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End-of-year listicle season is still upon us. But rather than whip together a guide to my favorite gifts or TV shows, I thought I’d recommend some of my favorite books and pieces of writing from 2021. After all, you’ve been reading my own writing on The Pursuit for the last few months — so I thought it was time to flip the switch and recommend the work of full-time scribes and thinkers who inspired me during this last trip around the sun.

At a time when I spend most days consuming writing that is 240 characters or less, these texts stood out to me and helped me embrace some offline knowledge absorption. The following includes three of my favorite books, followed by two guest picks from some of my notable colleagues. Enjoy and see you in 2022!

Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire In Everyday Life

By Luke Burgis

This is a book about why people want what they want. Wanting takes the reader on a deep dive into the origins of desire. Author Luke Burgis’s work builds off of the philosophy of René Girard, a French philosopher and polymath who spent his life understanding and writing about the human condition and who had an uncanny ability to notice things that explained mysterious human behaviors. 

By the end of the book, Burgis shows us how we can transform our relationship with desire in ways that allow us to live a more uniform, fulfilling existence with other people — and he makes his case in a conversational and practical way. This is a must-read book that will change how you view the world today, as well as your view of history.

The Premonition: A Pandemic Story

By Michael Lewis

As if you weren’t already exhausted from reading enough pandemic headlines over the past 20 months, Michael Lewis was somehow able to produce an informational and enthralling story that follows a group of public health workers who saw the dangers of the virus before anyone else did. The author also does a great job of breaking down the history of the United States’ pandemic preparedness protocols during different presidential administrations. 

The book also provides a scathing indictment of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and how their incompetence and beuareaucratic policies helped shape our broken response to the pandemic. A great story teller, Michael Lewis delivers again on a subject that to this day continues to be extremely polarizing.

The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion

By Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell

I have been fascinated by the story of WeWork and its charismatic founder and ex-CEO Adam Neumann since they started making waves in the private markets. In The Cult of We, authors Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell take a deep dive into how WeWork was founded and how they grew it to a multi-billion dollar company with a CEO who thought he was the next coming of the Messiah. 

Whether or not you are already familiar with the rise and fall of WeWork, I promise you will come away from this book with a newfound awe of tech startup culture. For even more background, check out this brief interview I did with co-author Eliot Brown a few months ago here

Guest Picks:

Michael Batnick is the Director of Research at Ritholtz Wealth Management LLC and author of Big Mistakes: The Best Investors and Their Worst Investments. Michael is an avid reader and we have a lot of similar tastes, so I was comfortable asking for his top pick of the year. Here’s what he had to say:

"My favorite investing book of the year is Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever by Robin Wigglesworth. I thought I'd read everything on the origins and ideas behind the index fund, but I was wrong. I thought I'd read everything about Jack Bogle and the relationship he had with Vanguard, the company he created. I was wrong. Index funds aren't the most exciting topic in the world, but Wigglesworth took a scone and made it a cupcake."

Bonus Guest Pick:

Morgan Housel is a partner at Collaborative Fund and a former columnist at The Motley Fool and the Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of the extremely popular best-selling book The Psychology of Money, which has sold over 1 million copies worldwide. Here’s what he had to say about his top book pick of the year. 

"Though it didn’t come out in 2021, one of the best books I've read in recent years is Crashing Through: The Extraordinary True Story of the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson. Kurson is one of the best storytellers of our age. I think he's right up there with Michael Lewis. And this story is remarkable. It's about a man named Michael May who went 100% blind when he was a baby, only to regain sight at age 43 after an experimental surgery. So he's seeing the world for the first time as an adult. That alone would be incredible. But there are so many counterintuitive twists. There are so many little nuances that you and I know about the world that we've picked up over the years and never think about. But if you're seeing the world for the first time as an adult, the world is so confusing."

"Michael May struggles to tell the difference between a man and a woman's face. If I asked you to explain to me, in words, how a man's face is different from a woman's, you'd likely struggle. But from an early age you can do it in real life, no problem."

"How do you explain the difference between a dog and a cat? They both have four legs, a tail, fur, etc. When you see them for the first time, it's hard to tell which is which. And one of the craziest parts: You'd think regaining sight would be an utter miracle, the best news of his life. In some ways it is. But May also grew comfortable in his blinded world, using a guide dog and navigating the world without sight. Using his eyes for the first time was, in many ways, a burden, overwhelming his senses. At times he wishes he could go back. I highly recommend this nuanced story about the senses and perception."

Thanks for reading this list of recommendations. Stay tuned for more articles I’ll be penning for The Pursuit in 2022, and let me know your favorite reads in the comments and on Twitter

~ Ramp Capital

 Follow Ramp Capital on Twitter

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