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The Speculator's
Reading List



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The Speculators' Reading List

Start by reading anything by Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged is the most important book you’ll ever read. We also recommend “The Fountainhead” and “Anthem.” These classic novels lay the intellectual foundation for capitalism.

Elroy Dimson, Paul Marsh and Mike Staunton, Triumph of the Optimists. We cannot say too often that if you read one investment book, this should be it. Ever since its publication in early 2000, it has informed our approach to the market and served as a source of trading ideas. The first comprehensive international market database, this book by three distinguished London Business School professors belongs on the shelf of every investor, trader, policy-maker and economist. In all the sciences, great strides in seeing things how they are came about after the compilation and classification of data. At last we have something that builds on the University of Chicago’s Center for Research in Securities Prices, the U.S. database that led to an explosion in market knowledge and testing a generation ago. The one book that Vic would recommend to his six daughters and that Laurel would recommend to her parents.

Robert Bacon, Secrets of Professional Turf Betting. A classic, but out of print and increasingly difficult to buy used. Try a library.

Larry Harris, Trading Exchanges: Market Microstructure for Practitioners. The field of investments and speculation has now reached the point of all good sciences with the publication and diffusion of the great and essential investment book Trading and Exchanges:  Market Microstructure for Practitioners by Larry Harris. Along with Dimson, Marsh and Staunton's The Triumph of the Optimists, and perhaps a good book on valuation such as Aswath Damodaran's Investment Valuation, and a standard text on investments such as Sharpe, Alexander and Bailey's Investments, market participants now have available a foundation for practical and theoretical knowledge in this field that is equivalent to what they might expect in any of the other sciences such as biology, chemistry, engineering or physics.

Paul Heyne, The Economic Way of Thinking. This modern economics text is so valuable, so readable and so important that everyone should read it to periodically chase away the mumbo jumbo, fuzzy thinking and long-discredited totalitarian ideas that against all reason are in wide circulation today.

Ben K. Green, Horse Tradin' (Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1967). A priceless collection of deceptions, scams, indirection and bargaining techniques from the days when America's business was farming. You'll see the stock market in a new light after reading these tales.

Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape (as well as his other books). Describes 150 different methods of deception that put what happens in the market in so much better perspective than all the technical analysis books ever written. I must categorize these methods of deception so that so many will not lose so much more than they have to.

Mark Denny and Steven Gaines, Chance in Biology. This book, using probability theory to explore nature, is one of the finest books on chance, and has excellent chapters using Venn diagrams to motivate probability,  random walks,  chaos, statistics of extreme, noise and perception, patterns of disorder. All are illustrated with biological examples and there is new and enlightening material for new and  experienced scholars as well as for those with interest in investments.

Gerald Belle, Statistical Rules of Thumb. Graspable by all, and expands one's horizons in many directions. A very nice discussion of  waiting times related to occurrences of spontaneous rare events, modeled by Poisson, is good there also.

Derek Rowntree, Statistics Without Tears: A Primer for Non-Mathematicians. Rowntree wrote his primer without any of the mathematical formulae that terrify the humanities students among us. The book is exceedingly well written. Laurel, who didn't know what standard deviation was before beginning remedial education with Vic five years ago, found Rowntree a riveting read.

For those not completely bereft of the basic concepts, Victor, a Ph.D. in statistics who finds multivariate and survival analysis as invigorating as a good game of tennis, recommends George W. Snedecor’s Statistical Methods. This classic text has proved its value through most of the 20th century and has been updated so that it’s as fresh and valuable today as the day it first saw the light in 1927. It will give you the tools necessary to know what to do after you start counting in the Galtonian manner. It’s also a good starting points for other statistics books like Maurice G. Kendall’s “Kendall’s Advanced Theory of Statistics,” which those who enjoy math might find an Oxford English Dictionary-like reference.

Francis Galton, Memories of My Life and The Art of Travel. Galton was Darwin’s cousin, and was at the scientific cutting edge of his time with countless adventures, mathematical advances and practical inventions to his name, including correlation, weather maps, fingerprinting and the whistling teapot. His spirit of reason and inquiry made him universally loved by his peers.

Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey-Stephen Maturin series on British naval life in the Napoleonic War era are among the best historical novels we’ve read. Great dialogue, fascinating writing on the science, culture and economic life of the early 19th century. The characters are subtly drawn and highly humorous. We are extremely partial to sea adventures, and these 20 books are endlessly entertaining. Start with Master and Commander, the first of the series.

Jack Schaeffer, Monte Walsh. A deep book on the conflict between industrialization and the life of the range, by the greatest Western novelist.

Albert Jay Nock, Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Political, economic and cultural insights on the operation of Gresham’s Law and the Law of Least Effort from the editor of The Freeman (1920-1924), considered one of the best magazines ever.

David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor. A readable, wide-angle economic history of the world.

Leo Goodman, "Tests Based on the Movements in and the Comovements between Independent Time Series," in the book Measurement in Economics (Stanford University Press, 1963) is one of the best papers on time series analysis ever written, with important implications as to how to handle the multivariable problem, and direction vs. magnitude, and trending. A quote: "Moore and Wallis have pointed out that in certain types of data, the signs of differences are more accurate than the magnitudes of either the observations or the differences with economic measures of the kind for which index numbers are ordinarily used, e.g., it may be certain than a change has been in a given direction, but questionable how much the change has been (because of ambiguities in the weighting system." The paper presents simple, distribution-free methods to find trend, correlations, et al., for such series including tests based on the magnitudes. I must give my people all a copy of this paper and make sure they an use these methods intuitively and actually.

Martin Gardner, Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science has a great discussion of all the pseudo science used by those who would predict elections based on characteristics such as age, economy, state of war and alphabetical or seasonal properties. If such users would only look in the mirror, laugh at themselves a la Don Quixote and maintain their good humor, one might hope that all such mumbo and generalizations based on similar over-determination would cease at least among our readers.

Ross, Introduction to probability,  has the best discussion of using Venn diagrams to motivate the basic formulas for probability, including Bayes' law, and I must take the time to work through the exercises there to keep my powers of counting alive, and as an antidote to the back-and-forth about our terrible deeds in Iraq.

Rose Wilder Lane, Home Town,  is timeless, uplifting, and sensitive. The stories of the endearing human emotions, and fabric of the relations between people in a small town help me understand what the elementary things that give people respect, happiness, and motivation today. It's particularly relevant in our generation where it's so easy to communicate and gather expertise in any small area and so many small towns are surging again. As I pass thru these surging towns, with their hardware and bread stores and gourmet restaurants, towns like Great Barrington, South Hadley, Sausalito, and Liberty New York tens of thousands of them thriving today, towns where people like us live today, a hundred miles away from the urban center, towns that will determine the fate of the Nation in two days, one is exhilarated.



Movie List

A distinguished member of the Old Speculators Association assembled a list of films that seemed to fall into the heroic/realistic category in their portrayals of men. Many SpecListers (names withheld to protect the innocent) sent in their own favorites for inclusion in the list; thanks to all.

Some are so obviously candidates that you slap your forehead thinking "how could I have forgot that one": like Lonely Are the Brave, The Quiet Man and Patton. Others I have yet to see but look forward to seeing them.


Director Starring
Breaker Morant Bruce Beresford Edward Woodward
Barry Lyndon Stanley Kubrick Ryan O'Neal
Defiant Ones, The (1958) Stanley Kramer Sidney Poitier
Tony Curtis
Gandhi Richard Attenborough Ben Kingsley
Good the Bad and the Ugly, The Sergio Leone Clint Eastwood
Inherit the Wind Stanley Kramer Spencer Tracy
Fredric March
Last Angry Man Daniel Mann Paul Muni
Lion in Winter, The Anthony Harvey Katharine Hepburn
Peter O'Toole
Lonely Are the Brave David Miller Kirk Douglas
Monty Walsh William A. Fraker Lee Marvin
Mission, The Roland Joffe Robert De Niro
Once Upon a Time in the West Sergio Leone Henry Fonda
Once Upon a Time in America Sergio Leone Robert De Niro
Pale Rider Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Patton Franklin J. Schaffner George C. Scott
Paths of Glory Stanley Kubrick Kirk Douglas
Quiet Man, The John Ford John Wayne
Ran Akira Kurosawa Mifune
Shane George Stevens Alan Ladd
Saving Private Ryan Steven Spielberg Tom Hanks
Tender Mercies Bruce Beresford Robert Duvall
Unforgiven Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood
Untouchables Brian De Palma Kevin Costner
We Were Soldiers Randall Wallace Mel Gibson


Liberty Reading List

The Undercover Book Service has compiled a list of books that provide an introduction to, and explanation of, the freedom philosophy and libertarianism, with a minimum of duplication and a maximum of accessibility. These are good reads, not textbooks.

Frederic Bastiat. The Law --- A masterpiece of style, brevity, and common sense, this timeless little essay makes the clear distinction between the law and "the law perverted!" First translated from the original French into English in 1853.

David Bergland. Libertarianism in One Lesson --- Bergland, the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, wrote this book as, in his words, "a first look into that uniquely American philosophy of freedom, libertarianism, and to acquaint readers with the Libertarian Party."

Jim Cox. The Concise Guide to Economics --- Here is a guide to help anyone better understand economic liberty and rebut its most outrageous attacks. The book covers 37 issues including entrepreneurship, profit and loss, speculation, monopolies, insider trading, government regulation, the Keynesian multiplier, price controls, the gold standard, inflation, business cycles, and the Great Depression. Second edition published 1997.

Foundation for Economic Education, editor. The Freedom Philosophy --- This anthology of 14 classic FEE essays lays the intellectual foundation of the case for a free society. Why must we be free? Why is a classical-liberal system that respects individual liberty, private-property rights, and the rule of law the most just, most moral, most beneficial system? The essays in this book explain, cogently and clearly, why the freedom philosophy beats, hands down, socialism and other forms of authoritarianism. First published in 1988

Milton Friedman (with the assistance of Rose Friedman). Capitalism & Freedom --- Beginning with a discussion of principles of a liberal society, Nobel Laureate Friedman applies them to such currently pressing problems as monetary policy, discrimination, education, income distribution, welfare, and poverty. First published in 1962, revised 1982.

Friedrich Hayek. The Road to Serfdom --- Hayek holds that the extended collectivism toward which free nations are gradually moving is incompatible with democracy; that social planning, as interpreted today, may eventually destroy all individual freedom, political no less than economic. First published in 1944.

Henry Hazlitt. Economics in One Lesson --- Explains simply yet with great sophistication how free markets deliver both liberty and prosperity, while government intervention hurts people. First published in 1946.

Rose Wilder Lane. The Discovery of Freedom --- a passionate book which reasserted the supreme importance of individual freedom. In The Discovery of Freedom, Lane talked not about rulers marching through history books, but the epic 6,000-year struggle of ordinary people who defy rulers to raise their families, produce food, develop industries, pursue commerce and in myriad ways improve human life. First published in 1943.

Ludwig von Mises. Human Action --- The broadest possible vision of economics, an unparalleled defense of capitalism and the unhampered market, and a sizzling critique of the principles underlying the interventionist welfare state. A commanding case for freedom, encyclopedic in scope. First published in 1949, revised 1963 and 1996.

Albert Jay Nock. Our Enemy, the State --- Nock makes a distinction between the State and Government. Government is an agency with strictly limited powers, devoted to protecting individual rights to life, liberty and property. The State, on the other hand is an offshoot of government that develops when some people capture the machinery of government and pervert it, using its powers not to protect rights, but to violate them, to exploit people by confiscating their wealth, regulating their activities, and subjugating them whenever necessary to enhance its own illicit power. First published in 1935.

Isabel B. Paterson. The God of the Machine --- Few authors before or since (1943) have denounced collectivism with as much fury. She dramatically shows why socialism always means stagnation, backwardness, corruption and slavery. Reflecting on the Prohibition debacle, Paterson ridicules the notion that government can set moral standards for anyone. First published in 1943.

Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged --- One of the most astonishing works of the twentieth century, a major intellectual achievement, filled with new and provocative ideas, a plot that won't quit, an ennobling theme, and a story that has kept generations riveted to every page. It is a mystery story that doubles as a defense of reason, individualism, civilization and capitalism. First published in 1957.

Leonard Read. Anything That's Peaceful --- In this 1964 classic, Foundation for Economic Education founder Leonard E. Read speaks quietly, charmingly to people who haven't thought through the immorality of coercion. He raises seemingly innocent questions which can help lead those with an open mind step by step toward a heart-felt belief in liberty. Since individuals don't have the right to use force against others, Read asks, how can they delegate the use of force to government? How is taxation any different from theft? How can government programs be moral since they're financed with money forcibly taken from people? What's so great about voting if it means supporting a politician who advocates taxes and government spending?

Murray Rothbard. For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto --- Rothbard packs an extraordinary amount of history in a few pages, and establishes libertarianism as the current, and most rigorous and consistent, manifestation of a centuries-long drive for personal and economic liberty. First published in an expanded paperback edition in 1978.

Adam Smith. An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, --- First published in 1776, the year of the American Revolution, Smith's Wealth of Nations sparked a revolution of its own. Smith analyzes the major elements of political economy, from market pricing and the division of labor, to monetary, tax, trade, and other government policies that affect economic behavior. Throughout, he offers seminal arguments for free trade, free markets, and limited government.

Lysander Spooner. The Lysander Spooner Reader --- After wrestling with Spooner's tightly reasoned arguments against the state in "No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority" you'll never look at the government the same way again. Buy it to recharge your batteries, to rediscover why you love freedom, or to introduce yourself to the most tightly reasoned logical defense of liberty. Spooner died in 1887.

Joel C. Turner

Undercover Book Service
139 Fulton Street at Nassau, #417
New York, NY 10038

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Kids’ books on Liberty:

For those interested in teaching free-market economics to young children:

“I, Pencil.”  About all the economic activity which goes into the making of a single pencil.

“The History of a Mouthful of Bread.”  Written in 1864, this was one of Vic’s favorite bedtime stories for his kids.

“Seven Loaves of Bread”  encapsulates in a cheerful way the spirit of free enterprise and the ecosystems of business, hard work and productive endeavor. A contrast to the popular “Rainbow Fish,” a book that's European in every sense of the word.

“The Incredible Bread Machine.”  Described as Dr. Suess meets Ayn Rand or Milton Friedman, it is the story of Tom Smith, a man who invents a machine to make bread at such a cheap price he single-handedly ends world hunger...but it isn't too long before people begin to scream "monopoly". The text can be read at the address below, but the hardcopy has entertaining pictures.

25 literary traits every trader can use, 8/22/2002

















How to Make a Link to a Specific Book Description on this page

  1. Take the address of this page: http://www.dailyspeculations.com/list.htm
  2. Add a pound sign: http://www.dailyspeculations.com/list.htm# 
  3. Add the codeword in all lowercase letters: http://www.dailyspeculations.com/list.htm#codeword

What's the codeword?

For books from the Speculator's Reading List, it is the author's last name (e.g. http://www.dailyspeculations.com/list.htm#rand)
Exceptions: O'Brian is 'obrian';
                  If there is more than one author, it is the last name of the first author

For Movies it is the first word in the title (e.g. http://www.dailyspeculations.com/list.htm#breaker)
Exceptions: Once Upon a Time in the West is 'west';
                  Once Upon a Time in America is 'america';

For books from the Liberty Reading List, it is the author's last name
Exceptions: Foundation for Economic Education is 'foundation'
                  Rand is 'aynrand'

For Kids' Books on Liberty, the codewords are 'pencil', 'mouthful', 'seven', and 'machine'.

Too Complicated?

Here's a list: