Books I read in...November 2017

Books I read in...November 2017

Where did November go? The month really seemed to fly by, and now it’s only 21 sleeps until Christmas…

If you’re still in search of some stocking fillers, you might want to consider one of this month’s book choices.


Your Money & Your Brain – Jason Zweig

Did you know that when you are engaged in the activity of investing, your brain’s neurons display the same activity as someone who is on cocaine?

This book is an entertaining, and informative, look at just what is going on inside our heads when we invest, and what leads many investors to make the mistakes they do when they let their emotions rule their intellect.

With a combination of anecdotes, neuroscience research and insights into how our brains are hardwired to make us behave in certain ways, Zweig presents the most common mistakes investors make, with strategies and practical steps on how to overcome our most basic instincts.


The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google – Scott Galloway

Scott Galloway is a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business where he teaches brand strategy and digital marketing to second-year MBA students.

I don’t know about you, but at least two of ‘The Four’ (Google and Amazon) have embedded themselves so deeply into my life in the last 10 years that I can’t imagine life without them. Neither, it seems, can most of us. In the US, more people have Amazon Prime than voted in the 2016 Presidential election.

Galloway’s book, rather than lauding the achievements of The Four asks how they have infiltrated our lives so completely, why does the stock market forgive them their sins, who will be the biggest losers because of their domination in their respective industries and who – if anyone – can challenge them?

Irreverently written, with some colourful language, I found this book inciteful, entertaining and frightening in equal measure, and my copy is littered with highlighted passages (a sure sign of a good read).

Unusually, this book made me feel better about being ‘of a certain age’, because the biggest potential losers in all of this are those in their twenties now, and those who will enter the workforce in the years ahead.

The qualities which will be demanded by employers, rather than hoped for, will clearly demarcate those who will succeed from those who will never amount to being more than ‘worker bees’. The qualities Galloway identifies as being crucial for this workforce are:

  • First and foremost, emotional maturity – something which is often sadly lacking in people in their twenties today (personally I blame this on many of this generation continuing to live at home in their twenties. Living with your parents after the age of 20 seems to me to often be the root cause of stunted emotional maturity);
  • Curiosity – you need to be constantly asking ‘What if we did it this way?’;
  • Ownership – be more obsessed with the details than anybody else on your team. Be the one who gets things done, and doesn’t need to wait to be asked

Sadly, as an employer who goes through the hiring process infrequently but every time it makes me want to stick pins in my eyes, I don’t think we have prepared those in their twenties now, or are preparing those who will follow them for this new reality.

Not only would I recommend this book generally, I would strongly recommend that if you know anyone between the ages of 18 – 25 you give them a copy.


Operation Ironman: One Man’s Four Month Journey from Hospital Bed to Ironman Triathlon – George Mahood

While lying in a hospital bed in April 2015, following major back surgery, George Mahood decided to set himself a challenge – to complete an Ironman Triathlon. This challenge consists of:

  • a 2.4 mile swim,
  • a 112 mile bike ride, and
  • a 26.2 mile run,

all to be completed within 16 hours and at the time Mahood couldn’t swim more than a length of front crawl, had never ridden a proper road bike and had not run further than 10km in the previous 18 months.

Four months later, Mahood is standing on the start line in a village in France. This book is the tale of how he got there and what happened next.

It’s a very easy read – laugh out loud in places and – in its own way – quite inspirational. It’s amazing what the human body is capable of.


Peak: How All of Us Can Achieve Extraordinary Things – Anders Ericsson

Why are some people so amazingly good at what they do? Is it down to raw talent, or perseverance? These are some of the questions Ericsson sets out to answer in this book.

Ericsson has spent over 30 years studying ‘the special ones’ – athletes, musicians, chess players, doctors and many more. From Mozart to Einstein, what did they have that we don’t?

It turns out that they all share one common gift – the gift of deliberate, or purposeful, practice.

Ericsson is possibly best known as the person behind the ’10,000 hour rule’ popularised by Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’. He goes to some lengths in this book to set the record straight in respect of this ‘rule’.

I think most of us would like to think that we can better at various things we do. What this book proves is that you can – provided you adopt the right approach. Sadly, my dream of competing in the GB Olympic Equestrian Team will never come to fruition – that ship has sailed – but there are still many things I could achieve – if I put my mind to it.

This is a fascinating book. It contains many themes which have also been covered in other books I have read this year – how the brain can learn to adapt, the need for ‘grit’ to succeed and how wonderful the area of human endeavour really is. Thoroughly recommended.


Warm regards.