Summer Reading from the Stewardship Academy Faculty

June 11, 2019 |
4 minute read

As the last week of June approaches, investment stewards begin to prepare for summer – a time for relaxing, reflecting, and reading. We asked faculty members from the Investment Stewardship Academy, being held at the Yale School of Management from June 24-28, to recommend books that you should have on your summer reading list. Whether you prefer hardcover or digital, poolside or portside, learning or escaping, our faculty has a great book or two for you.

Blaine F. Aikin Executive Chairman Fi360 and Center for Fiduciary Excellence

Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover.
An incredible, and incredibly moving, memoir of a young woman who was kept out of school by her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. Having read her book and heard her speak, I am in awe of what she was able to accomplish and the power of the quest for knowledge in an environment of deprivation.

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate, by Peter Wohlleben.
This is an international bestseller authored by a German forester. It uncovers groundbreaking scientific evidence demonstrating how forests essentially operate as social networks. It’s a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that vividly demonstrates the interconnectedness of nature.

Mark Anson CEO and CIO Commonfund

Murder on the Orient Express: The Mystery of Underperformance by Charles Ellis in the Financial Analysts Journal, July/Aug. 2012 *
Charlie investigates who is responsible for the underperformance of many institutional portfolios. He reviews the cast of characters: investment managers, fund executives, the governing board, and investment consultants. And, like Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie’s famous novel, he concludes that all of the suspects are guilty.

*A version of this article is included as an appendix in the latest edition of Ellis’s book, Winning the Loser’s Game.

Tom Brakke Principal, TJB Research

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing, by Robert Caro
This is a great book about due diligence, although I don’t think those words ever appear. This collection of pieces illustrates Caro’s legendary dedication to getting the real stories of Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson. By not accepting narratives at face value, working every angle, examining hundreds of thousands of documents, and interviewing people over and over, Caro serves as a model of investigative behavior for those doing investment due diligence.

Peter Burns President and Chief Executive Officer Commonfund Capital

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
For anyone that invests in private capital, this book is an important work. Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, turned out to be most skilled at luring luminaries to her board of directors, making it difficult for anyone to ask the questions that would have uncovered a massive fraud. This true story reads like a gripping novel and offers fiduciaries timeless and compelling due diligence lessons.

Susan Carter Lecturer, Yale SOM, Independent Director, BlackRock Multi-Asset Mutual Funds, Former President & CEO, Commonfund Capital, Inc.

Alpha Girls: The Women Upstarts Who Took on Silicon Valley’s Male Culture and Made the Deals of a Lifetime, by Julian Guthrie.
The book is a great read – think “Hidden Figures” meets Silicon Valley. It tells the stories of four women who overcame numerous setbacks to succeed in the male-dominated venture capital world. Early in my career, I invested with one of them, M.J. Elmore. I am fortunate to call her a friend today and to see her achievements inspire a new generation of investors.

Caroline Greer Managing Director, Commonfund

Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald.
Both trained psychologists, the authors explore the unwitting biases we all have as a result of cultural attitudes about age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality. Opening our awareness to bias is a necessary step to changing the assumptions we make about others.

Thomas K. Hyatt Partner, Dentons US LLP

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks
Writer, commentator, and social scientist, Brooks explores in this book the four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose: to a spouse and family; to a vocation; to a philosophy or faith; and to a community. Brooks asserts that our personal fulfillment depends on how well we choose and execute these commitments.

Past Tense by Lee Child
I just read the latest in the Jack Reacher “action thriller” series in which Reacher sets out to hitchhike from Maine to California and decides to stop and see the town where his father was born. But all is not as it seemed. It was my first Jack Reacher book and I am now going back to read the 22 books that preceded this one!

Christopher K. Merker, Co-Author, The Trustee Governance Guide, Financial Advisor and a Director of Private Asset Management, Robert W. Baird & Co.

Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action by Elinor Ostrom
First published in 1990, the book was a Best Business and Leadership Book of 2018 by Amazon Book Review Editor, Chris Schluep. The late, Dr. Ostrom, developed an opposing theory to the “Tragedy of the Commons”, based on extensive empirical work in the field, and in 2009 was the first woman awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in the Economic Sciences. It was specifically awarded for her “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”. Her work especially resonates in these times with the rise of ESG, as this global investor movement may be following a similar dynamic and complex adaptive systems framework around collective action to promote sustainability in the face of serious climate issues.

Cathleen M. Rittereiser Executive Director, Commonfund Institute

Loonshots: How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries, Safi Bahcall. A physicist and biotech entrepreneur, Bahcall explains how organizations can manage the tension between maintaining franchises and allowing breakthrough ideas to flourish. Following the “Loonshots” framework will help organizations achieve lasting innovation.

Ted Seides Chief Investment Officer, Perch Bay Group, Host, Capital Allocators podcast

The Algebra of Happiness by Scott Galloway
Scott’s book is a refreshingly honest take on what he believes contributes to happiness. It’s a very quick read and perfect for the summer.

George Suttles Director of Research, Commonfund Institute

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein
The author challenges the conventional wisdom that life success depends on mastery of a specific discipline. He offers plenty of evidence, some based on academic research, that being more of a “generalist” offers important advantages, including becoming more innovative and better at problem-solving. I believe “Range” has governance implications for boards. For example, the norm is to populate investment committees with those who have investment experience, but other members who do not have this experience bring diverse ideas and understanding. Boards are better when they do this and work together to advance mission!

The Investment Stewardship Academy offers trustees, investment committee members and senior staff a chance to learn essential principles and practices for stewarding long-term capital. 

We hope these books provide you with an idea, insight or indulgence and we wish you a happy, safe and restful summer.

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