The Reading Nook

I’m just writing from the hip today about reading.

Since my first kid was born my reading has cratered to like 3 books a year. While Zak is a convenient scapegoat, the truth is moving to CA is the true culprit. I no longer had that 45-minute E-train commute from Long Island City to the NYMEX. That trenta-sized ice coffee with a paperback was a luxurious start to the morning before switching into literal arena mode (shout out to the main character of fintwit this week).

Zak is 10 and I’m emerging from the fog. I’m on my 12th book this year, participating in my first ever book club and likely joining another. The Kindle app has also helped — the phone is morphing from a pile of Instagram wedged between slices of group chats into a book sandwich (separate thought, but a great use of LLM tech would be to classify a text message into time-sensitive or not and only send notifications for the former).

This year I’ve read:

I’m currently reading 3 books simultaneously:

  • Tomorrow, Tomorrow, TomorrowThis is for the book club. I’m really enjoying this novel.
  • More Than A Number’s Game: A Brief History of AccountingThe book traverses history by examining a different case study per chapter. I’m early in the book, but so far it’s full of highlights.Why am I reading this?Broadly speaking — accounting, from GAAP to mental accounting, is a striking topic because in the spirit of “we manaage what we measure”, it is the seat of so much decision-making extending to everything. Hell, business accounting is just a narrow application of measurement at large which properly done should consider counterfactuals, opportunity costs, and at least second derivatives.

    The simplest non-obvious questions are like: Do Uber drivers deduct their car’s depreciation from their hourly wage (I see you Jim)? How many businesses actually suck once you properly adjust for maintenance capex or what Buffett calls “owner’s earnings”?

    And much more complicated questions wrangle with — just how much greener is an electric vehicle than a fossil-fuel vehicle (suspect it has a lot to do with where these vehicles are located so you get the non-sound-byte-friendly answer: “it depends”).

    Another thought: While my interest in Georgism was sparked by normative concerns, the most interesting part of it comes from its accounting — specifically the philosophical basis for distinguishing land and other natural resources from capital. It’s an amazing reminder that the connotations of big words like “capitalism” are loaded with design choices in how we do accounting and none of it is a natural law like gravity. Economic policy is not physics. How we understand it is tightly and invisibly wound around our basic accounting definitions.

    (There is nothing about capitalism which suggests that we should account for the land and sky differently, but we do. Which implies that how we treat land is not resting on the principles of capitalism. Which strongly suggests that painting changes in land accounting as anti-capitalist is a self-interested sleight of hand. The Georgist approach actually strikes me as far more in the spirit of capitalism. I sense plenty of room for thoughtful counterpoints but the average reaction to Georgist principles are just the confessions of people habituated to regurgitating convenient viewpoints. And that’s me trying to be nice.)

    If you care to appreciate what this means, it’s best to observe the building of an economic framework from first principles. Give it a try.

    Go to: and rip thru the following sections:

    📒Defining Terms

    👷🏾‍♂️Wages, Capital, and Labor
    🔀The Laws of Distribution

  • Life in Half A Second by Matthew MichalewiczMatthew is a Moontower reader and sent me a signed copy. It’s self-help kind of book which is a style of book you have to force me to read. I actually don’t relate to a lot of the thinking but I definitely glimpse some bridges to my own. And this is helping me flesh out some thoughts that will make it into Moontower I’m sure. Plus, being able to discuss it with the author is pretty dope. We see eye-to-eye on a lot about life so by exploring the parts I struggle to relate to should stimulate a wider perspective.

Books I’m reading aloud with my kids (as I risk afflicting them with the “read several books at once” disease)

  • Journey To The Center of the EarthThis is not an easy read, so it’s a great opportunity to see what they understand and act as translator. I’m playing with this idea of having them read books at their level on their own, but I read harder books with them. I have a little story made up about how this gives them different “powers” because I think creating some magic or mystique about the beauty of reading will give them an inexpensive pleasure and sense of appreciation throughout their lives which also happens to have instrumental value.
  • Man For All Markets: Biography of Ed ThorpEd and his life are wildly inspirational. He became wildly successful (wealth, family, friends, health) because he was super-curious, playful, independent-minded, and persistent. Money was a byproduct, not something to optimize for. Nearly all the people I find inspirational fit this mold. Money is great and I definitely want more, but never at the expense of boring myself.The unrelatable part of Ed’s story is he is one of the towering geniuses of the 20th century.
  • Hitchhiker’s Guide To The GalaxyI’m early into this and been meaning to read it for awhile. So far so good. Literal LOL material.
  • A Wrinkle In TimeThis has been a slog to be honest. Not sure we’ll finish it, haven’t touched it all summer.

What books are next

These aren’t in order. I impulsively pick in the moment. Fiction books will come from the book clubs so they are TBD.

  • A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster
  • Alchemy by Rory Sutherland
  • World For Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources
  • Cash Rules by David Hale
  • Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic
  • Dopamine Nation
  • Chaos by Tom O’Neill
  • Killers of The Flower Moon
  • Guitar Zero (re-read)
  • Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, the Uses of Boredom, and the Secret of Games

Technical books

  • Advanced Portfolio Management: A Quant’s Guide for Fundamental Investors (I believe this is standard-issue at Citadel)In the spirit of holistic accounting, I’m interested in pertinent benchmarking and proper performance attribution. This book should help.
  • Systematic Trading by Rob Carver
  • Positional Trading by Euan Sinclair
  • Active Portfolio Management by Grinold & Kahn
  • I’m also reading a highly technical manual on derivatives that is formal while covering practical minutiae from the trenches — many that are rarely or never addressed in the canonical texts. This one is not yet (and may never be) published — written by ex-SIG friend, currently in a senior role at a large MM. I keep urging the author to publish because I selfishly want to cite from it.

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