UK: Monday Briefing: Summer Holiday Reading List

Last Updated: 31 July 2013
Article by Ian Stewart

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017
  • Our summer reading list offers eight articles as an eclectic and stimulating alternative to the latest poolside reading. All are available free and online.
  • You can save them on your iPad's reading list by opening the links on Safari and tapping on the share arrow next to the address bar. If you choose to print these articles, please use the print icons on the webpages to ensure you print the entire article.
  • Under Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway has provided shareholders with an annual growth in book value of 20% over the last 48 years, twice the return from the wider market. Buffett's letter to shareholders is that rare thing – a piece of corporate writing that is direct, jargon free and entertaining. In it, Buffett conveys his investment philosophy in a folksy fashion sprinkled with telling facts ("Berkshire's employment totalled 288,462...our headquarters crew, however, remained unchanged at 24. No sense in going crazy"). Buffett owns up to mistakes and has an infectious confidence, castigating CEOs for being too risk averse. Despite being one of the world's richest people, Buffett has a personal style, concluding the letter with tips on the best restaurants in town and where to order a giant root beer float. This is a model of effective business communication (20 pages): Click here
  • This short article from the Economist's off-shoot, Intelligent Life, argues that overcoming difficulty increases our creativity and our ability to learn. Studies show that when classroom materials are made harder to absorb, children learn at a deeper level and retain more of what they learn. Technology has liberated us from much of life's drudgery, but the author concludes that the best route to fulfilment can be the path of more resistance (3 pages): Click here
  • The rise of crowd-sourced online reviews has created a vast new source of information for consumers and has created serious competition for professional critics in areas such as books, restaurants and theatre. Supporters see it as a democratic movement which is undermining a professional monopoly of expert opinion. Detractors argue that the baffling diversity of anonymous, often simplistic views is a poor substitute for the nuanced opinions of the professional. This article surveys the new world of abundant consumer information (6 pages): Click here
  • Larry Summers and Glenn Hubbard were contemporaries in the economics department of Harvard in the 1970s. They went on to become leading figures in economics and in US policy-making, Summers as Treasury Secretary in the Clinton administration, Hubbard as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush. The views of these two giants of economics reflects the big division in US politics between left and right (9 pages):Click here
  • With governments' increasing use of electronic espionage and cyber attacks, computer networks are becoming the modern-day battlefield. This Vanity Fair article examines the cyber conflict between the US and Iran and its effect on business (11 pages): Click here
  • Critics of quantitative easing have always held that it could lead to high inflation. Yet, US inflation has remained surprisingly low despite the Fed pumping more than $2 trillion into the economy over the last five years. Here, Harvard economist Martin Feldstein explains how a change in the Fed's policy has dampened the inflationary effect of quantitative easing (3 pages):Click here
  • One challenge in hosting the perfect summer party is choosing good wine. Would a professional wine taster be able to help? The Observer says - not necessarily. A host of interesting experiments show that even expert tasters can be surprisingly inconsistent in their judgement of wine (8 pages): Click here
  • You are browsing for a holiday in Greece. After a few minutes, you switch to your favourite newspaper on the web. Mysteriously, it serves you ads for hotels in Greece. Enter the world of "real-time bidding" – technology that enables advertisers to serve you with tailor-made advertisements on topics of immediate interest. On-line consumers would do well to understand this little known technology and the privacy concerns raised by it (9 pages): Click here


The UK's FTSE 100 ended the week down 1.1% as miners sold off on concerns over slowing demand.

Here are some recent news stories that caught our eye as reflecting key economic themes:


  • UK growth of 0.6% in the second quarter was widely hailed as a sign that the UK economy is turning up.
  • Vince Cable, the UK Business Secretary, said that the Bank of England's "capital Taliban" are holding back the recovery by imposing excessive capital requirements on banks.
  • Euro area economic activity expanded in July for the first time in over a year according to purchasing managers data.
  • Euro area consumer confidence hit a 2-year high in July.
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury announced plans to "compete" payday lender Wonga "out of existence" by expanding Church of England credit unions.
  • Foreign direct investment flows into Britain increased by 11% in 2012/13, despite global cross-border flows falling by 18% in the year, according to data from UK Trade & Investment.
  • The director-general of the UK's security service M15 and the intelligence listening post GCHQ, wrote to all FTSE 350 chairmen urging them to take part in a "cyber governance health check".
  • The Chinese government introduced a five-year ban on the construction of new government offices as part of wider measures to curb excess and reduce government expenditure.
  • The Financial Times reports that the "flipping" of houses – buying and selling them on quickly at a profit - has made a comeback in the US as housing activity continues to accelerate.
  • Irish residential property prices recorded have recorded their first annual increase in more than five years.
  • The UK's Help to Buy scheme has subsidised am estimated £1.3bn of UK house purchases in the last 4 months.
  • The Japanese government upgraded its forecast for the economy for a third consecutive month.
  • UK government officials have been issued with a style guide warning against the use of jargon and "corporate-speak" in publications, including words such as 'deliver' and 'facilitate'.
  • German police announced they would try to 3D-print their own guns, in order to discover whether they can be easily smuggled through airport security or even used by their own officers.
  • The small town of Bethel, in Alaska, is considering criminalizing "drunk walking", with economic research suggesting that on a per mile basis walking drunk is eight times more dangerous than driving drunk – one step ahead.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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