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Good Reading -- August 2020

Philip C. Ordway

Original post:


“There’s big trouble coming.” — Steven Mnuchin, on March 9th

Facts & Figures

  • “The SEC estimates that $2.7 trillion was raised on private markets last year, compared with $1.2 trillion on public markets.” — Source: WSJ

  • Ball Corp. sold $1.3 billion of bonds due 2030 with a coupon of 2 7/8%, the lowest-ever for a junk-rated company (Ball Corp is BB+, per S&P) according to Refinitiv. Visa also recently bested Alphabet and Amazon for the title of lowest-ever coupon on an investment-rated issue with a 0.75% coupon on notes due in 2027.


  • Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill — I’m a huge fan of this type of biography which Candice Millard executes brilliantly. She takes a relatively narrow episode in a figure’s life, often well before or after the primary events, and uses gripping narrative to delve into fascinating circumstances and characters. I think her book on Teddy Roosevelt, The River of Doubt, is in a class by itself, but this book is also excellent and highly recommended.

  • Mere Christianity — I’d never read C.S. Lewis’s classic book, taken from his broadcast talks during WWII. There’s a reason this work has stood the test of time and sold millions of copies in dozens of languages.


  • The Latticework: The Big Ideas from the Big Disciplines — This looks incredible. I’m not sure I could do justice in describing it, so just go check it out.

  • My Ordinary Life: Improvements Since the 1990s — In a time of pessimism that is, oddly, also marked by the often unrealistic hopes and dreams of the techno-utopian crowd, here’s a nice article looking at the upside in little things. “It can be hard to see the gradual improvement of most goods over time, but…look at their downstream effects: all the small ordinary everyday things which nevertheless depend on obscure innovations… All of these gradually drop the cost, drop the price, improve the quality at the same price, remove irritations or limits not explicitly noticed, or so on. It all adds up.”

  • NYC is dead forever. Here’s why. — I would be the last person to ignore the many problems faced by New York City (or other large cities, or America) right now. But forever is a long time, and I’d gladly take the other side of this bet even over a much shorter time horizon.

  • Jerry Seinfeld: So you think New York is ‘dead’…(it’s not) — This…this is incredible. Nothing could describe or improve upon this effort, so I won’t even try (The original author did try, doubling down on his original arguments…)

  • Public to Private Equity in the United States: A Long-Term Look — More Mauboussin, and more can’t-miss material.

  • How a Texas shale supplier’s founders made fortunes as the firm failed — This is a really, really bad look for all involved…

  • “This plane is not going to land in Cairo” — This is chilling essay an adaption of the upcoming book “Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power,” written by one of the co-authors of “Billion Dollar Whale.

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