A common request I get is to list books that have influenced The Diff. That’s harder than it sounds, because the most influential books turn into part of my background process; I only realize how much I’ve been citing them when I go back and reread them.
With that in mind, here’s a quick list of books that have had an influence on my worldview:
- Cryptonomicon (and other Stephenson)
- Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (I read this at an impressionable age, the summer before high school)
- Expected Returns
- The Logic of Failure
- The Extended Phenotype (evolution is a whole lot slower than economics, but 3 billion+ years of data make up for that—many good metaphors)
- The Money Game (one of the best and funniest finance memoirs)
- The Discovery of France (perhaps the best book on reified abstractions)
- The Rise and Fall of American Growth
- Andrew Carnegie
- The Prince
- The Smartest Guys in the Room
- The New Science of Politics
- The Prize (the twentieth century is partly a story about who has oil and who needs it)
- Gold, Dollars, and Power (it’s also a story about who’s willing to print how many dollars, and where those dollars go)
- Hard Landing
- How Asia Works
- Science Since Babylon
- The Dream Machine
- A Great Leap Forward (why did productivity rise so much in the 1930s?)
- The Dead Pledge (banks take deposits and make loans, including mortgages. As it turns out, this is a weird and unnatural thing for a bank to do, and this book is a history of the century-plus effort to make it work)
- Ling: The Rise, Fall, and Return of a Texas Titan
- The Laws of Trading (good for traders, great for people who want to learn about risk and probability in order to apply this knowledge to other domains)
This list is a work in progress. I’m biasing it away from books I’ve read in the last year or two, so expect it to expand slowly and on a lag.
Reading compounds over time as analogies become more apparent. This seems to be true across every domain—you can use The Extended Phenotype to understand why early chip companies gave away product designs to manufacturers, or use Hard Landing to get a better metaphor for expansionist empires. All the books above have biases, sometimes accidental, and reading several books about the same time period from different angles is a good way to net those biases out.
Last updated: November 2, 2022.