Here’s what I read in May of 2013. Numbers are for chronology, not rank.
1 – The Four Filters Invention of Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger by Bud Labitan (audio): You can get the abridged audio version by clicking here. The mechano-Asian-businessman voice is amazingly bad. If you’ve read anything detailing Buffett’s strategies elsewhere, you can skip this one, as it offers nothing new. If you were only going to read one, however, this might not be so bad for a 1-hour time investment. It’s a decent summary, but godawful audio.
PS: Get ready for more Buffett books, this is just the beginning.
2 – Secrets of the Millionaire Mind by T Harv Eker: This was actually much better than I expected. From my experience, when most of these success/business coaches/gurus/trainers writes a ‘book’ it’s really just a piece of marketing that builds leads (sends you to a website, put your email in for “extras”) and/or sells their more expensive seminars. Normally, there’s almost no real material in the ‘book’ – just hype and pitch. Well, in this one there was a fair amount of pitch, but more importantly – there was plenty of useful information. I would recommend you read this over most books in the category.
Side note: One thing I disliked about the pitch – this is the first time I’ve seen one of these guys say, “Hey if you don’t like me pitching stuff, there’s something wrong with you. You need to be open to new opportunities…” blah blah. Huge douche move, IMHO – it assumes, either naively or worse, that all marketers who use that tactic are well-meaning, and have basic morals. Unfortunately, that’s actually quite rare for these guys – just search google for FTC violations on most of them. But honestly, just skip that bit, and read the book because it was pretty good.
3 – The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (audiobook): Fun read for a nerd like me, but still readable for non-nerds.
The “Black Swan” concept is simple, and involves outliers and predictions. Whenever an extremely unlikely event happens, or an extremely likely event fails to happen, you have a Black Swan. All models that disregard extreme outliers (just about all of them) are, in reality, useless. Taleb, coming from a Wall Street background, gives a great analogy of stock traders who fail to see this as, “picking up pennies in front of a steam roller.”
The rest of the book I found a bit challenging to think about – not because it was written in equations like some bullshit textbook, but because the ideas themselves are really fucking immense.
Here’s the biggest mindfuck example in the book, about predicting the movement of balls on a billiard table: “If you know a set of basic parameters concerning the ball at rest, can compute the resistance of the table (quite elementary), and can gauge the strength of the impact, then it is rather easy to predict what would happen at the first hit. The second impact becomes more complicated, but possible; and more precision is called for. The problem is that to correctly compute the ninth impact, you need to take account the gravitational pull of someone standing next to the table (modestly, Berry’s computations use a weight of less than 150 pounds). And to compute the fifty-sixth impact, every single elementary particle in the universe needs to be present in your assumptions! An electron at the edge of the universe, separated from us by 10 billion light-years, must figure in the calculations, since it exerts a meaningful effect on the outcome.”
He cites a study about Berry above, you can read it here: http://www.phy.bris.ac.uk/people/berry_mv/the_papers/Berry076.pdf
I recommend you read the book, if only to get a sense of the implications of the idea. It’s actually quite an enjoyable read, despite the sense of what you might get from the above quote.
4 – Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (audiobook): A classic (published in 1932) that I never read before, but I saw it and decided to give it a whirl. Sci-fi classics never cease to amaze me about how accurately they predict certain technological advances – in this case cloning and test tube babies – while at the same time missing the small ones – here they hang up a telephone and “heard the click of the replaced receiver”. If Huxley had instead described how they hung up with the violent pressing of a button, now that would have been something to marvel at.
5 – Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life by Maxwell Maltz (audiobook): Possibly the best book I’ve ever read. No shit. I’m not sure because I was too busy being amazed at how awesome it was. Some of what is in this book I never realized I did before I read it. Some of it was new to me. I will probably revisit this in a month or two in actual written form, and give more detail then. For the record: I’ve never gone audiobook-to-text before, this will be a first.
I realize that there’s a lack of description here, and I apologize for that. Seriously though, look at the Amazon reviews. It’s an old book – those are not from some guy paying people to post fake reviews!
6 – Buffetology by Mary Buffett (audiobook): I have mixed feelings about this one. The book starts with the author telling you that she’s going to let you in on some amazing secret insider knowledge that Warren Buffett would never allow out of the family, and that she needed a co-author for the math involved in the book. Then she gives you common sense investing principles (which are, admittedly, very uncommon), and some high-tech Algebra-1 level math – while talking down to the reader the entire time.
This is my problem with the book. It reeks of sleaze. After getting a divorce and leaving the Buffett family she decides to write the books (there’s 4 different ones now) and expose these “secrets”, while conveniently keeping the Buffett name. That’s kind of sketchy, but what’s worse is that if she had these secrets, why not make millions (or billions) using them herself, instead of writing books? I’m just speculating (Do you see what I did there?), but probably because she’s not very good at the whole investing thing, and needs the money?
The timelessness of common sense principles applied to anything is worth the read. Some of the dated references, like awesome solar-powered calculators, and only having 67 TV channels is good for a chuckle as well. I am bothered by the sleaziness though, so my recommendation is that if you’re interested, buy a used copy, or – better yet borrow it from the library.