Summer Reading

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A publishing rite at this time of year is for sites far and wide to offer their own recommended “Best Summer Reading” lists.

For all things there’s a first, so here is Adam Smith, Esq.’s First Annual Summer Reading List. (And I reserve the right for it to be the last.)

Inspiration comes from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s The Essential Wall St. Summer Reading List, published on DealBook this morning. I’m a long-time and enthusiastic admirer of Sorkin (where does he get his sources?!), and so I’ll start by presenting his list, but don’t worry, I’ll twist it into unrecognizable form customize it extensively to what I imagine the Adam Smith, Esq. audience’s interests to be—which will also be modified by the lens of my own interests.

The idea?

To provide a bit of guidance to smart, thoughtful, attentive readers who aren’t necessarily steeped in the history and theory of economics or the culture of business—but who are curious.

So, to Sorkin’s list, where he begins with out and out entertaining reads:

  • “If I could read only one book this summer, it would be “Den of Thieves” by James B. Stewart, which was published in 1992 but feels just as relevant today”
  • Then two “obvious classics” (I agree), “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco” by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, who chronicled what was at the time the largest takeover in history, the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts; and “Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis, a romp through his time as a young trader at Salomon Brothers.”
  • “I’d add one more to that classics list that has largely gone underappreciated and is often privately lauded among some of the best business writers in the country, “The Informant” by Kurt Eichenwald. The book is about the Archer Daniels Midland price-fixing scandal”
  • “The genre of narrative business books that I love so much — the ones that have a you-are-there quality — was invented, or so it is said, in 1982 by David McClintick, who wrote “Indecent Exposure,” a rollicking good read about a Hollywood scandal and the ultimate boardroom power struggle at Columbia Pictures.”

Sorkin next proceeds to somewhat more edifying reads:

  • “Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World” by Liaquat Ahamed, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his historical look at the many crises — and central bankers — that led up to the Great Depression.”
  • “‘Capitalism and Freedom’ by Milton Friedman, a seminal work that helped frame a long and heated debate about capitalism versus socialism that is still at the heart of the American discussion of the economy and politics.”
  • “By now, it seems as if everyone has already read Thomas L. Friedman’s “The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.” It changed the way we think about global business, competitiveness and the implication for far-flung economies, governments, education and more. Mr. Friedman, a longtime columnist for The Times, last revised the book in 2007, but it’s as relevant as ever to thinking about the current challenges. If you haven’t read it, do so.
  • For readers looking for a great biography, start with “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson. It provides remarkable insight into the eccentricities and drive of Mr. Jobs. It also raises some profound questions about what it takes to lead a successful company. Then grab Ron Chernow’s “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.”

Sorkin ends with two marvelous books which I fear have become trite and exhausted through relentless overexposure, and a third not really, to my thinking, about business or economics at all. The trite pair are Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and Machiavelli’s “The Prince.” The final one, and the correct answer to the SAT question, “which item does not belong here?” is Benjamin Graham’s  “The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing.”

Now, let us as they say amend and extend Sorkin’s remarks in the mold of Adam Smith, Esq.

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One Comment

  1. Bruce, 2 years ago Reply

    A reader who prefers anonymity writes:

    Thank you very much for the Summer Reading List. I enjoy reading your other work as well and find it edifying.

    With regards to the Reading List, you state the following referring to material which did not make the cut:

    \”•Anything whatsoever by John Kenneth Galbraith or Paul Krugman (yes, that one’s for extra credit, folks).\”

    For the uninitiated, can you please illuminate the underlying rationale? Is it safe to presume that it is due (primarily) to their alignment with, and being strongly influenced by, Keynesian economics? And hence, by extension, there is a lack of direct and meaningful relevancy to the market-dynamics that are now and will be for the foreseeable future affecting the economics of Big Law?

    First of all, many thanks for your kind words about Adam Smith, Esq.

    This remark was strongly tongue-in-cheek, but the more honest answer is that both JK Galbraith and Krugman ended up as single-minded ideologues with minds closed “like a steel trap” to any and all new information or thoughts.

    It has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that they were both roughly Keynesian; (We’ve wondered whether even Keynes would be a Keynesian in 2013, but that’s a separate topic.)

    Adam Smith, Esq. doesn’t discriminate against Keynesians, Hayekians, Friedmanites, or “anything-else-ites.” But we do discriminate against those who are bombastic, purblind, and adamant about refusing to intellectually engage.

    Hope this helps.


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