How do you shortlist books to read?
I do not have a scientific method to go about shortlisting books. In the past, my reading list largely relied on word of mouth and book reviews appearing in the press. But thanks to the internet and social media it is now easy to track and know what others are reading and recommending. Take for example: Bill Gates reading list or recommendations from several finance writers like Morgan Housel, Ben Carlson, Patrick O'Shaughnessy, Jason Zweig and Shane Parrish among others.
What I would say is that the amount of time I dedicate to reading has come down because we now have easy access to podcasts and videos. These are not necessarily topical and this high quality content now competes with books for my time.
The last book which left a deep impact on you
That would have to be Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. I first heard him on a pod cast and he made so much sense that I had a sense of ‘Eureka’. He was connecting the dots across multiple subjects and telling the most compelling narrative I have heard of human evolution and history. Further, he was able to connect this to money, business and technology as we understand them today. I would say this book is a must read for anybody who wants to understand how we the sapiens have come to become the dominant species. This is a truly unique inter-disciplinary book. It will appeal to people in all fields of life. I even got my teenage children to read the book and while they found it heavy in parts, it led to several interesting discussions around the dinner table. In fact, my younger daughter then expressed desire to read Yuval’s second book Homo Deux and she is currently reading that.
Three key takeaways from the book
Division of labour, the power of the narrative and imagination, the ability to co-operate in large numbers are powerful themes that are described in this book. These are the forces that have created the world, as we know it. It underpins the way society behaves. It underpins all aspects of human behaviour ranging from politics to economics. As an investor, I have typically tried to focus on data and limit the power of the narrative. This book actually highlights the powerful role of ‘the narrative’ in the evolution of society.
Why would you recommend the book to other finance professionals?
It provides a comprehensive view of the forces that have shaped history and will continue to drive change. The multi-disciplinary approach of this book is something all investors would do well to understand and adopt in their investment process.