I've asked for a few books as Christmas gifts, and hopefully my husband will oblige. Some of them even involve investing!
First on my list, meet the newest addition, The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, (Portfolio/Penguin, 2013).
The book details our nation's remarkable and controversial energy revolution in Pennsylvania and other U.S. states, and how a country desperate for oil and gas suddenly is on the road to energy independence. It's a tale of the people and drama behind the boom, and the geopolitical, environmental, and economic implications of the bonanza. This is not an anti-fracking screed, but instead a story about a handful of wildcatters who believed everything was about to change.
Far from the limelight, Aubrey McClendon, Harold Hamm, Mark Papa, and others were determined to tap massive deposits of oil and gas that Exxon, Chevron, and other energy giants had dismissed as a waste of time. By experimenting with hydraulic fracturing through extremely dense shale - a process now known as fracking - the wildcatters started a revolution. In just a few years, they solved America's dependence on imported energy, triggered a global environmental controversy, and made and lost astonishing fortunes.
You can read an excerpt at the author's website (www.gregoryzuckerman.com). He's a special writer with The Wall Street Journal as his day job.
A second book I'm hoping for was written over a century ago. Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, by Charles Mackay, remains my favorite book.
I first read the book when I was a 23-year-old reporter starting out covering finance, and the first 100 pages covered everything about the public's propensity for investment bubbles, from tulip-mania to equities.
Another classic is How To Trade in Stocks, by Jesse Livermore. Published in 1940, the title might suggest a typical good-for-nothing guidebook, but in fact this entertaining volume documents the life story of one of the legendary traders of the early 20th century.
Livermore made his millions by "shorting" stocks, betting the prices would fall, during the 1929 market crash. Livermore's trading techniques may be out of date, but this easy read outlines the importance of psychological factors in the financial markets. "The similarities of the 2008 shock to the 1929 crash underscore the truth of my favorite line from this easy-to-read book: 'Wall Street never changes, the pockets change, the stocks change, but Wall Street never changes, because human nature never changes,' " says Tan Kai Xian of GaveKal Research, a Wall Street firm with offices in the U.S., Europe, and Hong Kong.