Books have been the chief driver of my intellect and what paltry accomplishments I have achieved. I cannot claim that I did anything to spur my love of reading. I was just born this way. My mother encouraged it and each week through my youth we made the trek to the Drug Fair parking lot to check out books form the bookmobile service provided by the public library. I loved that damn thing. Just a big old bus full of books free for the taking. Mom never told us what we could or could not read. Whatever struck us was fair game and I could check out some Alistair MacLean adventure novels, Churchill’s histories or even some racy Harold Robbins novels. I read everything and anything. I almost looked forward to being grounded when I was a teen. In the summer I would climb a tree in the yard and read for hours, hidden from the world. I was a teenager when I read Solzhenitsyn. I read damn near everything he ever wrote the summer between 7th and 8th grade. I still remember poor old Mr. Taylor calling me a liar when we did the first day of school “what did we read over the summer” role call. There I stood in cuffed jeans, greasy hair and Chuck Taylors talking about the Gulag Archipelago. The class ended, as did a lot the rest of the year with the hood and the teacher arguing about books while the rest of the class fucked off.
Books have been a driving force in my life. Both parents were brilliant people who were big readers. I was literally born a speed reader. To this day I read just about a book a day. I read everywhere. I have read in schools, churches and jails. I read on the beach, on planes, wherever I find myself. My apartment is a literally cluttered with books most of the time. As my son says “ya know Dad, I feel like I live in the worlds messiest library.” Without them I would probably still be that high school dropout.
Who influenced me the most? I think they all did. Shakespeare opened my eyes to the romance and excitement of words and the world they described. Hunter Thompson taught me to embrace the weirdness of it all. Ayn Rand is how I finally figured out that I was responsible for my own actions. She has some fucked up ideas about relationships and has the compassion of a damn stone but she does exude a passion for life and achievement.
In my professional life, a lot of value investors tell me that Ben Graham’s writings were their epiphany. For me it was when my mentor to be (reluctantly I promise you. I was a pain in the ass) gave me a copy of Marty Whitman’s Aggressive Conservative Investor. The concept of asset based investing just made an enormous amount of sense to me. From there I moved on to Graham and Ed Altman and learned equity and credit analysis. I loved Victor Neiderhoffer’s Education of a Speculator. His unusual and unique way of thinking about markets helped me avoid getting stuck in my ways and approach. My eventual friendship with the author after email exchanges was one of the most positive influences in my life and my career.
Then there are the just for fun writers that I read just to escape. Robert Parker (although truthfully one could learn to cook and fight reading the Spencer series). Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series has become a favorite. Travis McGee remains my hero and role model. If Christopher Moore is not the funniest son of a bitch whoever set paper to pen, he is a candidate. How can you not love a drunken lecher like Charles Bukowski? The poems of Cummings with their aggressive sensuality, Yeats with his lyrical quest for love and freedom, Baudelaire’s Be Drunk, all of these delight the mind and inflame the inner self.
In our book review section there is a temptation to throw up reviews of great and ponderous important books. But then again, fuck that. We will just post them as we read them, the good, the bad, the ugly, the serious and the silly. Hopefully you find it of some value