Book recommendations for holiday reading

Isabelle shares our top picks for holiday season reading.

Need some book recommendations for your holiday gift list or to enjoy during a holiday season break? You’re in luck. My BlackRock Investment Institute colleagues and I recently discussed our top picks for holiday season reading as we head into the new year, compiling the titles into our annual December list of recommendations. Here are our picks.

Non-fiction picks

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World by Adam Tooze.

This 2018 book by economic historian Tooze, a Columbia University professor, is my top recommendation. It’s a heavily researched history of the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) and its aftermath up to early 2018. Tooze revisits, and frankly debunks in my view, a number of narratives about the crisis that have become conventional wisdom. He also raises many difficult questions, such as what could stem the wave of worldwide populism that the GFC helped release.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari.

This 2018 book, a follow-up to Harai’s Sapiens and Homo Deus, is on my holiday reading list. Sapiens (on our 2018 summer reading list) focused on making sense of humans’ past, and Homo Deus (on our 2016 holiday reading list) focused on our future. Now, Harari examines the present in this book.

Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific by Robert D. Kaplan.

Jack Aldrich, a BlackRock Investment Institute business strategist, recommends this 2014 book to anyone seeking to learn more about Asia’s rich cultural and political histories, as well about where U.S. and Chinese interests come together (and diverge). Kaplan, a preeminent thinker on geopolitics and foreign affairs, offers insights on the strategic primacy of the South China Sea that Jack says are as relevant and insightful today as they were when the book was first published.

Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Reconfiguring the Three-Player Game between Markets, Speculators and the State 2nd Edition by William H. Janeway.

Axel Christensen, BlackRock’s Chief Investment Strategist for LatAm & Iberia, said this book is on his reading list. A Bloomberg podcast interview with author Janeway on “how the unicorn bubble will burst” brought this book–and the author’s interesting perspective as both an academic and a venture capitalist – to his attention.

The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis.

Axel, a self-proclaimed big fan of Michael Lewis, also recommends this 2018 book on the risks lurking in today’s U.S. government infrastructure. Axel calls it “as close as you can get to a non-fiction horror story.”

The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark.

This 2013 book by historian Clark, another on my holiday list, is a slow read about how the world, well, sleepwalked into World War I. While not that recent, it has come back into the spotlight lately as people draw comparisons between the period before the First World War and the current unsettled state of the world.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds by Michael Lewis.

This 2016 book is another pick from Axel. He describes it as “a great narrative” about the unlikely partnership of Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky that landed them a Nobel Prize in Economics and created the field of behavioral economics.

Fiction picks

Milkman: A Novel by Anna Burns.

This 2018 book, my fiction pick, won this year’s Man Booker prize. It’s a tale of life in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century Troubles that is grim, at times very funny, and often deeply engrossing despite what some reviewers may have written (and I’ve found it doubly engrossing in the audiobook version). It’s also a timely reminder about the dangers of not letting sleeping dogs (or, in this case, borders) lie.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Lukas Daalder, the Chief Investment Strategist for the Netherlands within the BlackRock Investment Institute, recommends this 2014 Pulitzer-Prize winning book. He read the book after listening earlier this year to a podcast from that recommended the book, though the book has nothing to do with economics. Lukas’ reasons for recommending the book: it’s well-written, with a good build-up of tension and an unpredictable ending. I also recommend this book, which I absolutely loved.

Looking for more titles to consider?

Check out our August and June summer reading recommendations, as well as our holiday reading picks from last December and our previous reading lists from 2017, 2016 and 2015.

Isabelle Mateos y Lago is BlackRock’s Chief Multi-Asset Strategist. She is a regular contributor to The Blog.

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