Thursday, August 4, 2011 myBiz Blog
Summertime is for Readers by aneubauer

That internship is coming to a close. Classes are still a month away and it is finally time to get some well deserved sun after sitting in a cubicle all summer.  Whether your plan is to head to the beach, lake, pool or shore why not bring a good book with you?  This time though - skip the last Twilight installment.  Let me explain.

Some people find themselves caught up in a good book, hanging on to every word as the story unfolds.  For a while, that just was not me.  I did not understand the value of a book, especially when the motion picture adaptation seemed much more efficient and entertaining.  To me, reading was not leisure.  Books were most fitting for libraries and classrooms.  An economics textbook that put me to sleep in Helen C. White at 3 A.M. didn’t seem like anything I could ever see myself enjoying.  And then, it happened.  I entered a new chapter of my own life story.

Just after the end of my freshman year at UW, I was headed down the shore for a weekend away.  A friend recommended the book Monkey Business.  He gave me a brief synopsis, and I was immediately hesitant.  How could the story of two recent graduates yearning to be investment bankers be interesting?  Isn’t finance supposed to be boring? (Disclaimer: I’ve since declared a Finance major.)

Despite my doubt, he insisted I take it along.  He said it was funny.  Can books even be funny? (Okay I may be exaggerating – call it poetic license.) I finally gave in.  I took it to the beach with me and read it.

*Insert floating light bulb over head*

Maybe it was the humor or possibly the vulgar and obscene language (or both), but something grabbed me.  I followed the story of these two young investment bankers as if they were my good friends.  I laughed with them, and felt their pain as well.  And no, by no means is this the best book ever written, (I’ve since read better) but it was exactly what I needed.

Since then, I made time for leisurely reading.  Though I admit that I sometimes see the movie before the book, reading has a newfound place in my life. I have even ventured past business books, such as books about spies and books on the best sellers list.  But seeing as this is the WSoB blog, if I want to do a summer reading post I have to keep it at least closely tied to Grainger and beyond.

There is inspiration behind this post.  The idea for a summer reading post came from Professor Stephen Malpezzi of the UW Real Estate Department and Graaskamp Center.  His Reading for Life is a comprehensive compilation of literature regarding real estate, economics, finance and much (much) more.  I’ve yet to find one of his recommendations that I didn’t like (Disclaimer: The list is 25+ pages long – I’ve read about 5 books on the list).

Obviously there are a ton of books out there classified as “business books.”  Though this genre may have an off-putting reputation, I assure you that like any other type of literature out there, some books are great while others are a miserable read.  I hope this post guides you to find some of the better of the bunch.  I’ve done my fair share of sifting and winnowing, but my judgment is by no means perfect.  That’s why I’ve solicited some help from people around the Wisconsin community to share their positive experiences as well. (Special thanks Norm & Jason)

Enjoy! - Alex Neubauer


The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine – Michael Lewis

Review written by Jason Udoff

The Big Short details the true crash that took place over the year leading up to the fateful fall of 2008. The book does an incredible job explaining, in very understandable terms, the bond and real estate derivatives market and the ingenious methods that many on Wall Street used to profit from those Americans who could not pay their debts. The Big Short also focuses on the handful of people who realized what was going on, and tells the story of how they made incredible profits through their use of credit default swaps. Michael Lewis wrote this book in a way that is extremely educational, while enjoyable to read at the same time. The Big Short is a must read for anyone interested in the financial industry as well as anyone who wants to truly understand what led to the greatest recession in American history.

Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street – Michael Lewis

Liar’s Poker is the story of a young Michael Lewis on a quest to become a bond salesman and his experiences at the now extinct investment bank Solomon Brothers. Right off the bat we’re drawn into a world where Wall Street executives play hands of a statistical bluffing game, Liar’s Poker, for millions of dollars at a time.  Lewis details his encounters with these extravagant higher ups as well as the mortgage bond market and the men at Solomon who are credited with its creation. There’s a reason why Liar’s Poker is the book that made Michael Lewis a world-renowned author and financial journalist.  His writing is insightful, witty and the fast paced style is extremely easy to get hooked on.

Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the WorldLiaquat Ahamed

Before characters like Gordon Gekko or news of CEOs making eight figures in annual bonuses there were the Lords of Fianace as Liaquat Ahamed describes them.  The book follows these four bankers who led the most economically powerful countries in the world (US, England, France & Germany) through WWI and into the Great Depression.  Ahamed does a great job of mixing hard facts, important policy decisions and history with stories of these bankers’ lavish lives of luxury.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone – Mark Goulston

Review written by Norman Glazer

Just Listen helps improve active listening and gives great tips on how to improve relationships with co-workers, managers, subordinates, clients, etc.  The book gives great examples of business situations that often lead to conflict, and shows how to avoid and diffuse this conflict quickly.  The most impressive part of this book is its applicability in everyday situations both at work and in life.  Everyone can relate to situations in which they could have communicated better with a peer, and this book identifies the "best practices" of effective communication.

How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Although this is technically classified as a “self-help” book do not let that scare you away.  The book is a series of anecdotes and techniques that are used to help improve the way you interact with people.  I’ve found it to be extremely valuable in building and maintaining relationships with everyone in my life both personal and professional.  It has helped me through interviews as well as inside the workplace and classroom.  I just could not write a reading list and not include it!