3 finance classics and other recommended books for your Summer Break

This week’s newsletter is a holiday season lite version. It is Summer Time in the Northern Hemisphere and it is that time of the year when many of us struggle in the last minute-packing to grab reading materials and books. If you are like me, you probably have a “to read” books list; in that case, just add these if you like the recommendations. If not, just consider them as potential reads during your time-off.

As everything in life, this list is subjective and by no means I intend it to be everyone’s favorite. Furthermore, I probably left out here a lot of books as I combined pure Finance books with some leadership & “understanding what’s behind the World” books. If you like this initial selection, I will come back with more suggestions on Finance, biographies, effectiveness and productivity, leadership, etc. But for now, let’s dive into the list:

Monkey business (John Carew Rolfe): a must-read book for those just getting into or trying to get into the realm of Corporate Finance/Investment Banking. Describes the life of young bankers in the, maybe outdated now, world of investment banking of the 1980s, as they dealt with “basic training” and other tough situations that analysts go through. Link here.

Liar’s poker (Michael Lewis): a masterpiece by Lewis based on the Salomon Brothers legendary team led by Louis Ranieri, when the junk bond market was starting to grow exponentially. Might also be a bit outdated, but still a must read to achieve the “finance junkie” status. Link here. I also strongly suggest you listen to the interview that Tim Ferriss did to Michael Lewis in his Tim Ferriss Show podcast.

Barbarians at the gate (Bryan Burrough and John Helyar): a thorough and entertaining review of the foundational Private Equity deal whereby KKR (Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts) took private the mighty conglomerate RJR Nabisco for over $20 billion. Happening during the late 1980s in the US, in the era of fictional character Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas in “Wall Street”), when buyout firms started getting bigger thanks to the growth of leverage finance and a market that was ripe for leveraged buy-outs (LBOs). Link here. There is also a movie, but I must confess its not as good as the book.

Extreme ownership (Jocko Willink and Leif Babin): not a finance-specific book, but an amazing “life manual” by former Navy Seals Willink and Babin. Very helpful to organize your thoughts and polish your methods towards being a great leader, all based on the foundational stone of discipline; it instills in the reader the idea that leadership happens even when you are at the bottom of the pyramid, and by following this method you can lay the foundation to a very successful career (in Finance or elsewhere). Link here. There is a sequel to this book and also, Jocko has quite a special weekly podcast on leadership and discipline.

Antifragile (Nassim Taleb): not the first success by Taleb (that would be “Fooled by randomness”) but this is one that stuck on my mind with the concept of anti-fragility that I hadn’t thought about before, as that characteristic of things that are the opposite of fragile. Things, systems, countries, teams, companies, etc, that get stronger the more uncertainty, disorder and adversities you put in front of them. Aligned with many principles I remark when discussing the systematic approach and keeping the chin up on the face of adversity. Link here.

Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell): another non-Finance specific for the last of this list. Analyzes in a very organized way success and successful people in many walks of life and that, surprise-surprise, also highlights the importance of being systematic and resilient, while being mindful that being at the right place and the right time helps; or said in a simple way, work and train a lot (10,000+ hours according to the author) and make sure you help your luck or are ready to profit when luck strikes. Link here.

BONUS

Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand): one of the few fiction books I’ve read in the past 10 years, and one that in this era of radical views and debates, can easily attacked as it is a strong case for capitalism. This is my favorite book of all times, recommended to me by a very good friend from Baltimore. Without spoiling the story and its magic, I will tell you first, that it is a 1,000+ pages book (so plan to have time to read it, and probably best on electronic format). Second, it is a great story written by a writer that fled Russia after the Bolshevik revolution, who established herself in the US and, writing this novel in the 50s, captured the essence of a fictitious World that globally turned to populism and where the entrepreneurs and capitalists, one by one, disappear, as they are forced out by countries crumbling under the inefficiency of big states. Fantastic piece that unfortunately finds real life representation in all the colors of populism in the World in 2020. For those of you that go through it, you will be able to tell me “Who is John Galt?”. Link here.

Hope you enjoy one or many of these books and that we find a chance to compare notes. Keep your mind active and re-charge the batteries for what comes after the Summer. And for now, cheers from the Balearic Islands.

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