If the "official" start of this holiday shopping season is any indication, this year will be one for the history books.
From Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, records were smashed. More than $3 billion was spent online, an increase of nearly 12% from the year before.
Two of e-commerce's heaviest hitters reported large mobile crowds: Amazon reported that 70% of its Thanksgiving Day web traffic was mobile, while Target pegged its mobile traffic at 60%, suggesting that a lot of folks were "multitasking" while eating turkey and watching football (in my case, the Pittsburgh Steelers).
Most importantly, spending patterns confirmed our very bullish outlook on e-commerce in general and mobile retail in particular; shoppers on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday forked over more than $1.1 billion each day, via smartphones mostly.
We've been recommending profitable e-commerce and mobile plays like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and PayPal Inc. (Nasdaq: PYPL) to my Private Briefing readers since soon after we started publishing in 2011. I "walk the walk and talk the talk," so naturally I'm more than comfortable spending money online, whether I'm on a PC or a smartphone.
But when it comes to planning how I spend, I take a decidedly low-tech approach. Every holiday season, you'll find me at my kitchen table with a very un-cutting-edge pen and paper, writing out a list of gifts I'd like to get my loved ones. I've done it for years, ever since I was a kid.
And, since I love making money as much as the next guy, I like to pick gifts that I'm sure will "keep on giving" to my friends and relatives.
I'm talking about some of the most powerful and successful money-making ideas of all time, of course...
This Holiday Gift List Has Something for Every Investor
"Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage of Wall Street," by Michael Lewis
With its focus on the junk-bond pollution of the 1980s, this book is about an earlier era, to be sure. But substitute in "Goldman Sachs" for "Salomon Bros.," "credit-default swaps" in for "junk bonds," and "housing bubble" for "leveraged buyouts," and you'll see that nothing ever changes on Wall Street. Plus, the book is flat-out hilarious.
"The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine," by Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis is a talent, as this second runaway hit proves. Just as "Liar's Poker" chronicled the Gordon Gekko "Greed Is Good" 1980s, "The Big Short" captures the absurdity and unavoidable wreckage of the credit-default-swap era. Indeed, this disturbing-but-informative view of the financial crisis shows us how Wall Street transformed the American Dream of home ownership into a full-blown nightmare.
"The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream," by H.W. Brands
This is a little something for the gold bug on your list. I'm picking up several copies of this one.
Brands is a popular historian of the same stripe as Stephen Ambrose. In this book, he pushes aside the deeply rooted myths of the California Gold Rush, a seminal and, as it turns out, misunderstood event in American history. Brands tells some incredible stories in fascinating detail. Gold investors and history buffs alike will love this one.
Now, as it happens, I'm recommending this book at the time a strange and potentially very lucrative "gold anomaly" is appearing in the markets for only the second time in the past 20 years. It may not stick around through the holidays, though - have a look...
"The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order," by Paul Vigna and Mike Casey
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Thanks to our picks related to Apple Pay and digital payments, Private Briefing subscribers have cashed in big. But those recommendations are merely the "leading edge" of a huge new disruptive wave in payments and cryptocurrencies. And understanding Bitcoin, a payments technology on the vanguard of this new wave, will be a key to your understanding future profit plays. This book, written by two Wall Street Journal reporters, will prepare you for what's to come. I heard these two gents speak during a guest appearance on the late-night radio show "Coast to Coast AM." I was so impressed with what they had to say that I immediately ordered the book. It's nothing less than riveting.
"Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco," by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar
A classic book about a classic deal, this offers the most detailed inside view of a big-time buyout that you'll ever find. To score even more points with the lucky recipient, throw in a DVD copy of the HBO Films made-for-cable adaptation - it's an excellent James Garner flick.
"Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist," by Roger Lowenstein
There have been many books written about Warren Buffett, and the Oracle of Omaha is a prolific essayist himself, but this deep and thorough outing is still my favorite Warren Buffett biography. It's not only a great investment book. It also gives you a look at the private Buffett that none of us ever gets to see. It's vastly superior to most of the later Buffett books that came along.
"Reminiscences of a Stock Operator," by Edwin Lefèvre
This is a barely fictionalized account of the life of Jesse Livermore, the legendary early 20th century speculator famous for making (and losing) several multimillion-dollar fortunes before 1929. You yourself can skip the "losing" part if you take his insights to heart when you trade stocks and pursue what Livermore called "the most uniformly fascinating game in the world." A must read for any trader.
"Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises," by Charles Kindleberger
The title explains its focus. The execution is perfect, and the new Palgrave Macmillan sixth edition has been updated to include Lehman Brothers and the 2008 Crisis.
"The Great Crash, 1929," by John Kenneth Galbraith
This volume explores not just the events of Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, but the more important 12 months preceding the collapse, when speculation ran rampant, excess risk was rewarded, and consequences were thrown to the wind. The lessons here are profound and worth learning... because, even after all we've been through since 1929 (and 2008), it can happen again.
"The Vandals' Crown: How Rebel Currency Traders Overthrew the World's Central Banks," by Gregory J. Millman
An accessible and entertaining introduction to currency trading, a part of the market that retail investors too often know little about. This one is engrossing, complete with terrific anecdotes that illustrate the power currency traders really have. If you or anyone you know end up using your new insights and skills to subvert the monetary policy of any global governments, don't mention I recommended this book. The audiobook version of this is particularly good.
"Crashes: Why They Happen - What to Do," by Robert Beckman
I ran across this breezy little gem while researching my own book, "Contrarian Investing: Buy and Sell When Others Won't and Make Money Doing It." A fast, entertaining, and instructive read that's perfect for poolside perusing.
"Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.," by Ron Chernow
This account of the life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. - history's first billionaire and the founder of America's first true money "dynasty" - is one of the most powerful business biographies I've ever read. And what makes it so powerful is that the tale of Rockefeller is also the story of the start of the global energy industry. That industry got its start as Standard Oil Co., the monopoly that muckrakers referred to as "the Octopus."
"The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron," by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
As the title says, this is a postmortem on the Enron Corp. debacle. And it will leave you shaking your head over the corporate hubris and regulatory incompetence that allowed this to happen.
"Street Smarts: Adventures on the Road and in the Markets," by Jim Rogers
Anything by Jim Rogers, co-founder of Wall Street's extremely profitable Quantum Fund, is worth reading. This guy is the whole package: self-made, intensely curious and driven, and open to "out there" ideas that have made the Singapore-based Rogers a very wealthy man. His first book, "Investment Biker: Around the World with Jim Rogers," is a classic, too.
"Too Big to Fail"
OK, so this isn't a book. This superbly executed HBO docudrama was based on the best-selling book of the same title penned by Andrew Ross Sorkin. I've recommended this to countless colleagues - telling them it was an entertaining and enlightening way to understand a financial crisis. (It's so great, in fact, that a few years back I bought nearly a dozen copies and gave them as prizes in a drawing for Private Briefing subscribers.) This docudrama will serve as a nice break from reading all these other books.
Let me know what you think of my recommendations in the comments below - especially if you've got recommendations of your own.
About the Author
Before he moved into the investment-research business in 2005, William (Bill) Patalon III spent 22 years as an award-winning financial reporter, columnist, and editor. Today he is the Executive Editor and Senior Research Analyst for Money Morning at Money Map Press.