This is Capitalism Reading List

Book cover of Buffett - The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein.

Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist
by Roger Lowenstein

In this updated biography of Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, author Roger Lowenstein explores the life, business practices, and investing philosophy of one of America’s best-known CEOs and investors. Originally published in 1995, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, has appeared on the best-seller lists of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Los Angeles Times, The Seattle Times, Newsday, and BusinessWeek.

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

Published just weeks after Steve Jobs’ death, this biography was enriched by hours of conversations with Jobs as well as scores of interviews with family, friends, colleagues and business associates. Isaacson pulls no punches and makes no apologies in his clear-eyed view of the quixotic, demanding, and unyielding tech giant. Though the book was published in 2011, the effect of Jobs’ view of technology as needing to be both elegant and efficient is still apparent as digital transformation continues apace and we live in an increasingly connected world.

Billionaire by Ivan Fallon

Billionaire, written with the cooperation of the late Sir James and published in 1992, is part gossipy biography and part business book. It covers everything from Goldsmith’s well-chronicled, unconventional personal life to his varied and often-bold business maneuvers, as well as his antipathy to the idea of Britain being part of the EU and suggesting it be decided by plebiscite and his late-in-life embrace of ecological causes. Goldsmith’s efforts (sometimes successful; other times not) to take over other businesses around the world caused him to be a figure of some controversy.

House of Morgan by Ron Chernow

This book is as much an examination of the birth and rise of modern banking (starting in the 1830s up through the 1980s) as it is a biography of the powerful and influential people that comprised the Morgan dynasty. Of course, the two are linked; Morgan-related companies (and family members) have been integral parts of both commercial and investment banking and backbones of the U.S. economy, more than once coming to the aid of the U.S. government, such as after the Panic of 1893. The first of Chernow’s sprawling historical works, The House of Morgan won the 1990 National Book Award.

Titan by Ron Chernow

John D. Rockefeller Sr. was the world’s first billionaire. With the creation of what was arguably the first conglomerate, Standard Oil, he carved an archetype for the corporate landscape, changed the shaped the way business was (and still is) done, and helped shift the lifestyles — and to an extent the economy — to being largely dependent on oil. In having an unprecedented level of access to Rockefeller’s private papers, Chernow had an advantage over previous biographers of the magnate and helps explain the breadth of Rockefeller’s influence over business, politics, and philanthropy.

Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Before there was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash Broadway musical Hamilton, there was this comprehensive biography, on which the show is based (Chernow served as a consultant for the show). The book stood on its own, and still does. It recast Alexander Hamilton, long forgotten or overlooked in the pantheon of Founding Fathers, as the central figure in establishing the financial system that made the United States an economic superpower. The book reminds readers that he is more than the face of the 10-dollar bill and the footnote to history that he had been largely prescribed to.

Capitalists Arise! End Economic Inequality, Grow the Middle Class, Heal the Nation by Peter Georgescu

The former CEO of Young & Rubicam came to this country as an impoverished Romanian refugee. He writes that the kind of success he achieved is now all but impossible for someone of similar circumstances, and blames short-term, shareholder-oriented thinking for the lack of opportunity for most Americans. In Capitalists Arise!, Georgescu argues that businesses have the most to gain from a change of course–and the most to lose if the status quo is maintained. He calls for businesses to boost investment in employees and innovation, saying it would ultimately mean greater profitability and social stability.

Built from Scratch: How a Couple of Regular Guys Grew The Home Depot from Nothing to $30 Billion by Bernie Marcus

Published 20 years after The Home Depot opened its first store, Built from Scratch, written by two of the mega chain’s founders, offers an in-depth look at building a thriving retail business in a pre-Internet (and pre-Amazon) world. The authors are generous with their praise for those who helped them, from suppliers to early believers (such as financier Ken Langone) and the legions of store associates. They’re equally generous with their business philosophy–a strong focus on the customer, eliminating “middle men,” and a no-frills/high-inventory model–and write with humor and candor.

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’lelia Bundles

Orphaned at young age, and a widowed mother at 20, Madam C.J. Walker’s rise from poverty to wealthy hair-care entrepreneur would be a remarkable story today. That she was the child of former slaves and became the first African-American self-made millionaire and an influential philanthropist and social activist makes Madam C.J. Walker’s story even more so. The story of her relatively short life (Madam C.J. Walker died at 51) is chronicled by her great-great granddaughter, whose access to family documents and archives reveals itself in the book’s thoroughness and detail.  The book also places Madam C.J. Walker’s life and accomplishments in the context of post-Emancipation, Jim Crow America.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis

Written in Lewis’s trademark novel-like fashion, Flash Boys explores the inequities of stock market trading by pulling back the curtain on high frequency trading (HFT), where buy and sell orders to stock exchanges are intercepted and thus the stated price changes. Flash Boys also tells the story of the founding of IEX (Investors Exchange), an exchange that physically slows down electronic messages with 60 kilometers of spooled fiber-optic cable in the hope of evening the playing field for investors and removing the inherent –but some would argue unfair– advantage of speed.

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Adam’s Smith’s best known work was published in March, 1776, just months before the Declaration of Independence was signed, and ended up being an enormous influence on the economy of the nascent United States of America.  While praising free market enterprise and limited government involvement, Smith also calls for the rule of law, taxation to raise money for education and public works, and accumulation of capital for the purpose of investment. Though written before the Industrial Revolution, Smith’s work still stands as a clear explanation of and argument for a system founded on free exchange and competition.

The Road To Serfdom by F.A. Hayek

The Road to Serfdom, published in 1944, has been considered a seminal work on economics, philosophy, politics, and sociology. Hayek, born in Vienna in 1899, saw the effects of socialism and planned economies, especially in Europe after World War I and began writing about how socialism will ultimately lead to totalitarianism.

The book was considered a favorite book of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and Milton Friedman credits the book with help bringing about the fall of the Soviet Union (where it was largely published and distributed underground). The book was rated one of the 100 most important of the 20th century by the Modern American Library.