Astrid Bretterbauer

The Outliers: The Story of Success

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Author Malcolm Gladwell
Info Published 2008, 384 pages
Comments
One of the best books I have ever read. Interesting stories told in a short and thrilling manner with often unexpected but in hindsight very logically derived conclusions. The book explains the successes of individuals not just by their own efforts but also their environment and circumstances they are in. Among other stories, he explains why becoming a football star can be very much related to the timing of birth during a year, the 10.000 hour rule training needed to really excel in something (like computer programming or playing an instrument). I also very much enjoyed the story where he explained why Asian school children are so good at math and why so long summer holidays can harm progress if not used in a good way. Also eye opening was the story explaining plane crashes by the culture a pilot was raised in. I can really warmly recommend this book - you won't regret!

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine

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Author Michael Lewis
Info Published 2010, 270 pages
Comments
Michael Lewis tells the happenings around the subprime morgage bubble in a nice and entertaining story, mainly from the viewpoint of the market players who bet against CDO's and profited from the financial crisis. It gives some insight into what might have been going on behind the scenes and puts all into a consistent story. If I were to criticise one thing, it is that Michael Lewis presents his version of the truth just from one angle (the hedge fund managers) and makes the others really look dumb. In hindsight we are always wiser than before.

Barbarians at the Gate

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Author Bryan Burrough, John Helyar
Info First published in 1990, most recent version 2010, 576 pages
Comments
Depicts the outrageous greed of some executives in the 80s and tells the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR Nabisco. I could not put the book down until I had finished it. Particularly the events and chronology around the leveraged buyout attemped by the managemet team in the first place, which then developed into a thrilling bidding war, were told in a very suspenseful way.

Le Petit Prince - The little Prince

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Author Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Info First published in 1943, 117 pages
Comments
Though ostensibly a children's book, The Little Prince makes profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature. For example, Saint-Exupery tells of the prince's quest for sense when visiting neighbouring planets, his abandonment of the proud rose and his meeting with a fox. The story's essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince: On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. Other key thematic messages are articulated by the fox, such as: "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed" and "It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important."

Faust - Der Tragödie erster Teil

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Author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Info First published in 1808, latest version Reclam 2006, 136 pages
Link Free Online Version (in German)
Comments
Abgesehen von der von Grund auf spannenden Geschichte der ewigen Suche nach Weisheit und Sinn, für die Faust sogar soweit geht einen Pakt mit dem Teufel, in Gestalt eines Pudels, abzuschließen - ist der Text vor allem lesenswert wegen der hochkarätigen Verse.

"Da steh ich nun ich armer Tor und bin so klug als wie zuvor."

Liar's Poker

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Author Michael Lewis
Info Published in 1998, 294 pages
Comments
Michael Lewis gives an impression of how Wall Street looks like from the inside, in particular the investment bank Salomon Brothers. Besides some other irresponsible and short-sighted things going on, Lewis mentioned the danger of asset backed securities in relation with the US housing market. Describing how the whole system was working and where the dangers lie - some 20 years later, the ticking time bomb has exploded.
Well narrated book giving a good insight - but not particularily drawing a trustworthy picture of investment bankers!
Take this phrase for instance: "Blowing up a customer: Successfully convincing a customer to purchase an investment product which ends up declining rapidly in value, forcing the client to withdraw from the market." Bank wins - Client loses.
The second book claiming to be an inside story of investement banking, "Cityboy" by Geraint Anderson, is not such a good read, in my opinion.

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

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Author Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Info Originally published in 1984 most recent version 2004; 382 pages
Comments
In this gripping business novel Goldratt describes illustratively how Alex Rogo, a plant manager, finds ways to improve the processes in his manufacturing company. The Theory of Constraints as well as some other of the ideas presented are inducing the reader to think about strategic capacity planning and constraint management in practice. Years after having read the book I clearly recall the chapter where he describes how he figured out when guiding his boy and his friends on a hike, how bottlenecks in the production process may be spotted and overcome.

Den of Thieves

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Author James B Steward
Info Published in 1992; 587 pages
Comments
Den of Thieves is an (extensive) recount of the insider trading ongoing in large Wall Street firms in the late 80s. In the center of focus are Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Dennis Levine and many more. The first part of the book narrates the way money was earned by the exchange of insider information, the second part unfolds the story of how the predators were held accountable.
The story is narrated by James B Steward in almost surprising detail. However the author often rushes through parts and leaves the reader with open questions behind.
The book portrays a quite negatively biased picture of Michael Milken which does not completely correspond with the one painted of him by more recent articles (eg of the Economist). The truth might lie somewhere in the middle. I will probably not read the book a second time.

Drive - The Surprising Truth about what motivates us

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Author Daniel H. Pink
Info Published in 2009; 229 pages
Comments
Daniel Pink sets the expectations high by giving his book the subtitle "the surprising TRUTH about what motivates us". After having set the scene for Motivation 3.0 but the book gets better as you read on. Part two presents the 3 elements of motivation namely Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, the core of the book. The third part I found quite entertaining.
Did Daniel Pink present a surprising truth? Neither a surprise nor probably a real truth (blunt to state as a social scientist to having discovered the truth, isn't it?) But quite an intuitive concept which might not be that easy to prove wrong and could prove quite useful in everyday life.

The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty

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Author Dan Ariely
Info Published in 2012; 285 pages
Comments
In his book, written in such a suspenseful way that I could hardly put it down, Dan Ariely arrives by means of a great number of experiments around a matrix test at the conclusion that everyone is dishonest - but just a little bit. Namely we seem to go as far as we can still justify the behavior in front of ourselves as honest.