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Books to read this summer

Summer reading suggestions by Cashbee

Elle Magazine, the Financial Times, le Figaro, Cosmopolitan, the New York Times all publish their book selection to read at the beach. Whilst we do not enjoy the same number of subscribers (yet), we like this concept a lot and have therefore decided to hereby offer you our Books-to-Read-this-Summer list, with the objective to allow you to discover fascinating, well told and often funny stories, through which you will (better) understand a number of financial concepts (amongst which will feature savings alternatives) without any additional effort. No financial expertise required!

Our selection has a strong biais to English and American authors, for three reasons :

  • Most financial crisis and bank failures, which constitute great topics to write about, occurred in England or in the United States ;
  • Statistically, there are more anglo-saxon authors who have wanted to write about finance related topics, possibly for cultural reasons ;
  • My personal habit is to read in English (even though I am working hard at catching up on classic French literature these days).
  1. Crash of the Titans by Greg Farrell

The fascinating and well documented story of how Merrill Lynch, one of the most powerful investment banks in the world, was rescued by Bank of America in the midst of the financial crisis. Reads like a thriller, and will have you discover the very singular personalities of those running the US banks and their regulators. Having worked at Merrill Lynch for over 20 years, and being based in New York at the time, I can vouch for the veracity of most chapters, some of which may appear totally outlandish.

  1. When Genius Failed by Roger Lowenstein

Retraces the rise and fall of Long Term Capital Management, one the first hedge funds, run by famous traders and several Nobel prize winning economists. Its financial performance was the envy of the investment community for a long time, before its brutal downfall, which - for a time - threatened the stability of global financial markets. Even though the end of the story is known from the outset, I recall having read the book in one go.

  1. Freakonomics by Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt

Each chapter deals with deliberately eccentric questions such as “Why do drug dealers live with their moms?” (although the business they are in is supposedly highly lucrative), or “What do high school teachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?”. In this manner, the two economists analyse some of the fundamentals of the world’s economy. Funny and easy to read, you’ll learn a lot about the relevance of statistical analysis in assessing the world we live in.

  1. The Big Short by Michael Lewis

The description, through characters that are as real as they are fascinating, of the events and actions that led to the the financial crisis of 2008. Meet some of the people that saw it coming, those that closed their eyes, and those that actively pushed the world economy to the brink. So well written that they made a movie out of it.

  1. Making it Happen by Iain Martin

The sub-title says it all: “Fred Goodwin, RBS and the men that blew up the British economy”. The explanations on how a small Scottish bank became a financial giant, under the leadership of Fred Goodwin, also known as “Fred the Shred”, before imploding, dragging the British economy down in its wake.

  1. The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Discover the concept of a “black swan”, a highly improbable event with three distinctive characteristics: it can not be foreseen, it has a major impact and - once it occurs - we invent an explanation for it which renders it less improbable than it actually was. The success of Google, the attacks on 9/11,… this book will give you a new perspective on major and unexpected events, and which occur more frequently than we think in finance.

  1. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

The author is a mathematician who worked at DE Shaw, one of the largest hedge funds in the world, known for its powerful quantitative and mathematical approach to trading, which has delivered extra-ordinary financial results. She illustrates in plain English how predictive algorithms (famously referred to as Artificial Intelligence) are gradually invading our daily lives and influence our destinies.

  1. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis

An hilarious classic. The author describes with great self-depreciation how he progressed from trainee, to “geek banker” to Master-of-the-Universe trader at Salomon Brothers in London and New York, during the ’80s. Liar’s Poker is a story of excessive ambition and hysterical greed, told in a highly entertaining way.

Enjoy the read, and do let us know on what you thought of our selection, and which books you recommend we add to our list. And enjoy your summer break!