The Billion Dollar Sure Thing by Paul E. Erdman (1973)

While slow flowing at times, this is still a good read. The information on the planned devaluation of the dollar is stolen (and just simply deducted by some quick minds), and memorable characters of international finance get into the action, including sleazy Swiss bankers, a US hedge fund manager, the Arab/Lebanese money changer and Russian foreign exchange bankers. The author, as the founder of a Swiss bank, is able to put real life perspective into the imaginary events.


Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner (2005)

The "economist with no unifying theme" explores various real life situations with the perspective of incentives triggering these said behaviors. If nothing else, the incentives discussed at work, unify the the discussions around the membership structure and finances of a crack gang, the relationship between Roe vs. Wade and the decreasing US crime at the end of the 1990s, cheating teachers and test scores, cheating in professional sports (like sumo) and child names selected (and they pretend to mean to parents).


The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort (2007)

Cautionary tale for any investors who still happen to believe that brokers are working for the benefit of their customer. This rough-and-tumble version of Liar's Poker runs on the same money fuel, never before those semi-literate kids from the working suburbs of Manhattan were getting so much money with so little actual work (although getting the money did involve ripping the face of their customers). Unfortunately the actual shenanigans receive minimal description (beside restricted stock parking/sale, stock hyping and boiler room sales, with the excuse that they like Robin Hood were cleaning out mostly the rich), so the book reads like a narcotics fueled frenzy (with cocaine induced paranoia and the like) of your average Hollywood star, than an actual financial "education" book.


Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer (1996)

This is a simple story, young man goes out to live alone in the wild, and found dead some time later. Of course discovering why makes this into a story. What sort of idealism drives an exemplary student young person to denounce and not contact his family, change his name and go on this adventure to never return from? Chris McCandless' travels across America, Mexico and Canada/Alaska are retraced, many people, friends, rubber tramps (the ones with vehicles) and leather tramps (the ones on foot) met were interviewed, and his dream to live alone (and self-sufficient/off-the-land) detailed. Was he mentally unbalanced or "just" an extreme idealist? The author tends to vote on the idealist side, but unfortunately Alexander Supertramp's (his chosen name) preparations didn't succeed, and likely a simple mistake of eating the wrong berries cost him his life. The wilderness is an unforgiving place. What makes this book even more intriguing, is the author's own young reckless adventure solo climbing the Devil's Thumb (also in Alaska), from which he barely made it out alive.


Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart, Daniel Klein (2007)

Do philosophy and jokes have the same roots? Reading this short-and-sweet book should prove that they do (although a philosophy treatise will take the long and times boring route to express them). As a quick introduction to all major philosophical approaches (and even offering a significantly condensed timeline), this could be your textbook for Philosophy 101.


Lords of Poverty: The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business by by Graham Hancock (1989)

In this well researched book, the author offers the unfortunate conclusion, that government monies spent on foreign aid are mostly wasted, bringing no help and relief to people in need. While private charities fare better (as they are accountable to their donors), the various agencies of the United Nations exemplify the bureaucratic waste of (to large extent USA) taxpayer funds. The self pampering, special foreign compounds, first class air travel, high salaries and various perks are out-of-this-world (in particular when compared to the literally starving population in many cases a few hours of ride away). These bureaucrats offer no measurable improvements, and might have the self serving goal of perpetuating poverty, as a mean of keeping themselves employed (as no other reputable organization would be interested in their antiquated or simply non-existent skills). The WorldBank/IMF are also not faring any better, as although many of their projects are actually accomplished, they are of poor quality in most cases (and the cause for various environmental problems and disasters) and definitely not in-line with the needs and wants of the locals of whom they would be interested in serving. In many cases, clearly despotic regimes are funded and helped with these funds. As the U.N. is also an excellent example of "taxation without representation", is it time to abolish the United Nations?