Books for 2019

Books, Decision Making, Expected Value, Luck, Probability / Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

Thinking in Systems

Systems are like Russian nesting dolls—a system that has its own subsystems is also part of a larger system which is part of another larger system. As an example, a supply chain consists of many different industries where within each industry, sit hundreds of companies. Each of these companies is further made up of multiple business units, which every single unit is again composed of several divisions and so on.

System thinking is about seeing things as a dynamic whole. Instead of studying the events generated by a system i.e raw material cost increase, lower selling volume etc, focusing on the system structure and the behavior it generates will make you a better thinker. You’ll understand why systems work so well (i.e a 100 years old company), why it surprises us (i.e market crash), and how each part of a system interact with one another to create nonlinear behavior.


Bad Blood

Theranos was a tech unicorn valued at $9 billion in 2014. Its visionary founder, Elizabeth Holmes—touted as the next Steve Jobs—promise her technology will revolutionize the health industry, change how a blood test is done, and save countless lives. Except it didn’t. John Carreyrou detailed the secrecy and lies inside Theranos and everyone else that got pulled into the vortex. If there’s one lesson to take away, that is never let what you want to believe is true blindside you from seeing the truth.


Shoe Dog

A memoir from the creator of Nike on the company’s 18 years journey as a private company. Phil Knight captures the chaos in the early days and many of its trying moments that will leave you on the edge of your chair. Shoe Dog is more than just a story about Nike and Phil Knight, but a meditation on life, passion, and the obsession of one crazy idea.



Thinking in Bets

Life, or investing, is not that different from a game of poker, we are trying to choose the best course of action (out of many) to improve our future payoff, which, of course, is fraught with risk, uncertainty, and luck. Annie Duke shows how we can make a smarter decision by thinking in bets, why relying on the outcome is dangerous, and tools that can help us think in a more rational way.


Deep Survival

Laurence Gonzales explores the question of why someone survives while others die in a disaster. This book is far relevant to investing than most people thought. Gonzales looks into the psychology on what makes people take risk, the role of hubris, the unpredictability of complex systems, and the importance of self-control. The ingredients of staying alive in a disaster are not that different from survival in the stock market: a good dose of humility, have a prepared mind, know what you don’t know, and an open-mindedness (beginner’s mind).


How Not to be Wrong

Jordan Ellsberg examines the simple yet profound mathematical tools for solving problems. Mathematical thinking is more than just numbers or precision, but as a hidden structure to good thinking. You’ll learn how to avoid common sense mistakes such as linear thinking (more is better),  jumping to conclusion (seeing pattern out of randomness), and start thinking in expected payoff, what could have happen instead of what happened, and be more like the fox (knows many things) than the hedgehog (know one big thing).



Why is that our gut feeling can be so accurate sometimes while leading us astray other times? Malcolm Gladwell explore the power of rapid recognition, how thin slice can help us make better decisions, and the dark side of putting too much blind faith in it. Intuition is not the opposite of deliberation, but the two sides of a coin. Good decision making comes from intuition is the result of training and following a set of rules.


Risk Savvy

Less is more. Similar to Blink, Gerd Gigerenzer explains why a simple rule of thumb beats complex algorithm when making a decision in an environment that is highly uncertain where information is limited. Gigerenzer then shows us how using a rule of thumb and gut feeling can help us make a better decision in investing, finance, health, and even relationship.



7 Powers

Hamilton Helmer identifies 7 types of powers a business can acquire to earn above average return. These powers are like moats, they create a powerful barrier that prevents competitors from competing effectively while allowing the business to earn an abnormal return. Unlike the usual book that describe the characteristics of each power, Helmer dive into how each power arises along the life cycle of a company, the benefit, and barrier created by these powers, as well as the determinant of power intensity.

3 Replies to “Books for 2019”

  1. I see Gerd Gigerenzer’s Risk Savvy in your list. It has been one of my all time favourites and have read it more than once.

  2. Thanks for sharing this list. I’m new to your site and still exploring. Your book lists, are these recommended reads or just books you read? Thanks.

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