The books they loved

Dec 16, 2012 @ 12:01 am

By Liz Skinner

Many financial industry professionals spent some of their precious downtime in 2012 reading — and in some cases, rereading — books that explore decision making, accomplishment and leadership.

Two titles, “Thinking Fast and Slow” and “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All,” are obvious for anyone in business and management.

Some of the works advisers read in 2012, such as “The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America,” focus on corporate histories.

One choice, “Castaway Kid: One Man's Search for Hope and Home,” was written by a financial adviser who tells an inspiring tale of his own life struggles.

Each of the books on this page has one common trait: They've kept the attention of busy professionals and remained on their minds even as a new year is set to begin.

William McNabb III,

chairman and chief executive of The Vanguard Group Inc.

“Thinking Fast and Slow” (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2011) by Daniel Kahneman provides insights into how people think and make decisions. This book helped underscore for me the importance of taking time to thoroughly consider all aspects of important strategic decisions. His comparison of “system 1” versus “system 2” thinking should be required reading for all investors.

“Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All” (HarperBusiness, 2011) by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen. In the sequel to the best-seller “Good to Great,” the authors present insights based on deep analysis on why some companies thrive despite massive uncertainty.

Ric Edelman,

chairman and CEO of Edelman Financial Services

“Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think” (Free Press, 2012) by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler explains how technology will shape our future. A must-read for those worried about the fiscal cliff.

“Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History” (Scribner, 2010) by S.C. Gwynne. A captivating, remarkable story of the real American West. This ain't what John Ford told us!

Ron Carson,

founder and CEO of Carson Wealth Management Group and founder of Peak Advisor Alliance, an adviser coaching program

“Think and Grow Rich” (The Ralston Society, 1937) by Napoleon Hill. I read it every year. It's a must-read for anyone in business.

“A Decade of Delusions” (Wiley, 2011) by Frank Martin.

Eric Schwartz,

chairman and CEO of Cambridge Investment Research Inc.

“Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” (Portfolio Hardcover, 2009) by Simon Sinek. A keynote speaker at the Financial Services Institute Inc.'s OneVoice 2012 conference, Mr. Sinek writes about the importance of passion in organizations for long-term success. Mr. Sinek encourages us to focus on why, not what.

Douglas L. Wolford, president and chief operating officer of Convergent Wealth Advisors

“The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation” (Portfolio Hardcover, 2011) by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson. A fascinating look at why the best salespeople don't just build relationships with clients, they challenge them. This book helped me know better what to look for and cultivate in a great salesperson.

“The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America” (Hill and Wang, 2011) by Marc Levinson. How a family tea shop became the world's largest retailer, and how its threat to mom-and-pop businesses created political enemies — and ultimately led to criminal charges. My dad got his start at the A&P bakery in Pittsburgh in the 1930s, and I've always been curious about what the company was like in its heyday.

“Rabid:  A Cultural History of the World's Most Diabolical Virus” (Viking Adult, 2012) by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. Four thousand years of the history, science and cultural mythology of rabies. Sometimes I've caught our cats eyeing me strangely, and it's best to be sure.

Scott Couto,

president of Fidelity Financial Advisor Solutions

“Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” (Knopf, 2009) by Christopher McDougall is an amazing story about the Tarahumara Indians and the origins of ultra-long-distance running. Our minds and bodies are capable of truly wondrous accomplishments.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2011) by Daniel Kahneman offers accessible insights about how the mind works, how we make decisions, and some of the biases and flaws associated with quick decisions. I think this book is a great framework for self-awareness when making difficult decisions.

“Cutting for Stone: A Novel” (Vintage, 2010) by Abraham Verghese is not a traditional read for me. This is a wonderful story about the unknowable impact of our choices, the unconditional love of our families, and how truly global and interconnected our lives can be.

John Mabee,

vice chairman of Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc. Private Wealth Management

“Castaway Kid: One Man's Search for Hope and Home” (Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 2007) by Rob Mitchell. Left at an orphanage by his mother at a very young age, Mr. Mitchell tells an incredible story that illustrates the triumph of the human spirit. Now a financial adviser in North Carolina, Mr. Mitchell overcame significant obstacles and became a better person. I'd highly recommend this book.

“Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10” (Little Brown and Co., 2007) by Marcus Luttrell. A powerful book about the toughness and dedication of U.S. Navy SEALs. An inspiring read that makes me proud to be an American.

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