Summer reading list 2023/24

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With the summer holidays around the corner, we asked Betashares staff to put forth their literary recommendations from the past year.

Our staff read widely, covering topics such as psychology, communication, history, leadership, investing, and economics.

Here are their top picks.

Alex Vynokur – Chief Executive Officer

“The Billionaire’s Vinegar” by Benjamin Wallace

Vynokur’s pick follows a scandal involving a 1787 bottle of Château Lafite Bordeaux, supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson. The bottle of wine was sold for US$156,000 at a Christie’s auction in 1985, making it the most expensive wine ever sold at the time.

However, the story unfolds around the discovery of these bottles in a Paris cellar, leading to intense speculation and eventual doubts about their authenticity.

“The narrative weaves through the lives of eccentric characters connected to the wine, including a British auctioneer and an obsessive collector,” Vynokur says.

“This scandal rocked the wine world in the 1980s, raising significant questions about the authenticity and practices in wine collecting and auctions.”

Cameron Gleeson – Executive Director, Senior Investment Strategist

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power by Daniel Yergin

Gleeson recommends Yergin’s expansive and gripping narrative that chronicles the tumultuous history of the global oil industry.

“From the first oil discoveries in Pennsylvania to the Middle East’s pivotal role in shaping the modern energy landscape, Yergin explores how oil became a catalyst for geopolitical power struggles and economic fortunes,” he says.

“The book provides a comprehensive and engaging account of the relentless pursuit of oil, revealing its profound impact on politics, economics, and the quest for power throughout the 20th century.”

Ilan Israelstam – Chief Commercial Officer

The Years of Lyndon Johnson Series by Robert Caro

This year, Israelstam waded through a number of volumes of The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro.

“This would be the best biography I’ve ever read of an individual who was both as brilliant as he was very flawed,” he says.

Despite being a dense read across four volumes, Israelstam says it is an incredible depiction of American politics and an individual’s sheer willpower to achieve US presidency.

“I’m certainly not a fan of the way that LBJ necessarily went about his rise to power, but I still found it extremely instructive in many ways (in certain cases what to do, and in other cases what not to do), he says.”

“The books have taught me a lot about leadership, parenting (definitely more how not to parent than how to parent!) and life more generally.”

David Bassanese – Chief Economist

The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Gregory Zuckerman

Our Chief Economist delved into the fascinating life and achievements of Jim Simons, a mathematician-turned-investor who incorporated the use of quantitative analysis in hedge fund management.

Zuckerman’s book details the success of Simons’ hedge fund firm, Renaissance Technologies, and its groundbreaking use of mathematical models.

“I was intrigued by Simons’ personal journey, the complexities of the quantitative strategies, and the impact of his quant revolution,” Bassanese says.

Peter Harper – Executive Director, Head of Distribution and Capital Markets

Monash’s Masterpiece by Peter FitzSimons

Harper read the biography of General Sir John Monash, a legendary Australian WW1 commander and details his leadership during the war, especially on the Western Front.

The book highlights Monash’s level of strategic thinking, innovation and meticulous logistical planning, which had never been seen in battle.

“Very admirably, his efforts and innovation were driven principally by his desire to look after his men and avoid senseless casualties, a thought process not shared by many commanders of the time,” Harper says.

“Despite his amazing efforts, his success was not always acknowledged, both during and after the war, on account of prejudice related to his Jewish heritage.”

Chamath De Silva – Head of Fixed Income

The Nineties: A Book by Chuck Klosterman

De Silva enjoyed Klosterman’s book, which he says is sure to evoke plenty of nostalgia for older millennials and Gen Xs.

“It’s a retrospective of the decade that has only recently become well-defined as an era, and the book digs into the pop culture and social mores (from a US perspective) that made the 90’s memorable,” he says.

Adam O’Connor – Executive Director – Head of Broking and Wealth Management Groups

The Most Important Thing by Howard Marks

As one of O’Connor’s favourite books on investing, Marks explains topics such as fundamental research, risk management, market psychology, market cycles, contrarian investing, patience environment and some pitfalls.

“Marks, renowned for his insightful investor memos, distils his wisdom, principles and philosophy into this approachable book that should be equally valuable for novice and seasoned investors alike,” O’Connor says.

In the words of Warren Buffet – “When I see memos from Howard Marks in my mail, they’re the first thing I open and read. I always learn something, and that goes double for his book.”

Patrick Poke – Editorial Director

The Fund: Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates, and the Unraveling of a Wall Street Legend by Rob Copeland.

Poke recommends the unauthorised biography of Ray Dalio, founder of the world’s largest hedge fund.

“Dalio has a carefully cultivated public image, preferring to be known for his philosophical views (outlined in his book ‘Principles’) than as a hedge fund manager,” he says.

“New York Times reporter Rob Copeland has covered Dalio and Bridgewater for over a decade, and he has a very different take on Dalio’s success. As Copeland states in the author’s note, ‘Ray Dalio does not want you to read this book.’”


Photo of Annabelle Dickson

Written by

Annabelle Dickson

Annabelle Dickson was previously a journalist at Financial Standard and prior to that at The Inside Investor and The Inside Adviser. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism) from The University of Technology Sydney.

Read more from Annabelle.


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