A Year with 25 Books

BARELY 8% OF new-year’s resolutions survive until the end of January. Some people set goals that are too optimistic; While others simply set too many goals. Maybe, the biggest reason why people fail so miserably is that changing a particular behavior is difficult if the routines that are tightly woven around it remain the same. That’s why I normally don’t set too many new year goals. Despite this, I have set some ambitious goals for myself in terms of reading last year. 

The first goal was to change the genre of reading. I used to focus on reading books in the field of finance and economics only. At the start of the year 2020, I have decided to read more on history and geopolitics, less on finance. When Covid-19 hit the whole world, the incentive for reading history got even bigger.

The second goal was to read on average 2 books a month. This was quite challenging for me as I have not read more than 12 books in any of the past years. It required changing habits also. I have started well in the first couple of months in the year 2020.  When Covid-19 hit the whole world and we were locked down, I thought the situation would help me to read more books. But, I experienced the opposite situation. I could not read enough and get distracted because of the uncertainty, fear, and having to cope with work from home habits. Things accelerated once the few months were over, I started going back to the office, traffic jams started and uncertainty reduced a little bit.

I have learned a great deal by reading those books. I never loved reading historical events in the past. I got new perspectives too. In between, I did read some finance and economics books and some related to psychology and self-help. In the end, I have finished reading 24 books in a year. In addition, I have finished one audiobook on audible. Below is the list of books I read in 2020.

  1. Homo Deus: A history of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

After reading Sapiens in Dec 2019, I loved the writings of Yuval Noah Harari. So, I have decided, why not finish his other books. Homo Deus is another great piece by him. I found it like a continuation of Sapiens. He explained how famine, plague, and war have been transforming from uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. I was reading this January 2020 when I knew nothing about Covid-19.

2. 21 Lessons for the 21 Century by Yuval Noah Harari

This was another masterpiece by Harari. He talked about the roles of modern-day machines in human life. How big data is watching us? How can we maintain freedom in such environments? He also explained the epidemic of fake news, war, terrorism, liberal democracy, etc.

3. Transforming NOKIA: The Power of Paranoid Optimism to Lead Through Colossal Change by Risto Siilasmaa

This is a great book on how Nokia turned around. Nokia lost 90% of its value in four years. People were forecasting the bankruptcy of Nokia. But Nokia changed the business model and bounced back. It reinvented itself and became the second biggest player in the global wireless market. Risto talked a lot about corporate governance, board, and management. He shared a recipe of how a Chairman and CEO should work. We shared a recipe for boards so that companies perform efficiently and generate value. Risto called his strategy “paranoid optimism” and how it can apply a winning entrepreneurial leadership model to rise above any challenges and drive sustainable success.

4. Fewer, Richer, Greener: Prospects for Humanity in an Age of Abundance by Laurence B. Siegel

This is a wonderful book by Laurence B. Siegel. I loved every chapter of it. He explained how the world has become much better and why optimism is abundantly justified. He talked about stagnant economic growth, climate deterioration, unsustainable population growth in the past. Yet, life has actually improved tremendously. We live in the safest, most prosperous time in all human history. In terms of food, health, longevity, education, conflict- now is the best time to be alive.

5. The Accidental Superpower: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and the Coming Global Disorder by Peter Zeihan

After reading this book, I loved Peter Zeihan’s work so much that I read all his three books, watched many videos and webinars by him. I subscribed to his blog and occasionally read his writings. I first came across Peter Zeihan when I listened to a podcast about the book “The Absent Superpower”.  I have decided to read his first book then. He explained how America gained so much power in the world. He discussed the role of river, sea, geography, demography, and trades that helped America to dominate the world. His theory is that geography plays a huge influence on a country’s development.

6. The Absent Superpower: The Shale Revolution and a World Without America by Peter Zeihan

I wish I would read the book earlier. Yet, coincidentally, I read this book before the Oil futures went to negative territory for a day. It was quite unprecedented. Yet I could relate to the economics of oil after reading this book. I enjoyed the shale revolution discussion. It explained how the US became an energy-independent country. He also explained the geopolitical conflicts in Eastern Europe by Russia, in the Middle East by Iran and Saudi Arabia, and East Asia between China and Japan/Taiwan/South Korea/Southeast Asia.

7. Disunited Nations: Succeeding in a World Where No One Gets Along by Peter Zeihan

This book is published in 2020 when Deglobalization becomes a buzzword due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It explained what the United States imposed following World War II. The order was to ally everyone against the Soviets, peaceful transport by sea and air all over the world. The order allowed goods to be traded which multiplied economies and standards of living worldwide, taking billions out of poverty and making the comfortable unprecedented wealthy.

8. The Great Reflation: How Investors Can Profit from the New World of Money by J. Anthony Boeckh

This is a great book based on the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC). I have learned the word “Reflation”. Until reading this book, I never thought about the Asset Price inflation. I used to think about consumer price inflation only. But the Asset price inflation is another key aspect that I have learned. It talked about Gold prices and how it varied over the years. I read this book before the Gold price reached its new high in 2020. And this scenario is very much similar to what happened after the GFC.

9. The Right-and Wrong-Stuff: How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade by Carter Cast

This is a must-read for Young Grads. It explained many mistakes that we make during our careers. Carter’s book can help people avoid the kinds of things that can derail or limit a career. He mentioned that a lack of self-awareness and difficulty working with others were the top two reasons that experienced a career derailment event.

10. Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems by Abhijit V. Banerjee, Esther Duflo

This is a great read. The chapter on Immigration explained the decision-making framework related to Migration. In addition to immigration, it talked about Labor, tax, growth, politics, trade etc.

11. China: The Bubble That Never Pops by Tom Orlik

This book transformed my thinking of bubbles in the banking sector, the real estate market, and why that bubble continued. If one tries to understand a banking sector drowning in bad loans, this book can show great perspectives. It related how the changing demographics are related to the surge investments and why the Chinese investment to GDP ratio remained high. I didn’t know how volatile the Chinese stock market is. In fact, it was much more volatile than the Bangladesh Stock Market.

12. Azadi by Arundhati Roy

What a wonderful piece by Arundhati Roy. In a series of essays, she explained the rise of Hindu nationalism and the atrocities of the Modi administration. The chant of Azadi is the slogan of the freedom struggle in Kashmir against what Kashmiris see as the Indian Occupation. In the last chapter, she said the pandemic is a portal between one world and the another.

13. Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral and Drive Major Economic Events by Robert J. Shiller

Narrative matters. Some stories go viral while others not. Shiller used a lot of data and events and showed that studying popular stories that affect individual and collective economic behavior has the potential to vastly improve our ability to predict, prepare for and lessen the damage of financial crises, recessions, depressions, and other major economic events.

14. Only Yesterday: An Informal History of the 1920’s by Frederick Lewis Allen

This book showed a very interesting observation of the USA of the time, from politics to culture and everyday life.

15. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

When I started my career in 2011, my then boss, Maruf H Khan Noorpuri told me many times to read this book. He used to give reference to this book with real-world circumstances. It is a small book but it takes time to finish. Finally, I have read it.

16. The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel

This is an enjoyable read. This book changed the perspectives about the investment world we used to view. Every page of this book is a pleasant read.

17. Capitalism without Capital: The Rise of the Intangible Economy by Jonathan Haskel, Stian Westlake

The financial method developed rules to value tangible assets. But intangible assets are hard to be valued. Banks don’t lend based on intangible assets. Financing the intangible economy is a great challenge. This book showed how to measure intangible investment and its impact on national accounts, showing the amount different countries invest in intangibles, how this has changed over time, and the latest thinking on how to assess this. The writers explained four aspects of intangible investments: Sunk Cost, Spillover Effects, Scalability, and Synergies.

18. Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Richards

Starting from the Gold standard to the Fiat Currency era, currency wars are one of the most destructive and feared outcomes in international economics. It is a good book on macroeconomics, especially on the financial crisis, currency, and geopolitics.

19. Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

This is a nice self-help book. I found this like a continuation of his previous book “The Sublte Art of Not Giving a F*ck”. It talked about philosophy, human existence, psychology, democracy, religion, politics, money, etc.

20. How to Decide: Simple Tools for Making Better Choices by Annie Duke

Taking decisions is an art. We often evaluate decisions based on the outcome. Annie termed it as “resulting”. Some decisions are extremely hard to take because the stakes are high. Annie duke explained frameworks on how to make decisions. When one needs to make a decision fast. When to decide slowly and when to decide in advance.

21. More: A History of the World Economy from the Iron Age to the Information Age by Philip Coggan

I came across a review on the Economist magazine. I didn’t waste time. I picked up the book and read it. What a wonderful book this is! The book tracked the development of trade and industry across the world. It is a great summary of economic developments over the last 10,000 years.

22. The Wake-up Call: Why the Pandemic Has Exposed the Weakness of the West, and How to Fix It by John Micklethwait, Adrian Wooldridge

This short book explained that the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that the government matters again. The competent leadership is the difference between living and dying. A few governments proved adept at handling the crisis while many others failed. This book is a good read.

23. Is it Tomorrow yet? Paradoxes of the Pandemic by Ivan Krastev

This is a very short book. It should not take more than a day to finish. Ivan explored the pandemic’s immediate consequences.

24. The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology and Institutions by Jeffrey D. Sachs

It is a great summary of the seven ages of globalization. The dynamics of the past waves offer fresh perspectives on the ongoing processes taking place in our own time. Sachs argued that each of these previous ages led to new forms of governance.

25. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

I have never experienced an audiobook. I heard the full audiobook from Audible. The theme is that emotional intelligence is important. He talked about the brain, rational and emotional minds, and the interaction between the two.

I would like to continue reading more on history. It gives great perspectives. Besides, I would like to focus on reading biographies in 2021.

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