Book Bits | 5 October 2019

Non-Consensus Investing: Being Right When Everyone Else Is Wrong
By Rupal J. Bhansali
Summary via publisher (Columbia U. Press)
At a time when many proclaim the death of active investing, Rupal J. Bhansali, global contrarian, makes a clarion call for its renaissance. Non-consensus thinking has resulted in breakthrough successes in science, sports, and Silicon Valley. Bhansali shows how to apply it to the world of investing to improve one’s odds of achieving above-average returns with below-average risks. Her upside-down investment approach focuses on avoiding losers instead of picking the winners, asking the right questions instead of knowing the right answers, and scoring upset victories to achieve the greatest bang for one’s research buck.

A Great Deal of Ruin: Financial Crises since 1929
By James Gerber
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
A Great Deal of Ruin provides an accessible introduction to the enduring problem of financial crises. Illustrated with historical analysis, case studies, and clear economic concepts, this book explains in three parts what financial crises are, how they are caused and what we can learn from them. It begins with a taxonomy of crises and a list of factors that increase the risk for countries experiencing a financial crisis. It then examines five of the most important crises in modern economic history, beginning with the Great Depression and ending with the subprime crisis in the United States and its evolution into a debt crisis in the Eurozone. The book concludes with a set of lessons that can be learnt from the crises of the past.

Demystifying Economic Markets and Prices: Understanding Patterns and Practices in Everyday Life
By Gregory R. Woirol
Summary via publisher (Praeger)
Some of the prices we come across every day cause us few problems, while others seem mysterious, frustrating, and even unfair. In this refreshing and entertaining approach to the “dismal science,” Greg Woirol shows how we, uniquely among living creatures, use markets and prices to help organize our lives. Ranging from the price of diamonds, to cell phone plans, high fashion, scalped tickets, Christmas gifts, and much more, chapters in Demystifying Economic Markets and Prices build on one another to explain hidden structural and behavioral patterns. Woirol brings clarity to the arcane world of economics, allowing readers to see patterns and meaning in a wide range of everyday prices and markets. Along the way, the author gives advice about how best to address the issues and opportunities that markets create for consumers.

Stealth War: How China Took Over While America’s Elite Slept
By Robert Spalding
Summary via publisher (Portfolio)
China expert Robert Spalding reveals the shocking success China has had infiltrating American institutions and compromising our national security. The media often suggest that Russia poses the greatest threat to America’s national security, but the real danger lies farther east. While those in power have been distracted and disorderly, China has waged a six-front war on America’s economy, military, diplomacy, technology, education, and infrastructure–and they’re winning. It’s almost too late to undo the shocking, though nearly invisible, victories of the Chinese.

Systemic Risk in the Financial Sector: Ten Years After the Great Crash
Edited by Douglas W. Arner, et al.
Summary via publisher (CIG)
In late 2008, the world’s financial system was teetering on the brink of systemic collapse. While the impacts of the global financial crisis would be felt immediately, at every level of the economy, it would also send years-long aftershocks through investment, banking and regulatory circles worldwide. More than a decade after the worst year of the global financial crisis, what has been learned from its harsh lessons? Are governments and regulators more prepared for another financial system failure that would significantly affect the real economy? What may be the potential triggers for such a collapse to occur in the future? Systemic Risk in the Financial Sector: Ten Years after the Great Crash draws on some of the world’s leading experts on financial stability and regulation to examine and critique the progress made since 2008 in addressing systemic risk.

More From Less: How we Finally Stopped Using Up The World – And What Happens Next
By Andrew McAfee
Summary via publisher (Simon & Schuster)
Throughout history, the only way for humanity to grow was by degrading the Earth: chopping down forests, fouling the air and water, and endlessly digging out resources. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the reigning argument has been that taking better care of the planet means radically changing course: reducing our consumption, tightening our belts, learning to share and reuse, restraining growth. Is that argument correct? Absolutely not. In More from Less, McAfee argues that to solve our ecological problems we don’t need to make radical changes. Instead, we need to do more of what we’re already doing: growing technologically sophisticated market-based economies around the world.

The Wealth and Poverty of Cities: Why Nations Matter
By Mario Polèse
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
That some cities are vibrant while others are in decline is starkly apparent. In The Wealth and Poverty of Cities, Mario Polèse argues that focusing on city attributes is too narrow. Cities do not control the basic conditions that determine their success or failure as sources of economic growth and well-being. Nations matter because successful metropolitan economies do not spring forth spontaneously. The values, norms, and institutions that shape social relationships are national attributes.

Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It
By Richard Stengel
Summary via publisher (Grove Atlantic)
Disinformation is as old as humanity. When Satan told Eve nothing would happen if she bit the apple, that was disinformation. But the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious in our current era. In a disturbing turn of events, governments are increasingly using disinformation to create their own false narratives, and democracies are proving not to be very good at fighting it.