The Best Books I Read in 2013

“In my whole life, I have known no wise people over a broad subject matter area who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” – Charlie Munger

These are the best books I’ve read in 2013.

INVESTING
Backstage Wall Street by Josh Brown
Brown spent a number of years working as a commissioned broker selling all varieties of financial products to his clients. These experiences led him to believe that selling complex products to unwitting customers for the sole purpose of earning a percentage of that sale without considering the client’s situation was the wrong way of doing things. Backstage Wall Street is full of the ways in which Wall Street will try to make money off of you instead of for you. The lessons learned in this book can save you from a lot of harmful mistakes with your money. Brown was so fed up with that side of the industry that he decided to make the move to being a fee-only financial advisor to align his interests with his clients instead of against them and he blogs about all things Wall Street and pop culture at one of the very best blogs out there, The Reformed Broker.

Abnormal Returns by Tadas Viskanta
This is a great book for anyone looking to get past investing 101. All of the different portfolio strategies that one can use are covered thoroughly in this book with a list of pros and cons for each. Viskanta offers a straightforward way to view your investments using a wide variety of historical research and easy to understand explanations on some complex topics. My favorite line is when he states that being a mediocre investor is actually a worthy and achievable goal. His blog, Abnormal Returns, is also a must read for all things finance, business and investment-related. The best part of his blog is that he calls it a “wide-ranging, forecast free investment blog.”

Investing: The Last Liberal Art by Robert Hagstrom
Hagstrom covers the mental models approach developed by Charlie Munger that uses physics, biology, sociology, psychology, philosophy and literature to better understand the economic and investing environment. It gives you an approach to be able to view the financial markets through a number of different disciplines and also includes some history on each of the areas he goes into.  You will feel smarter after reading this book and also come away learning a ton about how past events and scholarly thinkers can explain complex markets and investments. It’s also good for dinner conversation fodder to impress your friends.

NON-FICTION
Sex on the Moon by Ben Mezrich
This is the true story of a NASA intern who decided to steal priceless moon rocks in the early 2000s to impress his girlfriend of only 3 weeks. Mezrich embellishes all of his books (he wrote the book that the movie The Social Network was based on) just a bit, but the true story behind this book is crazy. You will find yourself thinking more than once, “what was this guy thinking when he tried to pull off this heist?”

The Buy Side by Turney Duff
This book is technically about Wall Street, but it’s actually a tale of triumph, tragedy, addiction, partying, family and the trappings of wealth. Duff was a trader on Wall Street for a number of different firms including investment banks and hedge funds in the 2000s. Once he made some money he got so caught up in the lifestyle that it nearly ruined his life. His honesty in this book is what makes the story so crazy. He puts it all out there, warts and all. I read this one in about two days because I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. That’s tough to do with a biography.

Andrew Jenks: My Adventures as a Young Filmmaker by Andrew Jenks
I love the show World of Jenks on MTV. He documents real people dealing with real problems. This book goes through his background as a young documentary filmmaker. He started by doing a documentary in college by living in an assisted living facility, then went on to create a 30–for-30 doc for ESPN on the star power of baseball manager Bobby Valentine in Japan to finally having his own series on MTV. It’s a very inspirational book because he was told so many times along his journey that his documentary ideas wouldn’t work. He overcame tons and tons of rejection before he achieved success.

FICTION
Force of Nature by C.J. Box
This was the best non-fiction book I’ve read in a while. It’s one of the latest in a long series of Joe Pickett books by C.J. Box. If you are looking for a good series of books to get into to follow character development and solid storylines mixed in with crime solving, this is one of the best. Every book is somehow better than the previous one. Joe is a Wyoming game warden and works in the wilderness but always seems to find trouble. This one has the backstory on Joe’s partner in crime, Nate Romanowski, a former member of the Special Forces who has gone off the grid.

Never Go Back by Lee Child
The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child includes one of my other favorite non-fiction characters. Reacher wanders from town to town with nothing but a toothbrush in his pocket and the clothes on his back, never looking for trouble, but always finding it. He’s a former member of the Military Police so these books include a detective element in addition to the action and mystery. As with C.J. Box, Child manages to make every single book in the series worth reading. My favorite line from this one that has an investing analogy written all over it:

“When it comes to fear, my DNA is the same as anyone else’s. I trained myself, that’s all. To turn fear into aggression, automatically.”

REVIEWS
I’ve done a handful of book reviews this year on some of the other really good books I’ve read and you can find the lessons learned below:

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The Success Equation by Michael Mauboussin
The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards
The Coffeehouse Investor by Bill Schulteis
Choose Yourself by James Altucher
Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig
The Most Important Thing by Howard Marks
The Little Book of Behavioral Investing by James Montier
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edward Lefevre

 

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