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Reading Recommendations Archive

Monthly Book Reviews

River Road’s investment team members share the books they’re reading.

September 2019

Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison
By Howard Green

Hunter Harrison’s tenacity, common sense, creativity, and willingness to not be loved allowed him to change an entire industry that is critical to life in North America. While viewed by many inside and outside the companies he ran as the enemy, Mr. Harrison’s results at the four railroads he ran were nothing short of amazing and have stood the test of time.  At the core of Hunter Harrison’s success is his own brand of railroading, “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR).  Many of Harrison’s ideas are counter-intuitive, such as the notion that the customer isn’t always right or that by reducing the number of locomotives you could increase the volume transported or that an asset unused can actually be a liability. The key to PSR is that it results in better service for customers through faster and more reliable service while providing the railroad with better economics.

August 2019

Sol Price: Retail Revolutionary & Social Innovator
By Robert E. Price

It is rare for an individual to succeed with a new retailing format let alone two different models. However, Sol Price changed the way people shop and the way retailers operate by creating the discount retail model with FedMart, in the 1950s, and the warehouse club model with Price Club, in the 1970s. His ideas influenced many of the most successful retailers in history including Sam Walton (Walmart), Bernard Marcus (Home Depot), and Jim Sinegal (Costco). At the core of his success was the notion that his companies maintained a professional fiduciary relationship with their customers. He felt that he was representing the customers and that he had a duty to be very honest and fair with them. This idea along with many other Sol Price ideas can be most directly observed at Costco today, which acquired Price Club in 1993.

July 2019

Responsible Investing
by Matthew W. Sherwood and Julia Pollard

The authors provide a comprehensive review of the history, motivations, and academic support for ESG investing and its many iterations (e.g. impact, sustainable, socially responsible, and mission-related investing). Despite a lack of universally accepted standards, the industry has grown to account for more than a quarter of professionally managed assets around the world. The growth seems likely to continue as an increasing number of corporations disclose ESG information, active managers and independent third-party providers like Sustainalytics incorporate the new information, and both active and passive investment providers offer an increasing number of ESG investment options. Active asset managers have a unique opportunity to customize their investment process through optimization and/or other qualitative/quantitative methods to accommodate the growing demand.

June 2019

WTF?! (Willing to Fail): How Failure Can Be Your Key to Success
by Brian Scudamore

Brian Scudamore, the author and founder of 1-800-Got-Junk, tells an inspiring story of growing his $1 MM per year junk-hauling business in 1996 to a $1 MM per day juggernaut today. Throughout this quick and easy read, Scudamore stresses the importance of passion and enthusiasm, embracing failure (he once fired his entire staff and started over), and promoting company culture to create lasting success. He turned down an offer to sell out for up to $100 MM in 2007 and instead continues to grow his empire to include one-day house painting, moving services, and house detailing. As investors, we are always on the lookout to partner with owner-operators like Scudamore that clearly, as Buffett remarks, like to “tap dance to work.”

May 2019

Big Money Thinks Small: Biases, Blind Spots and Smarter Investing
by Joel Tillinghast

The author has beaten the market by ~400 basis points per annum over the past three decades running the Fidelity Low-Priced Stock Fund. The book is directed toward investment practitioners with a focus on investment versus speculation. The author’s patient and common-sense approach to investing zeroes in on “what a stock is worth” rather than “what happens next.” The book highlights the benefits of sticking within your circle of competence and investing alongside capable management teams with appropriate levels of financial leverage. He sprinkles in enjoyable and humorous anecdotes to stress the importance of avoiding accounting shenanigans, bypassing commoditized industries or undemocratic countries (e.g. Russia) and the “garbage-in, garbage-out” realities of discounted cash flow valuations. A must-read for serious value investors.

April 2019

The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition
by Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn

This very readable and well-researched book suggests that U.S. industry has become increasingly concentrated over the past several decades. Since the Chicago School convincingly argued in the 1970s that oppressive antitrust regulation prevented economies of scale for corporations and lower prices for consumers, the U.S. government has consistently allowed historic industry consolidation. The authors cite convincing academic evidence and clear examples (e.g. two companies control 90% of the U.S. beer market and four airlines dominate air traffic) of growing monopolistic behavior weighing on the U.S. economy and income inequality. The authors’ solution is a return to authentic capitalism. As an increasing percentage of profits flow to the most dominant companies, the takeaway for investors is clear. Find and invest in those companies that are insulated from extreme competition.

March 2019

Concentrated Investing: Strategies of the World’s Greatest Concentrated Value Investors
by Allen C. Benello, Michael van Biema, Tobias E. Carlisle

The authors profile eight diverse investors with concentrated styles and amazing track records. These Hall-of-Fame investors range from professional money managers to math geniuses and industrial executives. The group shares one compelling attribute: an ability to think independently and focus on their 10 to 15 best ideas at any given time.

February 2019

China’s Great Wall of Debt: Shadow Banks, Ghost Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle
by Dinny McMahon

Famed short seller Jim Chanos remarked that China’s economy was on a “treadmill to hell” back in 2010. Celebrated hedge fund investor George Soros warned that “a hard landing is practically unavoidable” two years later. China has kicked the can down the road since then and added $12 trillion worth of debt to its economy since 2008 (roughly the same size as the U.S. banking system), but the day of reckoning has not yet come. The author explains how one-party rule has led to insolvent banks, zombie companies, and ghost cities. Foreign investors in China should proceed with caution as the Chinese economic miracle must eventually contend with its mountain of debt.

January 2019

Astroball: The New Way to Win It All
by Ben Reiter

Human judgment and big data combine to transform the Houston Astros from the worst baseball team in a half century to World Series champs in just three years. There are lessons for the investment industry. The combination of statistical analysis AND human judgment can deliver superior performance versus relying solely on big data (quants) or human judgment alone. Commitment to an evidence-based process in the face of adversity is required to achieve the long-term objectives of an investment management firm or a Major League Baseball team.

December 2018

One Buck at a Time: An Insider’s Account of How Dollar Tree Remade American Retail
by Macon Brock and Earl Swift

Ever wondered how Dollar Tree sells everything for just a dollar? So did the three founders when they opened their first dollar store in 1986. Like a great value investor, co-founder and author Macon Brock searched around the world for ‘off-the-beaten-path’ quality merchandise at incredible prices that would surprise and delight Dollar Tree shoppers. The company has maintained the same $1 price point and the best margins in all of retail more than three decades later.

My Father’s Business: The Small-Town Values That Built Dollar General into a Billion-Dollar Company
by Cal Turner Jr., Rob Simbeck

Written by Cal Turner Jr., the former CEO of Dollar General and the son of its founder, the book tells the amazing story of how the Turner family of Scottsville, KY grew Dollar General from its rural Kentucky roots into a national retailer with a $30 B market value. The experiences of Cal Turner Jr., his father, and grandfather provide many useful lessons in business management as they navigated the company through decades of change in the retail industry.

November 2018

Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side
by Howard Marks

Noted distressed debt investor and author Howard Marks’ investment track record suggests an ability to put the “odds in his favor.” While some on staff hoped for a deeper dive into cycle analysis, Marks chose to keep the material at a high level. Successful investors must recognize how the odds shift as cycles unfold and position portfolios appropriately. Marks urges investors to consider the role of the credit cycle and current valuation levels when determining the “aggressiveness” or “defensiveness” of a portfolio.

October 2018

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup
by John Carreyrou

The author is the WSJ journalist that exposed the Theranos fraud through unrelenting investigative journalism. Much like Einhorn’s Fooling Some of the People All of the Time regarding Allied Capital, Theranos relied on misleading statements, wildly optimistic projections, and outright fraud to deceive large companies and otherwise smart individuals (e.g. Safeway, Walgreens, Theranos board members and investors). Carreyrou’s investigative work is a testament to the value of thorough research.

June 2018

Common Stocks and Common Sense: The Strategies, Analyses, Decisions, and Emotions of a Particularly Successful Value Investor
by Edgar Wachenheim III

An enjoyable book in which Wachenheim shares his take on how investors can improve their investment practices.

June 2018

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
by Phil Knight

A popular read among River Road’s investment team, Shoe Dog is a memoir by Nike founder Phil Knight about his earliest days at the company. The book highlights values we emphasize at River Road, including entrepreneurship, building passionate teams with complementary skill sets, and embracing innovation. The book also highlights the role luck plays in any fledgling venture.


Weekly Reading Recommendations

River Road’s investment team members share the articles they’re reading.

September 19, 2019

The growing market for clean energy portfolios (rmi.org)

Unicorns and now spaceships going public (finance.yahoo.com) (fool.com)

The affordable housing crisis (curbed.com)

Blueprint for successful dividend investing (dividendgrowthinvestor.com)

Streaming video will end up like the bad old days of TV (nytimes.com; tiered subscription)

September 12, 2019

Historic start to this trading week (zerohedge.com)

When corporations changed their social role (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

The risk of outsourced thinking (sabercapitalmgt.com)

Don’t fall into the intelligence trap (oakmark.com)
Debunking the passive is a bubble myth (awealthofcommonsense.com)(bnnbloomberg.ca)

September 5, 2019

Fate of largest ETF tied to 11 random millennials (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

Stock talk tips (hvst.com)

Older people are embracing video games (nbcnews.com)

Bond stars are underperforming (reuters.com)

Chicken sandwich mania at Popeye’s (sun-sentinel.com)

August 29, 2019

Broyhill argues for value’s resurrection (broyhillasset.com)

The housing market is getting back to normal (businessinsider.com)

Cities say no to 5G (wsj.com; subscription required)

McKinsey on resilient companies and asset management analytics (mckinsey.com)

Japanification is spreading globally (ft.com; subscription required)

August 22, 2019

Don’t freak out about the yield curve (calculatedriskblog.com)  

WeWork is all about Adam (oversharing.substack.com)

Is David Swenson horrible for investing? (institutionalinvestor.com) 

Oakmark’s Nygren explains how value investing has evolved (morningstar.com)

Germany sells bonds offering negative yields (nytimes.com: tiered subscription) (wsj.com; subscription required)

August 15, 2019

Asset managers on brink of historic shakeout (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)  

Investing in a negative rate world (awealthofcommonsense.com) (wsj.com; subscription required)

Small value stocks are cheap (advisorperspectives.com) 

The best finance books in one sentence (awealthofcommonsense.com)

Bill Miller on The Fed’s rate cuts (millervalue.com)  

August 8, 2019

Why we should fear easy money (nytimes.com; tiered subscription)

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble (researchaffiliates.com)

Howard Marks on the Fed and rates (oaktreecapital.com)

My questions about negative-yielding debt (awealthofcommonsense.com)

Pay-to-play is hurting investors (barrons.com)

Ron Howard and Brian Grazer want to be the center of the streaming era (nytimes.com; tiered subscription)

August 1, 2019

The greatly exaggerated death of value investing (millervalue.com)

Japanese rates present a warning for the world (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

The cannabis opportunity (mebfaber.com)

22 books that expand your mind (getpocket.com)

50 most valuable sports teams (forbes.com)

July 25, 2019

Value stocks haven’t traded this low in nearly half a century (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) (fa-mag.com)  

Interesting summary of opioid crisis (cbsnews.com)

EBITDA add-backs are so hot right now (ft.com; subscription required)

Horizon Kinetics on the current internet bubble (horizonkinetics.com)

The U.S. is overflowing with natural gas (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

July 18, 2019

From negative-yielding junk to levered loans, the global bond market is alarming (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

The compelling case for even lower bond yields and stock prices  (hoisingtonmgt.com) (hussmanfunds.com)  

Buybacks are the new dividend – an inside view of Delta’s buyback (ft.com; subscription required) (sullimarcapital.group) 

Does HHC teach us anything about other land banks(yetanothervalueblog.com)  

Why factor investing isn’t working (institutionalinvestor.com) 

July 11, 2019

Oakmark on the value of being a generalist (oakmark.com) 

Annual Sequoia Fund transcript (sequoiafund.com) 

Beware of the Dr. Fox Effect (broyhillasset.com) 

Global recession risks are up, and central banks aren’t ready (markets.businessinsider.com) (nytimes.com; tiered subscription) 

Morningstar is changing its ratings (morningstar.com) 

June 27, 2019

Are small caps and transports waving the red flag for the broader market? (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Consumers are becoming wise to your nudge (behavioralscientist.org) 

An extreme in fear and pessimism (fat-pitch.blogspot.com) 

Lack of standardized reporting holds back ESG integration (fundfire.com; subscription required) 

Midstream payouts inflecting (bpcfunds.com) 

June 20, 2019

Even Yale can’t keep up with the S&P 500 (morningstar.com) 

The South’s economy is falling behind (wsj.com; tiered subscription) 

International dividend yields are attractive (bespokepremium.com) 

Guy Spier’s annual report (aqfd.com; registration required) 

Letter to a young investor (advisorperspectives.com) 

June 13, 2019

ESG investing performance analyzed (a bit more on the topic) (morningstar.com) 

The making of Amazon Prime (vox.com) 

Europe inflation expectations at record low (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Bill Miller still betting big (wsj.com; tiered subscription) 

Can Buffett beat 2% over 25 years in Europe? (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

June 6, 2019

The coddling of the American investor (theirrelevantinvestor.com) 

It’s like Moneyball for cattle (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Druckenmiller sells all of his equities (zerohedge.com) 

The two-fund portfolio just had its best decade (morningstar.com) 

The Kentucky Derby, as told by the horses (newyorker.com)

May 30, 2019

Big changes to U.S. retirement system (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

Making billions at the dollar store (fortune.com)

How Aldi is upending America’s supermarkets (edition.cnn.com)

The inverted yield curve (researchaffiliates.com)

Death by a 1,000 cuts (gmo.com)

May 23, 2019

Negative rates have become an addiction (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

Why isn’t Hulu better? (hbr.com; tiered subscription) 

The promise and pitfalls of 5G (knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu) 

A unique hedge fund that shares the risk of losses (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

You can’t always trend when you want (aqr.com) 

May 16, 2019

The 2018 Broyhill book club (broyhillasset.com; registration required) 

The lowest level of U.S. births in 32 years (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

What if the cycle turns(causewaycap.com) 

“I’ve never seen these kinds of valuations(institutionalinvestor.com; tiered subscription) 

A tale of two crashes (wsj.com; tiered subscription) 

May 9, 2019

The Berkshire transcript (thehobbyistinvestor.com)

An interesting proxy fight in the oil patch and the “dissident’s” response (dallasnews.com; horizonkinetics.com) 

How Schwab ate Wall Street (wsj.com; tiered subscription) 

The man who solved Jeopardy (fivethirtyeight.com) 

Conversation with short-seller John Hempton (realvision.com; registration required)

May 2, 2019

Vanguard patented a method to avoid mutual fund taxes (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Buybacks may be the best bet for Berkshire to outperform (ft.com; subscription required) 

The active dangers of passive investing (advisorperspectives.com) 

International dividends look attractive (thornburg.com) 

Kids are “so over” driving (wsj.com; tiered subscription) 

April 25, 2019

Even God would get fired as an active investor (alphaarchitect.com) 

The U.S. is the best example of MMT at work (themacrotourist.com) 

Read this before you become an Uber driver (oversharing.substack.com) 

Bill Miller explains his advantages (bizjournals.com; tiered subscription

Behind Paul Singer’s fearsome reputation (advisorperspectives.com)

April 18, 2019

Chou takes an honest look at his results (pg. 10)? (choufunds.com) 

Price-to-book is dead (advisors.leutholdgroup.com) 

Disney and the Future of TV (stratechery.com) 
Musk versus Einhorn (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Hoisington examines the results of too much debt (hoisingtonmgt.com) 

April 11, 2019

The decade of de-leveraging that wasn’t (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription) 

Net buybacks and the seven dwarfs (wsj.com; subscription required) 

An upside to sequence of return risk (morningstar.com; tiered subscription) 

The stocks manage themselves (awealthofcommonsense.com) 

The Berkshire buyback no one is talking about (fool.com) 

April 4, 2019

What is Amazon(zackkanter.com) 

Is 5G really a threat for cable companies? (lightreading.com) 

Death, taxes, and a few other things (collaborativefund.com)

Why Disney+ will succeed (redef.com)

Is this inversion more like 1998? (themacrotourist.com)

March 28, 2019

The Fed’s new normal (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

Most stocks underperform the market (awealthofcommonsense.com)

Will the 6% real estate commission last? (marketwatch.com)

The problem for small-town banks (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

The man with the perfect bracket (ncaa.com)

March 21, 2019

Counterintuitive competitive advantages (collaborativefund.com) 

Kraft Heinz lessons (aswathdamodaran.blogspot.com) 

How Sears lost the American shopper (wsj.com; tiered subscription)

March Madness and active investing (oakmark.com) 

Spinning gold (broyhillasset.com) 

March 14, 2019

Value stocks are cheapest versus growth in 14 years (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

Entertaining conversation with the former Bond King (ft.com; subscription required)

The family that built an empire of pain (newyorker.com; tiered subscription)

Is it worth it to be a famous fund manager anymore? (awealthofcommonsense.com)

How concentrated should you make your value portfolio? (investorfieldguide.com)

March 7, 2019

The fading American beer industry (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

Not caring about having an imperfect portfolio (collaborativefund.com)

An inside look at the Reds’ scouting database (theringer.com)

The Gates annual letter (gatesnotes.com)

Scratch the 401(k) (wsj.com; subscription required)

February 28, 2019

The final months at Theranos (vanityfair.com)

Buffett and Munger discuss their current thoughts (cnbc.com)

The compounding wonders of buy-and-hold (forbes.com)

Issues with CPG investing (intrinsicinvesting.com; rogermontgomery.com)

The pros/cons of ESG investing (whitecoatinvestor.com)

February 21, 2019

Beware of recessionary bias among analysts (blogs.uoregon.edu)

The dreaded earnings recession (awealthofcommonsense.com)

Both the right and the left have issues with MMT (mauldineconomics.com, nytimes.com)

Why people still don’t buy groceries online (theatlantic.com)

China’s demographic danger grows (wsj.com; subscription required)

February 14, 2019

Why time horizon works (collaborativefund.com)

Does more information lead to better investment decisions? (behaviouralinvestment.com)

ESG flows continue to set records (morningstar.com; tiered subscription)

Factor investing has failed to live up to its promises (researchaffiliates.com)

The price that makes hedge funds a steal (institutionalinvestor.com)

February 7, 2019

Everything you wanted to know about MMT (themacrotourist.com)

Are “low-volatility” stocks overvalued? (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

Legendary investor Rodriguez still thinks the equity market is delusional (thinkadvisor.com)

Was this a dead cat bounce? (theirrelevantinvestor.com)

The Permian is on track to be the world’s #1 oil field within three years (nytimes.com; tiered subscription)

January 31, 2019

Fed considering Trump’s “stop with the 50 B’s” (wsj.com; subscription required)

Munger likes this book (wsj.com; subscription required)

Bill Miller in the wilderness (institutionalinvestor.com; tiered subscription)

Does the U.S. just lick the glass like everyone else? (mebfaber.com)

The worst alternative investments (morningstar.com; tiered subscription)

January 24, 2019

GMO suggests the stock market bubble may be bursting (advisorperspectives.com)

Shiller on bubbles (blogs.cfainstitute.org)

Will these earnings last? (crestmontresearch.com)

Research Affiliates’ winning formula (researchaffiliates.com)

Romick on value investing (mebfaber.com)

January 17, 2019

Shutdowns get bad exponentially (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

Bill Miller thinks courage will be rewarded in the year of the pig (millervalue.com)

Hoisington explains how we’ll end up back at zero rates (hoisingtonmgt.com)

20% / year stock-picker wishes his edge would disappear (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

2018 marked the first year since 2006 with no bank failures (calculatedriskblog.com)

January 10, 2019

Gundlach’s forecast for 2019 (advisorperspectives.com, valuewalk.com)

Europe’s largest economy may be slipping into recession (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

IRS refunds may take longer this year (wsj.com; subscription required)

How important is sequence of returns risk? (obliviousinvestor.com)

Big landlords are starting to build new entry-level houses (wsj.com; subscription required)

January 3, 2019

Does the yield curve really forecast recession? (research.stlouisfed.org)

A history of bear market bottoms (theirrelevantinvestor.com)

Canada’s Buffett drives his own pickup truck (bloomberg.com; tiered subscription)

How much of the internet is fake(nymag.com; tiered subscription)

We can see things other people can’t see (barrons.com; subscription required)



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