2014 Wall Street Reading List

A collection of the Wall Street Reading List's best business books published in 2014.

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The Hard Thing About Hard Things

Ben Horowitz
The Hard Thing About Hard Things is a book written by Ben Horowitz that provides insight into the challenges of being a leader and manager. It offers practical advice on how to make tough decisions, navigate challenging situations, and build successful teams. The book also provides an honest look at the difficulties of leading a business and the importance of resilience in the face of adversity.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty
"Capital in the Twenty-First Century" is a book written by French economist Thomas Piketty. The book is a study of income and wealth inequality in Europe and the United States from the 18th century to the present day, and is considered a modern classic in the field of economics. The book argues that the concentration of wealth in the hands of a small group of people is a natural outcome of capitalist systems. It presents data that shows how the gap between the rich and the poor has been increasing over time, and how this trend is likely to continue in the future unless action is taken to address it. The book also develops a theoretical framework to explain the underlying causes of inequality and its evolution over time. It claims that the rate of return on capital (r) tends to be greater than the rate of economic growth (g) in the long run, which results in the concentration of wealth in the hands of those who own capital. Piketty suggests that wealth inequality can be reduced through policies such as progressive taxation on capital, which would redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. He also argues for the need to increase public investment in education and infrastructure, as these policies can increase economic growth, which in turn can reduce wealth inequality. The book is notable for its extensive use of data, which the author draws from a wide range of sources, including tax records, estate records, and survey data. The data spans across multiple countries and several centuries, which gives a broad perspective of the global economic trends, and provides a detailed picture of the historical evolution of income and wealth inequality. In summary, Capital in the Twenty-First Century is a book that provides a comprehensive analysis of the historical trends of wealth and income inequality and presents a theoretical framework for understanding its underlying causes, and offers policy recommendations for reducing it. It's a book that will appeal to economists, political scientists, sociologists, and anyone interested in social justice and inequality.

Deep Value

Tobias E. Carlisle
Deep Value: Why Activist Investors and Other Contrarians Battle for Control of Losing Corporations is a non-fiction book written by Tobias E. Carlisle, which examines the investment strategy of deep value investing. The book explores the approach of deep value investors who look for undervalued stocks, often in distressed or underperforming companies, with the goal of turning them around and realizing significant returns. The book is an in-depth analysis of the deep value investment philosophy and how it has been used by successful investors such as Warren Buffett and Benjamin Graham. The book provides an overview of the historical background and how deep value investing strategy has evolved over time. Throughout the book, Carlisle explains the key principles of deep value investing, and how to use financial metrics such as price-to-book value, price-to-earnings, and other indicators, to identify undervalued companies. He also describes how deep value investors often employ activist tactics, such as engaging with management and pushing for changes in corporate strategy, to unlock value in these companies. The book provides case studies of both successful and unsuccessful deep value investments, which illustrate the application of the strategy and the potential risks and rewards. Carlisle also covers the practical aspects of deep value investing, including risk management and portfolio construction. Deep Value is written for both investors and general readers who are interested in learning about the deep value investment strategy, and it is a valuable resource for anyone looking to gain a better understanding of this approach to investing. The book offers a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the subject, making it suitable for both novice and experienced investors.

Flash Boys

Michael Lewis
"Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt" is a non-fiction book written by Michael Lewis that explores the inner workings of the stock market and the ways in which high-frequency trading (HFT) has impacted the industry. The book tells the story of a group of individuals who set out to expose the unfair practices of HFT and bring transparency to the markets. The book provides an in-depth look at the technology used in HFT and the ways in which it has given certain traders an unfair advantage. It also highlights the efforts of a group of traders, led by Brad Katsuyama, to create an alternative trading system that would level the playing field for all investors. Throughout the book, Lewis provides a detailed examination of the various players in the stock market, including HFT firms, big banks, and exchanges, and how their actions have impacted the market. He also delves into the ethical and moral implications of HFT and the impact it has had on the overall integrity of the markets. One of the strengths of the book is the way Lewis tells the story of the individuals who set out to expose the unfair practices of HFT. He provides a human element to the story, making it an engaging and compelling read. He also presents a balanced view of the situation, highlighting both the positive and negative aspects of HFT.

Debt

David Graeber
Debt: The First 5,000 Years is a non-fiction book written by anthropologist David Graeber, which provides a detailed and engaging examination of the history and social implications of debt and credit. The book is an in-depth exploration of the role that debt has played in human societies across different cultures and time periods, and it provides a comprehensive and compelling account of how the concept of debt has evolved over time. The book covers a wide range of topics, from the origins of money and credit in ancient civilizations to the modern-day financial system and the ongoing debt crisis. Throughout the book, Graeber argues that debt and credit have played a fundamental role in shaping human societies and economies, and that the history of debt is inextricably linked to the history of human civilization. He contends that debt has played a key role in the development of institutions like religion, politics, and law, and that it has had a profound impact on the distribution of power and wealth within society. The book is written in an accessible and engaging style, and it provides a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the subject. The author employs a wide range of historical, anthropological and economic sources to provide a historical overview of the origins of debt, the role it played in the development of societies throughout history and how it affected human relations. He also provides an in-depth examination of the moral and ethical implications of debt and its role in shaping human societies. Graeber also discusses the current economic system and its underlying assumptions, as well as the impact of debt on the lives of individuals. He examines the role of debt in contemporary societies, highlighting how it has been used as a tool of power and oppression, and how it has led to the ongoing debt crisis. He also provides an analysis of alternatives to the current system, such as debt forgiveness and the creation of new financial systems. Debt: The First 5,000 Years is an important and thought-provoking book that provides a fresh perspective on the history and social implications of debt and credit. It is written for both experts and general readers, and it is a valuable resource for anyone interested in understanding the history and social implications of debt and credit, as well as the current economic system and its underlying assumptions. It provides a critical examination of the role of debt in human history and its potential consequences, making it an essential read for anyone interested in economics, history, and sociology.

Antifragile

Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder is a non-fiction book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, first published in 2012. The book presents the idea that some systems and entities actually benefit from shocks and disruptions, as opposed to being harmed by them. Taleb argues that in many cases, our attempts to make things more resilient or robust (i.e., to make them less fragile) can backfire and make them more vulnerable in the long run. He introduces the concept of "antifragility" to describe things that gain from shocks and disturbances, and uses this idea to critique various fields, including economics, politics, and medicine. One of the key messages of the book is that we should stop trying to predict and prevent rare but large-scale events (such as Black Swans), and instead focus on building systems that can handle these events when they do occur. The book also covers the idea of optionality, conveying the importance of having multiple options and flexibility in life and business decisions rather than over-planning and over-relying on predictions. Throughout the book, Taleb uses a wide range of examples and anecdotes to illustrate his points, drawing on history, literature, and personal experience. He also provides a number of concrete recommendations for how to build more antifragile systems and live more antifragile lives. The book aims to challenge readers to question their assumptions and rethink the way they think about risk and resilience. Critics have praised Antifragile as a thought-provoking and well-written book that challenges conventional wisdom, while some also criticized it as overstating its claims. Overall, the book is a challenging read, it is not a light read and it requires attention, but it aims to make the reader think differently about the world, the importance of uncertainty and the fragility of the human systems, especially in the digital era.

The Tipping Point

Malcolm Gladwell
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is a book written by Malcolm Gladwell and published in 2000. The book is an examination of the social epidemics that drive the success of certain products and ideas. In the book, Gladwell explores the concept of the "tipping point," which he defines as the moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold and spreads rapidly. He argues that there are certain characteristics that can make an idea or product more likely to reach the tipping point, such as the "stickiness factor" (how well it can be remembered) or the "power of context" (how it is perceived in the environment around it). Gladwell uses various examples to illustrate his points, such as the sudden popularity of Hush Puppies shoes in the 1990s, the rapid spread of crime in New York City in the 1980s, and the success of the television show "Sesame Street." He also introduces the idea of "mavens," "salesmen," and "connectors" – different types of people who play key roles in spreading ideas and products to a wider audience.

The Frackers

Gregory Zuckerman
The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters is a book by Gregory Zuckerman that explores the world of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," and the group of entrepreneurs who have used it to revolutionize the energy industry. Through in-depth reporting and interviews with key players in the industry, Zuckerman tells the story of how these wildcatters, or independent oil and gas drillers, used fracking to unlock vast reserves of oil and natural gas from shale rock formations, leading to a boom in domestic energy production and making the United States a global energy superpower. However, the book also delves into the controversies and challenges surrounding the fracking industry, including environmental concerns and the economic impacts of the boom. Zuckerman examines the complex and often tumultuous relationships between the wildcatters, their investors, and the communities in which they operate, and tells the story of how these entrepreneurs were able to navigate the various obstacles they faced in order to achieve success. Through its engaging narrative and deep insights into the inner workings of the energy industry, The Frackers offers a unique and thought-provoking look at one of the most significant developments in recent history.

Creativity Inc.

Ed Catmull
Creativity Inc. is a comprehensive and in-depth look into the inner workings of one of the most innovative and successful animation studios of all time: Pixar Animation Studios. Written by Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar and president of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, the book delves into the history of the company, from its early days as a computer graphics division of Lucasfilm, to its eventual acquisition by Disney, as well as the lessons learned, the struggles and the triumphs that helped shape the company. Throughout the book, Catmull shares stories and reflections from his time at the helm of Pixar, providing readers with an intimate and personal look into the company's culture, its successes and failures, and the leadership principles that have helped shape its unique and enduring spirit. He describes how the company fosters an environment where creativity can flourish and how it encourages experimentation, risk-taking and open communication. The book also provides a wealth of insights on how to create and maintain a culture of creativity and innovation. Catmull delves into the challenges of managing a creative organization, highlighting the importance of fostering a sense of trust among employees, of being open to new ideas, and of encouraging experimentation and failure as part of the learning process. In addition, the book offers practical advice on a wide range of topics, from how to build and manage teams, to how to set goals and priorities, to how to deal with setbacks and obstacles. Throughout the book, Catmull's writing is honest, open, and personal, making it a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the challenges and rewards of leading a creative organization. The book is a great combination of storytelling and lessons that could be applied in any business field, not just animation.