Merryn's Blog

More books to pack in your holiday suitcase

After recommending some of the best economics books to read on holiday, Merryn Somerset Webb asked readers for their suggestions, Here are some of the best.

I wrote here about the financial books I am taking on holiday with me. I also asked you to email me if you have any better ideas. I'm not remotely surprised to find that you do.

Some aren't really the kind I would normally put in Moneyweek's top picks (although I am grateful for the suggestion of Collins Guide to Birds of the British Isles) but a good few should probably have made the original list.

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Derek Roper suggests that I take at least one thriller, and that it should be The Fear Index by Robert Harris. Chris Gilchrist suggests One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch as the "best ever book by a talented fund manager", as well as Charles Kindleberger's Manias Panics and Crashes. I think most MoneyWeek readers will have read this one by now, but if you haven't you really should.

The same goes for Adam Fergusson's When Money Dies, a brilliant social history of Germany's great inflation, and a book we should all have a quick flick through every time we find ourselves thinking that if only Germany would just get on with the money printing, everything would be fine in Europe. Gay Gardner, who wrote to note that I had left it out this year, says that as far as he can see "in the first three chapters all you have to do is replace the word Germany with Greece or eurozone to see its relevance".

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Your top holiday reads

The Fear Index - Robert HarrisOne Up On Wall Street - Peter LynchManias Panics and Crashes - Charles KindlebergerWhen Money Dies - Adam FergussonPrinces of the Yen - Dr Richard WernerYou Can Be A Stock Market Genius - Joel GreenblattTreasure Islands - Nicholas ShaxonPeacemakers - Margaret MacMillanThe Rotten Heart of Europe - Bernard ConnellyThe New Europeans - Anthony SampsonThe Long and the Short of It - John KayCapital Account - Edward ChancellorPaper Money Collapse - Detlev Schlichter

Dr Richard Werner writes to remind me how much I like his book Princes of the Yen (which I do). It outlines his own 'quantity theory of credit' in the context of Japan, but also includes an entire chapter (written pre-crisis) on how the lack of accountability inside the ECB would result in a massive boom bust cycle. Looks like he was right on that one.

Other readers suggested Joel Greenblatt's You Can Be A Stock Market Genius ("a very profitable read"), Nicholas Shaxon's Treasure Islands ("if you want to know about the real world of money laundering, not just the odd billion HSBC is having to explain away, it is a must"), and Margaret MacMillan's Peacemakers.

The last one of these might make it into my suitcase. It is a detailed account of the people and processes of the Paris Conference of 1919 and as such "gives some very helpful context to many of the geopolitical problems which emerged over the ensuing century including (but not limited to) Palestine, Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and Iraq as well as the more frequently cited nationalist tensions in Eastern and Central Europe". As such it might well demonstrate the "dangers of trying to solve complex political and economic issues to quickly and superficially". That's something Europe's leaders are currently only half guilty of.

Next up there is Bernard Connelly's endlessly topical The Rotten Heart of Europe and, on a similar subject, Anthony Sampson's The New Europeans. The latter was written in 1968, back in the early days of the common market, and takes a look at the big institutions that would dictate how Europe could develop. Sampson quotes the Bank of Italy's Guido Carli, saying that "the first quality of a central banker is to be cold blooded" and goes on to comment that "the thought of these cold blooded men gathering with increasing intimacy round polished tables in Basle, Frankfurt or Washington to settle their country's problems is not a reassuring one."

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I have a soft spot for the late Sampson, partly because he wrote me a note back in MoneyWeek's early (and difficult) days to say how much he liked the magazine, but mostly because he wrote both so well and with such insight. I haven't read The New Europeans but it's going in my bag too.

Several readers suggested The Long and the Short of it by John Kay. This is definitely worth reading, and not just because Kay is in the news today with his report on short termism in equity markets.

I'm also interested in another reader suggestion Capital Account by Edward Chancellor, a collection of investment letters written by the team at Marathon during his time there. They are, says Stephen Hay, " a little out of date but well written". Chancellor recently told me that a report I referred to in a column was "pure drivel", but much as he sometimes disapproves of me, I reckon most of what he writes is excellent.

Finally, although it might take some of the sparkle out of your holiday, you might look at Paper Money Collapse by Detlev Schlichter. The title says it all.


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