Summer officially starts this week, meaning it’s time again for our annual list of book recommendations for beach reading.
BlackRock portfolio managers and strategists from around the world recently discussed summer reading picks at our Daily global meeting, a forum where we talk market news, share investment views and debate a topical weekly question posed by a rotating chair.
The question that sparked the book debate: “What book have you read in the last year that you would most recommend to colleagues?” Here are some of the picks we shared, generally in alphabetical order.
The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity by Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott. Dan Chamby, a portfolio manager within BlackRock’s Global Allocation team, recommends this 2016 book, which he’s having both of his children read. The book explains how the “3-stage life” (education, career, retirement) is a post-Industrial Age anachronism, Dan says. “A service-oriented and digital technology-driven economy, coupled with far longer life expectancy, means we need to adjust how we think about our savings habits, skill refreshment (sabbaticals), and relationships with other people,” he says.
Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Chris Hedges (Author) and Joe Sacco (Illustrator). Scott Thiel, Chief Fixed Income Strategist for the BlackRock Investment Institute, recommends this 2012 chronicle of life in poverty in various parts of the U.S. “Chris Hedges is way out there on the systematic destruction of our society and of human rights at the hands of capitalism. I think he is incredible, but the book is not for everyone,” Scott says.
Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? By Graham Allison. Ben Powell, the Chief Investment Strategist for APAC within the BlackRock Investment Institute, recommends this 2017 book by Harvard scholar Graham Allison. The book provides historical examples of how a global hegemon deals with the rise of a new power, seeking to examine how the relationship between China and the U.S. could play out in the coming years and decades, Ben says. (Looking for more on the U.S.-China relationship? Mihail Calinescu, a member of the Diversified Strategies team within BlackRock’s Multi-Asset Strategies (MAS) group, recommends two other reads for understanding the U.S.-China confrontation: a declassified Rand Corp report, and a former U.S. Marine major’s paper on Mao Zedong & guerrilla warfare).
The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Nations by David Pilling. Lukas Daalder, Chief Investment Strategist for the Netherlands within the BlackRock Investment Institute, recommends this 2018 book that he says provides a good take on “the risks, and wrongs, of our obsession with gross domestic product (GDP) — the perfect tool of mismeasuring growth.” (For those looking for fiction reads, Lukas plans to read Normal People: A Novel by Sally Rooney and The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez this summer).
Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder. Jack Aldrich, a business strategist with the BlackRock Investment Institute, calls this 2015 book “an incredible story of a hedge fund manager-cum-human rights activist who made a fortune in post-Soviet Russia before running afoul of the Putin regime.” He says “the book is engrossing, and as fascinating from a business perspective as it is moving from a human perspective.”
The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé by Clare Rewcastle Brown. Andrew Swan, Head of Global Emerging Markets Equities within BlackRock’s Fundamental Active Equity division, recommends this read on the investigation into a huge theft from the Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund. He calls it “a cracking read on an important financial scandal.” Malaysia’s government debt-to-GDP ratio was revised up from 50% to 80% as a result of the 1MDB losses, Andrew notes. (Josh Taft, from BlackRock’s San Francisco-based Equity Trading Team, recommends another 2018 book on the same topic: Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope).
The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook by Niall Ferguson. This 2018 book from historian Ferguson is another pick from Ben Powell. He says it shows historic examples of how a swift increase in information sharing leads to disharmony, rather than harmony, and calls it “very relevant in our era of social media and fake news. It’s all happened before.”
Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker, PhD. This 2017 book was especially popular among BlackRock investors at the Daily global meeting, who perhaps haven’t had quite enough shut-eye over the years.