Abnormal Returns is on hiatus this week. However that does not mean that we are content-free. As we did last year, and the year before, we asked a panel of independent finance bloggers a series of (hopefully) provocative questions. We hope you enjoy these posts as much as we do putting them together. Check out answers to yesterday’s question on how financial television could be improved. Feel free to jump in the comments with your own answers to the questions.

Question: Read any good books (financial or not) this past year? (Answers in no particular order.)

Jeff Carter, Points and Figures, @pointsnfigures: America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperty in the 21st Century – Why America’s Greatest Days are Yet to Come by James Bennett and Michael Lotus. Read it. Liberal, conservative, keynesian, classical. Read it. Objective look at the future.

Robert Seawright, Above the Market, @rpseawright:  Yes!  I’ll limit myself to 10.  In no particular order: Forecast; The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human; Investing: The Last Liberal Art; The Signal and the Noise; The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing; Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes; The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe; Risk; Skating Where the Puck Was: The Correlation Game in a Flat World; and Trading Bases: A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball (Not Necessarily in That Order).

Tom Brakke, tjb research, @researchpuzzler: I loved The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen and am mulling over Ray Dalio’s Principles.  While they seem far apart, there are connections between the two of them — and I will be writing about each in the coming weeks.

Michael Kitces, Nerd’s Eye View & Pinnacle Advisory Group, @MichaelKitces: One that’s interesting in the business and career context (but not necessarily investing-specific) is Adam Grant’s Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Definitely been enjoying it. (Michael also published a Summer Reading List for Financial Advisors this week as well.)

Morgan Housel, The Motley Fool, @TMFHousel: The Better Nature of Our Angels by Steven Pinker is an incredible book about how humans are getting more peaceful over time. The Pessimists’ Guide to History gives a brief explanation of virtually every major accident, fire, war, famine, plague, earthquake, and assassination in recorded human history — I’d highly recommend it. I also just read both of Daniel Yergin’s energy books, The Quest and The Prize. He won a Pulitzer, but deserved two.

David Merkel, Aleph Blog, @alephblog: Pound Foolish was overrated.  Underrated: Book Review: It’s All About Who You Hire, How They Lead…, Book Review: The Art of Value Investing, Book Review: The Great Rebalancing, Book Review: Time Out For Happiness, Book Review: The Snowball, Part One, Book Review: The Payoff, Book Review: The Nature of Risk, Book Review: The Crisis of Crowding, Book Review: Bailout, Book Review: The Malign Hand of the Markets.

Bill Luby, VIX and More@VIXandMore: I wish I had read more good books lately.  I can’t think of any financial book since Jack Schwager’s latest (Hedge Fund Market Wizards) that has really captured my attention.  I have been mining some investment history in the form of Humphrey Neill’s The Art of Contrary Thinking and Mark Buchanan’s Ubiquity that have given me some things to think about lately.  Fortunately, I have the likes of Brenda Jubin and Reading the Markets, among others, to keep me apprised of what else I should be reading.

Outside of the investment world, I recently discovered the works of Thomas Bernhard and Bruno Schulz and was also amazed at how much more I enjoyed re-reading The Odyssey (with a translation by Robert Fagles) than I did when I was younger.

Jared Woodard, Condor Options, @condoroptions: Michael Pettis, The Great Rebalancing; Bryan Frances, Gratuitous Suffering and the Problem of Evil; Adam Kotsko, Why We Love Sociopaths.

Wesley R. Gray, Ph.D., TurnkeyAnalyst & Empiritrage, @turnkeyanalyst & @empiritrage: Not any good books, but I had some students collect all the research studies looking at the performance of simple models versus experts in a variety of fields (medicine, politics, economics, finance, etc). There are literally 100’s of studies showing that simple models beat experts–humbling.

Josh Brown, The Reformed Broker, @reformedbroker: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time by Will Durant, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke, Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, and Simple Wealth Inevitable Wealth by Nick Murray.

Brian Lund, bclund, @bclund:  Bird by Bird – Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott, a fabulous book on writing which reveals that “shitty first drafts” are the necessary evil that every writer experiences on the road to creating great literature.  Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, which shows the “right” way and the “wrong” way to express your creativity.  The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever, simply one of the best American writers of the last century.  And finally, I am embarrassed to say that I had not read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald until recently, but I now see what all the fuss is about.  Probably in my top five favorite books of all-time now, though maybe only because I think of that dreamy Leonardo DiCaprio when I read it.

Thanks to everyone for their participation. Stay tuned for another question tomorrow.

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