78 books like The Smartest Guys in the Room

By Peter Elkind, Bethany McLean,

Here are 78 books that The Smartest Guys in the Room fans have personally recommended if you like The Smartest Guys in the Room. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of J R

Travis Jeppesen Author Of Settlers Landing

From my list on when you need a heavy dose of satire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Given the state of the world today, laughter truly is the best coping mechanism. The best satire is all about excess in design, intention, characterization, and deployment of attitude. The more extreme, the better; leave restraint to the prudish moralists! 

Travis' book list on when you need a heavy dose of satire

Travis Jeppesen Why did Travis love this book?

If American Psycho is too bloody an evocation of hyper-capitalism for your stomach, try this tragically under-appreciated door-stopper of a novel, in which an eleven-year-old becomes a millionaire by playing the stock market. Written almost wholly in unattributed dialogue! As with Pynchon, everything written by Gaddis deserves to be on this list; alas, alas. 

By William Gaddis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked J R as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A National Book Award-winning satire about the unchecked power of American capitalism, written more than three decades before the 2008 financial crisis.

At the center of J R is J R Vansant, a very average sixth grader from Long Island with torn sneakers, a runny nose, and a juvenile fascination with junk-mail get-rich-quick offers. Responding to one, he sees a small return; soon, he is running a paper empire out of a phone booth in the school hallway. Everyone from the school staff to the municipal government to the squabbling heirs of a player-piano company to the titans of Wall…


Book cover of Memoirs Of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

Frank Partnoy Author Of The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

From my list on financial schemes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Frank Partnoy is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where he co-runs an annual conference on financial fraud and teaches business law. He has written four trade press books (WAITThe Match KingInfectious Greed, and F.I.A.S.C.O.), dozens of scholarly publications, and multiple articles each for The AtlanticThe New York Review of BooksHarvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as more than fifty opinion pieces for The New York Times and the Financial Times. Partnoy has appeared on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and has testified as an expert before both houses of Congress. He is a member of the Financial Economists Roundtable and has been an international research fellow at Oxford University since 2010.

Frank's book list on financial schemes

Frank Partnoy Why did Frank love this book?

This is the oldest book on my list, a nineteenth-century compilation of lunacy of all sorts, with a focus on financial lunacy. Mackay aptly compares widespread mass delusions (think Nostradamus, or alchemy) to financial bubbles, including the frenzies surrounding the South Sea Company in England and tulip bulbs in Holland. Some scholars question the historical accuracy of Mackay’s stories, particularly about valuable tulip bulbs being accidentally eaten, but he has the money quote of all time regarding financial scandals: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” If you want a more scholarly description of how speculative bubbles form and burst, try Charles P. Kindleberger’s Manias, Panics, and Crashes. But if you want to be shocked and entertained, read Mackay.

By Charles Mackay,,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Memoirs Of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Charles MacKay's groundbreaking examination of a staggering variety of popular delusions, crazes and mass follies is presented here in full with no abridgements. The text concentrates on a wide variety of phenomena which had occurred over the centuries prior to this book's publication in 1841. Mackay begins by examining economic bubbles, such as the infamous Tulipomania, wherein Dutch tulips rocketed in value amid claims they could be substituted for actual currency. As we progress further, the scope of the book broadens into several more exotic fields of mass self-deception. Mackay turns his attention to the witch hunts of the 17th…


Book cover of The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust

Alan Prendergast Author Of Gangbuster: One Man's Battle Against Crime, Corruption, and the Klan

From my list on con artists, swindlers, and other big fat liars.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was a stage magician, and I grew up looking for the gimmick behind the marvel. As a journalist, I gravitated toward true crime and the many varieties of fraud, deception, and misdirection on display in any high-stakes criminal trial. I am particularly fascinated by elaborate cons, whether they involve sideshow mitt readers, political hucksters, or cryptocurrency barons. When I found out that a century ago my hometown was the center of a Big Con operation that raked in millions, I had to learn more. The result is my book Gangbuster

Alan's book list on con artists, swindlers, and other big fat liars

Alan Prendergast Why did Alan love this book?

Out of all the investigative reporting that emerged from the 2008 financial meltdown, Henriques’ account of the scheme that out-Ponzied Ponzi is the book that stays with me.

The Madoff story is about brazen lies and insatiable greed, to be sure, but Henriques’ approach is nuanced, thorough, yet accessible, showing the complacency (one might say complicity) of investors and regulators, dazzled or cowed by Madoff’s magic.

How do you pull off a $65 billion scam? With a lot of help. 

By Diana B. Henriques,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Wizard of Lies as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Who is Bernie Madoff, and how did he pull off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history? In "The Wizard of Lies", Diana B. Henriques of "The New York Times" - who has led the paper's coverage of the Madoff scandal since the day the story broke - has written the definitive book on the man and his scheme, drawing on unprecedented access and more than one hundred interviews with people at all levels and on all sides of the crime, including Madoff's first interviews for publication since his arrest. Henriques also provides vivid details from the various lawsuits, government investigations,…


Book cover of Once in Golconda: The Great Crash of 1929 and its aftershocks

Frank Partnoy Author Of The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

From my list on financial schemes.

Why am I passionate about this?

Frank Partnoy is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where he co-runs an annual conference on financial fraud and teaches business law. He has written four trade press books (WAITThe Match KingInfectious Greed, and F.I.A.S.C.O.), dozens of scholarly publications, and multiple articles each for The AtlanticThe New York Review of BooksHarvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as more than fifty opinion pieces for The New York Times and the Financial Times. Partnoy has appeared on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and has testified as an expert before both houses of Congress. He is a member of the Financial Economists Roundtable and has been an international research fellow at Oxford University since 2010.

Frank's book list on financial schemes

Frank Partnoy Why did Frank love this book?

There should be at least one book about the 1920s on this list, and this one deserves mention because it elegantly brings to life several of the most interesting characters from that era. There are some dubious ones, such as Jesse Livermore, the “Boy Plunger” who operated bucket shops, shady financial firms that manipulated stocks with fake news. And there are more legitimate leaders of the era: Pierpont Morgan’s son, Jack, and his brainier partner, Tom Lamont, and the power brokers of Kuhn Loeb. Brooks vividly skewers all of them. He misspelled “Golkonda,” but the essence of his story nails the excesses of the era, and is an apt reminder of how much wealth and economic inequality can result from the Federal Reserve going wild with loose monetary policy.

By John Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once in Golconda as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Once in Golconda "In this book, John Brooks-who was one of the most elegant of all business writers-perfectly catches the flavor of one of history's best-known financial dramas: the 1929 crash and its aftershocks. It's packed with parallels and parables for the modern reader."

Once in Golconda is a dramatic chronicle of the breathtaking rise, devastating fall, and painstaking rebirth of Wall Street in the years between the wars. Focusing on the lives and fortunes of some of the era's most memorable traders, bankers, boosters, and frauds, John Brooks brings to vivid life all the ruthlessness, greed, and reckless euphoria…


Book cover of Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Why am I passionate about this?

As a hospital clinical lab director, I have a mission to promote the value of my profession. Are we more important than our soldiers protecting our country? Politicians who make laws? Judges who help maintain law and order? I argue that the health of our families is near or at the top of our priorities. While we ask our doctors to achieve this goal, they ask us every day to help them. The lab is not about boiling tubes and colored flasks. The 8 books I have written and the 5 that I have selected illustrate, in an entertaining manner, who we really are and why we matter.  

Alan's book list on learning how clinical labs really work and why this is important to you and your family

Alan H.B. Wu Why did Alan love this book?

Mr. Carreyrou was the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke the story that eventually led to the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos. At its peak, this company was worth over $9 billion. Today, Holmes and her former COO have been convicted of fraud and are serving time.

I like this book because it serves as a curriculum for how NOT to operate a biotech company. It shows that while belief in your vision is essential for all successful entrepreneurs, there is no place for secrecy and arrogance in the business world.

Unfortunately, the “Theranos” effect has led to a decline in investment in new medical technology and has had a negative effect on the value of clinical laboratories.

By John Carreyrou,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Bad Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking true story behind The Dropout, starring the Emmy award-winning Amanda Seyfried, Naveen Andrews and Stephen Fry.

'I couldn't put down this thriller . . . a book so compelling that I couldn't turn away' - Bill Gates

Winner of the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award 2018

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of Theranos, the multibillion-dollar biotech startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end, despite pressure from its charismatic CEO and threats by her lawyers.

In 2014,…


Book cover of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Eric Eyre Author Of Death in Mud Lick: A Coal Country Fight Against the Drug Companies That Delivered the Opioid Epidemic

From my list on the opioid crisis written by journalists.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a West Virginia-based journalist. I have covered the opioid epidemic for nearly 10 years. In 2017, I was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for stories about massive shipments of OxyContin and other painkillers to small towns in Appalachia. 

Eric's book list on the opioid crisis written by journalists

Eric Eyre Why did Eric love this book?

The New Yorker writer and author of the New York Times bestseller Say Anything—unveils the secrets and lies of the Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma. Keefe is a master of narrative storytelling and an incredible researcher, and this book made me want to scream at the greed and callousness of the Sacklers. Many see the family as downright evil, and understandably so. Since Keefe’s book came out, a number of museums and organizations have tried to distance themselves from the Sacklers. Keefe also testified before a congressional committee that aimed to hold the Sacklers accountable for the opioid crisis. Keefe poured through hundreds of thousands of documents—including messages sent from one family member to another—as part of his definitive investigation of the Sacklers. I admire reporters like Keefe who are willing to do the tedious work of scouring records.

By Patrick Radden Keefe,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Empire of Pain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of Say Nothing.

"A real-life version of the HBO series Succession with a lethal sting in its tail…a masterful work of narrative reportage.” – Laura Miller, Slate

The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom…


Book cover of The Informant: A True Story

Samuel Buell Author Of Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

From my list on corporate crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the law and enforcement of corporate crime as a law professor. At the outset of the course, I tell the students that corporate crime is a problem, not a body of law. You have to start by thinking about the problem. How do these things occur? What is the psychology, both individual and institutional? What are the economic incentives at each level and with each player? What role do lawyers play? When do regulatory arrangements cause rather than prevent this kind of thing?  If the locution were not too awkward, I might call the field “scandalology.” I love every one of these books because they do such a great job of telling the human stories through which we can ask the most interesting and important questions about how corporate crimes happen.

Samuel's book list on corporate crime

Samuel Buell Why did Samuel love this book?

There is a partial myth, eagerly promoted by corporate interests and their lawyers, that federal prosecutors are frighteningly all-powerful and basically cannot be defeated. The veteran financial and legal reporter Eichenwald knows otherwise. The Informant, in contrast to the almost farcical (if enjoyable!) Stephen Soderbergh movie based on the book, lays out a textbook case of how prosecutors can blow an important case due to infighting, problems with unreliable informants, and clever high-priced defense lawyering that exploits every error that less-than-superb prosecutors might make. Here we have a tale of CEO-level officials at major global corporations caught on videotape flagrantly conspiring to violate antitrust laws and, in the end, almost no one ends up in prison. Eichenwald details the countless blunders by many Justice Department lawyers spread across several offices, and the clever maneuvering throughout by crack corporate defenders. He too, by the way, paints a fascinating portrait of…

By Kurt Eichenwald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Informant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Informant is Mark Whitacre, a senior executive with America's most powerful food giant, who put his career and his family's safety at risk to become a confidential government witness. Using Whitacre's secret recordings and a team of agents, the FBI uncovered the corporation's scheme to steal millions of dollars from its own customers. But as the FBI closed in on their target, they suddenly realized that Whitacre wasn't quite playing the game they'd thought ...This is the gripping account of how a corporate golden boy became an FBI mole and went on to double-cross both the authorities and his…


Book cover of Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader

Samuel Buell Author Of Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America's Corporate Age

From my list on corporate crime.

Why am I passionate about this?

I teach the law and enforcement of corporate crime as a law professor. At the outset of the course, I tell the students that corporate crime is a problem, not a body of law. You have to start by thinking about the problem. How do these things occur? What is the psychology, both individual and institutional? What are the economic incentives at each level and with each player? What role do lawyers play? When do regulatory arrangements cause rather than prevent this kind of thing?  If the locution were not too awkward, I might call the field “scandalology.” I love every one of these books because they do such a great job of telling the human stories through which we can ask the most interesting and important questions about how corporate crimes happen.

Samuel's book list on corporate crime

Samuel Buell Why did Samuel love this book?

Partnoy, a distinguished law professor at Berkeley, is a brilliant chronicler of the people and products in modern financial markets. One could read any of his books and say they were among the best ones on the market and corporate chicanery. But I love his first book, in which he tells the tale of his brief time trading derivatives—back in the very early days of those now world-famous products—among the unsavory characters of a Wall Street trading floor. The story has been told by others since (Wolf of Wall Street, Big Short, etc.) but Partnoy may have done it first. And seeing that world through his young, brilliant, and impressionistic eyes is wonderful. His firm tried to block him from publishing the book, but he did it and has gone on to a magnificent academic career in which he continues to tell it like it is, understanding the…

By Frank Partnoy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fiasco as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

FIASCO is the shocking story of one man's education in the jungles of Wall Street. As a young derivatives salesman at Morgan Stanley, Frank Partnoy learned to buy and sell billions of dollars worth of securities that were so complex many traders themselves didn't understand them. In his behind-the-scenes look at the trading floor and the offices of one of the world's top investment firms, Partnoy recounts the macho attitudes and fiercely competitive ploys of his office mates. And he takes us to the annual drunken skeet-shooting competition, FIASCO, where he and his colleagues sharpen the killer instincts they are…


Book cover of Energy: A Human History

Jeffrey Bennett Author Of A Global Warming Primer: Pathway to a Post-Global Warming Future

From my list on the science, consequences, and solutions to global warming.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an astronomer and educator (Ph.D. Astrophysics, University of Colorado), and I’ve now been teaching about global warming for more than 40 years (in courses on astronomy, astrobiology, and mathematics). While it’s frustrating to see how little progress we’ve made in combatting the ongoing warming during this time, my background as an astronomer gives me a “cosmic perspective” that reminds me that decades are not really so long, and that we still have time to act and to build a “post-global warming future.” I hope my work can help inspire all of us to act while we still can for the benefit of all.

Jeffrey's book list on the science, consequences, and solutions to global warming

Jeffrey Bennett Why did Jeffrey love this book?

I learned a lot from this book about the development of energy sources over the centuries, and how this history both leads to our current predicament with climate change and offers a path to solutions.

This history also points out that this is not the first time that we’ve needed to transition from one energy economy to another, and our past successes show that we can be successful again. I also enjoyed the descriptions of potential future solutions, including the book’s excellent discussion of nuclear energy.

By Richard Rhodes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Energy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A "meticulously researched" (The New York Times Book Review) examination of energy transitions over time and an exploration of the current challenges presented by global warming, a surging world population, and renewable energy-from Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning author Richard Rhodes.

People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable…


Book cover of How to Blow Up a Pipeline

Zilla Novikov and Rachel A. Rosen Author Of The Sad Bastard Cookbook: Food You Can Make So You Don't Die

From my list on how you can DIY through troubled times.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have backgrounds in writing, activism, and being messed up, so making The Sad Bastard Cookbook together made sense. Our inspiration was partly realizing that most of the recipes purporting to be “good for mental health” require a laundry list of unusual ingredients and a drawer full of spoons, and partly meeting someone who didn't know about cooking eggs in instant ramen. So we crowdsourced recipes from our community, added our naturally witty, radically progressive commentary, and roped in Marten Norr as illustrator. The ebook's free—we know that dealing with poverty, overwork, mental health issues, physical disability, and exhaustion is hard enough without scraping up money for your emotional-support cookbook.

Zilla's book list on how you can DIY through troubled times

Zilla Novikov and Rachel A. Rosen Why did Zilla love this book?

So you’ve screwed up the planet.

Well, you didn’t screw up the planet—generations of greedy corporations and complicit politicians did. But now you’re stuck on a rapidly heating earth with climate chaos, floods, drought, wildfire, and increasingly draconian responses to the migrant crisis.

While the environmentalist movement has historically pursued a strategy of absolute non-violence, Malm argues for increased militancy when the stakes are nothing less than apocalyptic. A passionate manifesto in favour of sabotage, Malm’s book is a clear-eyed critique of both pacifism and despair.

It’s not exactly a how-to guide, but it contains very smart top-level strategies for both collective action and individual motivation.

By Andreas Malm,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked How to Blow Up a Pipeline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now. Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven't we moved beyond peaceful protest?

In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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