Category Archives: Books/Movies/Shows

America’s Bank – struggle to create Federal Reserve – great book

If you want to learn more about early 20th-Century America, look no further than America’s Bank: The Epic Struggle to Create the Federal Reserve by Roger Lowenstein.

You will learn a a great deal about the years from 1907 – 1914, about the great figures of the time (William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Nelson Aldrich, Paul Warburg, Carter Glass, JP Morgan, and more).

Before the creation of the Federal Reserve (in December 1913), money was issued by banks, not by the state. (Even after 1913, it took a long while for the federal government to issue money that we think of today).

A $20 bill from 1900 issued by the First National Bank of Carlyle, Illinois

Much of banking was decentralized and uncoordinated. While this had the pro-Jeffersonian benefits of having limited involvement from the Federal Government, it led to a lot of boom and bust cycles.

Lowenstein is also the author of When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management (which is a fantastic book) which covers a much more active Federal Reserve 85 years later.

One of the most interesting things that I learned from this book is that in the early 1900s, protectionism was championed by the entrenched aristocracy (the wealthy business people and the New York bankers) and the anti-tariff movement was championed by the populists (like William Jennings Bryan). Of course, today, tariffs are seen as a populist agenda. Interesting how issues can flip over a hundred years.

Summation: America’s Bank is worthwhile and well-written book. Rating 4 of 5.

review of “How the Internet Happened” by Brian McCullough

How the Internet Happened is a history book chronicling the Internet from Netscape through the launch of the iPhone.

If you are old and have been intimately involved with the Internet since 1995 (like me), then this is a good book that will rehash many things you have forgotten.

great book: especially if you have not been in the Internet biz since 1995

But if you are newer to the Internet, younger, or not in the business of the Internet, this is a GREAT book.

The author, Brian McCullough, also is the host of the Internet History Podcast where you can get a lot of the same content of the book.

There have been surprisingly few books written about the Internet’s history (most of the best ones are biographies that focused on just one character). This book does a good job chronicling the major Internet events over 13 years (1994-2007). While it is a book about the Internet, it is also a great history book (and no history book from this era would be complete without walking through the Internet phenomena which has truly changed society).

While McCullough spends some time diving into technology, the main contribution to this book is really distilling down the core events that matter and giving a good business overview. I highly recommend reading this (it is also a very fast read).

McCullough also does a great job reminding us about the 1990s mania, the IPOs, and how all the 90s investments lead to the boom in the 2000s.

Summation: read “How the Internet Happened” (I’ve also started following Brian on Twitter (@brianmcc))

Five Links for reading (Dec 2018 edition) – subscribe now

About ten times a year, I send an email to 35k+ people on five things to read. Below is the email from December 2018 (the Jan 2019 will come shortly). If you like these, subscribe to Five Links.

here are five links worth reading/viewing (this month we are focused on health care) … 

A Billionaire Pledges to Fight High Drug Prices, and the Industry Is Rattled by Peter Loftus
Five Links reader John Arnold has put $100 million behind efforts to curb drug prices.

Health care prices do not play the role most people believe by Random Critical Analysis
Interesting paper that suggests the problem in U.S. healthcare is the demand for services, not the expensive prices. (HT Alex Danco)

Melatonin: Much More than You Wanted to Know by Scott Alexander
As you know, an article from Slate Star Codex is almost mandatory in Five Links. 

Why Doctors Hate Their Computers by Atul Gawande
Like all Atul Gawande writings, this is incredibly insightful.  But like all Atul Gawande writings, this is also 3 times as long as it needs to be (so caution). 

Decline of cancer and heart disease (tweetstorm) by Aaron Mitchell
More and more, the most interesting “articles” are being published as tweetstorms. This is one of them.  (HT Matt Clifford)

Note: after reading 50+ articles (+1 book) on healthcare In November… my take-aways:
+ there is no 80/20 rule to fix U.S. healthcare.
+ there are a series of fixes that each improve the healthcare system by 2-5%.
+ so fixing U.S. healthcare is going to be really hard because no one thing will have a big effect.

In addition — Some books I read since the last Five Links:

Health Care Handbook by Elisabeth Askin and Nathan Moore
(HT Travis May)

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims  
(HT Brian Davis)

God is in the Crowd by Tal Keinan
(Tal is a Five Links reader)

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
(HT Lauren Spiegel)

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York [read this book]

The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro is a masterful book.    It is really long (1162 pages) and very dense and took me over three months to read.   but it is worth it.  

I now have had a chance to read all four Caro books (three are on Lyndon Johnson) and they are four of the best biographies I have ever read.   I hope and pray that Caro blesses us with another biography soon.  

loved Mark Penn’s Microtrends [book]

Microtrends — The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes
By Mark Penn

Mark Penn, until recently the strategist and pollster for Senator Clinton's bid for President, wrote this gem of a book called Microtrends.   i absolutely loved this book.     the book detailed little trends that move markets and presidential elections.   This book has great nuggets and is an easy read.   I highly recommend this book.

read Predictably Irrational [books]

Jeremy Philips sent me this book last month and downed it in one long plane ride. This is a fantastic book and one definitely worth reading. (and if you want me to send you my copy, free book to the first friend of mine that replies).

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely is a great book by a revealing and insightful economist and social scientist. if you liked freakonomics, you’ll love this book. in fact, if you don’t love this book, you’re probably not very interesting. really. it is that good.

more information available at Ariely’s web site:
http://www.predictablyirrational.com

book: gang leader for a day [read it]

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets: Sudhir Venkatesh

This is a great book. If you read Freakonomics, you might remember Sudhir Venkatesh’s collaboration with Steven Levitt on the gang leader’s books. Venkatesh got the books after spending six years in the worst Chicago projects working with the Black Kings gang.

This is a story that shows the vicious circle many of our youth are trapped in. and the self-reflection of Venkatesh — at the time a poor sociology grad student.

Marc Andreessen suggested I read this book. I bought it 100% due to his recommendation and now I heartedly endorse it to others.

read House of Rothschild by Niall Ferguson

Finally completed House of Rothschild – Money’s Prophets (1798 – 1848) by Niall Ferguson.   This is another of a long line of great books by Ferguson (I’ll pretty much read anything he writes — I find all his books pushing me to think in new ways).   

Like most Ferguson books, House of Rothschild is not a book that can be read quickly.  and it is big and fat … so it is hard to take with you on a trip (this is the book that makes me want to have a kindle).   But i highly recommend it as it details the raise of the Rothschilds — the most important banking house in the 1800s.

Brafmans have a new book: Sway is worth reading

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior
By Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

Ori Brafman’s last book, Starfish and the Spider, captured how decentralized organizations work. it was a really interesting book and a good business read.

Sway is even better. I got an advanced copy from Ori and I highly recommend reading it when it is out (June 3, 2008). Sway gives you a sense of how people make decisions and how most decisions are highly irrational. In fact, Sway is a really good book for debunking the myth that we should trust our gut. In Sway, we learn that the gut is right about as often as throwing darts.

Sway is also a quick read and extremely well written (in true Malcolm Gladwell-esque form). I highly recommend this book.

read Einstein biography

just finished: Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson via Audible.

masterful book.

a book about a rebel and nonconformist who changed the world. while the extreme of going-against-the-grain (a la Unabomber) is bad for society, sometimes the extreme conformist (a la Nazi soldier) can be just as bad. einstein did his best to think for himself and not let others think for him. this, in my opinion, is one of the most important and admirable traits someone can have.

Isaacson does a great job of bringing Einstein to life. I haven’t yet read Isaacson’s book on Ben Franklin but a long time ago i read The Wise Men — a book he wrote with Evan Thomas (about six people in post WWII America that changed our foreign policy outlook — two of those six people (Lovett and McCloy) remain heroes of mine today) which is one of my all-time favorites.

book: The Math Gene (love numbers)

The Math Gene
How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossip
by Keith Devlin

Professor Keith Devlin is really interesting. i’ve gotten to know him over the last two years and have always enjoyed his analysis of science, math, and public policy. Devlin’s book, The Math Gene, is a joy. (it is also a small book … very easy for plane travel)