Associate Professor of Accounting

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Favorite Audiobooks

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Hello, sharing some of my favorite audiobooks. Here they are.

When the Wolves Bite (Scott Wapner) - I finished this audiobook several months ago, but I've been re-listening to this lately. This book is all about the clash between Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn, both activist investors that speculate in the stock market. The book focuses mostly on a very interesting sequence of events during which these two activists took opposing investment positions on Herbalife. Bill Ackman took a large short position, thinking that Herbalife was just a pyramid con scheme that the market would eventually recognize. However, Carl Icahn had a very different view of the company. He thought Herbalife was a company with a very smart and efficient marketing model with a bright future. What I liked the most about the book is that, while you immerse yourself in the intriguing sequence of events, you learn a lot about the nuances of investor activism. It was both, enjoyable and instructive. 

Emma (Jane Austen) - A classic novel that most of us probably already know (or will, there is a recent movie about it!). I got this one for free from Audible. Every month Audible gives away a few audiobooks you can choose from. I was skeptical at first, but I ended up enjoying it. The story is about a smart young woman named Emma Woodhouse. A member of the English high society during the Victorian times. As the last single sibling, she basically sees herself as her widowed father's caretaker and doesn't expect to get married, but she enjoys being a matchmaker. I will not say much more because I do not want to spoil it for you. Let’s just say that her intervention in other people's lives runs into unexpected contingencies, and in the process, she learns from the world and about herself.

Algorithms to Live By (Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths) - Written by an acclaimed author and by a cognitive scientist, this book is basically about applying algorithms in our daily lives. I think the authors did a good job of realistically applying mathematical optimization to real-life situations. What I did not like about this book is that the authors seem to ignore that most of the Math they use originated in Economics and Operations Research, not in Computer Science. They seem to attribute all of them to Computer Science. In one of their examples, they actually mention a professor from Tepper School of Business, Michael Trick. However, they never mention Economics or Operations Research. It almost felt like “intellectual appropriation”. 

The Power of Habit (Charles Duhigg) - This is a very interesting book that tells us why a lot of the things people do are simply compelled by habits. You can think of habits as hardwired behaviors in the brain that compel us to act or think in a specific way. The interesting part of the book is that the “hardwiring”, usually formed unconsciously, can be adjusted or even “rewired” if you know how to. That is, this book explains how habits emerge, and how to use that knowledge to replace bad habits with good ones. I welcomed the fact that some of the examples in the book explain how some companies have taken advantage of habit formation to sell their products very successfully. From the origins of toothpaste to the initial struggles of Febreze to commercialize their products, Charles Duhigg explains it all through the intricacies of habit formation. 

Audible Originals

The Coming Storm (Michael Lewis) - This is a very interesting book about climate change. Having listened to this a while ago, I became more aware of the gravity of our current climate situation even before it became more broadly known through mass media channels. Even though this book has a very pessimistic tone, it is actually realistic in its analyses, which are based on rigorous environmental science. This book is an eye-opener and a warning for what is already our next global problem - climate change. 

Philosophy of Science (Jeffery L. Kasser) – This is one of the many Audible-distributed lineups, featuring “The Great Courses”. As the title goes, the narration style and content of this audiobook constitute literally a university course. The topics covered here go all the way from the origins of positivism to the latest currents in the Philosophy of Science, such as scientific realism, and Bayesianism. It covers philosophers such as Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, etc. In doing so, it travels through a broad set of topics including demarcation (how do we distinguish science from pseudo-sciences), explanation, induction, etc. This course has 36 lectures. So, it took me quite a while to finish it, but it was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot. 

Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know (Michael K. Salemi) - This is also part of “The Great Courses”, available from Audible. This course is about the basics of money and banking. Though this course is at a very introductory level and might not be as informative, at least for me, I did enjoy listening to it. I think this would be very useful for someone who is new to the topic of banking.

The Science of Information: From Language to Black Holes (Benjamin Schumacher) - Still another one of Audible's The Great Courses. I definitely enjoyed this course. Given my background in Chemical Engineering, I was familiar with the concept of entropy in thermodynamics, but its connections to information theory were quite new for me. The book starts with the basics of Claude Shannon’s information theory, and then it covers a breadth of topics including data compression, encryption, DNA as information, Maxwell’s demon, and even investment strategies. The course covers a lot of topics in its 24 lectures. Listening to the course on my walks to school, sometimes I missed a visual aid to better grasp some of the lectures, especially the ones in which the professor uses equations. However, overall, I enjoyed this course a lot.

What are the books you’re reading nowadays?


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