Good Finance/Econ Book List

General Economics/Finance

Lewis, Michael. Liar’s Poker.

Lewis is the author of The Blind Side and Moneyball. His first book details his first post-school job, selling bonds for Salomon Brothers. This is right about the time that Salomon figures out how to securitize mortgages and starts selling what become collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) that would ultimately crack the financial system in the late 2000s.

Lewis, Michael. The Big Short.

The book-end to the mortgage-backed security mess. A fascinating layman’s look at the disaster.

Cowen, Tyler. The Great Stagnation.

The US feasted on low-hanging fruit, like cheap land, labor, and significant technological advancement for 300 years and we’ve run out, so wages and quality of life have basically stagnated for the last 30 years.  This is not a full book–it’s maybe 65 pages, but it’s an interesting review of a position that I tend to agree with.

Sorkin, Andrew Ross. Too Big to Fail.

Sorkin, a NYTimes business reporter, gets personal accounts from all the major players and documents the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the creation of TARP.

Burrough, Bryan and John Helyar. Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.

A Wall Street classic about the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco, turned into a classic James Garner movie.

Venkatesh, Sudhir. Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets.
Sudhir was a grad student at Chicago when he literally stumbled into a friendship with an inner-city gang leader.  His research of the inner workings of the gang led to this book, as well as to a well received chapter in Levitt & Dubner’s Freakonomics titled, If Drug Dealing is So Lucrative, Why Do So Many Drug Dealers Still Live with Their Mothers?  Fascinating stuff, particularly for a kid who has zero experience or understanding of what life is like in the inner city.
Venkatesh, Sudhir.  Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor.
In a related work, Venkatesh explores how the inner city economy works, which is particularly fascinating, as there are few people with any actual cash.  In fact, most businesses operate on the barter system.

Behavioral Economics/Finance

Ariely, Daniel. Predictably Irrational

Ariely’s is a behavioral economist who investigates why people consistently behave in ways that would seem to be contrary to rational thought.

Thaler, Richard and Cass Sunstein. Nudge

The premise follows along with Ariely–if people consistently make non-rational choices, what can choice architects (governments, employers, retirement plan administrators, etc.) do to encourage people to make better decisions by embracing our natural tendencies. For example, if we tend to prefer letting the status quo continue rather than actively choosing to change our retirement plans, then how can we get retirement plans to let our “default” choices be better for us?

Gilbert, Daniel.  Stumbling on Happiness.

Gilbert explores the psychology of happiness–what makes us happy or sad and why.  Why are we particularly bad at predicting what will make us happy in the future, etc.


Malkiel, Burton. A Random Walk Down Wall Street.

Malkiel covers a vast array of investment options describing how to avoid the common pitfalls that fell many investors. Malkiel presents the fundamental ideas of diversification and index investing and is a useful introduction to the complex world of investments.

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