Wednesday 11 December 2019 by Guest Contributor General

Our favourite reads in 2019

From Big Debt Crises to Pablo Escobar, the FIIG Book Club share their favourite financial or other reads for 2019

books2019


Leaders

Leaders Eat Last

By Simon Sinek5-stars

Simon’s third book and best-seller, is a brilliant follow-up to Start With Why, that provides insight into how great leaders inspire deep trust and commitment to the company and one another. He cites the Marine Corps for having found a way to build a culture in which men and women are willing to risk their lives, because they know others would do the same for them. It’s not brainwashing; it’s actually based on the biology of how and when people are naturally at their best. If businesses could adopt this supportive mentality, employees would be more motivated to take bigger risks, because they’d know their colleagues and company would back them up, no matter what.

What I like most about this book is Simon’s incredible story-telling ability. He is able to cover topics such as biology, psychology, anthropology, neuroscience, organisational behaviour and history, linking them all together gracefully using inspiring real-life stories. On top of learning about leadership, I felt it left me with a deeper understanding about why I think and behave a certain way in different situations! I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to inspire others.  


Reviewed by Tom Born-Crockett, Dealer Assistant


Crashed

By Adam Tooze

Being naturally attracted to non-fiction books, this book’s subtitle (How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World) and Adam Tooze’s expertise immediately caught my attention. It is fair to say that I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t be afraid by the size of this book, a 600+ page publication - it is well worth the read. As an economic historian who has won multiple high profile prizes for his work, Adam Tooze explores the ramifications of the Global Financial Crisis and how it has affected key countries and more widely the global economy over the past ten years. The depth of the review and analysis is simply outstanding and should be a must read for anyone vaguely interested in what’s been happening globally in the past ten years. I think the Washington Post and Financial Times summarised it perfectly by saying that even for readers who have attempted to follow the twists and turns or events, this book adds significant value.

Reviewed by Thomas Jacquot, Head of Research


Reminiscences of a Stock Operator

By Edwin Lefèvre

The book was written back in time as if you were standing on the floor of the NYSE next to Jesse Livermore, one of the greats who was mentored by JPMorgan (for all the right reasons). It emancipates the very fact that trading principles are timeless. This book pioneered all the great investing quotes and is a must read for any investor – I hope they make this book into a movie one day.

Reviewed by Charles Buxton, Associate - Fixed Income


Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

By Phil Knight

Phil Knight, the creator of Nike tells his REAL story in a great easy to read way that anyone can relate to. You journey through his highs and lows and get a real sense of how powerful his entrepreneurial spirit really was and is! So many lessons learned.

Reviewed by Charles Buxton, Associate - Fixed Income


A Template for Understanding Big Debt Crises

By Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio should need no introduction to any investor over the last 30 years. As founder of the world's largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, he has been a giant of investing through most of our lifetimes. This is a weighty tonme, and shouldn't be attempted in a single sitting unless you can devour 471 pages at once!

Rarely have so many disparate events and their causes and consequences been brought together in a single place, and the short summary at the end is an exceedingly well written 4 or 5 paragraphs which basically says this time will be different and we need to be flexibly able to respond. Here’s hoping!

My own summary is that with patience, this book can teach (a relatively sophisticated) investor pretty much everything they need to know about navigating the investing environment we find ourselves in – and that is a rare thing indeed.

Reviewed by Jonathan Sheridan, Chief Investment Strategist


Range - Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

By David Epstein

This is a captivating read for anyone else who cares about improving performance and provides a thought-provoking and fresh way to look at creativity, innovation, training, learning and education.

Through excellent story-telling and a wealth of insights, Epstein challenges the well held notion that success is driven through starting young, specialisation, focus and efficiency. Instead he makes a case for a breadth of experiences, inefficiency, and late starters who can think broadly and have learnt from experimenting and failing. As a result, generalists are far more creative, can overcome challenges and will thrive in an ever more complex and unpredictable world.

Reviewed by Fraser Thompson, Head of Digital Solutions


Drawdown

By Paul Hawken

As the father of two young daughters I am fairly consistently being reminded of the impact of our daily lives on the environment. A few months ago, at the behest of my eldest daughter, we watched the documentary 2040. I found it refreshing that rather than having an apocalyptic tone, the documentary looked forward with a considerable degree of hope and optimism.

Author and environmentalist, Paul Hawken, is regularly interviewed throughout the documentary. Paul is also the author of a book called Drawdown. Drawdown was recommended to me some time ago by an environmentally minded client (thanks Norman!) and at the end of the documentary I thought it was time to order the book to find out more.

Drawdown proposes 100 potential solutions to help improve our environment and ranks them by the amount of greenhouse gases they could cut together with estimated cost of implementation. The ideas are grouped together in categories such as energy, food, women and girls, buildings, cities etc. Each of these 100 solutions is covered in the book by a short essay which provides an ideal high level overview for the uninitiated. I have used it not so much as a ‘cover to cover’ read but as a reference book dipping in and out of topics that I am either particularly interested in, or those that I feel I know little about.

Like the 2040 documentary I enjoyed this book for its highly innovative ideas and optimistic tone. I found this to be a refreshing change from the divisive nature that often dictates much of the discourse around this highly charged topic.

Reviewed by Darryl Bruce, State Manager - WA


The North Water

By Ian McGuire

Set in the 1850’s, this story forms around a group of men who come together as the crew of a whaling expedition which sets out to the “north water”. These are hard men from disparate, undisclosed and sketchy pasts, largely motivated by money; and it’s unclear whether the real game is the whales or an insurance claim. On board is a failed captain, a surgeon & Henry Drax, murderer, rapist, monster.

The story unfolds against the backdrop of a beautifully rendered northern seascape of polar bears and endless ice – as the expedition reaches its limits in the extreme environment with Drax living up to his billing.

Not one for the faint hearted but what will stay with you is the beautiful prose, a kind of ‘Heart of Darkness’ on ice.

Reviewed by Christopher Thomas, Director – Fixed Income


Accessory to War; The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military

By Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang

Accessory to War is Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s effort to pick apart the history of the spoken and more often unspoken relationship of science and the military and how at different times they advance each other - not always with the public’s best interests at heart.

Starting with humble beginnings of scientists creating better-quality glass to make better telescopes to study the stars, those same telescopes could be used at sea to view approaching ships or to assess the size of an enemy’s force. Fast forward 300 years and we find the same principles, with the Hubble telescope acting as an older model of far superior telescopes which Russia, China and the US have pointed directly at the Earth to watch and survey.

DeGrasse Tyson notes that it is the failings of Governments that most of the spending in scientific endeavours is funded through the pursuit of a technological edge in the next armed conflict, but also examines the ethical dilemmas of scientists readily accepting (and fighting over) funding from government departments to continue their research.

If you’re interested in Science, History or maybe warfare then you will get something out of Accessory to War, as the lines between promoting a nation’s interests and scientific advancement are blurred more often than we think.

Reviewed by James Borg, HR Coordinator


Cari Mora: A Novel

By Thomas Harris

It’s been over a decade since the Bram Stoker Lifetime achievement winner, Thomas Harris released his last Hannibal Lecter novel. The reclusive authors’ newest book follows his massively popular crime/suspense/horror recipe but this time with an entirely new cast. While Cari Mora is filled with many of the same gripping twists and turns of previous novels, fans expecting Lecter, Buffalo Bill or Agent Clarice Starling may be disappointed. Harris is never boring but character development , always a hallmark, does seem somewhat shallow and at just over 300 pages the book is shorter than most other Harris tales. Nevertheless, there is still plenty to keep you entertained including a damaged heroine, one hungry crocodile, Pablo Escobar and a hairless German psycho. A good read and in light of the 79 year old author’s current rate of writing one book every 7-10 years, it’s possibly his last work.

Reviewed by Judd Bogust, Director – Fixed Income


The Fifth Risk

By Michael Lewis

Having enjoyed Michael Lewis’ previous book including The Big Short (focused on the sub-prime mortgages issues during the GFC) or Flash Boys (which looks at the potential pitfalls of high frequency trading), I was keen to read his take on the Trump presidency. As an ex-banker (who can clearly write very well), I found his previous books really enjoyable for the mix of technical information and depth of the investigation. I was clearly not sure where this one would go, given the shift from the world of finance to the world of politics.

In this book, Michael Lewis explores the weeks immediately following President Trump’s election and how the transition from the Obama’s administration was handled ahead of the presidential inauguration. Rather than analysing this transition at a higher level, Michael Lewis delves specifically into three government departments: Energy, Agriculture and Commerce. The book describes the perceived lack of interest by the Trump team in an orderly transmission of power and questions if this is driven by an ulterior motive to reduce the influence of government.

Overall, this was a pleasant and interesting read but not on par in my mind with previous books which were focused on Michael Lewis’ core expertise in financial sectors.

Reviewed by Thomas Jacquot, Head of Research

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