Business World

Friday 23 February 2018

Between the lines -- what the bosses read in 2013

Investor Warren Buffett enjoyed learning more about how his son tried to tackle world hunger, while fellow billionaire Carlos Slim studied how General Motors and AT&T re-invented themselves.

Pacific Investment Management co-CEO Mohamed El-Erian zeroed in on US politics. US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew sought insight into the work of his predecessors. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked at American prosperity.

These were some of the responses to the annual Bloomberg News survey, which asked CEOs, investors, current and former policy makers, economists and academics to name their favourite books of 2013.

The most popular selection was 'The Battle of Bretton Woods: John Maynard Keynes, Harry Dexter White and the Making of a New World Order' by Benn Steil.

Others included 'The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon' by Brad Stone, a senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek; 'The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914' by Margaret MacMillan and 'The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire' by Neil Irwin.

"The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty" by Nina Munk. Illuminated the flaws of trying to impose Western thinking on Africa. 'Jeff Sachs' 'Millennium Villages' tried to create a recipe for lifting regions out of poverty through massive aid and development plans designed from a distance by people who lacked a deep understanding of farming.

'40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World' by Howard G Buffett and Howard W Buffett. He thought he knew his son Howard's story pretty well, but he says he was surprised to read his book. In it, he realised the evolution of Howard from a child of limitless energy but little direction into a serious philanthropist was dramatic.

It's an absolutely authentic story, every chapter of it. I actually went back and read it again because I could watch how he became a man with all the best qualities of his mother, but also gained so much knowledge about farming.

'Why the West Rules -- for Now: The Patterns of History and What They Reveal About the Future' by Ian Morris. Helps to illustrate the intersection of time and change in human history.

'Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen' by Christopher McDougall. Also enjoyed 'American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM and the Way We Do Business in the USA' by Ed Whitacre.

'Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War' by Max Hastings. Should be read by every politician who has any influence on international affairs. As Churchill said: "Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.''

Hastings writes brilliantly and hopefully the message of how easily the world can move from light to darkness through the misconceived actions of a few will drill itself into the souls of those who rule us.

'True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership' by Bill George. An inspirational book about authenticity in leadership. It reminded me to appreciate differences in people and that there is no perfect profile of a leader.

'The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon' by Brad Stone. While not an official biography and no doubt there will be many who challenge the research, it's a wonderful page-turner about one of the most disruptive thinkers in the world.

'A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity' by Luigi Zingales. Zingales, a University of Chicago economist, talks about the benefits of free markets and the danger to them of monopolisation and cartels that are coming from the private sector. I was very impressed.

'The Growth Experiment Revisited: Why Lower, Simpler Taxes Really are America's Best Hope for Recovery' by Lawrence Lindsey. For someone looking to delve into the public policy issues associated with tax reform, the book, by one of the leading macro policy economists of our time, would be hard to beat.

JOHN MULLIGAN

Irish Independent

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