand the underlying problems. He has also appeared on various podcasts which are fantastic to listen. Highly recommended. Verdict: ★★★★★
- AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee – Slightly biased towards China, but Dr Lee paints a great picture of how the Chinese tech companies are leapfrogging the western world in the development of AI tech. Not only are Chinese companies investing more on the technical side, but also developing new business models in the gladiatorial arena that is the Chinese market where winner takes all. An eye opener for anyone interested in tech and investing. Verdict: ★★★★
- The Big Secret for the Small Investor: The Shortest Route to Long-Term Investment Success by Joel Greenblatt – A good introductory book on investing. Greenblatt illustrates nicely how to evaluate businesses & how a small change in assumption can come back with wildly different valuation of a company. Quick and decent read. Verdict: ★★★★
- The Little Book That Still Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt – Greenblatt’s goal with this book was to show to his young children what he does for a living & which factors to focus on. He mentions focusing on two elements: pre-tax earnings yield (the percent of the stock’s price that comprises current earnings) and return on capital. Of course, its not as simple and investing is much more complicated than that as he notes that the above formula will not always work. A quick and decent read. Verdict: ★★★
- Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – A biography on one of history’s smartest men. There are a few sections of the book that seemed a bit tedious but overall paints a very good picture of Leonardo and his life, the struggles he faced & the genius mind that dabbled in so many different fields. Verdict: ★★★
- Dear Chairman: Boardroom Battles and the Rise of Shareholder Activism by Jefferson Gramm – Good recount of some shareholder activism stories. I didn’t find some of the stories as interesting, but a few chapters were very well done. Verdict: ★★★
- Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson – One of the most inspiring books I’ve read in recent years. I knew almost nothing about the Apollo 8 mission and this book transports you back in time in the lead up to (and during the) launch of the mission; painting a vivid picture of the environment and the monumental challenges that existed and overcome by NASA. Verdict: ★★★★★
- Quality Investing: Owning the Best Companies for the Long Term by Lawrence A. Cunningham, Torkell T. Eide, Patrick Hargreaves – A great book that every investor should read and re-visit regularly. Starts off with questioning what ‘quality’ is and how focusing on great businesses that have a moat, strong brand, good management and execution can lead to continued value creation and prosperity. Highly recommended. Verdict: ★★★★★
- Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms by Hannah Fry – A very good book on how algorithms are taking over our lives in various fields…from marketing to medicine, from transportation to justice. A compelling read. Verdict: ★★★
- Free Capital: How 12 private investors made millions in the stock market by Guy Thomas – This book outlines various strategies used by private investors. The book profiles various investors who went private after amassing enough capital to become full-time investors. Each profile shows a unique strategy used and shows the strengths each investor leverages to make money in the market. Verdict: ★★★★
Even though two of those books (the Greenblatt books) are short ones, I am surprised at how many I have read so far. All this considering I am a slow reader. I intend to continue this habit and keep building on my knowledge over the years to come.
Have you read any interesting books lately? Leave a comment below with your recommendations.