Good Reading -- June 2022
A selection of great books, articles, and essays
Facts and Figures
“2021 was the most profitable year for American corporations since 1950. Profits surged 35% last year, according to data published on Wednesday by the Commerce Department, driven by strong household demand, which was underwritten by government cash transfers during the pandemic. In all four quarters of the year, the overall profit margin stayed above 13%, a level reached in just one other three-month period during the past 70 years.”
“An analysis from Sentieo, a financial intelligence platform, found that expletives in transcripts of quarterly earnings calls, investor conferences and shareholder meetings rose to a five-year high in 2021, when 166 such transcripts contained foul language. In the first three months of this year, 50 transcripts contained expletives, up from 42 last year.”
The Bond King: How One Man Made a Market, Built an Empire, and Lost It All — I didn’t expect to finish this book, let alone enjoy it. But I read the epilogue and the author’s note and decided to dive right in. Yes, there is plenty of fodder about the bizarre and inexplicable behavior that grabbed headlines, and I can see how outsiders would roll their eyes (or worse). But there is a well-researched and well-written story about the functioning of an important firm in a very important market through some very interesting times.
The Finish: The Killing of Osama bin Laden — This book is now a decade old but it still has fascinating detail and perspective about the build-up to and the killing of Osama bin Laden. The author also wrote Black Hawk Down and his writing is both authoritative and gripping.
Essays and Articles
“Preparing for the Next Pandemic” — Michael Osterholm’s 2005 Foreign Affairs essay makes for some eye-opening reading here in 2022…
Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid — Everyone will disagree with parts of this, but there are undoubtedly points worth considering.
What If You Could Do It All Over? The Uncanny Allure of Our Unlived Lives — I found this in a related article. In some ways its the ultimate (cliched) counterfactual, but there is some new info/data and nuance
The Science of Hot Streaks: Where They Come From, How to Create Them, & What Kills Them — There seems to be no end to the interest in this topic. I’d also recommend “The hot hand pushing you to experiment a little.”
Chick-fil-A’s Packed Drive-Thrus During COVID Weren’t a Mirage — These numbers are incredible. For reference, an average McDonald’s store would have about $3 million in sales. “At 1,836 U.S. freestanding restaurants outside of malls (those open and operated for at least a full calendar year, from a total of 2,023), average annual sales volumes clocked in at $8.142 million last year, with 849 of those, or 46 percent, producing figures at or above. One operator pushed $17.16 million. Roughly 35 percent of the pool produced annual sales volumes under $7.2 million; 34 percent between $7.2 and $9 million; and 31 percent above $9 million. That $8.142 million [average] was nearly 15 percent higher than Chick-fil-A’s 2020 result of $7.096 million.”