Book Bits | 23 September 2017

A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History
By Diana B. Henriques
Interview with author via WYNC
The 1987 financial crash is considered to be the worst day on Wall Street. In her book, A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History, Diana Henriques looks at how “Black Monday” was really seven years in the making. She writes that this was due to missed opportunities, market delusions and destructive actions that stretched from the “silver crisis” of 1980 to turf battles in Washington.

The Pricing of Progress:
Economic Indicators and the Capitalization of American Life

By Eli Cook
Summary via publisher (Harvard University Press)
How did Americans come to quantify their society’s progress and well-being in units of money? In today’s GDP-run world, prices are the standard measure of not only our goods and commodities but our environment, our communities, our nation, even our self-worth. The Pricing of Progress traces the long history of how and why we moderns adopted the monetizing values and valuations of capitalism as an indicator of human prosperity while losing sight of earlier social and moral metrics that did not put a price on everyday life.

From Global to Local: The Making of Things and the End of Globalization
By Finbarr Livesey
Summary via publisher (Pantheon)
For the past fifty years or so, the global economy has been run on three big assumptions: that globalization will continue to spread, that trade is the engine of growth and development, and that economic power is moving from the West to the East. More recently, it has also been taken as a given that our interconnectedness—both physical and digital—will increase without limit. But what if all these ideas are wrong? What if everything is about to change? What if it has already begun to change but we just haven’t noticed?

Smart Portfolios: A practical guide to building and maintaining intelligent investment portfolios
Summary via publisher Harriman House
Smart Portfolios is about building and maintaining smart investment portfolios. At its heart are the three key questions every investor needs to answer:
1. What to invest in.
2. How much to invest.
3. When to make changes to a portfolio.
Author Robert Carver addresses these three areas by providing a single integrated approach to portfolio management. He shows how to follow a step-by-step process to build a multi-asset investment portfolio, and how to rebalance the portfolio efficiently. He covers both investment in collective funds like ETFs, and also direct investment in individual equities.

Principles: Life and Work
By Ray Dalio
Interview with author via The Time Ferriss Show
Ray Dalio (@raydalio) grew up a middle-class kid from Long Island. He started his investment company Bridgewater Associates out of a two-bedroom apartment at age 26, and it now has roughly $160 billion in assets under management. Over 42 years, he has built Bridgewater into what Fortune considers the fifth most important private company in the US… Ray believes his success is the result of principles he’s learned, codified, and applied to his life and business. Those principles are detailed in his new book Principles: Life and Work.

A Mind at Play: How Claude Shannon Invented the Information Age
By Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman
Summary via Simon & Schuster
The life and times of one of the foremost intellects of the twentieth century: Claude Shannon—the architect of the Information Age, whose insights stand behind every computer built, email sent, video streamed, and webpage loaded. Claude Shannon was a groundbreaking polymath, a brilliant tinkerer, and a digital pioneer. He constructed a fleet of customized unicycles and a flamethrowing trumpet, outfoxed Vegas casinos, and built juggling robots. He also wrote the seminal text of the digital revolution, which has been called “the Magna Carta of the Information Age.” His discoveries would lead contemporaries to compare him to Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. His work anticipated by decades the world we’d be living in today—and gave mathematicians and engineers the tools to bring that world to pass.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
By Jessica Bruder
Review via City Journal
In the foreword to Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, Jessica Bruder writes that, while there have always been hobos and restless souls in America, there’s a different brand of itinerant abroad today. “[I]n the second millennium, a new kind of wandering tribe is emerging” among people “driving away from the impossible choices that face what used to be the middle class,” she writes. These are people who must choose between food and dental care, she writes, between a mortgage and electricity, or between paying rent and paying off student loans, because they can’t afford both. They have taken to the road, forgoing the struggle for a permanent home and the costs that go with it to live cheaply by moving from place to place, job to job.