Don Hosek - Past reading - Business

I've read very little in this arena. That explains a lot.

What I've been read in the past - Business
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein
[Finished 18 November 2021] A rough read just because it’s a reminder of how fucked we are and how much 2017–21 didn’t help with that.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with what I’ve read here. While the epilogue is meant to inspire some level of hope, it seems pretty clear that we’re badly screwed. I mean for fuck’s sake, the Nature Conservancy is drilling for oil on land that they theoretically purchased to protect it from oil drilling (at least they’ve been off my donation rotation for a long time).

Outwitting Contractors: The Complete Guide to Surviving Your Home or Apartment Renovation by Bill Adler Jr.
[Finished 31 October 2019] See my review at

Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption by Laura J. Miller
[Finished 9 April 2016] See my review at

What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets by Michael J. Sandel
[Finished 18 May 2015] See my review at

Economics for Humans by Julie A. Nelson
[Finished 20 April 2015] I’ve always been a bit skeptical about the claims of capitalism, especially having seen how the single-minded pursuit of maximized profit results in poorer products. Nelson strives to provide an alternate model for economics that moves from the purely mechanical ideas that predominate contemporary economics which seems geared towards a deterministic view of how economic relations work. There have been some signs of this sort of thing beginning to happen in the real world, between criticisms of the idea that a corporation’s sole duty is to maximize shareholder value to Tim Cook’s telling people who think that Apple shouldn’t be investing in eco-friendly practices to invest their money elsewhere since profit isn’t everything.

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber
[Finished 1 December 2013] Graeber opens his book with a provocative statement: The idea of an age of barter is a myth. As an anthropologist, he’s able to make a persuasive argument on this case. The title of the book is a bit misleading, however, in that the first two-thirds of the book are more an anthropological survey of debt, slavery and interpersonal relationships. Still, more than anything else, Graeber manages to come up with a compelling explanation of just what money is (and along the way, without explicitly saying anything about it, gives justification for a mildly inflationary fiat currency and shows why Bitcoin will likely fail as currency.

Make More Money Investing in Multiunits by Gregory D. Warr
[Finished 11 July 2011] A much more useful book for my needs than I have found previously, although a lot of the information is dependent on a $199 software program available from a website which seems abandoned. But there’s enough information here to really feel comfortable moving forward with some real estate investments.

Investing in Income Properties by Kenneth D. Rosen
[Finished 28 June 2011] Not at all the book that I was looking for. I’m interested in learning more about valuing a rental property, being able to invest for current income, not for capital gains, but it seems that Rosen is all about leveraged capital gain improvement and not once mentions the downside of a leveraged investment (that is, the potential cash-on-cash return is balanced by a startling downside where a 20% drop in a property’s value can wipe out an entire investment). In all, it seems like it’s a book geared towards investment naïfs and its main value is in generating a new income stream for the author rather than educating the reader.

The Wall Street Journal Complete Home Owner's Guidebook by David Crook
[Finished 17 March 2011] A book focused almost entirely on the financial aspects of the guidebook and very much a compendium of the new common wisdom in the aftermath of the housing market crash. I would summarize the book in six words: “A house is not an investment.” There’s some decent number-crunching to back up a number of Crook’s points and some sobering and surprising statistics (most notably that renovations/additions/etc. as a rule pay off at under 100% in home value appreciation. A pretty good book for the financially naïve. For me, the most useful thing was the maintenance checklist near the end of the book.

Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
[Finished 7 May 2008] A somewhat different approach to scrum than I learned from Scrum and XP From the Trenches. The most useful part, I found, was the final chapter which provided a case study of scrum in action, something which seems to be the most helpful way of really learning how it goes.

The Truth About Managing People by Stephen P. Robbins
[Finished 16 April 2008] A somewhat helpful book. The organization is a set of very short (2-3 pages) essays on different topics of personnel management. A lot of it is focused on recruitment/interviewing, although that is a significant part of management (the other part being retention). It is definitely a useful book to keep on my desk to dip into as I need to consider special considerations, although it wasn’t quite everything that I had hoped it could have been.

Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby and Diana Larsen
[Finished 13 February 2008] This is the sort of book that needs to be kept on the bookshelf to be most useful. A simple read-through is helpful to get the lay of the land (and perhaps is essential), but this is really a resource collection, a set of ideas for how to structure and implement the end of a sprint retrospective (although the content is not really scrum-specific). Having read through it once, I was ready to start dipping into it in planning my next retrospective and will likely continue to do so.

Death March by Edward Yourdon
[Finished 7 February 2008] When I started my new job, this book was sitting on my desk. Fortunately, it seems that the corporate culture is not one which encourages (or, it seems, tolerates) death march projects.

So the book has little immediate applicability (my wife, on the other hand, is a different story). There are some ideas which are good general technical management practice though, and I can see being able to employ them in a non death-march context.

Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation by Edward Chancellor
[Finished 6 July 2007] I’m old enough now to have seen three speculative bubbles pop (junk bonds in the 80s, real estate in 1990, tech stocks in 2000) and see another one on its way to popping (real estate--again!).

Chancellor does a pretty good job of describing a history of speculative bubbles. Everybody knows the tulip mania and the 1929 stock market crash, but most of the rest of these are relatively unknown (although it’s interesting to see not one, but two works of fiction that I’ve read reflected in the pages of this book: The Way We Live Now is directly referenced and The Baroque Trilogy clearly drew upon this book for inspiration and information.

If I have any complaint, it’s in Chancellor’s reluctance to take any clear stands on the historical issues that he talks about. Only towards the end does he evince a lukewarm enthusiasm for Bretton-Woods-style currency controls as a bulwark against speculative excess, although it’s difficult to see how a return to that sort of currency control would even be possible in the hyper-globalized economy of the twenty-first century.

Guerilla P.R. by Michael Levine
[Finished 12 November 1999] Frankly, not all that groundbreaking or innovative. Or maybe I just have good P.R. instincts, but there didn’t really seem to be anything to what Levine offers that I didn’t already know.

The Undertaking: Life Stories from the Dismal Trade by Thomas Lynch
[Finished 9 April 1999] A great collection of essays from an accomplished writer who happens to also run a funeral home.

The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford
[Finished 12 February 1998] Surprise: The Loved One was not as much of an exaggeration as you might have thought.

I heard Mitford on the radio a couple years ago. It’s all still true. The death industry in America is coldly calculated to separate you from as much of your money as possible.

The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
[Finished 8 May 1997] A lot of cartoons, amusing observations on the business world and a sensible management philosophy thrown in as a bonus. Unfortunately, the business world seems to insist on things like denying voice mail to departments that don’t have a secretary to answer phone calls.