Desert island reading: An investment team’s perspective

As investors head off for their holidays, our team recommends beach reads to help you reframe the uncertain global environment and look at today’s problems in new ways. We hope there’s a title for every taste, covering topics including investment, leadership, technology, economics, the lessons of history and sport. We hope you enjoy our selection.

Go to the profile of James Illsley
Jul 16, 2018

Malcolm Smith – Head of International Equity Group

‘Winning!’ by Clive Woodward.

Books that try to make the connection between sports and business often fall short, but this book by former small business manager and England rugby coach Clive Woodward makes the grade. Woodward details the challenges he encountered to build English rugby from an amateur sport running at below potential (although they did not think that at the time) to the peak of professionalism, ultimately culminating in World Cup victory in 2003. Covering topics such as leadership, teamwork, culture and dealing with the inevitable dark days on the journey, this is a must read for anyone seeking to challenge the status quo and raise the bar.

John Baker – Portfolio Manager – UK Dynamic and Income strategies

‘Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People’ by Julia Boyd

This book brings together unpublished memoirs and diaries of outsiders in the Third Reich, including accounts from diplomats, scholars and tourists as well as schoolchildren and students.  Their accounts give a different insight into the Third Reich from 1919 to its ultimate destruction in 1945. The book was one of the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Best Books of 2017’ and a Guardian ‘Readers’ Choice’ Best Book of 2017.  It analyses the question: ‘Without the benefit of hindsight, how do you interpret what’s right in front of your eyes?’ Quite appropriate with some of the current turmoil and uncertainty over how the world will look in another 20 years.  

Georgina Brittain – Portfolio Manager – UK Small and Mid Cap strategies

‘Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World - And Why Things Are Better Than You Think’ by Hans Rosling

A number one Sunday Times, New York Times and Wall Street bestseller.  Also the BBC Radio 4 ‘Book of the week’.  Another insight into some simple topics relating to global trends that humans cannot get right but a chimpanzee choosing answers at random would! In the world of Trump/Brexit/global trade wars, it is good to remember it is not all bad and that we worry too much rather than focusing on facts and those things that can really negatively impact us. Perhaps worth a read for anyone feeling unsettled by the uncertainty of Brexit.  No guarantees though!

Blake Crawford – Portfolio Manager – UK Dynamic strategies

‘Black Box Thinking’ by Matthew Syed

Syed’s key point in the book is that travelling by plane, which appears incredibly dangerous versus alternatives, has become the safest form of travel because of the lessons learnt from past failures. You learn a lot more from failures than from success—and by analyzing failures you can ensure that the same problems do not consistently reoccur. I found some interesting parallels in the book with the investment world and behavioural finance. 

Joanna Crompton – Portfolio Manager – Specialist in Sustainable Investing

‘Prisoners of Geography: Ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics’ by Tim Marshall

The international and Sunday Times bestseller delves into how countries’ geography has shaped their history, politics and the decisions of their leaders.  As the world becomes more global, the book looks into how important geography is to the political landscape—and perhaps provides some answers to how today’s turbulence arose. 

Ed Hezlet – Investment Analyst – UK Small and Mid Cap strategies

‘Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies’ by Geoffrey West

West takes a detailed look at complex systems, from biology to urban society and business—because who wouldn’t want to understand the relationship between mammal size, metabolic rate and lifespan?  Taking the strong correlation between animal size and longevity as a starting point, he looks at how this scales up into, for example, cities. What is remarkable in this book is West’s clear and simple treatment of the complex. 

Nick Horne – CIO International Equity Group Behavioural Finance Team

‘The Signal and the Noise’ by Nate Silver

Nate Silver has become one of the pre-eminent political forecasters in recent years, and this book is an entertaining take on applied forecasting, ranging from sports to elections, via online poker. Every human action involves some sort of prediction—and we have failed to predict some of the most significant events to today’s global landscape, such as the financial crisis. Silver accurately predicted the results of every single state in the US election in 2012.  Was he just extremely lucky or are there lessons we can learn?  Make up your own mind.

James Illsley – Portfolio Manager – UK Equity Core strategies

‘Freakonomics’ by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

It’s not often that books left behind in Greek resorts by previous guests are any good, but this was the exception. Using data analysis to probe human behaviour in diverse fields—from spotting cheating in school exams to the incentive structures for estate agents and the pricing of your home—it brings to life our innate human biases, and looks at how analytical tools can help improve our decision making. And it is actually fun to read!

Andy Robbens – Investment Specialist – UK Equities

‘Bravo Two Zero’ by Andy McNab

Having read this before, I am taking it away with me again.  Once you immerse yourself in what this group of soldiers did and appreciate their almost superhuman survival instinct, you will never think of your life as that bad ever again.  A classic read that teaches you to expect the unexpected and that any horrific event is survivable if you keep to your training and experience.  A bit like the equity markets.

….and finally another from me

‘Captain Underpants’ by Dav Pilkey

One of the best reasons to have kids! Full of human pathos and featuring two fourth graders called George and Harold, Mr Krupp the school principal with alien superpowers and a dress code of starchy white cotton underpants, assorted baddies including Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants and a pet pterosaur called Crackers. Schools have banned them and sales have rocketed. What’s not to like? Even better, I’ve just found out there are a further 4 books I’ve not read yet—holiday reading sorted.

Happy reading!

James Illsley is the Portfolio Manager on JPM UK Equity Core. Find out more about our UK Capabilities


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Go to the profile of James Illsley

James Illsley

Fund Manager, JPM UK Equity Core Fund and JPM UK Equity Plus Fund, J.P. Morgan Asset Management

James Illsley is a portfolio manager of the JPM UK Equity Core Fund and the JPM UK Equity Plus Fund within J.P. Morgan Asset Management's UK Equity team.


Go to the profile of John
John 7 months ago