A quick review of YTD reads

I’m pausing for a moment to think about the books that I can explicitly remember reading so far this year, and reflecting on a few takeaways.

Conspiracy by Ryan Holiday – I’m a big fan of Holiday’s writing and areas of focus. The book focuses on the Peter Thiel & Hulk Hogan case against Gawker Media. It reads like… well, a conspiracy novel, except it’s all rooted in facts gathered by Holiday from multiple involved parties. What’s perhaps most unique is that Holiday was in contact with both sides of the case at the same time, and doesn’t shy away from criticizing and admiring the power strategies of Thiel and Gawker founder Nick Denton.

Somethings I took away:

  • Holiday’s discussion of the “professional son.” More than a mentee/apprentice, the professional son becomes unconventionally close to the professional father in both personality and power/network. Seems most applicable to those whose work and lifestyles are closely intertwined.
  • Money is a form of power, and sure, the possession of billions does not guarantee total free will in society. But it’s pretty darn close, when paired with unnatural patience, intellect and discretion.

The President’s Keepers by Jacques Pauw – I read this while studying abroad in South Africa, based off one of the recommendations given from my Stellenbosch University professors. Truly dramatic, mind-shifting read — and another huge conspiracy brought to the public eye. It explores in detail and chronology the state capture in South Africa by Jacob Zuma and the Gupta brothers. A flurry of seemingly credible allegations accuse Zuma of tax evasion, misappropriation of state funds, bribery, rape… the list goes on. Perhaps it was most compelling as I read it on Camps Bay during the days and weeks that Zuma was getting ousted by Ramaphosa and the ANC, but I’m going to remember this book for laying out the possibilities of state conspiracies and the grip of corruption in many countries around the world.

12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson – I’m a big fan of this guy and his lectures. He speaks with authority, purpose and precision. He’s clearly an intense guy with a not-so-rosy outlook on the world, but offers a heroic vision for each of us to prepare ourselves for our own journey of life. I’ve pretty much read and watched everything online that I can about this guy — in some cases many times over. He gives lessons that are both academic/intellectual in nature and yet deeply personal and development oriented. My cup of tea. Topics of interest: why is life worth living? What should I aim at in life, and how could I possibly attain my goals without succumbing to temptations or other miseries of life? How should I comport myself in the face of other people and challenges? Pretty deep stuff, parallels to be drawn with Principles by Ray Dalio.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel – to be honest, I went on a reading binge of investing books during the first six months of the year and the messages that have resonated tend to overlap between a number of these books – not just A Random Walk. Particularly interesting have been Berkshire’s annual letters / shareholder meetings, Klarman’s Margin of Safety, Howard Marks (The Most Important Thing + annual letters), Seeking Wisdom/Poor Charlie’s Almanack, Market Wizards, The Outsiders (highly highly recommend) and other shareholder reports (Mark Leonard of Constellation Software comes to mind). I find value investing particularly compelling, which unfortunately suggests that the current climate extends fewer investment opportunities in the U.S. than what will likely be presented in a few years time in the event of a correction. Speaking of, Harry Dent’s “The Sale of a Lifetime,” while dramatic and a bit tired, was instrumental in my understanding of market cycles, and a great compliment to Dalio’s How the Economic Machine Works.

Personal History by Katharine Graham – this is by far the most interesting autobiography I’ve read to date. Granted, I’ve read only a few. But a couple notes on her life – born into a very wealthy/prominent family, many siblings, incredibly high standards, worked a number of different jobs at the Washington Post before and while her husband ran it, had an unfaithful husband who would later commit suicide (to whom she was always loyal), took over the Post while befriending Warren Buffett, delivered one of the most incredible long-term shareholder returns in her time. The detail and depth of emotion with which she wrote is truly eye-opening and surprisingly riveting; I found myself empathizing with some family dynamics (competition with siblings, toeing the line between independent thought and the hope to fit in, complexities of frugal/disciplined upbringing that conflicts with social lives, etc etc) at various points. If you have the time and the patience, a great read.

 

There’s been a bunch of other books that I’ve read, but given my recall difficulty, I would recommend the five above most readily.

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