Top 10 books to read this summer: 2017
Summer is here which means it’s time to rustle up a reading list. We asked our experts from across the globe to recommend their must-have books for the holiday season. Whether you want an old classic, a financial read or to delve into history – our experts at Russell Investments have got you covered.
1. The First 90 Days, by Michael D. Watkins
Recommended by: Joe Linhares - Head of EMEA
Every time I start a significant new assignment I reread this book. Yes – I probably seem boring (or as they say in the UK ‘quite dull’). And yes – I would rather be writing about White Tears by Hari Kunzru which I am saving for my vacation flight to the U.S.A. However, this is an important book for anyone going through change and will give people insight to how I think about the process of taking over a new role. For example, on page 59, Watkins lists 5 simple questions to help you think about challenges and opportunities. Focus and execution are key in any new role as well as making sure you have the right people to move the business forward. I strongly encourage everyone to read this book, there are valuable lessons that will serve you well your entire career. However, if you like thrillers, I’d recommend The Dry by Jane Harper which is a great murder mystery based in Australia.
2. Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
Recommended by: David Vickers - Senior Portfolio Manager, EMEA
I find that given our job involves a lot of serious reading and sometimes heavy-going research. It is very necessary therefore, that when I get the chance to read for pleasure, I find something that provides a degree of escapism. Life must be a balance, so I'm not recommending Black Swan or a random walk, or anything at all related to the world we inhabit. Instead, I’m recommending Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. This book is a story of high adventure and swashbuckling derring-do. It has everything: love, war, mafia, friendship and humour, written with reckless gusto and in such vivid prose. If you haven't been to India you will think you have by the time you've finished. For me, it’s a perfect holiday read.
3. The End of Theory: Financial Crises, The Failure of Economics and the Sweep of Human Interaction, by Richard Bookstaber
Recommended by: Bob Collie - Chief Research Strategist, US
How do you model the behaviour of a market in a crisis? The answer does not lie in the equilibrium-based models of mainstream economics, drawn from the laws of physics. Recent years have seen a growing body of work around economies as complex adaptive systems, more akin to biology than physics. The latest addition is Richard Bookstaber’s End of Theory, which looks at how regulators and others could do better if they used a completely different approach called agent-based modeling: “The point isn’t to crank out and act on a number. It is to set up a model to see what light can be shed on a real-world problem.” My favourite book of the year and essential reading for anyone serious about risk management.
4. Moneyball, by Michael Lewis
Recommended by: Mirjam Klijnsma - Head of Implementation Services, EMEA
I’m planning to reread Moneyball during my break in the south of France, lying by the pool. We all know Michael Lewis as the author of many classics like The Big Short or Liar’s Poker (the latter being mandatory reading material on my first day as a fixed income trader at ING in the late nineties...). Perhaps most people are more familiar with the movie of the same title, featuring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill – but I found the book even more compelling. In my opinion, there are three reasons why this book is so much more than a fascinating non-fiction sports story. In fact, it is a great business book as well. Here’s what I take from it:
- Small players should compete with the big ones. When you’re in a market where you are one of the smaller fish it doesn’t make sense to do the same as the big players. As a rule of thumb, you will lose the arms race against the big ones if you try to outsmart them in a conventional way.
- We must put data to work. Without paying data and artificial intelligence the proper attention it deserves, we may expose ourselves to additional risks. As the quant Peter Brand in the Moneyball movie says, “Baseball thinking is medieval”.
- Looking after a team is crucial. Moneyball describes the year 2002. When Billy Beane showed he was a good leader who could make tough decisions (letting people go if he could trade up or if they didn’t fit within the culture). In the end, he goes to Boston to possibly join the Red Sox for big money, but instead he decides to stay.
5. Adaptive Markets, by Andrew W. Lo
Recommended by: Wouter Sturkenboom - Senior Investment Strategist, US
This summer I am reading Adaptive Markets by Andrew Lo. The debate on whether markets are efficient or not and by extension whether investors are rational or not, has been raging since the advent of modern financial theory and the rise of its counterpart, behavioural finance. This book posits there is no right or wrong answer and instead explores a new theory where the two co-exist. In Lo’s view, market efficiency is not wrong but incomplete given the instinctive behaviour investors display. For us as students of how markets work this book is a valuable addition and we think it might be for you too.
6. China and the Barbarians, by Henk Schulte Northolt
Recommended by: Fons Lute - Client Portfolio Manager, EMEA
Sitting on the terrace of a lovely wooden house looking at one of the prettiest lakes in Sweden, I have enjoying every chapter of this intriguing book on China. The author, a Dutch sinologist, provides the reader with fantastic insight in the way the Chinese view other cultures, especially the ones not belonging to their empire – they view them as barbarians. This goes back to a culture that was well-developed and established 7000 years ago. I have always considered the ‘communist’ China as highly pragmatic capitalists and the book proves me right. New for me is the insight that the concentration of power runs through the families of the founders of the Great Revolution. These powerful families admire the former Chinese emperors and they strive to regain their lost geographical influence. The book reads like a novel and is intriguing in the projection that it offers in the way foreign relationships with China may develop.
7. Money Changes Everything, by William Goetzmann
Recommended by: Leola Ross - Director of Investment Strategy Research, US
The next book I plan to read is Money Changes Everything by William (Bill) Goetzmann. Goetzmann gave an overview of this book at Q-Group last spring. The book promises to be a really cool review of how money has impacted history, finance and economic development. A few of the events he highlighted include:
- The fertile crescent solving problems of time and value
- How the ability for Athens to develop as a trade center without its own food source was a function of big government instilling confidence
- China creating paper money
- Venice’s first bond market in Rialto square just off Rialto bridge
- The merger of several mills in Toulouse in the 1300s where shareholding started (1 shareholder 1 vote, not by share but shareholder)
- The Cathay company started the idea of investing in a project that could generate enormous riches
and the list goes on…
8. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction, by Philip Tetlock & Dan Gardner
Recommended by: David Rae - Head of Client Strategy and Research, EMEA
The string of recent political outcomes have been seen to validate the old adage that the average expert is roughly as accurate as a dart-throwing chimpanzee. Personally, I am more in Tetlock’s camp of the optimistic skeptic. I’m rereading this excellent manual for thinking clearly in an uncertain world. It presents a clear description of the characteristics that define people who consistently produce accurate forecasts and discusses the role of prediction markets. Following that, I’ll steal my son’s copy of Never Say Die, the latest Alex Rider instalment by Anthony Horrowitz…
9. The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, by Tom Nichols
Recommended by: Tim Noonan – Managing Director of Strategic Business Initiatives, US
A delightful surprise on my summer’s reading list has been Tom Nichols’ The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Tom Nichols teaches National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College. He’s written a fascinating analysis of the stalemate between laymen and experts that has profound implications for the investment industry. The vilification of the opposing side is in itself sufficient justification; it is perfectly okay to “reject fundamental rules of evidence” or to “refuse to learn how to make a logical argument.” Dumb, dumber, dumbest – how low can we go? I recommend this book, in part because of its findings, in part because of the implications it points to for the advice business. When everyone is an expert, no one is. It is critical to help clients distinguish whether they are looking for an expert, or looking to become an expert themselves. In either case, ignoring that the bar for advice has been raised is the expert’s equivalent to shooting off her own foot. Even a robot is smarter than that.
10. Swallows & Amazons, by Arthur Ransome
Recommended by: Matthew Brown - Head of Marketing, EMEA
One of the great things about parenthood is the opportunity to revisit books and experience your own children falling in love with the characters you fell in love with 40 years previously. We have been reading my father's original copy of S&A at bedtime for the past couple of weeks and it has been an absolute riot, try explaining corned beef/pemmican to a 5-year-old in 2017. I have enjoyed sub-plots that I never noticed before - Uncle Jim becomes a far deeper, multi- layered character when you read as an adult. As we head off to West Wales for our summer holidays next week, the demands to go camping, building fires, walking the plank and sailing are filling my wife with absolute dread! I encourage you to read it again if you get the chance.