Books 2013

admin on 2014/01/01

Finally, a good year for books again.

It started really well in February when I got my Kindle Paperwhite.

Overall I read 23 books in 2013 (none of the following books pay me by the way). It’s not a lot, but it’s a massive improvement over 2012 where I don’t even know how much I read. That said, I’m not looking to increase this much in 2014. I have plenty of ideas for other projects that I consider learning as well. I do have a really long list of books that I would like to read though.

Fiction

  • Cline: Ready Player One Great Story that the average gamer from the 90s will really like.
  • Wilde: The Picture of Dorian Gray A classic that was available for free. Still a great read today.
  • Moynahan: Jungle Soldier: The True Story of Freddy Spencer Chapman Arguably not fiction, I still put it here because I read it as a story not as information or lesson. Maybe it’s because I have a special relation to the Singapore region after staying here now for almost two years, but I really liked it. Very interesting details about the contemporary Singapore / Malaysia.
    Note that the book can be bought used for very cheap before you order the Kindle version…

Self-Improvement books

  • Attwood: The Passion Test This was recommended publicly by Charles Poliquin, a popular fitness trainer. The Kindle version was rather cheap and so I bought it. I did put this down after only a few pages however mainly because I can’t stand books where somebody is trying to sell “if you want to do something, you can do it”, but at the same time I (the reader or listener) am in fact his main business, such that everything the author says becomes a weird circle.
  • Fisker: Early Retirement Extreme Great guy explaining how he retired early through frugality. The book is about more than just early retirement though, it also goes deep into many issues in modern society and how the individual may address them.
  • Browne: How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World A really great book, gave me a new view on how much our modern community could be ignored if desired. Does have some tendencies that I would rate very liberal or even anarchist. Not a political book, the book is merely describing how he found his way in this world.
  • Kaufman: Personal MBA - a very interesting book. Not everything was new to me, but I found quite a few nuggets and followups that I really liked. Impressive given that I had been reading stuff from this area for quite a while.
  • Nate Green: Hero Handbook (google for the pdf if you want to read it) Resonated somewhat well with me, but after reading training / nutrition literature for years, this did not really deliver a whole lot of new information to me. The lifestyle design part felt a bit far from me (as in I’m not sure how I could apply this).
  • Cain: Quiet I bought this book because I thought it would help me in some way. I figured out that I may not be as introverted as I thought. My main gripe with this book is that it didn’t really contain advice for the individual. It suggests a lot of things on what schools, governments, companies should change, but that doesn’t really help me. Very different from what Browne does which is suggesting actions that the individual can implement no matter what society at large does.
  • Bertrand Russel: In Praise of Idleness (available for free online): I find the idea of having everyone work less instead of having some work very hard to leave others unemployed and possibly starving very interesting. I do also see arguments for why this may not work as well however: For complicated jobs, this creates quite a bit of extra friction and most importantly, in my experience, people care more if they are solely responsible for something.
  • Joshua Becker: Simplify (1.20$, rather short): Bought and read this on a whim. I agree with most of what he says, but I didn’t get any new insight out of this book. I have been minimizing my possessions for quite a while now though - although recently with less and less success 🙁
  • Laura Vanderkam: What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: A Short Guide to Making the Most of Your Days Off A very insightful book on a topic that I have been struggling with this year. For me, the main message is that it’s important to take time off and in addition to make sure that this time is planned in a meaningful way (because otherwise, it will be filled by unimportant and meaningless activities)
  • Maister: The Trusted Advisor Probably my favorite book this year (Design Patterns is a really close competitor). Thank you Chris for recommending this. The book postulates that expert knowledge can only be transferred once a certain trust has been established or earned - something I have struggled with in the past. It then gives practical advice on how to establish said trust. It will not be easy to implement this in practice, but it will definitely be worth the effort.
  • Markham: Mini Farming I admit that I only skimmed this because I don’t think it makes sense in Singapore to do this - building and renting out will always have higher yield in this country. Nevertheless, I hope I remember this book when I arrive in another place again. In Germany, I consider it somewhat feasible. How intriguing the economic calculations seem probably depends on the individual. Given my current situation, I guess I have to admit that they still look somewhat compelling.

    Quoting: “According to statistics given earlier, accounting for the rise in food prices, the cost of feeding a family of 3 now amounts to $3,210 per person, or $9,630 per year. A mini-farm that supplied 85% of those needs would produce a yearly economic benefit of $8,185 per year—the same as a pretax income of $12,200, except it can’t be taxed. That would require 2,100 square feet of space, and 10 hours a week from April through September—a total of 240 hours. This works out to the equivalent of nearly $51 per hour.”

    I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is even remotely interested in self-sufficiency and alternative living.

Programming

Mainly improved C++ this year. I hugely profited from my journeys into Java, Python and Scala. Coming back to C++ after a couple of years and discovering the new possibilities of C++11, the experiences I made in these other languages helped me plenty. It’s just easier to ease into lambda functions when you only have to learn the syntax, not the concept 🙂 Book-wise, I mainly followed this great list from stackoverflow: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/388242/the-definitive-c-book-guide-and-list

  • Koenig, Mog: Accelerated C++: This is a great guide if starting from scratch, I suppose. I got some pointers (haha) to get me started again, but didn’t feel it was too important for me.
  • Vandevoorde, Josuttis: C++ Templates: The complete guide - This book was really great for me. I needed help understanding templates because boost::numeric::odeint, the library we used for solving differential equations heavily relies on them.
  • Sutter’s guru of the week archive. http://www.gotw.ca/gotw/ Not really a book, but I got a lot out of this anyway. Plenty of general guidelines and small nuggets.
  • Gamma et al., Design Patterns. Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software A classic and after reading it, I fully understand why. This is the kind of book that you will come back to everyonce in a while.

Finance

  • Ritholtz - Bailout Nation Very well written and I learned a lot about the reasons for the housing bubble in the US. I might be biased of course because I initially agreed with some of the author’s views already.
  • Bernstein: The Number This was a rather easy read, almost like a novel. It still contained plenty of history and background information on why earnings reporting is done the way it is currently done. It does not offer immediate advice on how to deal with the issues however - probably because you can’t address them on your own anyway and should instead arm yourself with a healthy amount of doubt.
  • Faber: Shareholder Yield Argues (and supports his claim by quantitative analysis) that a stock’s price over time profits from what the company returns to the shareholders. The novelty is that said return is not only the dividends, but also buyback programs minus dilution via options. I found it really insightful and believe that I could even implement/automate this with medium effort.
  • An Introduction to Islamic Finance: I picked this up on a whim in the library after my visit to Doha. The (single) review on amazon is quite bad, so I probably wouldn’t have bought it. It taught me enough to understand that an interest-free economy can still make sense and that there are good arguments for risk-sharing and not just lending for interest.
  • Risso-Gill - There’s Always Something to Do (Peter Cundill Investment Approach): I bought this after I saw someone recommend it in a video of a presentation (can’t remember who it was except that it was another investment legend). I can only repeat this recommendation. It is one of those books that I see myself coming back to.

Main Textbooks

  • Le Boudec, Thiran - Network Calculus: (there is an official pdf version online from them). This is one of the main books for network or real-time calculus and I am hoping to use it to improve my ASPDAC 2013 paper. The version I read starts a bit strong directly applying lots of principles before giving the foundation later. Some notation parts are a bit different than what I am used to. Overall, everything is reasonably well explained though (it’s a textbook after all, so I expected to spend some time understanding it :>)

Reports

These are not full books, but at over 50 pages, they have a right to be at least mentioned, I’d say. Plus, most of them are free to download, so might actually have more value for those who read this list 🙂

  • Mebane Faber: A quantitative approach to tactical asset allocation (Link is down now, but SSRN should recover). Probably the first finance paper I read after many books that were written in much simpler terms. The obvious difference for me was that this paper actually supports its claims via backtesting and does not just claims like so many of the books I had read when I started to become interested in the stock market. The strategy Faber pitches is quite simple. Buy equities when they’re above a long simple moving average and sell them once they’re not. Hold cash in bonds. Results are great over a very long period and it’s actually so simple (even after extending to some more asset classes) that I’m tempted to implement this.
  • Cass Consulting: An evaluation of alternative equity indices

Two pdfs I found through Faber’s blog post. They compare straight-forward market cap weighted indexing with plenty of alternatives. Some of them with greatly improved return and / or Sharpe Ratio, but often also with higher turnover. The mean variance portfolio seemed quite valuable with their data (about 1 percent point better return and lower stddev than the rest of the pack; much better than I had thought). Adding additional trend following mainly helps reduce the maximum drawdown. On the fundamental weighting side, dividend weighting and sales weighting both fared quite well.