Essential Holiday Reading

Posted by Mark on 17th Jun 2008
I have suspicions that my wife suffers from SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) which means that during the dark winter nights (which do not fly-by at Chez Robinson) she gets on the Internet and books up lots of holidays during spring.

As a result we are usually broke by Summer, but it does give the advantage of being able to share with you a quick review of a few books I've read.  These are the type of books that you hope that on your return to the office you will be able to con your colleagues into believing that you understand high finance (Morgan has yet to fall for this):

The Black Swan (Taleb)

Not for the faint hearted.  Probably the most influential economics book this decade and boy to you have to work at it.  Interestingly it was written before the Credit Crunch, the unpredictability of which, it predicted.

A summary is not straight forward, but here's a stab at explaing the contents:

-You cannot predict the future from the past.

-Peoples view of the past is basically story telling in their own mind to make sense of difficult concepts.

-You don't know what you don't know, and because you don't know what you don't know, you can't predict what you don't know (as Donald Rumsfeld would have put it).

-Because you don't know what you don't know, you can't eliminate risk, but can prepare for it.

Plot Synopsis: Bad things happen; occasionally and randomly.

The New Paradigm for Financial Markets (Soros)

It's hard to knock the big man as he's undoubtedly made more money than you or I ever will.

Unfortunately, this book reads like it is; an incredibly successful gambler and (to be fair) student of the human condition, trying to justify his hugely successful life in terms of cod-psychology and philosophy.

Even his son suggests his investment strategies are largely down to the effects of his bad back.

Nevertheless, not a bad read, if you skip the middle bit of mumbo-jumbo (as he suggests), and a very good history of the credit crunch.

Plot Synopsis: Bubble markets feed on themselves and we're at the end of a 40 year one so we're all knackered.

The Gods That Failed (Elliott and Atkinson)

Like Soros' book, a very good description of the events that have lead to our current crisis.

However rather than study the human condition, the authors have cooked up a large conspiracy theory based on a shady new world order of "New Olympians".  This nefarious bunch includes the usual whipping boys of the anti-globalisation movement: bankers, the IMF, corporations, politicians, the EU (Yes, that hotbed of free market fundamentalism?!), etc.

Plot Synopsis: Bankers and politicians are greedy b*stards who are only driven by self interest (like you don't say); so we're all really knackered.

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