2012 Wall Street Reading List

A collection of the Wall Street Reading List's best business books published in 2012.


Den of Thieves

James B. Stewart
Den of Thieves is a non-fiction book written by James B. Stewart, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author. The book is a detailed account of the insider trading scandals of the 1980s, which involved some of Wall Street's most powerful and high-profile players. The book centers around four main characters - Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Marty Siegel, and Dennis Levine - who were at the heart of the financial scandals of the era. Through extensive research and interviews, Stewart paints a compelling and nuanced picture of these individuals and their actions. He examines the culture of greed and deception that flourished on Wall Street during this period, and how it ultimately led to their downfall. Stewart delves deep into the complex web of insider trading schemes, illegal stock manipulation, and fraud that these men were involved in, and the impact it had on the financial industry as a whole. He provides a behind-the-scenes look at the high-stakes world of Wall Street and the cutthroat tactics used by these players to achieve success. He also provides insights into the investigation and prosecution of these individuals, and how it changed the way Wall Street operates. The book is well-researched and written in a clear and engaging style. It provides a fascinating account of one of the most scandalous periods in American financial history, and is a must-read for anyone interested in the inner workings of Wall Street and the broader financial industry. It is also considered as a classic in Wall street industry.

King of Capital

David Carey
King of Capital is a comprehensive and in-depth look at the life and career of Steve Schwarzman, co-founder and CEO of Blackstone Group, one of the world's largest and most successful private equity firms. Written by David Carey and John E. Morris, the book delves into Schwarzman's personal and professional history, exploring his rise from a middle-class background to the top of the financial world. The book begins by discussing Schwarzman's childhood and early career, including his time at Yale University and his first job at Lehman Brothers. It then goes on to describe the founding of Blackstone in 1985 and the company's early struggles and successes. The book details Blackstone's rapid growth over the following decades, including its expansion into new areas such as real estate, credit, and hedge funds. In addition to covering Schwarzman's business dealings, King of Capital also explores his personal life, including his philanthropic efforts and his relationships with family and friends. The book also delves into the controversies that have surrounded Schwarzman and Blackstone, including criticism of their business practices and Schwarzman's lavish lifestyle.

Poor Economics

Abhijit Banerjee
Poor Economics is a book by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo that explores the reasons behind global poverty and presents innovative solutions for addressing it. The book argues that traditional approaches to reducing poverty, such as providing aid or increasing access to credit, have had limited success and that a more nuanced understanding of the underlying causes of poverty is needed. The authors draw on a wide range of research, including their own field experiments, to show how poverty is often the result of complex social, political, and economic factors that interact in ways that are not always obvious. They also explore the psychological and behavioral factors that can keep people trapped in poverty, such as the way that the need to survive in the present can prevent people from investing in their own long-term well-being. Throughout the book, the authors present a variety of evidence-based interventions that have been shown to be effective in reducing poverty and improving the lives of the poor, including programs that provide access to education, healthcare, and clean water, as well as initiatives that address issues such as corruption and poor governance.

Willful Blindness

Margaret Heffernan
"Willful Blindness" is a book written by Margaret Heffernan that explores the concept of "willful blindness" – the ability to see what is happening in front of us, yet choosing to ignore it. In the book, the author looks at how individuals and organizations often choose to remain ignorant of the facts and evidence in front of them, and how this can have devastating consequences. Heffernan uses real-life examples, such as the financial crisis of 2008, and the Flint water crisis, to illustrate how "willful blindness" played a role in these events. The author also draws on her own experiences as an entrepreneur and CEO to highlight how "willful blindness" can manifest itself in the corporate world, and how it can lead to a lack of accountability and a culture of fear. Throughout the book, Heffernan argues that individuals and organizations need to be more proactive in identifying and addressing issues, rather than ignoring them. She emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and encourages readers to question assumptions, challenge the status quo and to be willing to admit their own mistakes. The book also delves into the psychological and social factors that contribute to "willful blindness" and provides a framework for how individuals and organizations can overcome it. It argues that the ability to see and act on problems is key to achieving success, and it provides practical advice on how to navigate the complex issues of our time and avoid the pitfalls of "willful blindness".

The Wizard of Lies

Diana B. Henriques
The Wizard of Lies is a nonfiction book written by journalist Diana B. Henriques. It is a detailed account of the financial fraud perpetrated by investment advisor and financier Bernard L. Madoff and the widespread impact it had on investors, employees, and the financial industry as a whole. The book is based on Henriques' extensive reporting on the Madoff scandal for The New York Times, as well as her personal interviews with Madoff and his victims. It provides an in-depth look at Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which bilked thousands of investors out of billions of dollars, and explores the many questions that the scandal raised about the regulation of the financial industry and the failure of the government and private institutions to uncover Madoff's fraud. The book delves into Madoff's background and rise to power, and examines the motives that led him to commit the largest financial fraud in history. It also provides a behind-the-scenes look at the investigation and trial of Madoff, and the devastating impact the fraud had on his victims and their families. Overall, The Wizard of Lies is a gripping and thought-provoking account of one of the biggest financial scandals of our time. It is considered an important and well-researched source of information on the Madoff case, which serve both as a cautionary tale of the dangers of greed and deception and a critical examination of the workings of the financial industry. It was released in 2011 and it also was adapted into a 2017 HBO film of the same name.

Against the Gods

Peter L. Bernstein
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk is a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of the history and evolution of human understanding of risk. Written by Peter L. Bernstein, a renowned economist and historian, the book provides a detailed and engaging exploration of the concept of risk, from ancient times to the present day. The book begins by tracing the earliest origins of human understanding of risk in ancient Mesopotamia, where early forms of insurance and gambling first emerged. Bernstein then delves into the work of 17th-century mathematicians such as Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat, who laid the foundations for the mathematical modeling of risk. He also examines the development of finance and the stock market, and the role of risk in the evolution of modern financial theory. As the book progresses, Bernstein provides a deep examination of the concept of risk itself. He examines the psychological factors that influence how we perceive and respond to risk, as well as the limitations of the mathematical models used to quantify risk. He also discusses the impact of advances in technology and communication on the management of risk in modern society, and how it has transformed the way in which businesses, governments and individual operate. One of the key strengths of Against the Gods is its ability to connect the dots between different historical periods, scientific and mathematical concepts and real-world scenarios. The author skillfully bridges the gap between historical facts, and the modern applications, enabling the reader to appreciate the evolution of risk management. In addition, the book is richly illustrated with real-world examples, case studies and anecdotes.

The Outsiders

William Thorndike
The Outsider is a book written by William N. Thorndike Jr. that explores the leadership strategies of successful CEOs who have achieved extraordinary results while operating outside of the traditional corporate hierarchy. The book is based on Thorndike's extensive research of the careers and leadership styles of CEOs from a variety of industries, and it is organized into chapters that each focus on one of these "outsider" leaders. The book examines the paths these leaders took to the top, and the unique strategies and approaches they used to achieve success. One of the key themes of the book is that these CEOs were able to think and act differently from those within the traditional corporate hierarchy, and that this allowed them to achieve extraordinary results. The book also provides insight into the mindset and character traits that these leaders had in common which allows them to be effective in their roles.

Traders, Guns and Money

Satyajit Das
Traders, Guns, and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives is a book by Satyajit Das, an expert in the field of derivatives and risk management. The book provides a detailed and in-depth examination of the world of derivatives and the risks they pose to the global financial system. It provides an inside look at the way derivatives are traded and the players involved, including investment bankers, traders, and regulators. The book is written in an engaging and easy-to-understand style, making it accessible for readers without a background in finance. Throughout the book, Das uses a combination of case studies and real-world examples to explain the complex concepts associated with derivatives and the financial markets in which they operate. He explains the mechanics of derivatives, how they are used and the risk they pose. He also highlights the underlying risks and challenges associated with the use of derivatives, and the potential consequences of a derivatives-related financial crisis. He also provides a historical perspective on derivatives, tracing their origins and evolution, which helps to provide a deeper understanding of the present derivatives market. In addition to providing a technical explanation of derivatives, Das also offers a broader perspective on the role of derivatives in the global economy and the political and societal factors that influence the development of derivatives markets. He also explores the way in which the use of derivatives has changed the nature of risk and the way in which it is managed in the financial sector. The book also delves into the issue of regulation and the role of regulators in the derivatives market. Traders, Guns, and Money is a comprehensive and informative read, providing a unique and in-depth look into the world of derivatives, written by an expert in the field. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the derivatives market, the risks they pose and their impact on the global financial system, and for professionals in finance, risk management and policy making.

The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business is a book written by Charles Duhigg and published in 2012. It is a New York Times bestseller and has been widely acclaimed by critics and readers alike. In the book, Duhigg explores the science of habit formation and how it can be applied to various aspects of life, including personal behavior and business practices. He argues that habits are a powerful force that shape our lives, and that by understanding the underlying mechanisms of habit formation, we can gain more control over our actions and ultimately change our behavior for the better. Duhigg uses a combination of scientific research and real-life examples to illustrate his points, including stories of individuals who have successfully overcome bad habits and companies that have transformed their organizational culture. He also examines how habits are formed at the neurological level, and how they can be changed by manipulating the cues, rewards, and routines that make up the habit loop. One of the key takeaways from the book is that small changes in habits can lead to big results over time, and that by focusing on changing specific habits rather than broad goals, people can achieve greater success. The book is aimed at a general audience, and provides actionable advice for individuals, as well as for managers, educators, and policymakers looking to make changes in their organizations.

The $100 Startup

Chris Guillebeau
The $100 Startup is a book by Chris Guillebeau that provides practical advice and case studies for starting a business on a small budget. The book is based on the idea that anyone can start a business with just $100 and a laptop, and it offers strategies for turning a passion or hobby into a profitable venture. The $100 Startup is aimed at entrepreneurs looking for creative ways to turn their ideas into reality without the need for a large amount of capital. In the book, Chris Guillebeau covers a variety of topics that are essential for anyone looking to start a business, including finding a unique angle, building a customer base, and creating a successful business plan. He also includes profiles of individuals who have successfully started businesses with very little initial investment, providing inspiration and guidance to readers who are just starting out. One of the key themes of The $100 Startup is the importance of finding a niche and building a business around a specific area of expertise. Guillebeau argues that it is often easier to succeed in a smaller, more focused market, and he provides strategies for identifying and targeting these markets. He also emphasizes the importance of building a strong customer base and creating a product or service that truly meets the needs of these customers.


Michael Lewis
"Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World" by Michael Lewis is a non-fiction book that takes an in-depth look at the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. Through a series of on-the-ground reporting, Lewis examines how the crisis affected different countries and their people, with a focus on Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and America. The author provides a detailed analysis of the events that led to the crisis and how different nations responded to it. He also examines the long-term consequences of the crisis, such as the rise of populist movements and the erosion of trust in the financial system. The book is written in Lewis' signature style, with a mix of storytelling and analysis, making it both entertaining and informative. He explores the absurdity and absurdity of the situation, showing the human side of the financial crisis, in a way that will appeal to a wide range of readers. He brings to light the underlying cultural and political factors that contributed to the crisis, showing how the crisis exposed deeper societal issues. Through his reporting, Lewis illustrates the different ways that countries have been affected by the crisis and the different ways they have responded. He delves into the unique cultural, political, and historical contexts that contributed to the crisis in each country, giving readers a broader understanding of the complexities of the global economy. He also examines the long-term consequences of the crisis, such as the rise of populist movements, the erosion of trust in the financial system, and the increasing polarization of societies.