Best of Book Bits 2017 (Part II)

Last week we looked at the first installment of a short list of noteworthy titles that appeared in The Capital Spectator’s weekly Book Bits column during 2017. Here’s the second half of the year-end recap of books that deserve another look.

● A Practitioner’s Guide to Asset Allocation
By William Kinlaw, et al.
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Since the formalization of asset allocation in 1952 with the publication of Portfolio Selection by Harry Markowitz, there have been great strides made to enhance the application of this groundbreaking theory. However, progress has been uneven. It has been punctuated with instances of misleading research, which has contributed to the stubborn persistence of certain fallacies about asset allocation. A Practitioner’s Guide to Asset Allocation fills a void in the literature by offering a hands-on resource that describes the many important innovations that address key challenges to asset allocation and dispels common fallacies about asset allocation. The authors cover the fundamentals of asset allocation, including a discussion of the attributes that qualify a group of securities as an asset class and a detailed description of the conventional application of mean-variance analysis to asset allocation..

 ● Americana: A 400-Year History of American Capitalism
By Bhu Srinivasan
Review via The Economist
Bhu Srinivasan’s new book, “Americana”, is a delightful tour through the businesses and industries that turned America into the biggest economy in the world. Not only is the book written in a light and informative style, it is cleverly constructed. Each chapter has a theme—tobacco, cotton, steam, oil, bootlegging, mobile telephones and so on—and these themes are organised to lead the reader through a chronological history of the American economy.

 ● The Captured Economy: How the Powerful Enrich Themselves, Slow Down Growth, and Increase Inequality
By Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
For years, America has been plagued by slow economic growth and increasing inequality. Yet economists have long taught that there is a tradeoff between equity and efficiency-that is, between making a bigger pie and dividing it more fairly. That is why our current predicament is so puzzling: today, we are faced with both a stagnating economy and sky-high inequality. In The Captured Economy , Brink Lindsey and Steven M. Teles identify a common factor behind these twin ills: breakdowns in democratic governance that allow wealthy special interests to capture the policymaking process for their own benefit.

● Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter
By Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler
Summary via publisher (HarperCollins)
We think of money as numbers, values, and amounts, but when it comes down to it, when we actually use our money, we engage our hearts more than our heads. Emotions play a powerful role in shaping our financial behavior, often making us our own worst enemies as we try to save, access value, and spend responsibly. In Dollars and Sense, bestselling author and behavioral economist Dan Ariely teams up with financial comedian and writer Jeff Kreisler to challenge many of our most basic assumptions about the precarious relationship between our brains and our money. In doing so, they undermine many of personal finance’s most sacred beliefs and explain how we can override some of our own instincts to make better financial choices.

● Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite
By Jake Bernstein
Summary via publisher (Henry Holt)
A hidden circulatory system flows beneath the surface of global finance, carrying trillions of dollars from drug trafficking, tax evasion, bribery, and other illegal enterprises. This network masks the identities of the individuals who benefit from these activities, aided by bankers, lawyers, and auditors who get paid to look the other way. In Secrecy World, the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Jake Bernstein explores this shadow economy and how it evolved, drawing on millions of leaked documents from the files of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca—a trove now known as the Panama Papers—as well as other journalistic and government investigations. Bernstein shows how shell companies operate, how they allow the superwealthy and celebrities to escape taxes, and how they provide cover for illicit activities on a massive scale by crime bosses and corrupt politicians across the globe.

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