Book Bits: 14 August 2021

A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next
Tom Standage
Review via The Wall Street Journal
Tom Standage, the deputy editor of the Economist and one of our best writers of nonfiction, has cultivated a special niche: exploring the history of technology with an eye on both the past and the future. When he finds the right subject—such as the roots and repercussions of digital communication in his 2013 book “Writing on the Wall”—his work is both thought-provoking and scintillating. “A Brief History of Motion: From the Wheel, to the Car, to What Comes Next” isn’t quite in the class of its predecessor, but like all of Mr. Standage’s books, it is rewarding: the product of deep research, great intelligence and burnished prose. Moreover, he always comes up with offbeat and intriguing facts that I, for one, never knew.

Unnatural Disasters: Why Most Responses to Risk and Climate Change Fail but Some Succeed
Gonzalo Lizarralde
Summary via publisher (Columbia U. Press)
Unnatural Disasters offers a new perspective on our most pressing environmental and social challenges, revealing the gaps between abstract concepts like sustainability, resilience, and innovation and the real-world experiences of people living at risk. Gonzalo Lizarralde explains how the causes of disasters are not natural but all too human: inequality, segregation, marginalization, colonialism, neoliberalism, racism, and unrestrained capitalism.

Advanced Portfolio Management: A Quant’s Guide for Fundamental Investors
Giuseppe A. Paleologo
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Advanced Portfolio Management: A Quant’s Guide for Fundamental Investors is for fundamental equity analysts and portfolio managers, present, and future. Whatever stage you are at in your career, you have valuable investment ideas but always need knowledge to turn them into money. This book will introduce you to a framework for portfolio construction and risk management that is grounded in sound theory and tested by successful fundamental portfolio managers.

Capturing Finance: Arbitrage and Social Domination
Carolyn Hardin
Summary via publisher (Duke U. Press)
Arbitrage—the trading practice that involves buying assets in one market at a cheap price and immediately selling them in another market for a profit—is fundamental to the practice of financial trading and economic understandings of how financial markets function. Because traders complete transactions quickly and use other people’s money, arbitrage is considered to be riskless. Yet, despite the rhetoric of riskless trading, the arbitrage in mortgage-backed securities led to the 2008 financial crisis. In Capturing Finance Carolyn Hardin offers a new way of understanding arbitrage as a means for capturing value in financial capitalism.

Capitalism and the Death Drive
Byung-Chul Han
Summary via publisher (Polity)
What we call growth today is in fact a tumorous growth, a cancerous proliferation which is disrupting the social organism. These tumours endlessly metastasize and grow with an inexplicable, deadly vitality. At a certain point this growth is no longer productive, but rather destructive. Capitalism passed this point long ago. Its destructive forces cause not only ecological and social catastrophes but also mental collapse. The destructive compulsion to perform combines self-affirmation and self-destruction in one. We optimize ourselves to death. Brutal competition ends in destruction. It produces an emotional coldness and indifference towards others as well as towards one’s own self.

The Family Office: A Comprehensive Guide for Advisers, Practitioners, and Students
William I. Woodson and Edward V. Marshall
Summary via publisher (Columbia U. Press)
Family offices are private organizations that assume the daily administration and management of a wealthy family’s personal and financial affairs. Historically, these repositories of great wealth were shrouded in secrecy, their activities conducted behind closed doors. Recently, family offices have acquired a considerably higher public profile: they represent a mere 7 percent of the world’s ultra-high-net-worth population—yet control a staggering 50 percent of the wealth. As only a select few families now hold a disproportionate amount of global wealth, there are significant social implications to how such assets are managed and used.

Tumultuous Times: Central Banking in an Era of Crisis
Masaaki Shirakawa
Summary via publisher (Yale U. Press)
The Japanese economy, once the envy of the world for its dynamism and growth, lost its shine after a financial bubble burst in early 1990s and slumped further during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. It suffered even more damage in 2011, when a severe earthquake set off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. However, the Bank of Japan soldiered on to combat low inflation, low growth, and low interest rates, and in many ways it served as a laboratory for actions taken by central banks in other parts of the world. Masaaki Shirakawa, who led the bank as governor from 2008 to 2013, provides a rare insider’s account of the workings of Japanese economic and monetary policy during this period and how it challenged mainstream economic thinking.

The Big Solution: Deactivating The Ticking Time Bomb Of Today’s Economy (The Wolfe Trilogy)
Jarl Jensen
Press release via Forbes
With The Big Solution, Jarl Jensen invites you to see the potential of society and humanity. Frustrated by the failures of systems created a century ago, Jensen’s work outlines a distinct, engineered approach for America’s economic foundation. Jensen’s vision is a pro-capitalist future engineered to solve some of today’s most pressing challenges. It details an approach that centers on both solving societal problems and ensuring individual liberty. It is a solution that utilizes market-based incentives, and ultimately shreds political arguments while delivering unity.

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