The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read: The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals by Daniel R. Solin (2006)

This book offers a simplistic view of the investing world, arriving to the conclusion that your money is best placed into low-fee index funds and that asset allocation is very beneficial. The initial sections on brokerage and mutual fund shenigans still could be a worthy read (unless of course you are well versed in the subject as it was described in numerous other books). But if you are forced to invest in mutual funds, as it is the case of many company sponsored 401k plans, you might learn of a few tidbits on what to look out for, and in what cases a "no-fee" mutual fund is low fee for real.


The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz (2004)

This books offers an interesting observation based on various psychological experiments and real life observations, the more choices we have, in addition spending longer choosing between them, we also less likely make up our mind and will be less happy with the choice made eventually. Why I agree with the observations, I would argue with the conclusions, that lesser choices available would make us happier. Maybe in the extreme cases, for example when doctors are unwilling to make (life and death) treatment decisions and pushing those choices back on the patients, this might be true, but I would argue that these choices available came into existence, because of the free markets and customer "needs", and they would quickly disappear when serving no purpose (read no longer profitable). Many areas of life, like a new car buying experience still suffers lack of choices, including a "direct from manufacturer" buying option, and so many other distribution channnels have the entrenched manufacturer/wholesaler/retailer model, which could be greatly improved by offering real choices to consumers. A bit repetitive, but still interesting read.


Selling Sickness: How the World's Biggest Pharmaceutical Companies Are Turning Us All Into Patients by Ray Moynihan, Alan Cassels (2006)

Does it seem that medical conditions which were earlier considered to be age, lifestyle, environment related now becoming medical conditions to be treated with prescription drugs? No surprise here. The medical establishment and big pharma are constantly broadening guidelines on what conditions should be treated with medications (bringing enormous profits to both doctors and pharmaceutical companies). The authors offer histories on high cholesterol, depression, menopause, ADD, high blood pressure, PDD (successor of PMS), social anxiety disorder (shyness), osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and female sexual dysfunction as examples how these conditions are approved and widened to include more "patients" by the regulators, doctors and pharma companies with a drug to find a use for, and how to "detailers" deliver more and more samples of all kinds of drugs to most doctors. Go and get a second opinion before you start some medication and invest in pharma companies (as there is no end in sight for this)?


Istanbul: Memories and the City by Orhan Pamuk (2005)

This very personal memoirs with superb black and white photos bring the child and teen years of the author into life, as reflected on the history and places of Istanbul. The upper class family of the author has its fortunes come and go, and so do Istanbul's, which transitioning from being the center of the Ottoman empire into a capitalist/commercial center of Turkey. Unfortunately the city also lost its non-turkish population, losing their traditions and way of life in the process. There is a community melancholy in place, as signified by the fact that there is a special word "hüzün" used to describe it. An excellent window into the life of all Îstanbullus of a bygone era. A pleasure to read.

The Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me About Life and Wealth by Richard Paul Evans (2005)

At least it was a short book, little time wasted. It is always a pleasure to read the deep thoughts coming from "self-made" man (especially if they are targetted on selling more speaking engagements ...).

A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya by Anna Politkovskaya (2003)

How about a place, where the dead are ransomed for more money than the living by all sides of this conflict (including the military of your own country)? It is still not clear, after more than 10 years of fighting, what solutions can be offered to stop the bloodshed in this breakaway region, but it is clear that benefits from keeping up this conflict are flowing to both political and military leadership. In the meantime, starving citizens are caught in the crossfire, both figuratively and literally. Publishing books like this on this "internal affair", certainly won't produce much love from the leadership of her country.

The Future for Investors: Why the Tried and the True Triumph Over the Bold and the New by Jeremy J. Siegel (2005)

In his earlier book, Stocks for the Long Run : The Definitive Guide to Financial Market Returns and Long-Term Investment Strategies the author identifies the stock market as the place to be to fulfill long(er) term investing goals. In this followup, a non-mainstream view of selecting which particular stocks (and market segments to invest in) is presented, invest in established companies (paying good dividends) and avoid IPOs, as you have little chance to find the Microsoft (or even IBM), and newly issued stocks severely underperform. Dividends allow investors purchasing additional shares of the company, when times (or valuations) are bad, so in the end this leads to a significantly higher number of shares owned in the company. As for market segments, established companies with recognized brand names is the place to be, very similarly to the approach taken by Warren Buffett most times. While the author does not take its thoughts to their full conclusion, as to suggesting 100% allocation of one's funds into these "return enhancing" strategies, you will still be better off using these strategies, as compared to following the indexing crowd. In the second part of the book, a very optimistic view is painted, on how the US boomer retirement (and selling their fixed income and stock market assets) will play out. As per this view, the getting much richer investors in China and India might buy up these assets, and at the same time serve as a workforce to produce most of the goods in the world (while US, Europe, Japan retirees enjoy a pleasant retirement). The one missing point here seems to be, on why the investors would be willing to buy into ailing US, European and Japanese businesses (which might not even have a hardworking workforce to rely on, as taxation could be significantly increased to provide for the Social Security and Medicare of the boomer retirees), when they can invest into the bonds and stocks of their own country. I guess the thought is, that many of the existing "old" companies going international should provide a better investment than those newer companies. Of course, giving higher valuations to "home based" newly formed companies could become a self fulfilling prophecy, as the world might become less integrating than it is today, as those new powerhouse countries are less committed to international trade as the US is today. Recommended.


Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan (2003)

This excellent book offers perspectives of an economist on every day things of finance and economy, including markets, the role of government, politics and globalization. While one might disagree with some of the conclusions reached, the book overall is a very down to earth read with clear explanations.

Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining: America's Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out by Judy Sheindlin (1997)

The author of the book (who around the time of the publication became Judge Judy on TV as these views didn't seem to fly well politically) describes the warped world of the Family Court, encouraging total irresponsibility to child bearing and rearing (this includes both mother and many cases "unknown" father sides), and family relations. She is really making a strong case for abolishing the welfare system as implemented (and this was written after seeing the results of the Welfare Reform of 1996) and reforming family laws (and court attitude as be). The sad thing is, that it seems that nothing much changed around these topics for the last 10 years either ...


Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee (2006)

The author travels on many things moving, including 18 wheelers, a barge, small size replicas of tankers and ocean liners in the French Alps, on more. Some of these collected stories are a good read, including the story of independent truck owner hauling various hazmat chemicals across the US (and the ecosystem grown around him), and the story of the Nova Scotia lobster "apartments" and the enormous sized UPS package sorting facility in Louisville, KY, some others just seem drawn out.

100 Bullshit Jobs...And How to Get Them by Stanley Bing (2006)

The author offers an inspiring list of various bullshit jobs available with or without significant educational requirements (and also recognizes his own job of being of BS kind). This includes aromatherapist, road-kill collector, Feng-Shui consultant, life style coach, and up to the Chairman and the Vice President. While getting some of these jobs would require long climbing up the ladder, offer only minimal wage or unpleasant working conditions, there is a silver lining shining through, one might be able to discover some bullshit aspects in one's own job ... A good listening.


The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: A Fable About Fulfilling Your Dreams & Reaching Your Destiny by Robin Sharma (1994)

It is fascinating to see how much psycho babble is out there. Lets take a quick look first at the author of this book. Mr. Sharma, based on his own admission, is travelling (and very likely not walking) more than 100000 miles a year, no wonder he sold that Ferrari, and likely bought a personal jet instead. If you can make a living giving lectures at several thousands (or maybe several ten thousands) dollars a pop, why exactly would you keep a 9 to 5 (or 6 to 9 in many of the worst cases) job working for somebody? The fable itself also raises some interesting questions. So what exactly happened to the money received when the very wealthy lawyer sold all his belongings? Was he able to place all those monies into some deferred taxation retirement accounts? There was certainly no mention of giving it all away ... And indeed how does this person afford and desire to fly between continents if he has nothing to his name and wanting to have a simple life? This seems to be exactly the lifestyle the author created for himself, which is good for him, but very likely not many of the readers would be able to copy his success. Strangely the yogi teachers referenced in the book have no desire to travel anywhere from their hidden village and even less desire to sell themselves on seminars (reminding us all those other billions of persons on our planet, who simply do not have the means to do these things regardless of any amount of daily psychobabble they would be engaging in).


Prisoner's Dilemma by William Poundstone (1992)

This is a story of game theory/minimax theory (which in one of its earliest form was used to identify bombing targets), with a biography of John von Neumann as related, the research and creation of first atomic bombs and the hydrogen bomb, the preventative war theory as subscribed to many in the US armed forces and government and the first think tank, the RAND.
A two person interaction can be categorized as Prisoner's Dilemma (gain by testifying against your conspirator), Chicken (think "game of chicken"), Deadlock (encourages defection) and Stag Hunt (encourages cooperation). Discussions and experiments suggest, that defection (non-cooperation, "selfish gene"?) could be a good strategy for many of single interactions, while cooperation works well for repeated interactions, where players use various strategies. Interestingly the best strategy for simulations of Prisoner's Dilemma is TIT-FOR-TAT (or "almost" TIT-FOR-TAT), where the player cooperates until the other party starts defecting, than it defects until the other party starts cooperating. While these theories do somewhat match the realities of two player games, they are much less applicable to multi party games, especially where players are allowed/encouraged to form alliances (as it happens in real life situations).