The lazy days of August are here, which means it’s time to leave the office early, lay outside, and finally get to that reading list. Institutional Investor asked some prominent (and literary) folks in the business for their top book picks. Find their answers below — and happy reading.
Heather Brilliant, incoming CEO, Diamond Hill Capital & chairman, CFA Institute: When it comes to fiction, my favorite category is historical fiction, and one of my favorite books in that category is Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen because it takes place during the World’s Fair in Chicago (my hometown).
I am looking forward to reading Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. She spoke at the Morningstar conference and wrote Team of Rivals, which (it was reported) formed the basis for how Obama put his cabinet together. I didn’t see her speak as I missed the Morningstar conference this year, but her presentation received rave reviews.
Michael Rosen, chief investment officer, Angeles Investment Advisors: Brenda Wineapple, The Impeachers. History tends to gloss over the first impeachment, that of Andrew Johnson, who is usually cited as the worst president we’ve ever had (so far). But this book helps us understand the debate about what post-Civil War America would look like, which was the real underlying context of the impeachment proceedings. Wineapple shows that we were very much a divided country, and the parallels with today are readily apparent.
Ashby Monk, research director, Stanford University’s Global Projects Center: I read A Man for All Markets by Edward O. Thorp a few months ago. I thought it was awesome. I’m also halfway through The Book of Why by Judea Pearl and Dana Mackenzie. It’s a fascinating look into research around causality. Then I plan to read Billion Dollar Whale by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope on the beach in August.
Cathleen Rittereiser, executive director, Commonfund Institute:Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries by Safi Bahcall. Innovators rejoice! With historical examples and creative analysis, Bahcall, a physicist and biotech entrepreneur, explains how organizations can allow new ideas to flourish by implementing structural changes. I lent Loonshots to a friend and can’t wait to get it back so I can read it again.
Dan Newhall, head of oversight and manager search, Vanguard:Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein speaks to the drawbacks and even dangers of early specialization and the benefits of broad learning and slower career discovery. I find that very appealing for many reasons, including how active managers may benefit from broader conceptual thinking skills rather than mastering tasks which can be learned by computers.
John Ameriks, head of quantitative equity group, Vanguard: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a great, fun read if you haven’t read it or seen the 2018 movie (it does feature a teen protagonist — if “immaturity” in your subject matter is a problem, this isn’t the book for you). Gen Xers like me with a passing interest in sci-fi/technology/gaming will recall a lot of the pop culture references. Related, and more interesting from a real-world angle, is this blog post, which drove me to pick the book up again. The possibility of a connection between the very real Fortnite phenomenon and the world of Ready Player One was absolutely fascinating to me.
Christie Hamilton, investment director, Dallas Children’s Health:A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson blew my mind.
Sloane Ortel, Free Money Podcast: Liu Cixin’s The Three Body Problem (and the associated Remembrance of Earth Trilogy) is so good that finishing it felt more important than breathing (and just as involuntary). It's classic hard science fiction that examines how first contact with an alien race might practically affect earthbound politics. The narrative flits between the Chinese cultural revolution, the present-day mainland and virtual reality as it unfolds at a galactic scale. Bonus: it kind of counts as geopolitical research!
Anne Hollander’s Sex and Suits is also just entrancing. She traces the cultural history of menswear from the renaissance to the present and how the professionalization of tailoring fed the construction of gender norms. There are dozens of remarkable threads to this story, like how “modern” tailoring was inspired by an early 1800s exhibition of Greek marble statues in London.
Kip McDaniel, editor-in-chief and chief content officer, Institutional Investor: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover. Billion Dollar Whale [note: the only book recommended twice on this list]. Many more!