I’ve just finished perusing Amazon’s Top Ten Business and Investing Books of 2009, both the editors’ picks and the customers’ picks, and I gotta tell ya – both are terrible representations of what was worthwhile reading this year.
I’ll keep my critique relatively short and then give you the lists themselves. Feel free to chime in below in the comments section with your favorite books from this year or your own critique of the lists.
My Problems with The Editors’ Picks
I have no idea who the “editors” actually are, but the fact that Barry Ritholtz‘s masterpiece Bailout Nation doesn’t appear anywhere in the Top Ten automatically disqualifies the list as a whole. Bailout Nation is quite simply the most comprehensive deconstruction of the biggest financial crisis in 70 years written by the one of the few guys in a position to actually write it, the perfect marriage of author and subject. Ritholtz blogged the bubble from the beginning, as a bear no less, and then called each fresh leg of the crisis, formulating an evolving opinion based on the numbers themselves, not the personalities involved. How they could have possibly ignored the best book on this era of capitalism is beyond comprehension.
Justin Fox (TIME) hits the top spot for his The Myth of the Rational Market, and while it was a good book, I don’t know if it is quite as essential.
The Bernanke book they included (In Fed We Trust) by David Wessel has so far escaped my reading of it, but when talking to people engaged in the crisis and its aftermath, it rarely comes up.
There were some notable omissions I’ll mention here as well.
Where is Lawrence McDonald‘s inside take on the fall of Lehman Brothers (A Colossal Failure of Common Sense)?
Charlie Gasparino‘s The Sellout and Andrew Ross Sorkin‘s Too Big To Fail probably don’t show up here because they just came out. Why is Amazon releasing its best of 2009 list in mid-November, you ask? Because they want people to buy stuff off the list for the holidays, they are a store, not a book review. If this came out in a month, both of those books would have appeared.
My Problems with The Customers’ Picks
Once again, the absence of Bailout Nation is shocking, but William Cohan‘s Bear Stearns cautionary tale House of Cards was a sensation when it came out and makes sense for the number one slot.
The head-scratchers here to me are:
Let’s start with typing chimpanzee Harry Dent and his The Great Depression Ahead. The George Costanza of Financial Prognostication does it again! Ten years after calling for Dow 36,000 at the peak of the last bull market, Dent accidentally calls the bottom by predicting a massive depression. Who the f%$# is reading this guy? If I managed a hedge fund, I would hire him full-time to make market calls and then I’d reflexively go the other way, leveraged to the hilt. Schmuck.
The latest Suze Orman screed whereby perennially irresponsible people are told that there is a way out (there isn’t if you spend money borrowed from a credit card buying a luxury RV).
The Ultimate Depression Survival Guide: Just look at the ultra-ironic date of publish – April 9 2009 – almost to the minute of global equity and credit markets having bottomed out! Nice timing!
Of course, who could forget I Will Teach You To Be Rich, which should come with a free glass of cold water thrown in the purchaser’s face right at the register. I guess this made the list because Kiyosaki (Rich Dad Poor Dad) had the year off.
The sad part is that these are the books people actually bought! No wonder the country faces an uphill and everlasting battle against financial illiteracy.
OK, end of diatribe. Here are the lists: