Book Bits | 7 November 2015

Why Minsky Matters: An Introduction to the Work of a Maverick Economist
By L. Randall Wray
Summary via publisher (Princeton University Press)
Perhaps no economist was more vindicated by the global financial crisis than Hyman P. Minsky (1919–96). Although a handful of economists raised alarms as early as 2000, Minsky’s warnings began a half-century earlier, with writings that set out a compelling theory of financial instability. Yet even today he remains largely outside mainstream economics; few people have a good grasp of his writings, and fewer still understand their full importance. Why Minsky Matters makes the maverick economist’s critically valuable insights accessible to general readers for the first time. L. Randall Wray shows that by understanding Minsky we will not only see the next crisis coming but we might be able to act quickly enough to prevent it.

Wall Street Potholes: Insights from Top Money Managers on Avoiding Dangerous Products
By Simon A. Lack
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Wall Street Potholes shares insights into the money management industry, revealing the shady practices that benefit the salesman far more than the client. Bestselling author Simon Lack brings together a team of experienced money managers to give you straight-from-the-source intel, and teach you how to recognize bad advice and when it’s better to just walk away. Investors are rightly suspicious that many products are sold more because of the fees they generate than their appropriateness to the client’s situation, and that’s only the beginning. This book lays it all bare so you can walk into your next deal with your eyes wide open. You’ll learn just how big the profit margin is on different products, and why Wall Street intentionally makes things as complicated as possible. You’ll learn expert tactics for combatting these practices, so you can avoid buying overpriced products and confidently discriminate against advisors who put their own interests first.

Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes–But Some Do
By Matthew Syed
Summary via publisher (Portfolio/Penguin)
Syed argues that the most important determinant of success in any field is an acknowledgment of failure and a willingness to engage with it. Yet most of us are stuck in a relationship with failure that impedes progress, halts innovation, and damages our careers and personal lives. We rarely acknowledge or learn from failure—even though we often claim the opposite. We think we have 20/20 hindsight, but our vision is usually fuzzy. Syed draws on a wide range of sources—from anthropology and psychology to history and complexity theory—to explore the subtle but predictable patterns of human error and our defensive responses to error.

Will Africa Feed China?
By Deborah Brautigam
Summary via publisher (Oxford University Press)
Is China building a new empire in rural Africa? Over the past decade, China’s meteoric rise on the continent has raised a drumbeat of alarm. China has 9 percent of the world’s arable land, 6 percent of its water, and over 20 percent of its people. Africa’s savannahs and river basins host the planet’s largest expanses of underutilized land and water. Few topics are as controversial and emotionally charged as the belief that the Chinese government is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship back to China.

A Just and Generous Nation: Abraham Lincoln and the Fight for American Opportunity
By Harold Holzer and Norton Garfinkle
Review via Library Journal
Acclaimed Abraham Lincoln historian ­Holzer and noted economist Garfinkle argue that the principal driving force of Lincoln’s life, politics, and policies was the need to create the conditions that would allow and encourage “the right to rise,” which for the Whig-turned-Republican Lincoln meant using government to build infrastructure, promote education, and encourage innovation. Explained is the president’s opposition to secession, fight to save the Union, and move toward emancipation along with his support for government policies to open the West and stabilize currency. The authors apply the Lincoln standard to successive presidents and find that those who subscribed to his lessons, especially both Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, fueled prosperity, while conservative leaders who promoted supply-side and free-market economics undermined Lincoln’s legacy and weakened peoples’ faith in America.

Wall Street’s Just Not That Into You: An Insider’s Guide to Protecting and Growing Wealth
By Roger C. Davis
Summary via press release
Many consider themselves long-term investors, and chances are, they have placed their money and trust with an advisor, and pay little attention the amount of risk in their portfolio. The fact is that Wall Street has no intrinsic interest in looking out for investors. Drawing on more than twenty years of experience as a finance industry expert, Roger Davis urges investors to be wary of Wall Street’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Hess: The Last Oil Baron
By Tina Davis and Jessica Resnick-Ault
Summary via publisher (Bloomberg/Wiley)
Hess: The Last Oil Baron profiles a titan of the oil industry, mapping the journey of the quintessential American dream. The story of Leon Hess follows an immigrant kosher butcher’s son as he builds an oil dynasty that may never be matched. The multinational, multi-billion-dollar company began with a single second-hand delivery truck and the Rockefeller-caliber business acumen of one young man. Interviews with former employees, beneficiaries, and even his high school sweetheart provide an insider’s perspective on the man behind the legacy, allowing today’s aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn from one of the nation’s most inspiring success stories.