I don't know about you, but when I'm on vacation the last thing I want to read is self-help, motivational stuff, how-to books, or basically anything that's directly applicable to everything that I'm trying to take a break from.

On the other hand, I think that business and finance are among the most fascinating subjects in the world, so when I'm looking for something to read for pleasure, I turn to what might be called "business thrillers"--true crime stories in a business setting.

These recently-published books are, to my mind, definitely worth reading in any case and especially are good reads if you're sitting on a beach listening to the waves. Or wherever you choose to relax during your week off.

Subtitle: The Inside Story of the Crooks and Kleptocrats Who Rule the World

Author: Oliver Bullough

Why It's Worth Reading: Hang onto your metaphorical hats, because this is the most eye-opening book that you'll read all year. Moneyland documents exactly how the ultra-rich--especially dictators and criminals--structure shell companies in multiple countries (including many US states) so that they can stash, mostly in the U.S. and the U.K., a trillion dollars of ill-gotten gains every year. It describes how the real-estate business in both countries caters to these money and how the moguls in those industried (many of whom are highly placed in our government) therefore have a vested interest in keeping those dictators in power. A must read for anyone who wants to understand how the real world of wealth works.

Subtitle: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America

Author: Beth Macy

Why It's Worth Reading: If you're like most people, you probably know somebody who's died from the opioid epidemic. (For me, it was my best friend's 19-year-old daughter.) This book explains how the epidemic proceeded directly from the sales practices (which included bribery of doctors) and marketing of opioid painkillers, in probably the worst example of corporate greed gone amuck outside of the worlds of high tech and finance. Unusually, this book appears to be resulting in the prosecution of some of the corporate actors responsible for the epidemic. 

Subtitle: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carreyrou

Why It's Worth Reading: I hate to point this out, but if there had actually been a workable product (rather than a fraudulent one), this book would be a huge paean to Elizabeth Holmes. Her marketing strategy, her brand creation, her market positioning, her fund-raising... they were all (Italian chef finger kiss) perfecto. As such, this isn't just a crime thriller, it's a backhanded how-to book for entrepreneurs... hopefully one that actually aren't attempting to defraud the public.

Subtitle: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

Authors: Tom Wright and Bradley Hope

Why It's Worth Reading: One of Bill Gates's favorite books, this NY Times bestseller explains how a virtual nobody with plenty of chutzpah swindled investors of over $5 billion with the help of Goldman Sachs. What I find fascinating about this book is that for every financial fraudster who gets caught (as in this case) there are probably nine equally audacious mega-grifters who don't. The best part of this book: the fraudster used some of his money to fund the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, once again proving that truth is stranger than fiction.

Author: Michael Lewis

Why It's Worth Reading: If you like business books with a strong plot and that teach you something useful, look no further than Lewis. One of his previous books, Moneyball, revolutionized corporate staffing, especially in sales groups. Similarly, The Big Short was the best explanation of the 2008 crash, an event whose effects ripple down into today's economy. Lewis's new book is about the incompetence,  ignorance, and criminal negligence of Trump's appointees to federal agencies are resulting in dangerous, expensive mistakes that may take decades to correct. The story is both frustrating and highly illuminating, making it--like all of Lewis's work--a truly great summer read.

Published on: May 3, 2019
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