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Albert Einstein once said that he had "no special talents. I am only passionately curious." I know exactly what he means -- though in my case, I'm not being overly modest when I say "I have no special talents."
But I am very curious, and I do like to read a lot. Over the past several months, I've read a lot of great books that might interest investors. And now that summer is here, it's a perfect time to start thinking of which books you'll be taking to the beach with you. Here are 10 books that you might consider:
1. Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson. If you haven't read this one already, it should be at the top of your list for the beach this summer. Books about Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) Steve Jobs have already become a cottage industry, of course, but I suspect this one will remain the leading biography for some time. I wrote a review of the book for The Motley Fool earlier this year, and my biggest takeaway was that Jobs succeeded despite his bad behavior. It was his joy in creating great products that ultimately led to his remarkable accomplishments.
2. Inside Apple, by Adam Lashinsky. I was surprised that I enjoyed this one as much as I did. Prior to reading it, I had been suffering from Apple-related content overload, so I was ambivalent about beginning this book. But Lashinsky takes us inside the company and shows us how it works. There are wonderful details here on culture, people, and product development that even Apple junkies may not have heard about before. It's definitely a must-read if you are interested in how one of the best companies in the world operates.
3. The Facebook Effect, by David Kirkpatrick. This is a very illuminating history of Facebook (Nasdaq: FB ) , which includes fine portraits of Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and other leading figures at the company. The profile of Zuckerberg is far more generous than the one in the movie The Social Network. And the book is filled with interesting anecdotes, like one about how Donald Graham's Washington Post (NYSE: WPO ) missed out on becoming one of the early investors in Facebook. The description of how Zuckerberg wooed Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Sandberg is also fascinating. This book is a great place to start if you'd like to learn more about the social-networking giant.
4. The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World, by Daniel Yergin. Daniel Yergin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy expert, who wrote this book that covers, "the entire spectrum to see how all of these elements fit together." Recently, Bill Gates highly recommended it to anyone who is interested in energy. He feels that it is "a real contribution to a debate that deserves far more attention." I couldn't agree more. This one is quite long, though it's fairly easy to read. Suitable for the beach if you're the type who unwinds by reading about the history of fracking.
5. Postcards From Tomorrow Square, by James Fallows. This year, I dedicated myself to learning more about China, and this is one of the first books I looked at. It's a collection of essays about various aspects of Chinese life. For example, there's an excellent essay on Foxconn and factory life in general in China that many people would appreciate. The book was written a few years ago but still feels very relevant to me. And James Fallows is a beautiful writer who is always interesting. He's just recently written China Airborne about China's aviation industry that also looks very promising.
6. Only the Paranoid Survive, by Andy Grove. This is a classic business book by Andy Grove, who wrote it back in 1996 when he was CEO of Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) . Grove focuses on strategic inflection points, which he defines a "time in the life of a business when its fundamentals are about to change." He sees these points as potentially deadly for a business, and then shares his experience with them while at Intel. From reading this book, it's clear to me that Grove is a born teacher. There's a lot of great stuff for investors to learn.
7. Backstage Wall Street, by Josh Brown. The investment advisor and financial blogger Josh Brown is our Virgil in this tour of our troubled financial advice industry. The beauty of this one is that Brown formerly worked as a stockbroker, so he knows many of the secrets of that profession. For example, his discussion of the straight-line sales pitch is eye-opening. I'm so happy he never called me with the intention of getting my business, since I'm sure I would have said yes to whatever he proposed. This book is a fun read that will also get you fired up about Wall Street's wicked ways.
8. One Up on Wall Street, by Peter Lynch. This is the best investing book that has ever been written, in my opinion. If you haven't read it yet, then you should consider doing so. And, unlike almost every other investing book, this one can be read at the beach. That's because Lynch is a natural writer who has coined terms like "ten-bagger" and "diworsification." Lynch believed that ordinary investors could beat the market, and he laid out his case eloquently in One Up On Wall Street. After reading it, your trip to the mall will never be the same.
9. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. This book asks the important question of why some countries are rich and some are poor. For example, why is South Korea one of the richest countries on the planet, while its neighbor, North Korea, is one of the poorest? I haven't read this book myself yet, but I can't think of a more worthy subject for analysis. I've read a lot of good things about Why Nations Fail and suspect I'll be bringing it to the beach with me in August.
10. How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clayton Christensen. This is another book that interests me, but I haven't read it yet. According to the book description, Christensen asks how you can find satisfaction in your career and how you can make your personal relationships a source of happiness. As a leading professor of business at Harvard University, Christensen apparently draws on his knowledge of business in order to consider the big questions in life. As someone who will be turning 50 later this year, I think this is the perfect book for me this summer.
So, those are my 10 recommendations for your summer reading list. How about you? Do you have any recommendations to share? What books will you be taking to the beach this summer?