One of my year-end traditions is to look back at what I read throughout the year, putting it into perspective and making sure what I’m reading isn’t tied to ebbs and flows of the news cycle. Last year’s was the first for this site, if you’d like to check it out here.
Before I do that this year, lets take a look at 2022, which has been nothing less than eventful.
We started the year with the hangover of the 2021 highs, with stories being written about a new frontier in tech and how Covid had changed the world, for better or for worse, forever.
We were shaken back to reality with the war in Ukraine that redefined the narrative for the rest of the year. Accelerating inflation reared its mighty head and turned out to be not so transitory, leading to major central banks finally putting an end to the easy money cycle of the last decade.
This tightening of monetary conditions with this magnitude and speed of change hit all risk assets, as both stocks and bonds fell in tandem. The growthiest of growth of names got sold off first, followed by all large caps and the mighty FAANGs.
Private markets almost ground to a halt too, with PEs facing the inevitable end of cheap debt financing making the prospects of ‘buy high sell higher’ unlikely. VCs did an about-face, telling their investee’s to now show them the money (the path to profitability). Bonds, which are deemed safer havens, got obliterated as rising yields repriced bonds across the risk and duration curve.
We saw the UK gilts market teeter on the verge of a major systemic crisis and the Euro falling to parity and below parity levels with the USD. We also witnessed a $10bn fraud and Ponzi scheme collapse and their very altruistic founder getting arrested.
In the world of tech, as the valuations of tech companies were tanking in both public and private markets, we saw two major breakthroughs which got us all pretty excited.
We got a net gain in energy with the nuclear fusion process, a historic feat that was never achieved since the experiments started 60 years ago. Though we are a decade away from an actual fusion based power station, it got us all excited with the promise of an unlimited supply of clean energy in the future. Then we got ChatGPT, a chatbot built upon OpenAI’s LLM (large language model) and a conversational assistant. A major step-change in the progress made in AI showing real promise for actual use-cases.
So yeah an eventful year to say the least.
Now finally onto the noteworthy stuff I read this year.
After the Fall: Tobias Buck : I started the year off with a informative read on Spain’s most contentious economic and social problems that have been holding the country back. Recommended reading for any outsider who wants to learn more about the issues this generation of the country cares about. (Non-fiction)
Investing for growth: Terry Smith : One of my favourite reads of the year. It is a collection of letters and opinion pieces written by notable British fund manager Terry Smith where he talks about how he analyses businesses to make investment decisions, along with his other musings on the market. (Non-fiction)
Anxious People: Frederik Backman : A satirical take on the anxieties in the lives of seven different people who are trapped together in a flat with a suspect bank robber on the run. (Fiction)
Trillions: Robin Wigglesworth : A brilliantly told history of passive investing and the birth of index funds and ETFs and how they got here, featuring the legendary Jack Bogle of Vanguard and the famous economist Eugene Fama. (Non-fiction)
Greenlights: Matthew McConaughey : An autobiography of sorts by the legendary actor with stories and lessons he learnt along the way. So good that I might re-read it again soon. (Non-fiction)
Silverview: John le Carre : A John le Carre classic spy-thriller with less action and more deduction and story-telling. (Fiction)
The Power Law: Sebastian Mallaby : One of the best reads of this year. A wonderfully written story of venture capital, its origins, the storied venture capitalists and firms, and how it spread to the farthest corners of the world transforming tech and innovation. Recommended reading for anyone interested in the VC world. (Non-fiction)
The Soros Lectures: George Soros : The legendary investor’s lectures at The Central European University on his theory of reflexivity, his thoughts on finance and the open society. (Non-fiction)
Project Hail Mary: Andy Weir : I do not read a lot of Sci-fi but this one was inarguably the best one I’ve read. A riveting story of a science professor chosen for a suicidal mission to go to another galaxy to save the Earth. (Fiction)
The Outsiders: William Thorndike Jr. : The stories of unconventional CEOs of American business, the commonalities in their management style and capital allocation decisions and a laser-sharp focus on generating exceptional returns for their shareholders. (Non-fiction)
The Key Man: Simon Clark, Will Louch : The story of Arif Naqvi, the infamous Abraaj (a PE firm investing in emerging markets) founder and GP who duped the richest of the rich of their millions. The guy has a lot in common with the newly crowned fraudster of the decade Sam Bankman-Fried with his façade of altruism and charitable leanings. (Non-fiction)
No Plan B: Lee Child, Andrew Child : The 27th book in my all-time favourite fiction Jack Reacher series. After a a couple of not-so-good titles recently, Andrew Child has made a solid comeback by bringing back old-school Reacher. Just like the Reacher-fans like to see him. (Fiction)
Reject the algorithm: The downsides of chasing commercial success that has foundations in the online world.
The Many worlds of Enough: “It’s the perpetual branching of identity that results from progress, as progress provides you with the confidence and ability to actualize greater things (resulting in further progress). The cyclical nature of this process is what makes it so difficult to stop, and is what prevents us from ever settling on what Enough means.”
The Current Thing: On us abrogating our ability to think for ourselves and jumping from one ship to another based on whatever’s the hottest topic on the internet.
The death and birth of technological revolutions: Identifying the patterns of how technological revolutions and born and how they die.
Those who use Goodreads can see what I’m reading and what I “Want to read” here.
Have a great finish to the very eventful 2022!
Until next year,
The Atomic Investor