Adithya Chari


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How the World Works

Noam Chomsky

Written in an engaging, interview-style format, this book is the conglomeration of several shorter pieces released by Chomsky. It’s a great introduction to Chomsky’s brand of anarcho-socialism, and introduces readers to a lot of significant patterns in Western society and our colonial exports to other nations.

STEM The Tide: Reforming Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education in America

David E. Drew

This book summarizes several studies regarding STEM education in America, which has fallen behind similarly prosperous countries in the last couple of decades. The author concerns himself with finding research-based strategies to improve education, and presents information in an engaging manner.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow

Yuval Noah Harari

In this book, Harari analyzes the potential future of humanity, especially as we enter the information age and have to ask deeper questions about what the next challenges will be. This is a thought-provoking read, that will make you question every aspect of modern life and how it will be viewed by future historians.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Yuval Noah Harari

Harari questions why humans rule the world in this piece, and resolves that the reason is imagination and social interaction. In gneeral, his insight is profound and engaging, and the book has achieved significant success due to his writing style.

I Am a Strange Loop

Douglas Hofstader

Hofstader tackles neuroscience, cognitive science, and the philosophy of self from the perspective of recursive mathematical and computational structures. This is a really interesting take, and anyone with an interest in physics, proof-based mathematics, or theoretical computer science will benefit greatly from reading this, especially with regard to self understanding and understanding why we believe in consciousness.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

Kahneman writes about the two systems of thought present in the human mind, the fast and the slow, and how they manifest in our reactions, heuristics, and decisions. This book was a great window into loss aversion, how our brain gets tricked in different situations, and the differences in the experiencing and remembering self.

The Soul of a New Machine

Tracy Kidder

Kidder’s prize-winning book about the creation of the first next-generation computer is a must-read for any computer science or engineering student. Like books about the Valley and the rise of venture capital, stories like this one about the very first computers built in the Valley are a critical background for future technologists. The chronicle is written as an exciting, edge-of-your-seat storyline with a ton of suspense, as well as great character building by Kidder.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis is truly an amazing author, but this work was my first introduction to the secretive world of high-frequency trading. While his final conclusion rules against the parasitic behavior of front-running orders and calls the market “rigged”, the information presented within, as well as the full accounting of the Spread Networks project (running fiber along the optimal route from Chicago to New Jersey) was captivating.

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management

Roger Lowenstein

Lowenstein wrote a succinct and engaging memoir of one of the biggest hedge fund failures of all time, including a very detailed description of the risks and magnitudes involved. Of particular interest here is the over-reliance on mathematical risk models, core assumptions in option volatility that imply incorrect pricing (easy for us to think about with perfect hindsight decades later), and the sheer confidence the traders had in those models. Even when the world was burning down, the traders didn’t doubt the model, they even went back to do it again after a multi-billion dollar loss.

Trading at the Speed of Light: How Ultrafast Algorithms Are Transforming Financial Markets

Donald Angus MacKenzie

This book follows the story of how the first high-frequency trading firms began trading on the open markets, as well as some of the effects of those changes. The author drew heavily from anonymized interviews within the industry, which undoubtedly helps the quality of the piece.

Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley

Antonio García Martínez

While the author’s brash writing style is off-putting, this book is an incredibly honest auto-biography of a pre-IPO Facebook PM. The author’s accounting of the disconnect between the product and the monetization strategy reveals the hidden economy generating revenue from an addictive app.

Options Volatility & Pricing: Advanced Trading Strategies and Techniques

Sheldon Natenberg

This one isn’t exactly a fun read, and admittedly, I mainly read it for work, but it’s commonly regarded as one of the best books about options for a very good reason. Natenberg puts everything into context from the beginning of the book, boiling down concepts as simply as possible with great examples throughout. He doesn’t get super deep into the math, but he focuses mostly on developing intuition and an understanding of price and volatility movements.

The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It

Scott Patterson

Patterson showcases a history of quantitiative analysts on Wall Street, and uses examples from several quantitiative hedge funds. In particular, it follows the origin story of some of the biggest names in finance, starting from Ed Thorp’s “Beat the Market”, to Ken Griffin, Jim Simons, and Cliff Asness.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Piketty

This book is a bit of a misnomer, it really should be called “Inequality in the Twentieth Century”, but that isn’t as catchy. Piketty analyzes economic data over the 19th and 20th century in an ambitious study, and attempts to extrapolate what may occur in the 21st century as trends continue or revert. The data is definitely the most interesting part, especially in the historical context provided by the author. However, the takeaways he presents are a bit too idealistic to be useful, especially since he recommends international financial reforms.

Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb discusses probability and human failure to notice it. Many of his examples involve markets, but this book is amazing for the layperson who is thinking about luck. Luck plays a much bigger role in our lives than people account for, and causal relationships are not always the answer. It’s important to account for randomness in a variety of situations, and Taleb pushes the reader to consider that fact with regard to their own lives and how they view history and the present.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Taleb proposes looking at extremely improbable events with a different model instead of the Gaussian curve, specifically with regards to market crashes, pandemics, natural disasters, and other events that seem to have much wider tail probabiltities from observation. Overall, this is an interesting book, especially given Taleb’s history of trading options at a number of banks and individually, as well as his current career as a NYU professor.