Top 3 Books I Read in 2019

4 minute read

At 52 days into the year, I know it’s a little late to be reflecting on the books I read in 2019. However, it’s been a while since I updated my reading list, so I figured I might as well take a quick moment to do so.

I typically read non-fiction books and try to cover a wide range of genres. However, the majority of the books I read do skew towards investing/business/entrepreneurship.

So without further ado, here are my top 3 picks from 2019:

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

PARIS, FRANCE – DECEMBER 09: Actor Leonardo DiCaprio with Jho Low (right) of the movie attend the photocall before the ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ World movie Premiere at Cinema Gaumont Opera on December 9, 2013 in Paris, France.

This was by far the best book I read last year. It was written by a couple of investigative journalists (Tom Wright and Bradley Hope), and they did a fantastic job on this.

It details the 1MDB Scandal that took place from 2012 to 2018 in Malaysia. The scandal involves an individual named Jho Low and, former Prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak.

1MDB was a sovereign wealth fund, intended to make infrastructure and other investments to help the people of Malaysia. This book details how Jho Low siphoned over $4.5 billion from the public fund for personal use. He pulled off the heist with the help of Goldman Sachs, high-ranking friends in the Middle East and former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak.

The stolen money was spent on opulent parties, luxury mansions, yachts, gambling, and fine art. Some of the stolen money was used to produce The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie literally about stealing money.

While some arrests have been made, as of today, Jho Low is still at large, allegedly hiding somewhere in China. The 1MDB saga continues as investigations are still ongoing.

Why did I like This Book?

At multiple points in the book, I had put it down and remind myself “wow this actually happened…in real life”.

Reading about how Jho Low, an otherwise unremarkable character, committed such a brazen theft in order to make his way into the upper echelons of society left me completely in awe.

All it took was a bit of confidence, knowing the right people and being in the right place at the right time.

The book also gives incredible insight into the world of offshore finance and sovereign wealth funds. It also shows you just how whimsical the decisions made by people, with incredible amounts of money and power, are.

I love reading about true crimes, and to me, there’s nothing better than a well-investigated recount of a crime as massive as this one.

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts

This book was written by Annie Duke, who is a championship poker player.

Every day we make decisions, some big and some small. Most people evaluate the quality of a decision based on the quality of the outcome. In this book, Annie Duke does a great job of explaining why that’s a flawed way to assess decision making quality. Instead, she describes how focusing on processes instead, will yield better long term decision making.

She draws parallels between decision making and making bets in poker. Unlike most situations, in poker, you have instant feedback on the outcome of your decisions. Many poker players know not to judge based on a single outcome alone, but the quality of the decision/bets along the way.

Why did I like This Book?

I play poker casually (super-amateur), but I know enough about the game that I was able to really connect with a lot of what Annie says in this book.

I also had to make some pretty big decisions over the past year, and some of the outcomes haven’t particularly panned out the way I wanted it to. This book really helped me better evaluate the quality of those decisions.

Going forward, I am going to try my best to refer back to the principles in this book when it comes to decision making in my day-to-day life.

Buy then Build: How Acquisition Entrepreneurs Outsmart the Startup Game

Walker Diebel, entrepreneur, investor, and M&A expert, wrote this book in 2018.

In this book, Walker Diebel argues that it’s better to acquire an existing business and grow it from there than it is to start one from scratch. He puts forth a compelling case for small business acquisitions, with actionable steps for any ambitious entrepreneur to follow.

He speaks from experience, as he describes how he had failed at starting a business from scratch before acquiring an existing one and growing it successfully.

This book serves as a practical guide and Walker provides specific tools, resources and financial models to help readers acquire a business.

Why did I like This Book?

I’ve now started two businesses from scratch, and I can certainly attest to a lot of the criticisms of startup businesses outlined by Walker. He gives very practical advice and tips on small business acquisitions and shows with concrete proof of how it’s a better way to build wealth than starting from scratch.

After starting two businesses from scratch, I have told myself that my 3rd business will be an acquisition. I started my search for a small business acquisition around mid-2019. During the process, someone had suggested this book to me and I am glad they did.

I do plan to continue my search in 2020, and hopefully close a deal sooner than later. I will also try to do my best to post updates on this process on my blog.

Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favourite books that you read last year? Leave your comments below!

Jay Vasantharajah

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