Best of Book Bits 2015 (Part II)

So many fascinating books, so little time. Here’s the second installment of The Capital Spectator’s 2015 year-end review, which recaps some of the memorable titles that have appeared in the weekly Book Bits column this year. For those who missed it, here’s Part I. We’ll wrap up our retrospective next week with Part III.

Deep Wealth: An Exploration of Money, Meaning, and What Really Matters
By Chad S Hamilton
Summary via Amazon
The key to successful wealth management is not financial education. Too often we have looked for mathematical solutions to behavioral problems. Personal financial issues are not solved by changes in interest rates, investment performance, or increased financial IQ. None of those things change behavior. It is internal motivation that drives external behavior. Desires will shape our financial decision-making. So what about our desires and dreams? C.S. Lewis declared that a central problem of humanity is that we are “far too easily pleased.” Are we settling for less consequential lives? Are we too willing to sell out bigger hopes and dreams for fleeting pleasures? What if the source of our financial problems is that our goals are actually too small? To find true freedom, we need to integrate our values, passions, and purpose into meaningful goals that inspire us. This is an exploration of money, meaning, and what really matters. It’s a search for Deep Wealth.

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
By Richard H. Thaler
Summary via publisher (Norton)
Coupling recent discoveries in human psychology with a practical understanding of incentives and market behavior, Thaler enlightens readers about how to make smarter decisions in an increasingly mystifying world. He reveals how behavioral economic analysis opens up new ways to look at everything from household finance to assigning faculty offices in a new building, to TV game shows, the NFL draft, and businesses like Uber.

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future
By Martin Ford
Review via FT
Martin Ford has seen the future, and it doesn’t work. To be more precise, it generates wealth while obliterating demand for work. “Go West, young man”, was the career advice of the 19th century. Today’s equivalent is “get an engineering degree”. Alas, the latter is not as rewarding as the former. A third of Americans who graduated in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) are in jobs that do not require any such degree. Up and down the US there are programmers working as fast-food servers. In the age of artificial intelligence, they will only drift further into obsolescence, says Ford.

Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World
By Steven Quartz and Anette Asp
Summary via publisher (Macmillan)
If you have ever wondered why SUVs replaced minivans, how one rap song turned the cognac industry upside down, or what gives Levi’s jeans their iconic allure, look no further-in Cool, Steven Quartz and Anette Asp finally explain the fascinating science behind unexpected trends and enduring successes…. Quartz and Asp bring together groundbreaking findings in neuroscience, economics, and evolutionary biology to present a new understanding of why we consume and how our concepts of what is “cool”-be it designer jeans, smartphones, or craft beer-help drive the global economy.

Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World
By Donald Sull and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt
Q&A with co-author via The Wall Street Journal
WSJ: Where, in the business context, might “simple rules” help more than a complicated approach?
Donald Sull: Well, a common decision that people face in organizations is capital allocation. In many organizations, there will be thick procedure books or algorithms–one company I worked with had an algorithm that had almost 100 variables for every project. These are very cumbersome approaches to making decisions and can waste time. Basically, any decision about how to focus resources—either people or money or attention—can benefit from simple rules.