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Good Reading -- November 2018


  • Saudi America: The Truth About Fracking and How It's Changing the World -- This is a short book -- I read it cover to cover in about 90 minutes -- but I wish it were longer. The writing is excellent; the topic is interesting; and the questions and implications are nuanced and far-reaching.

  • Washington: A Life -- A biography of George Washington written by Ron Chernow is as close to a sure thing as there is for me, and this book didn't disappoint. It is very long, but much like Titan and Hamilton I enjoyed every bit. Grant and The House of Morgan are on deck.

  • Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side -- Howard Marks's latest book, should, as he says, swap the title for the subtitle. I would gladly read anything Marks cares to write, but this book is mostly a rehash of his excellent memos and his seminal book The Most Important Thing.

  • Investing for the Long Term -- This is part autobiography and part investing treatise by former Bestinver CIO Francisco Garcia Parames. It is unusual in its approach and its candor. I enjoyed reading it, and a special thanks to John at MOI Global for sending me a copy!

  • Becoming -- I never expected to read this book, let alone like it. I'm an (auto)biography fan, but autobiographies written by political figures are often vapid and delusional (to put it nicely). But with 30 minutes to kill between meetings, I picked up this book in a bookstore to flip a few pages. After reading 20 pages I bought it, and I read the whole thing in a couple of days. It is a candid, interesting book, telling the author's story of a fascinating life with little (if any) sugarcoating or platitudes. It had less to do with politics than I thought it would, and the style reminded me of Phil Knight's excellent book Shoe Dog, which I highly recommend.​​

Facts and Figures

  • As of this summer, 48% of American adults thought the stock market has been flat over the past decade, while 18% thought it has declined, according to a Betterment survey of 2,000 people. (The S&P 500 is up roughly 140% over that time.)

  • Five cities -- New York, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco -- accounted for a third of all Fortune 500 headquarters and half of the Fortune 500's profits in 2017. (Source: Richard Florida, University of Toronto, via WSJ: Big Cities' Success Reflects Deepening Rural-Urban Divide)


The following remarks by Tony Deden were made at the annual Grant's Fall Conference. I didn't agree with everything but I thought this passage was spot-on: "[T]here is no such thing as objective value. That is, all value is subjective to the person doing the value..[and] what is valuable to me must be suitable to my ends. And furthermore, what I consider valuable remains so irrespective of what others think about it or how others price it. "Instead of taking our cues from financial types, let's consider the owner of a long-standing enterprise. He wants to avoid going out of business (and so do I)...he wants to remain competitive, relevant, and enduring (so do I). Yes, he aims to be profitable, but he really knows that, in the long run, profit is the result of being successful at what you produce, not the result of chasing higher securities prices. He too, deploys irreplaceable capital. "Modern wealth and investment management, as it is with corporate management, with every bit of its pseudo-scientific razzle -dazzle, can never be a substitute for the very idea that prudent man's action rests on the principle that his personal and very subject judgment is responsible to the ends he considers important. In the financial world, there is a bear market in prudent men as there is in real owners. If you look for prudent men, skip the boardrooms of the world of finance."


  • Why Nothing Works: What if the Placebo Effect Isn't a Trick -- I didn't know a lot of this and it's really interesting, with broad implications.

  • The Untold Story of Stripe -- A look at Patrick and John Collison and their company, Stripe, the "secretive $20bn startup driving Apple, Amazon and Facebook" that has "democratized online payments and reshaped the global economy in the process." Pardon the hyperbole, because it's an interesting story and company.

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