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Books of 2012


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I like the idea of this thread, but why only post links to what the media think are the best books? It'd be much more interesting to hear what you and other forum members read and liked in 2012. Let me kick off. Note that I also read a few great Dutch books but they are probably not that interesting for the majority here so I will leave them out of my list.

 

(I included Amazon links but these are no affiliate links afaik. If anyone is offended tell me; I will remove them :) )

 

Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman. The best non-fiction book I read in 2012. I've read quite a lot about the subject (behavioral finance / psychology) lately, including Freakonomics, Charlie's Almanack, Talent is overrated, books from Malcolm Gladwell, Dan Arieliy, Nassim Taleb, James Montier, articles from Howard Marks etc. This was by far the most interesting book on the subject. It's a bit broader than only economics - it tries to give you a real insight about how the human brain works and how that is different from how we expect it to work. An eye-opener, extremely well written. It really delves deep into the subject (it's a big book too!). This as opposed to Predictably Irrational or Outliers, those were easy reads but I felt sometimes that the ideas were too "dumbed down" to appeal to a broader audience. I believe this is a classic every investor should read.

 

Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.. As suggested by Charlie Munger I've started reading biographies from inspiring people. First I tried two autobiographies, from Benjamin Franklin and Andrew Carnegie. Their lives were impressive but these books felt a little bit dated and one-sided. The book about Franklin by Isaacson gets really good reviews but I didn't want to read it right after the autobiography. Anyway, I was really impressed by "Titan". Rockefeller's work ethic, how he built Standard Oil, his charitable work and his philosophy about life are an example for everybody. JDR achieved more, influenced more, lived longer and met more interesting people than probably anybody else from his generation. The ruthless, (shady?) stuff about Standard Oil, business practices in that time and stories about his competitors / colleagues are also very interesting to read. The author did extensive research and he's a good writer. I didn't expect that a biography could be so inspiring / affecting.

 

Great North Road. I haven't read many fiction books this year. A couple of days ago I started in the latest book by Peter F. Hamilton, an English SF writer. His 'Night's Dawn' trilogy is among the best SF I ever read, together with the 'Hyperion Saga' from Dan Simmons. So far this book is impressive and I expect it to be so until the end.

 

Sherlock Holmes. Ok I admit, I have to show the forum that I also read some real literature ;). (probably shouldn't mention that I stopped halfway Atlas Shrugged this year - too slow for my taste). Anyway, the big Holmes stories are really good and timeless, I couldn't tell that they were written over 100 years ago. The collected works contain a lot of smaller stories (3/4 pages) and it's a bit of a drag reading ten of them in succession but the major pieces were excellent. I have to note that I picked up this book after seeing the BBC 'Sherlock' series. Excellent television, much better than the movies!

 

Any other tips? I'd like to read some more biographies next year. Names that come to mind: Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Keith Richards, Andre Agassi. For some reason I don't really care about Steve Jobs. HHhH is supposedly very good. And I like the title! Will probably pick that one up next. Would like to read some more fiction but the problem is that there are too many books to choose from.

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Any other tips? I'd like to read some more biographies next year. Names that come to mind: Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Keith Richards, Andre Agassi.

 

The two books 'by' Feynman (they were written from interviews with an author who's name escapes me, IIRC) and the compilation of his letters are great. And if you want something more hardcore, you can check out his physics lectures.

 

There's a biography of Dirac that I read this year and liked ("The Strangest Man: The Hidden Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom by Graham Farmelo").

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I'm currently reading "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power":

 

Deemed "the best history of oil ever written" by Business Week and with more than 300,000 copies in print, Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning account of the global pursuit of oil, money, and power has been extensively updated to address the current energy crisis.

 

So far it's quite good and interesting, certainly would recommend it!

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Feynman Lectures were great..although haven't read them in a while.

 

Two other books about Feynman you can check out are

 

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Genius-Life-Science-Richard-Feynman/dp/0679747044/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1355866290&sr=8-13&keywords=feynman">Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman</a>

 

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Surely-Youre-Joking-Feynman-ebook/dp/B003V1WXKU/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1355866290&sr=8-8&keywords=feynman"> Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!</a>

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I'm currently reading "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power":

 

Deemed "the best history of oil ever written" by Business Week and with more than 300,000 copies in print, Daniel Yergin’s Pulitzer Prize–winning account of the global pursuit of oil, money, and power has been extensively updated to address the current energy crisis.

 

So far it's quite good and interesting, certainly would recommend it!

 

Thanks for the rec, I've added it to my list!

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Any other tips? I'd like to read some more biographies next year. Names that come to mind: Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Keith Richards, Andre Agassi. For some reason I don't really care about Steve Jobs. HHhH is supposedly very good. And I like the title! Will probably pick that one up next. Would like to read some more fiction but the problem is that there are too many books to choose from.

 

I get a lot out of biographies.  I find them helpful for developing those "mental models".  For Thomas Jefferson I recommend American Sphinx, by Joseph Ellis.  I haven't read anything on the others you mentioned.

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From quickly scanning the lists in OP, I identified two books that I have read which has not yet been mentioned. Bad Pharma was basically a book which could be summarized in an article. I guess you know what it's about - wrong incentives for pharmaceutical companies that leads to bad science etc. It's enough to view the TED talk by the author, in my view.

 

The other one is Why Nations Fail, which I enjoyed - but I enjoy just about anything that has to with economic history. Anyhow, it's the same story that Douglass North always told: institutions, institutions, institutions. But from the other perspective. Some of you may have watched Niall Ferguson and his 'killer apps', which is the exact same concept. Powerful model, especially in conjunction with Jared Diamond.

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