2014 Reading List

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku.  This is an outstanding and very interesting book on where science and physics will take us in the future.  Enormous breakthroughs are happening and will propel society into an ever more Star Trek type environment.  Mr. Kaku is not a Harry Dent-like demographer, rather he’s a professor of theoretical physics at City University of New York and hosts two radio programs.  This book might even give your teenager or young adult child ideas on career choices.
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Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. If you read just one book this year, this should be the one.  For me, this book represents everything that’s going right with the world, and then some.  You cannot read this book and come away with a pessimistic sense of the future.  If you’re a chronic pessimist, you probably won’t be able to finish this book…it would destroy your sense of self and the all the reasons you like to complain.
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Growth Map by Jim O’Neil. This provides a piece of the story on the emerging three billion people moving from poverty into the middle classes.  Mr. O’Neil works for Goldman Sachs, and it was him and his team who predicted the rise of the “BRIC” countries before anyone noticed – Brazil, Russia, India, and China.  As it turned out, he was incredibly correct, especially on Brazil, India, and China.   This book goes on to identify 14 additional countries that he and his team see as the up and coming economies moving forward.  It’s a surprisingly easy read.
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Grand Pursuit:  The Story of Economic Genius by Sylvia Nasar.  The literary style of this book is terrific.  Ms. Nasar takes you through the history of the how all the major bodies of economic thought developed – all the way from early industrial England to Karl Marx to Schumpeter to Keynes to Milton Friedman.  You will come away with an understanding of how the entitlement state began with the movement started by Beatrice Webb and how Irving Fisher began to realize that control of the money supply deeply affected price levels.  Given how much our economy – and what we might do about it – is in the news, this book will give you a much better understanding on the current debates of today on the economy.  You do NOT have to be an economics geek to enjoy this one.  
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End this Depression Now by Paul Krugman.  As a financial professional entrusted by clients with the deeply responsible job of helping them reach their financial goals, I feel that it’s my duty to read opinions that differ my own.  Paul Krugman is a very, I guess you would say, extreme economist.  I actually liked his book, though I think his ideas are a bit much in places.  He makes some excellent points and gets the reader to think, but in places his book devolves into what feel like rants and frustration.  In essence, he’s calling for the government to spend whatever it takes – mainly on infrastructure – to get people back to work and the economy humming again.
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Monetary History in the United States:  An Intellectual and Institutional History by Richard Timberlake.  This book is not for the faint of heart.  Strap in if you decide to plow through this one.  But if you like history and want an understanding of how we got to today with the Federal Reserve and economic policymaking, then I would highly recommend this one.  Mr. Timberlake takes you through the entire history of U.S. monetary policy.  You might be fascinated to know how currency worked pre-Civil War, the gold and silver standards, the creation of the Federal Reserve, New York money interests, how the Great Depression was exacerbated badly by the Federal Reserve, and post-World War II policies.  This is not a new book – written in 1993.  But it’s an outstanding treatise on this topic.
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Dissolving Dollars: Exposing the Debt-Based Insanity Behind Modern Money by Alex Marchand.  This rather short and informative book will give you a very good understanding of how societies can set up currencies, and how our currency, the dollar, is based on debt issued by The Federal Reserve.  Be forewarned:  this book will tug at your inner conspiracy theorist.  The Civil War – which is a key point in monetary history – changed forever how currency was issued into circulation in the U.S.  This is a highly recommended read if you want to better understand where money comes from in the U.S.
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Greenback Planet:  How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It by H.W. Brands. This book covers the rise of the American dollar as the dominant world currency.  The reader will get a sense of how fiat money – not backed by gold – originally came about during the Civil War.  The author then takes the reader through the rest of the 19th century, creation of the Federal Reserve, the dismantling of the gold standard, Bretton Woods, the 1970s inflation, and our recent troubles.  This is a good read if you’re looking for a fairly short book to get a sense of these very relevant issues.
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Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell.  I read this book while traveling in Europe this last fall – the perfect backdrop for this read.  It’s not a book on investing or money, per se, but this surprisingly insightful book will decode for you why our two political parties – and other centers of ideas – pretty much talk right past each other.  In part, it’s because their assumptions are so radically different.  This, too, is not a new book – written in the 1980s, but Mr. Sowell could have written it yesterday, and it would feel very relevant.  You will come away with a much better understanding of the political stalemates we’re seeing now in Washington.
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Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of any of the authors listed.  Any opinions or descriptions are those of Todd Kirsch and not necessarily those of Raymond James Financial Services or Raymond James.