2019: The books that got our attention

By Larissa Fernand |  03-01-20 | 
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About the Author
Larissa Fernand is Website Editor for Morningstar.in. She would like to hear from you and welcomes your feedback.

The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read. 

That marvelous insight is commonly credited to Mark Twain, and emphasizes the fact that reading gives you an edge. It stimulates the mind, shapes one's thinking, improves one's grasp of the language and ability to articulate an idea, and slows down cognitive decline.

I reached out to a few colleagues who are voracious readers, to ask them what gripped their attention. I was pleasantly surprised to note that the recommendations span different genres; business, behavioural finance, geo-politics, sci-fi and fiction.

  • Book: Shoe Dog
  • Author: Phil Knight
  • Recommended by: Kunal Kapoor

This book tells the story of the origins of Nike, by none other than its creator. Expect an interesting journey that is refreshingly honest with its share of wisdom and anecdotes. The book is inspirational, but points to the fact that it is a perilous and messy ride that demands struggle and sacrifice. The book is aspirational, but refrains from the talk-me-down tone of “this is how you must do it”.

The relationship between geography and socioeconomic outcomes is handled best when geography is the shaping agent. Nations are constrained by geography. As a result, to get a holistic comprehension of world events and political movements, you need to look at geography. For instance, the threat open plains pose in this age of drones and cyber attacks. The physical characteristics of a country affects its strengths and vulnerabilities and impacts the decision made by its rulers. Tim Marshall’s book discusses how geography and ideology collide, and is a reminder of the salience of geography in international affairs.

The novel is extremely engaging and written by a Londoner born to Sri Lankan immigrants. This is supposed to be a mad and furious book about a mad and furious city. It rotates through the perspectives of different characters whose lives have all been touched by extremism.

Kunal Kapoor is the chief executive officer of Morningstar.

Roger met the 22-year old Mark Zuckerberg in 2006, when he himself was 50. He introduced Mark and Sheryl Sandberg to each other and was certain that Facebook would be a spectacularly successful company. An American fund manager and venture capitalist, he has made investments in, among

Roger made a fortune as one of Silicon Valley's earliest champions, with investments in Electronic Arts, Sybase, Palm Inc, and Facebook, among others. Now he's one of its most fervent critics, Brian Barth writes. He had also warned Facebook in 2016 about platform manipulation before the election.

The book is an entertaining eye-opener that offers a global view of the impact of Facebook and Google.

This book attempts an analytic counter to Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule. According to the latter, your time, energy and attention are finite. If you concentrate on doing one thing, you might have a chance of doing it really well. To attain genuine excellence in any area — sports, music, science, whatever — you have to specialize. If you don’t, others will have a head start on you in the 10,000 hours of deliberate practice necessary for breakout achievement.

In this compelling and rigorous read, David seeks to prove that message wrong. Early specialization is the exception, not the rule.  Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

Rob Pinkerton is Morningstar’s chief marketing officer.

The book is about behavioural finance. In contrast with some other books on the topic, Statman brings a tremendous amount of warmth and empathy to the proceedings. He doesn’t pathologize behaviours that aren’t purely rational; rather, his observation is that we make money decisions based on factors that aren’t strictly rooted in the numbers, but it’s all normal. For example, we might invest in a hedge fund because it confers bragging rights, or we might invest in an ESG fund so that we can feel virtuous.

Christine Benz is Morningstar’s director of personal finance.

  • Book: The Prize 
  • Author: Daniel Yergin
  • Recommended by: Ben Johnson

The Prize is a fascinating history of oil; a Pulitzer Prize–winning account of the unwavering significance of “black gold” throughout the modern era, and how it has shaped the world. The narrative spans the drilling of the first well in Pennsylvania through two world wars to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait, Operation Desert Storm, the Iraq war and climate change.

The Lost City of Z tells the tale of British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who went in search of a lost civilization in the heart of the Amazon, which he had named the City of Z. In 1925, he disappeared in the forest, along with his son and another companion. After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century”: What happened to Fawcett?

Ben Johnson is of the opinion that both books speak to human ingenuity, tenacity, and our ability to impact (for better or worse) and adapt to our environment.

Ben Johnson is Morningstar’s director of global ETF research.

The sci-fi guru, who has a reputation as a tech Nostradamus, came out with a new book this year.

Way back in 1992, Stephenson published his breakthrough novel, Snow Crash, where he coined the “metaverse”; a dystopian future in which people regularly disappeared into — a 3D virtual high street where avatars of all kinds could mingle, regardless of their real-world location. Here he starts with a culture cleaved in two, its divisions reinforced by AR-enabled filter bubbles. And is packed with a wealth of concepts and stark imagination.

Popularity is a word that embraces how much anything is liked, recognized, or desired. Popularity drives demand.

In this book, Roger Ibbotson, Thomas Idzorek, Paul Kaplan and James Xiong apply this concept to assets and securities to explain the premiums and so-called anomalies in security markets, especially the stock market.

Nicolas Owens is Editor in Chief for Morningstar.

A mix of neuroscience, case studies, and experiments are what make this book very practical. It will help you harness the power of your unconscious mind, which already determines so much of what you do.

Steve Wendel is Morningstar’s head of behavioural science.

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