This week, I’ve been reading
an essay in the FT by Simon Schama on What Tolstoy’s War and Peace can teach us. One of the things that Schama talks about is when a ‘brigadier’ saw him reading it in a lunch bar and asks him if it’s his first time. When Schama says yes, the brigadier almost sighs with contented and kind-hearted envy. If you haven’t read it yet, then I contentedly and kind-heartedly envy you too. It’s a life-changer. As Nietzsche (I think) said, there are books where you mark your life as before you read it and after you read it. It’s up there in my top 5 books. Treat yourself to the Rosemary Edmonds translation and see you in about 3 months. Well that’s how long it took me :). The first couple of hundred pages read like The Sopranos on steroids and set in Napoleonic-era Russia. The character list is like a huge ensemble cast on the stage. Schama himself re-reads the Monster semi-regularly. It’s been 17 years since I first read it. Maybe it’s time to do it again.
Books I’m reading
I’m halfway through the book about Jim Simons and Renaissance Technologies (The Man Who Solved the Market: How Jim Simons Launched the Quant Revolution by Greg Zuckerman). It’s good but it’s not yet a book that’s going to make it onto my list of non-fiction life-changers (think Legacy, Shoe Dog, 12 Rules of Life, Tipping Point, Freakonomics, A Short History of Nearly Everything etc). If you liked Zuckerman’s The Greatest Trade Ever about John Paulson and his firm’s huge bet against sub-prime in 2007 and 2008, you’ll enjoy this book too. It goes into the personalities of the people who built Renaissance, people you wouldn’t think were your typical Masters of The Universe. These men were world-class mathematicians, academics in tweed jackets, many of whom had no background in finance. Yet they went on to help create the most successful investment firm of all time.
Graham Stephan is a very entertaining money guy on YouTube. He’s 28, got a huge property portfolio and makes millions on YouTube. What’s appealing about him is how savvy he is. He’s frugal, finding a way to live in his house for almost zero dollars and also buying a Tesla for $78/month! Here he is on how to save 99% of your income:
First published on my email newsletter on Substack sent on Jan 26 2020.