2012 Year End Book List
Quirky Egg-Headed Organizations
Innovative Investment Organizations and Other Investment-Related Links
Nonprofits and Philanthropy
Investment, Business, Behavioral Finance Books
Other Non-Fiction
Novels, Stories and Poetry
What, You've Read All of Those?
Arts of All Sorts
Odds and Ends
Innovative Ventures

Investment, Business, Behavioral Finance Books:

Click on the book cover or title to purchase from Amazon. Full disclosure - Honeybee gets a kickback if you do. Oh, I mean, an associate's fee.

  MODELS.BEHAVING.BADLY.  by Emanual Derman
Some Honeybees likely saw Professor Derman present at the recent Grant’s conference in New York. That was my first introduction to his work, and I like his mindset – not dismissive of models’ usefulness, but rather conscious of their limitations. In addition, Derman has a refreshing liberal arts sort of approach to modeling that makes his commentary accessible even to the non-quant. Another helpful discussion of modeling challenges can be found in this Scientific American article:
  WORKING TOGETHER, by Michael Eisner
I have to admit, when I first heard about this book, I thought it was a joke. “Working Together”, from the man who was such a famously difficult manager?  But as I read, I realized that I’d fallen prey to the same short-term-ism we are always decrying: my personal impression of Eisner was formed from my time as a media analyst, soon after Frank Wells’ tragic death. Eisner was not so awful, not so mercurial – he was grieving for his partner. For his friend.  And he had to do it publicly, under great scrutiny and amidst great (and sometimes gleeful) critique. The rest of the book is interesting, but the chapter where Eisner discusses Wells is genuinely touching, a rare find in a business book by a former big-poohbah CEO.
This is the first official book on impact investing, hot off the presses. I’m only halfway through but want to highlight it to anyone interested in the field, as the authors have a clear understanding of the evolution of impact investing (and all of its cousins), and they provide a helpful sketch of the landscape, including its challenges.
I had the pleasure of discussing Dr. Gentile’s work with her a few months back, and was so refreshed by her approach to “values in the workplace”! She skips the endless “if” discussions and focuses on action. The assumption is that we all DO have values that influence us in the workplace, so let’s stop pretending otherwise.  Because of this premise, Gentile’s work takes on a very action-oriented approach:  instead of wondering whether values should be considered, or debating what they might be, this approach focuses on how to ‘voice those values’, how to make things happen. Originally supported by the Aspen Institute Business & Society Program and Yale School of Management, Giving Voice to Values is also an active curriculum used in numerous settings, and yes, it is OPEN, FREE, and highly collaborative (details of the curriculum are at the Babson link below).
  TRUE NORTH, Bill George
Row upon row of airport-bookstore management books cannot hold a candle to these two, in my opinion. Greenleaf’s book is now about 30 years old, but in it you see a depth and rootedness that most writing in this genre lacks. It is not “10 Easy Steps to Greatness” but rather a thoughtful reflection on the very essence of leadership.  Are you a leader or are you a boss? This is a vital distinction that is often overlooked in our search for efficiency and “professional management” tools. 

Likewise, Bill George provides a roadmap for personal leadership that is worth all of the checklists and four-quadrant charts you’ve ever seen all put together. He starts with a deceptively simple question, “What is your own true north?”  If that is well-defined, lots of other so-called problems turn out to not be problems at all. I was fortunate to be a medtech analyst when George was CEO of Medtronic, and at one of their annual analyst meetings they showed a short video of testimonials from patients. A lot of people took advantage of this “soft” part of the agenda to make phone calls, check emails, etc. When the video was over, Bill got up and said, quietly but firmly, “if you just missed that, you will never understand what our company is all about”. And that was that for the CEO’s remarks. No discussion of their great new products, no analysis of their wonderful financial condition… these were important, but they were not the true north. The longer I have been in business, the more that meeting stands out.

  SERVANT LEADERSHIP, Robert Greenleaf
  THE (MIS)BEHAVIOR OF MARKETS, Benoit Mandelbrot and Richard Hudson
Towards the end of the year I try to reflect on transitions of all sorts: 2010 saw the passing of the brilliant Benoit Mandelbrot. I only met Prof. Mandelbrot once, at a Santa Fe Institute/CSFB conference, and I remember being astounded that he could explain decades of groundbreaking and highly technical work in just three words: “I study roughness.” He explained that most math (and therefore most modeling) was based on smooth functions, but he was interested in the rough ones, the ones that looked “noisy” but actually had a pattern all their own. This, of course, was the basis of his fractal geometry work (not just work, but invention!), and then these concepts were extended to modeling and analysis of financial markets. When I first read this book I remember underlining almost every paragraph, as I was in the midst of a crisis involving various traditional risk models (and their shortcomings). I am looking forward to reviewing it again this winter with a broader lens, to see how its lessons might apply to other sorts of risks and models.
This is the book I am most excited to read post-TED conference: McCandless has a sort of Tufte-esque view of data and its presentation. More to follow! 
This is the TED talk I wish I could give.  Alas, it’s already been done, and done well.  His talk will be up online any day now, and his book is already available
I just ordered this book so this is not a full review, but I’ll tell you why I’m intrigued: when is the last time you saw a business that was based on truly “proprietary” anything? This ties to the risk discussion above – it seems to be closed in an increasingly open world is a recipe for disaster (or, if you are ultra-contrarian, perhaps a brilliant move).  I am gradually coming around to what they tried to teach us in nursery school, sharing is good. So that’s the warm and fuzzy side, why this particular book?  Gansky has a neat background – she started Ofoto, amongst other things, so I am hopeful that she combines the warm fuzzies with a practical business sense. More to come!
I saw Matt Ridley speak this summer, and his book is now available in the US. Why is he an optimist? Because he is a huge believer in the power of innovation, of cross-disciplinary “ideas having sex” (yes, I think he used that phrase mainly to get quoted, and look, it worked!). Ridley makes a good case for markets being intertwined with this power of innovation, not just now, but over the course of history. He also argues that prosperity is a good thing, and not inherently synonymous with greed or destruction. Some might find this book too optimistic, but I found it a good balance for much of the current sky-is-falling commentary – positive, but not Pollyannish.
  THINK TWICE, by Michael Mauboussin
Many Honeybee readers are already familiar with Michael’s work through Legg Mason, Columbia, and the Santa Fe Institute – if you are fortunate enough to be in this category then you don’t even need to read the rest, you will have already clicked over to your Amazon page to order this book! Michael has two great talents – first, he is able to take sometimes convoluted and arcane specialized theory and make it comprehensible. And second, he is able to clearly show its application to everyday work (and life), especially in the financial business. This book is the perfect showcase for these talents – in each chapter Mauboussin takes an important theory, explains why it is so cool and influential, gives some great and relevant examples, and then tells you how to incorporate it into your own process. Every person in a decision-making role should read this book. (Yes, that means everyone.)
The bad news is, we are horrible decision-makers and have lots of inherent biases. The good news is, we are horrible in very consistent and analyze-able ways. Among other things, Dan’s work confirms that we make big mistakes about motivation – money doesn’t really work. Also, when change is quick we are okay at adapting, sudden shifts cause us to re-think our actions. But for longer duration, more secular changes – we are really bad at adapting.
I recently attended a data presentation course with the legendary (in data circles) Edward Tufte. His books are magical, dense in the best possible way – some highlights from his commentary are below, but I highly recommend his books for more complete illustration of these important concepts. They can be found here:, and his own website has lots and lots of additional information: If you ever have the chance, especially if you are engaged in any sort of research-oriented function (and/or if you feel like your head will pop off if you see one more slide with 4 short bullet points and a corporate logo on it), I highly recommend his one-day courses (the schedule is on his site).
Two key points from this book (though there are many more): 1) “You worked hard” is a more important/effective motivator than “you are smart” and 2) SLEEP is even more powerful than praise.
FREE, Chris Anderson
Well, the book itself is very interesting – can you create a real business without charging for your core offering?  Hmmm, maybe.  But not always, or even often. Just as interesting as the book itself are 2 side-issues it spurred:
  1. I received my copy for free on my new Kindle (of which I am a reluctant but sincere fan). This is one of those house-of-mirrors experiments – I receive a free book that elegantly discuses ‘free’ business models in detail (most of which are not free at all). But at the same time the author is surely hoping to sell zillions of hardcover books because, unlike the Jonas Brothers, he is not likely to make up the difference by filling huge concert venues (despite his high in-person speaking fees). The “free” tool seems most effective when you receive something for free that actually has a lot of value to you (like a new release from your favorite band). But, are the concepts of price and value so linked in our minds that we eventually assume a free product to be an inferior one, or even a worthless one?
  2. There are widespread allegations that Anderson lifted big portions of the book from Wikipedia (which, of course, is also free). If true, what does this imply about Anderson’s own valuing of free or public information? If it’s free in price, is it also free to be used, in any way you want? There are some neat business model questions here but also some neat value-based questions that are increasing in importance – are carbon emissions free just because they don’t yet have a price? And, if they do have a price and you just pay it, are you off the hook from an ethical standpoint?
Ray has a new book coming out this fall, “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist”. His earlier book, “Mid-Course Correction” is one of the first calls to action by an industrial executive (Interface, IFSIA), and the evolution of his thinking seems to parallel that of many leaders in the sustainable business community.  his very short video clip summarizes his views quickly and effectively:
  CAPITAL IDEAS, Peter Bernstein
AGAINST THE GODS, Peter Bernstein
THE POWER OF GOLD, Peter Bernstein

In honor of Peter Bernstein’s passing this summer, I am (re-)reading this trio – Against the Gods and Capital Ideas have a fair amount over overlap, and are helpful reviews of probability, risk and how our views of both have changed over time: I expect that reading it now will reveal insights that were not as clear just a few years ago. It is easy and popular these days to throw stones at the idea that a normal distribution curve is a helpful tool, but by knowing more about these tools and how they evolved, we can better understand when and where such analysis is (still) useful. 

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