Books

Summer Reading Season Starts Now

A selection of books that some smart and interesting people in finance say are worth a look.

Taking things seriously.

Photographer: Petar Petrov/NurPhoto/Corbis/Getty Images

The Memorial Day weekend is here! Summer is upon us, which means there is no better time of year to lay out a blanket outdoors or on the beach, and dive into a wonderful book. But which one should you choose to lavish your limited free time upon?

My solution is to ask the smartest folks I know what their favorite book was this past year, and what they are most looking forward to reading this summer 1  (my earlier lists are here, here and here). A lightly edited version of their responses follows. 2  Get busy:

Alan Krueger is former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and is currently a professor of economics at Princeton. His favorite book over the past year was “Born to Run” by fellow New Jersey resident Bruce Springsteen: “He is first and foremost a writer, and his autobiography takes the reader on a heartfelt tour of the passion, energy, fears, and humanity that shaped his life and music.”

The book he is looking forward to reading this summer is “Leonhard Euler: Mathematical Genius in the Enlightenment”: “Euler was the greatest, most creative mathematician of the 18th century, and I’m excited to read the first full-scale biography of his life to learn about the man who made so many lasting and elegant contributions to both pure math and applied math.”

Bill McNabb is chief executive officer and chairman of Vanguard Group Inc. His favorite book in the past year was “Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution” by Nathaniel Philbrick: “The book chronicles the second year of the American Revolution and highlights the growth of Washington as a leader and the tragedy of Benedict Arnold. I couldn’t put it down.” Teed up for summer beach reading is “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari. (The Masters in Business podcast with Harari is here.)

Tom Dorsey founded Dorsey Wright technical service in 1987, and sold it to Nasdaq in 2015 for $250 million. His favorite book this past year -- and the one he is reading this summer -- are the same: “The Industries of the Future” by Alec Ross: “I almost hate to give the book out as I am on the second reading and will go to a third reading until I memorize it. Ross presents the most common sense argument for the future of world industries. It presents a framework for me to think clearly about what direction my investments may take in the future.” 

Anthony Scaramucci is the impresario behind the SALT conference in Las Vegas and was one of the earliest and most visible supporters of Donald Trump in finance. His favorite book last year was the novel "The Black Widow” by Daniel Silva. It is about an attack on Paris by Islamic State. Silva understands how terrorist groups go operational and what they are thinking -- it is decidedly not what gets hyped in the evening news. Scaramucci says he is looking forward to reading “Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission” by Brett Baier: “Eisenhower was a phenomenal leader. Perfect for that time. Kept the peace and helped to build the American middle class and the new world order which sustained peace.”

Frank Partnoy is a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego School of Law, and the author of “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay” and “Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals.” The first book on his summer reading list is “Do I Make Myself Clear? Why Writing Well Matters,” by Harold Evans: “He’s edited everyone and everywhere, and he’s a ‘Sir.’ Plus, how many publishers write a book about writing at age 88?” His favorite book from the past year was a family-focused escape from the craziness of today’s reality, “The Unseen World,” by Liz Moore, which tracks the parallel journeys of a father-daughter relationship alongside the development of artificial intelligence.

Nick Murray is a consultant to financial advisers. His favorite recent read was Bob Benmosche’s posthumous memoir “Good for the Money”: “Benmosche was the only true hero to emerge from the financial crisis of 2008-09, single-handedly saving one of the great financial institutions of the world, AIG, from oblivion, restoring it to vibrant health, and paying back (with interest) every penny of the government’s bailout funds. He did all of this against seemingly insuperable opposition, no little of which came from inside his own company.” For the summer, he is keen on “The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War,” by Steven Pressfield: “Fifty years ago in June, Israel -- a nation the size of New Jersey with a population of 2.7 million -- found itself surrounded by the forces of Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan. As the UN stood by, Egyptian President Nasser decreed the extirpation of Israel from the earth. What could she do? The answer: strike first and scatter her enemies. This Israel did, in six days. It is one of the most unlikely and astonishing military victories in all history, told by the men and women warriors who lived it.”

Jack Brennan retired as CEO of Vanguard Group, where he is still chairman emeritus. The best book he read last year was “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism” by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a well-researched and well-written book “full of truly valuable leadership lessons, wrapped in a fascinating historical context.” Brennan suggests for your summer reading “The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For” by David McCullough: “It’s a tremendous collection of Mr. McCullough’s speeches that focuses on core American ideals, values and principles -- a great antidote to the daily news cycle right now.”

There is a lesson in that for the rest of us.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

  1. My curation ended up excluding books that were repeatedly recommended. These included: The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis; “Adaptive Markets: Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought,” by Andrew Lo; “Hillbilly Elegy” by J. D. Vance; “A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market” by Edward Thorpe; and Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. I tried to stay with a diverse and eclectic list of books I had not yet read.

  2. Links lead to Amazon.com, where a modest fee is paid if any books are purchased. All proceeds are donated to charity -- this year, I have selected Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation as my nonprofit of choice.     

To contact the author of this story:
Barry Ritholtz at britholtz3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
LEARN MORE