Sunday, June 7, 2020

May 2020 Reading Review

Last month, I finished 6 books, bringing my year-to-date reading up to 39 books. If you're looking for a good read, check out some of the summaries and links below in the order of my preference among these titles.
    A lot of non-fiction books I find to be too long, but this one was just right. It got to the point and didn't add too much fluff, and gave a few things to think about. I am not an entrepreneur, but do see the appeal and this definitely gives some things to think about. His main thing is to discourage young graduates from joining consulting firms or 'big law' in favor of startups where they'll have much more latitude to implement things they've learned and make decisions that actually drive the success of the enterprise. 
    I'm personally not a big fan of the 'chew them up and spit them out' culture of the major consulting firms and am dubious about the training they provide, so it's definitely something to consider. Say what your want about Andrew Yang's politics and his failed attempt to run for president, this was a good read if you are one who dispenses career advice to high school and/or college students.
    If you've ever been to the Biltmore or seen the mansions in Newport Rhode Island you may have wondered what type of vast wealth was required to build those massive homes. This is a great read to see how that wealth was both accumulated, and subsequently squandered. I didn't know, but within 5 years of the Biltmore opening it's doors, the owner was essentially broke. 
    Also interesting, the land around the countries largest privately owned house (over 175,000 square feet!) is now just a small fraction of the acreage originally purchased to be part of the estate. I have not illusions that my wealth will ever reach 'Vanderbilt' proportions, there are still takeaways for the importance of instilling work ethic and drive in the next generation. 
    Another surprising takeaway was that compared to some of the wealth that exists today the numbers didn't seem that big when compared to some of the wealthiest Americans today. In fact, Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos each have more than 10 times the net worth of the peak Vanderbilt family wealth adjusted for inflation.

    This one was good, but not as good as Dare to Lead. The concepts have some similarities and are worth thinking through, but Dare to Lead definitely seemed much more relevant to my life at the time that I read it than this one did at this time. I'll keep reading Brene Brown and listening to her podcast, but if I'm going to recommend a book of hers it would be Dare to Lead over this one. Your results may vary, so definitely give it a read if the subtitle seems relevant.
    I never would have guessed that Airlines would have been in such dire straits financially when I got around to reading this book that was recommended to me a few years ago. It was only a coincidence that I started to read this while Airlines were seeking government loans and seeing passenger volumes down by more than 90% as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.  
    While I typically enjoy a good corporate biography, this one read more like a history of airline mergers and acquisitions, and inside baseball about new route strategies. It was interesting, but I would have liked it more if it had focused more on things that happened inside the company at levels much lower than the C-Suite.   
    Similar to the previous book, this one had a lot of play-by-play of private equity deals over the years, but didn't have as much of a specific 'crisis' like 9/11 and airlines that they had to overcome. Blackstone now has over $500 billion in assets under management which in an of itself is a lesson in the power of compound interest, and the power of strong past performance being a good indicator for future inflows of cash and ability to raise capital for the next fund. 

6. I am Charlotte Simmons - Tom Wolfe

    Years ago, I read The Bonfire of the Vanities and loved it. The story integrated Wall Street Culture, wealth inequality, and racial tensions in a way that had me hooked to the end. I mentioned this to someone a while ago and was persuaded to read more from Tom Wolfe so picked this one up from the library. 
    This book focuses on the college experience of Charlotte Simmons, a brilliant girl accepted into an elite university from a small town in Appalachia. The story also dives into problems with student athletes, NCAA corruption, fraternity culture, and wealth inequality all from the lens of characters embodying extremes. There were a lot of parts that I could have done without, but the story really made me think about a lot of things and reiterate that I really have a lot to teach my kids before they go to college. Thankfully I have plenty of time for that, and am not opposed to them living at home and commuting to a nearby college/university for their first year or two.

As always, please let me know of any recommendation you may have for future reading.  

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