by Gary Alexander

December 15, 2020

For several decades, I’ve read at least 100 good books a year, since I know that the Internet and Cable TV keep trying to trivialize our minds with minutiae. With the COVID-19 lockdown pushing us into a soft form of monk-like existence in our library dens since mid-March, it has been easy to read a lot more than 100 books this year, including some historical surveys of past pandemics. Of at least 115 books I’ve read so far in 2020, here are 10 new books I can recommend, in the order I read them, plus two or three older ones.

Fed Watching for Fun and Profit: A Primer for Investors, by Ed Yardeni (published March 13, 2020, 259 pages) is the first book on this list I read in 2020 since Ed kindly sent me the page proofs in January before my annual vacation on “The Jazz Cruise” in the Caribbean – which turned out to be my only jaunt outside my hometown this year. This is an exceptional reference work for all the recent Fed regimes and their policies – warts and all – and a profitable guide to their current leanings. The book’s release was perfectly timed to the challenges of the Powell era and the massive liquidity expansion during the Covid pandemic.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (January 21, 401 pages) is the sole novel on the list, but I feel it is an important personal look into why millions of Latin American migrants willingly risk life and limb, and all they own, for safety and relative prosperity in America, although many born here denigrate their homeland.

In contrast, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, by Anne Case and Angus Deaton (March 17, 314 pages) profiles the rising deaths in America due to suicide, opioid addiction, alcoholism, and other forms of “giving up” on life, despite our rising prosperity – partly due to our widening income disparities.

How Innovation Works: And Why it Flourishes in Freedom, by Matt Ridley (May 19, 406 pages) is a delightful antidote to the last two books (and some that follow). Matt, who dubbed me the creator of the term “Apocaholics Anonymous” in his previous book, “The Rational Optimist,” says here that as long as we engage in trade and specialization, we will keep reinventing ourselves and will use the earth’s resources responsibly. “Humanity’s collective intelligence will save the day, just as it has over the centuries.” Amen.

First Four Books of Ten Images

There have been plenty of bad books published this year, like “The Case for Looting” and a handful of racist anti-racism books, but this “best bad book” is very well-written and very important to our investing future.

The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy, by Stephanie Kelton (June 9, 293 pages) may be the most important economics book of the year, even though I disagree with most of her propositions. Professor Kelton is the major proponent of MMT, which has taken hold of U.S. fiscal and monetary policy in this Covid-driven record-deficit-spending year – whether we like it or not.

Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, by Michael Shellenberger (June 30, 430 pages) is written by an award-winning environmentalist (he won a 2008 Green Book Award and was Time Magazine’s ‘Hero of the Environment’ in 2008), but he gradually became a whistleblower on the rising extremism in the field. This book will be timely for taming the zealots within the Biden Administration.

False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet, by Bjorn Lomborg (July 14, 233 pages) is another book which weighs true science through an economics lens, which is vitally necessary for making rational trade-offs. This book shows us how we are already doing many helpful things for the planet but, he says, the search for perfection is often the enemy of the good.

Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know, by Cass R. Sunstein (September 1, 260 pages) is a very timely book by a prolific academic author who likes to look at why people do what they do. It’s timely because we are all inundated with too much information these days and those of us over 70 especially need to guard the door of our mind with filters for what we choose to read, and what to ignore.

Next Four Books of Twelve Image

Now, I’ll turn to American History for two late-2020 books and two books about past pandemics:

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times (September 29, 1088 pages). I started this massive tome (I’m not done yet) after reading Gordon Woods’ review of it in The Wall Street Journal, which began “Some 16,000 books have been written about Abraham Lincoln — more than any other historical figure except Jesus. But there has never been one like this one by David S. Reynolds.” And he is right. Abe comes alive on every page, but always in the context of his times, which is so important in today’s myopic me-centered world.

1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, by Peter W. Wood (November 17, 272 pages) is more than a devastating critique of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, now widely taught in our schools. It provides the necessary counterweight of any good debate, or fair courtroom. Before landing on Cape Cod in November 1620, the Pilgrim heads of household signed the Mayflower Compact, which contained the core concepts of our Constitution and future freedom for all in a “civil body politic” of “just and equal laws.” A core part of American history is this struggle between 1620s abolitionists and 1619 slaveholders to bring justice to all.

Last Four Books of Twelve Image

And now – because of COVID’s rise – I’ll turn to older books about worse pandemics striking long ago:

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe (1722) is a dramatic recreation of the 1665 London bubonic plague. Ironically, most deaths came through forced confinement in homes, whereas true salvation came from escaping into the fresh air of the country. “Many people perished in these miserable confinements which, ‘tis reasonable to believe, would not have been distempered if they had had liberty.”

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry (2004, 546 pages) tells the story of how the “Spanish flu” was actually born in Fort Riley, Kansas, where our farm boys trained for service in World War I and ended up infecting Europe and the world. Spain got the blame for what we launched, just like I suppose some political leaders are now getting blamed for what China did.

If I may make this list a Baker’s Dozen, at the time I started reading “Abe,” I was deep into my second biography of George Washington – after witnessing the Father of Our Country’s statue being demolished in Portland, Oregon last June and seeing nobody in authority in that city the least bit concerned about seeing an American flag set afire around his fallen head. First, I read Joseph Ellis’ fine biography, “His Excellency George Washington,” (2005, 287 pages). It was great, but I am now finishing an even better, longer book:

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow (2010, 904 pages) is the best detailed biography of Washington I’ve seen. Like his deep dives into Alexander Hamilton and Ulysses Grant, Chernow doesn’t dodge the touchy issues of slavery, but he keeps them in the context of those times and Washington’s tortured arguments on the subject. However, the overall message here is Washington’s unrelenting heroism and sacrifice of giving up his comfortable plantation life for three long odysseys as soldier, General, and President for his country.

Anyone who tears down a Washington statue may deserve a prison sentence, but I prefer he/she/they be sentenced to read this book once a year for five years, out loud, to a classroom. The way things are going, by the time my grandkids are my age, Washington DC (and Washington State) may have a new name.

General George Washington Image

Enjoy your latest lockdown. Turn off the news, pick up a book, and live a few hours in another world.

All content above represents the opinion of Gary Alexander of Navellier & Associates, Inc.

Please see important disclosures below.

Also In This Issue

A Look Ahead by Louis Navellier
Tesla’s Stock is Up, But for How Long?

Income Mail by Bryan Perry
The “Unmasking” Of Market Risks In 2021

Growth Mail by Gary Alexander
My Top 10 New Books for A Crazy Year Soon Ending

Global Mail by Ivan Martchev
Whatever Happened to Bitcoin?

Sector Spotlight by Jason Bodner
2020 in Review & My 2021 Preview (Part 1 of 2)

View Full Archive
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About The Author

Gary Alexander

Gary Alexander has been Senior Writer at Navellier since 2009.  He edits Navellier’s weekly Marketmail and writes a weekly Growth Mail column, in which he uses market history to support the case for growth stocks.  For the previous 20 years before joining Navellier, he was Senior Executive Editor at InvestorPlace Media (formerly Phillips Publishing), where he worked with several leading investment analysts, including Louis Navellier (since 1997), helping launch Louis Navellier’s Blue Chip Growth and Global Growth newsletters.

Prior to that, Gary edited Wealth Magazine and Gold Newsletter and wrote various investment research reports for Jefferson Financial in New Orleans in the 1980s.  He began his financial newsletter career with KCI Communications in 1980, where he served as consulting editor for Personal Finance newsletter while serving as general manager of KCI’s Alexandria House book division.  Before that, he covered the economics beat for news magazines. All content of “Growth Mail” represents the opinion of Gary Alexander

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