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Put the Textbook Down and Step Away from the Economy


Or, everything I learned about finance I learned by not studying it.

Perhaps there's something about the daily onslaught of deranged government plans to "shore up" and "fix" the economy that is causing us to feel a certain hunger for understanding, for good old-fashioned book sense, for any reasonable explanation, really, of what's occurring. It's my working theory. Anyway, for reasons that may never be clear, over the past few weeks I've been asked this question more than any other:


I have been a Minyan for a couple of years now and am hoping you could give me (or write about it) some of your favorite books that helped you gain a healthy, comprehensive understanding of the economy, markets, psychology, history, etc. Maybe your top 5 favorite titles if you have the chance.


Last night I stumbled into an expensive book store in SoHo to do a little market research and was immediately overwhelmed by a wall of creepy titles threatening nothing but grim days ahead.

There was Paul Krugman warning about "The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008." Michael Lewis wanted to tell me the story of "Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity." Someone else took a broader approach with "The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers and the Great Credit Crash." And then there was the most bizarre title of all, "Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life," a survival book about how to prepare for life off-the-grid... written by the same guy whose other three titles are exclusively about how to get laid.

Even if they're right, that's no way for an author to develop a lasting fan base. People hunkered down in bunkers and off-the-grid safe houses are, by definition, one-time buyers. Remember, if you can see out, they can see in.
But that's beside the point.

The question, what should somebody read to understand the economy and finance, is a reasonable one. So here are five books I recommend. They're not textbooks. You don't need any specialized knowledge base or prerequisite work to understand them. They are just books about our condition; human motivations, desires, strange extremes, thuggish excesses and mind-numbing normalcy and banality.
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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