The Best Books I Read in 2014

These were my favorite books I read in 2014.

Finance/Business/Investing

Young Money by Kevin Roose
Roose did an amazing job capturing the current sentiment about two things I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about – the finance industry and Millennials. He spent a number of years interviewing the anonymous young subjects that were finding their way on Wall Street, so you can really tell that a lot of time and effort went into this book. I think one of the biggest struggles for the soon-to-be biggest demographic in the U.S. is trying to find a balance between ambition and principles. Most Millennials want to succeed, but they also want to do things the right way. Roose brilliantly captures this internal tug-of-war through the personal stories of the people he followed along with his own experiences in trying to learn about the financial world.

The Clash of the Financial Pundits by Josh Brown & Jeff Macke
One of my favorite books of the past few years is Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN. The entire book is a collection of interviews on the history of the network. Clash of the Financial Pundits reminds me of the investment version of that book. The interview format makes for a nice change of pace in a non-fiction book as a great way to share stories and little nuggets of wisdom. There’s a little bit of something for everyone in this book – market history, interesting stories, interviews with insiders and great advice on how to think about your sources of financial advice. It’s a very honest book from the authors down to the pundits they interviewed. Highly recommended for anyone that would like a behind the scenes look at how the pundits you see on TV and read in the press really think about the content and advice they put out there.

All About Asset Allocation by Rick Ferri
Ferri is probably one of the most underrated investment thinkers and writers out there today. His books and blog posts are always interesting and make you think, but they are also full of common sense and simplicity. I’m a few years late to this one, but it’s one of the best books I’ve read on one of the most important topics for investors to understand when constructing a portfolio.

What I Learned Losing a Million Dollars by Brendan Moynihan
Everything you need to know about how hubris, overconfidence, luck and human nature can affect investment outcomes. The book is split into two parts. The first part is the story of how Jim Paul made and then lost over a million dollars in short order trading futures and nearly ruined his life in the process. The second part is the lessons learned and how you can apply them to the investment process. This one is full of timeless advice and wisdom through learning about the mistakes others make with their money. It’s full of real world examples of the costly behavioral biases that affect all investors at some point.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Hands down one of the best business books I’ve ever read. Getting to hear the thought-process, stresses and realities of running a number of businesses from the perspective of the CEO was absolutely fascinating. Horowitz does a wonderful job detailing how many different variables go into the decisions a business leader has to make — and most aren’t easy. This should be required reading in business schools across the country because it shows how little textbook knowledge comes into play when making real world decisions. Dealing with people is much more important.

Fiction

The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
This is the latest in the Mickey Haller/Lincoln Lawyer series. Connelly is a former crime reporter so his books always seem to have an element of reality. He covers the detective and lawyer angles better than anyone I’ve read. I think this is his best one in a while. Haller is the ultimate anti-hero defense attorney that you find yourself rooting for even though he’s kind of a jerk.

Personal by Lee Child
Stone Cold by CJ Box
Child and Box are by far my two favorite fiction authors today. Both have written 15 to 20 books in their respective series on Joe Pickett and Jack Reacher and I have yet to come across one in either series that I haven’t enjoyed. These books never disappoint if you’re looking for some good action, intrigue, conversation and character development.

My favorite line from the latest Child book is Jack Reacher talking about life in the army that pairs well with the financial markets: “Long slow periods of nothing much, with occasional bursts of something.”

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins
The best new series I’ve gotten into is about ex-army ranger Quinn Colson who has moved back to his hometown to take over the local law enforcement. There are a few others in this series, but this was the best one yet. Also be sure to read Atkins’ take on Robert Parker’s Spenser in Cheap Shot.

And here are the reviews I wrote on some of the other books I enjoyed this year:

See also:
My favorite investing books about math and history
The best books I read in 2013

 

 

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  • I really liked Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull. He’s the founder of Pixar and he has some really good insights on how to manage a company a sustain an innovative culture.

    • Ben

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll put it on my list.

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  • Jim Haygood

    Gary Antonacci’s Dual Momentum Investing (Nov. 2014) presents a simple mechanical system that holds only one of three assets at a time — the S&P 500, the ACWI ex-USA index, or the BarAgg bonds.

    I collected the index data, constructed a spreadsheet per his description, and replicated his results: about a 17% annual return, with a Sharpe ratio of 0.86. If you liked Mebane Faber’s The Ivy Portfolio, you’ll like Dual Momentum Investing too.

    • Ben

      Dual Momentum is going on my (ever growing) list of reads for 2015. Have you checked out the RAA approach from Alpha Architects that expands on the Ivy Portfolio? See here:

      http://www.alphaarchitect.com/blog/2014/12/02/our-robust-asset-allocation-raa-solution/#.VJh7Ll4DDg

      • Jim Haygood

        Very interesting; thanks. Main question about RAA is that Ken French’s Momentum and Value decile portfolios are formed monthly, using all NYSE and Nasdaq stocks.

        One would have to hold hundreds of stocks, ranging from mega to micro caps, and change a few dozen of them each month. And in fact, many of the MOM_10 winners ARE small caps.

        If one could buy MOM_10 and VAL_10 ETFs, then no problem. But Ken French hasn’t gone into the ETF business, and size constraints would rapidly bite these portfolios.

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