My Reads Throughout 2023
In case you missed it, from now on, my research will be paid. The latter includes earnings reviews, deep dives and industry breakdowns. If you’d like to know more about it, you should read this. On Wednesday morning, I’ll publish Texas Instruments’ earnings review.
I started reading in August of 2020. Curiosity is an insatiable force. More than a hundred books have gone by and the list just gets longer and longer. I continuously feel I should dedicate more time to this endeavor as I believe it is immensely helping my intellectual capacity and having dramatically positive effects on my life.
My thesis for the future is quite simple. I suspect that economic wealth is the result of how much value you add, conceptually. The latter is determined by how much you know and how much are people willing to pay for that knowledge. On the spiritual side, I suspect that knowledge will provide me with a set of tools which I could leverage to tilt my behavior towards one I respect and feel good with. Still thinking about this, but something like that.
Even though there is still a month left in this calendar year, I expect the next couple of weeks to be very time constrained, much more than during these past months. Therefore, I think it would be wise for me to try go over what I read and learned this year as soon as possible. The approach taken will be a combination of conciseness, hopefully, and comprehensiveness. In pursuit of simplicity and precision, I will first cover financial reads, the ones I believe you are most interested in, and, secondly, on other disciplines.
Note: The following are my “physical” reads, those that come in the form of a book or kindle. For financial reads, I take notes, which is not the case for non-financial.
Given this is an exploration of my mind, quotes and paraphrases are what I remember.
Warren Buffett Shareholder Letters, 1957-1986
Warren introduced me to a new world. He is one of the few I feel belong more to the realm of philosophy than investing. These letters have been the single source from which I learned the most about this field.
Terry Smith Shareholder Letters, 2011-2023
If you develop a sound set of rules and respect them, you’ll do perfectly well. Terry’s 2014 (I believe) letter helped me deal with something I was struggling with, uncertainty and the future.
“The commanding general is well aware that forecasts are no good. However, he needs them for planning purposes.”
Low Risk Rules, Geoff Saab, 2022
Great introduction to investing for an outsider. The second part, which I enjoyed the most, helped me dive into interesting verticals, against modern portfolio theory.
Chip War, Chris Miller, 2022
Marvelous coverage of a somewhat esoteric element, semiconductors. It begins right before William Shockley theorized about transistors in 1945-49 and finishes with how the industry is configured. Throughout the book, you get the whole historical and technical process. Chip War is the best read I had on investment-related topics.
Nicholas Sleep Shareholder Letters, 2002-2013
Mental uniqueness is a trait I aspire to reach after reading Nick’s writing. Learning and thinking are the best path forward in investing. Both can work wonders and lead to beautifully articulated theses, such as Nomad’s ‘Scale Economies Shared’.
Zero to One (re-read), Peter Thiel, 2014
The best book on startups (considering my narrow experience and reads). Several concepts on how a business could be run to maximize chances of success and very interesting insights.
The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen, 1997
Clayton changed my life. After listening to tens of his conferences and reading some of his articles, I saw what intelligence, passion and humility can bring. He was the best Professor whose lectures I never physically attended. I’m quite certain that I will carry many of his ideas for the rest of my life.
The Innovator’s Dilemma is the most profound book I have read in this field. The concepts and data discussed are unusually insightful. Disruptive innovation is a theory with which multiple events can be analyzed. It spreads beyond business management.
Michael Mauboussin, 20 Research Articles, 1995-2001
A huge reality check. When I thought I was starting to understand how this thing worked altogether, Michael brought me back to earth. There is infinite complexity in not only the accounting system, but financial understanding in general. This was probably the hardest read I had this year and I only hope to have understood a fraction of it.
If you don’t know where to start with Mauboussin, the 3 articles I’d recommend:
Competitive Advantage Period, The Neglected Value Driver, 1997
Shift Happens, 1997
The Trouble with Earnings and P/E Multiples, 2001
François Rochon Shareholder Letters, 2001-2022
To be good at this game, you have to love it. If you do, you could notice how beautiful, in the traditional sense, investing really is. There is much more to it than numbers and financial statements. Finally, two quotes I loved:
“Discipline is to respect one’s own rules. Wisdom is to know when to break them”
“Our attitude is that of a museum director: We only want to own masterpieces”
Investing in the Unknown and Unknowable, Richard Zeckhauser, 2006
Richard’s essay is the most profound thing I have read about finance. It vividly reveals the beyond uncertain world in which we live in. I’m still digesting this read, but he provides a framework for how we can deal with the inherent unknown and unknowable, profit from it, and why traditional corporate finance and modern portfolio theory are simply impractical.
Mark Leonard Shareholder Letters, 2007-2021
An undoubtedly brilliant person. From his letters I get that, the fact of something not being practiced nor done does not mean it’s bad. Most of Constellation’s methodologies and approaches were grown up in-house. Mark had to think his way through this uncharted territory and succeeded. Extraordinary returns were the outcome.
A whole framework for analyzing management. This book is a perfect display of what good resource allocation looks like as well as managers’ resourcefulness. I would like for each chapter to be more detailed though.
This is my current read. I’m at about 60-70%.
Note: These were mostly done in Spanish, for which some mistranslations might occur.
The Tunnel, Ernesto Sábato, 1948, read it twice this year
Great book, written with terrifying precision. It goes around an artist’s relationship with a woman, who ends up getting murdered by him. Curious how Ernesto reveals the artist’s mind torturing itself throughout the book. (The reason why I read it twice is because I needed to travel and didn’t have any other books with me).
Notes From Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1864, twice this year
Best book I have read in my entire life. I covered Dostoevsky in the newsletter once or twice. There is no person that could dive deeper into fundamental topics such as suffering, free will and meaning. He severely transcended human’s intellectual capacity. I consider Fyodor’s books to be somewhat dangerous to one’s psyche, but nonetheless necessary. As soon as I feel I’m ready, I will read Crime and Punishment, perhaps in January.
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez, 1985
I love literature. I grabbed this book when I was getting tired of reading, which of course happens. During such dreadful times, great literature helps me fall in love again with it. Fortunately, I had this book in my apartment’s library and I very much enjoyed it. Second book I read from García Marquez, after last year’s 100 Years of Solitude. Even though Love in the Time of Cholera is a romantic novel, it is worth the while. This man is a must read if you enjoy books because of how they are written.
The War of the End of the World, Mario Vargas Llosa, 1981
One of the few books I didn’t finish in my life. I think I went through 650-700 pages out of the 900 it has. I read 3-4 books from Vargas Llosa and this one actually surprised me. Doesn’t feel it’s written by him. Not easy to follow the narrative and too many unnecessary fragments, which made it incredibly confusing.
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende, 1982
Another greatly written book, though not with the caliber of García Márquez. Follows a story of a man that owned a farm and was a somewhat local dictator (in the farm). I don’t remember where it took place, but it was around the 1900s somewhere in Latin America. Politics get into the novel as many countries experienced coups during that time. I do remember vengeance, a bit of fantasy and love as relevant elements.
The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud, 1897
I only read a third of this book, but I retained more than usual. It’s crucial in my opinion to go to the sources and Sigmund proved the point. Interpretations are subject to people’s biases and misjudgments. I of course fall in such sins, but I’d rather commit them myself. A couple of interesting points from this book:
The unconscious mind remembers much more than we think (on a superb level)
Dreams are influenced by our physical environment
Dreams are hard to remember due to the little definition with which we “see” them and because they are not associated with senses
The Feast of the Goat, Mario Vargas Llosa, 2000
Interesting book on a historical character, Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic, who was in power during 1930-1960 or so (could be wrong on dates). Vargas Llosa narrates how the dictator got killed by a group of rebels and how they were then tortured. Very interesting story and turn of events. It’s unbelievable how much damage and human suffering can single individuals cause.
12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson, 2018
Jordan might be the person to whom I listened the most. He changed my life and view of things. In 12 Rules for Life, Peterson goes over fundamental principles upon which we could base our behavior in pursuit of a meaningful life. Some that I remember and try to predicate as much as I can:
Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie
Surround yourself with those that want the best for you
Stand straight with your shoulders back
I’m surprised, thought I remembered only one, turns out they stuck more than I thought. The book contains very interesting information on history, biology, religion and philosophy.
Shoe Dog, Phil Knight, 2016
The most exciting biography I have read. It truly filled me with motivation. Further, it brought perspective to how enjoyable the journey really is. I’ll never forget the following, shared at around the end of the book (paraphrasing):
“Interviewer: Phil, is there any regret that you have? Or what would you wish for?
Phil: That I could do it all over again”
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson, 2011
In this world, there are special people. Ones that see things others simply can’t. They are wired differently and are the ones that bring abundance. The second lesson is that a mission or life purpose is infinitely powerful. It can take you places you would not even have dreamed about.
P.S: People don’t know what they want.
“Only those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that end up doing so”
No Longer Human, Osamu Dazai, 1948
Dark book. This one is in the line of Dostoevsky’s writing, though with the latter reaching somewhat “good” conclusions. For example, in The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky show how Aliocha, the religious brother, is simply the better person, even though it cannot counteract Ivan’s arguments. Osamu, on the other hand, wrote No Longer Human prior to committing suicide (if I’m not mistaken). The book is split in three parts, which go over the life of a troubled person; a drug addict that had no purpose of being and couldn’t find it. I found his view of life and society extremely interesting to read, but immensely saddening. In the future, this book is a re-read for me.
The Setting Sun, Osamu Dazai, 1947
I didn’t enjoy this book that much. Osamu goes over an aristocratic family and how they go from a decent position to socioeconomic hell. I’m not sure what was the point of the book and couldn’t relate nor understand any of the characters’ behavior.
Signs of Civilization: How Punctuation Changed History, Bard Borch Michalsen, 2022
If I’m honest, I barely remember this one. It happens when I read books in a day or two. Some facts that might be interesting to you, but that are subject to misremembering:
The first person that utilized connectors such as dots and commas was Erastóstenes (was he?), a guy that was in charge of the Library of Alexandria in 200-250bc.
Alquino de York, around 700-800 ac developed the lowercase letters system.
The Reader, Bernhard Schlink, 1995
A friend’s recommendation (as some others), fascinating read. Very well written and with an exciting yet dark narrative. Easy to follow. It goes over a strange relationship between a teenager and a 30-40 years old woman. The former gets his psyche destroyed and the latter ends up being a guard at a Nazi concentration camp (I think). How the two connect is very interesting. They maintain the connection and the end is brutal, unexpected by me. I need to meditate more on this book.
Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, 1946
Brought perspective on how terror looks like. We are fortunate to live in the twenty-first century. The world has never been in such peace and for as long as this cycle. From this book, it amazed me how the human body is capable of adapting itself to any situation. Finally, logo-therapy, the psychological school of thought Viktor founded, is something I need to do further research on.
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank, 1947
Hope to not offend anybody, but I didn’t enjoy this book at all. I thought it was about war itself, not sure why as the synopsis is very transparent. Mistake from myself to go in with completely different expectations.
The Notebook (1/3), Ágota Kristóf, 1986; The Proof (2/3), Ágota Kristóf, 1989; The Third Lie (3/3), Ágota Kristóf, 1991
In case it’s not obvious, this is a trilogy. It was recommended by a friend and I very much enjoyed it. The way she writes is extremely unique. Looks written by a child given how direct and crude sentences are. Strong book. It follows the story of two brothers who were separated during war in Hungary (I think) and how, prior to that, they had to adapt to the terrible life they had.
Life of an Absent, José Ignacio García Hamilton, 1993
Fantastic read about one of the most brilliant people that were born in Argentina, Juan Bautista Alberdi, the guy that laid the foundation for our Constitution in the 1850s. I would have liked for the book to dive deeper into Alberdi’s philosophy, but it is a good read to get some context on his life. Furthermore, it is an authentic novel as it covers the “interesting” parts of his life.
Sarmiento and his Ghosts, Félix Luna, 1997
The second worst book I have read in my life, only after Martyrium. The reason why it’s not the worst is that Martyrium is like 700 pages long and utterly fails to deliver on something quite straightforward.
Assault on Paradise, Marcos Aguinis, 1992
The worst book I read from Aguinis. I think I’ve gone through 4 of his. The thesis itself is interesting, but I didn’t like the approach. It goes over the terrorist attack that Argentina suffered in 1993-94, a bomb in a Jewish establishment.
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking, 1988
Fascinating read. Stephen goes over how has our understanding of physics evolved as time went by and theories were created. He gives a detailed yet concise description of what the major ones consist of and clearly explains that today’s ambition is to build a unifying theory. One that would reconcile (I think mutually exclusive) quantum physics and general relativity. A couple of interesting facts as well, which are also subject to my memory’s ability:
The universe is in continuous expansion. This was proved by an accidental experiment during the 60s.
In quantum physics, you cannot precisely determine an object’s position.
The universe has a deadline.
I didn’t understand a thing of how black holes work, but they are things that apparently have something like huge gravitational force, which does not let light escape.
The Prince, Niccoló Machiavelli, written in 1513
This book surprised me and reminded me why I need to go over all of the classics. Magnificent piece, truly. I found there are a lot of connections between how princes could manage a principality and how CEOs could manage their business. Furthermore, it was staggering to see Machiavelli had figured out many things that would take us centuries to put together.
The Prague Cemetery (re-read), Umberto Eco, 2010
I read this book in 2021 and remembered to have enjoyed it thoroughly. Umberto Eco might be the single author I read the most. Maybe 5 or 6 books from him. His writing is very peculiar and I absolutely love it. It’s full of nuances and information about normally considered trivialities, though things I find interesting. I re-read it because I didn’t know what else to bring to the US from Argentina and only knew I wanted to read literature.
Stress Test, Timothy Geithner, 2014
Unbelievable representation of how Timothy experienced the crisis. One of the only ones that were in charge of saving the US and the world during the GFC. Geithner worked at the FED until 2009 I think, and then joined Obama’s presidency as Head of Treasury. Brilliant man.
After this read, I will certainly be more skeptical (even more than before) about people claiming they understand how macro works and how crises unfold. The number of variables and scenarios Tim had to consider were unfathomable. The stress he went through was inhuman as well. I would recommend this read if you are interested in economics. If not, I wouldn’t.
The Cather in the Rye (current read)
I’m finally back to literature after a friend’s recommendation. The way it’s written calls my attention.
I tried to make this article as concise as possible. I understand brevity is a very much sought characteristic. The intention for this was not to give a review of books, or not necessarily, but rather see what I learned from them. In 2 or 3 lines. Hope you can use this as a filter for your reads in 2024.
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