Demographics & Culture
What we’re reading: 7 book ideas for 2024
John Emerson
Vice Chair, Capital Group International
Tomoko Fortune
Equity Portfolio Manager
Reagan Anderson
SVP of Government Relations

Whether chosen for entertainment or education, books can broaden horizons and promote independent thinking by exposing readers to new points of view. These qualities are also at the heart of The Capital System™, our distinctive investing approach that combines independent, high-conviction decision making with the diversity that comes from multiple perspectives. So it should come as no surprise that many Capital Group professionals are also big readers. We asked seven of them to share the recent reads that have helped shape or change their thinking.

1. Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine

Concurrent wars in the Middle East and Europe are sobering reminders of the challenges facing the world today. John Emerson’s book recommendation delves into the causes, warning signs and unintended consequences of conflicts from the end of World War II through today. Written by retired U.S. Army General David Petraeus and military historian Lord Andrew Roberts, the book was published just as the war between Israel and Hamas began.

Emerson read the book ahead of a fireside chat he moderated with Petraeus, former director of the CIA, at the World Affairs Council. “This book offers one of the most cogent descriptions of the civil war in China, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It also includes a compelling timeline on the lead-up to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago. While direct confrontation between the superpowers has been avoided, the book offers a readable analysis on the evolution of conflict and the rise in smaller, regional proxy wars,” says Emerson, vice chairman of Capital Group International and a former U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Portfolio manager Tomoko Fortune often finds herself stretched thin between motherhood, career and community. Her book selection aims to help readers cut through the clutter.

The pursuit of less is about going after “the right thing, in the right way, at the right time,” according to author Greg McKeown, who draws on his work with company executives in this book about how others can regain control of their own choices.

“The book inspired me to focus on the most important things. In work, this means keeping the number of positions in my portfolios tighter. Outside of work, my focus is mostly on my family and kids, so I make sure to align my calendar accordingly,” Fortune says.

3. No Trade is Free: Changing Course, Taking on China, and Helping America’s Workers

With a rematch of the 2020 presidential election likely, Reagan Anderson’s book recommendation zeros in on a topic that is sure to come up this election cycle — China. Specifically, U.S.-China relations, which have shifted in recent years over concerns that free trade has undermined America’s economic prowess.

Author Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative under President Donald Trump, offers his analysis of how we got here and argues for a worker-focused approach to trade policy.

“This book helped me better understand our trade policies and the long-term implications with our trading partners,” says Anderson, a senior vice president on Capital Group’s government relations team.

4. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race

Science fiction took a giant step towards reality with Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier’s breakthrough method to alter any organism’s DNA.

Biographer Walter Isaacson writes a compelling profile of Doudna — from childhood to Nobel prize winner — and delves into the ethics of human engineering.

“The author does an extraordinary job of framing what it takes to become a great scientist,” says Portfolio Manager Rich Wolf. 

Written during the pandemic, the book also details how researchers rose to the challenge of COVID-19.

5. A Gentleman in Moscow

Portfolio manager Don O’Neal, has offered several book recommendations via the podcast. This most recent selection is “perhaps my favorite novel I’ve read in the past few years,” he says.

Fictional Russian aristocrat Count Alexander Rostov is under house arrest in a luxurious hotel, where he befriends a poet, architect, prince, chef and others. Written by Amor Towles, the decades-long narrative allows for deep reflections and funny escapades that happen alongside consequential moments in history.

6. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Equity analyst Jeff Garcia picked up this bestselling book after football star Tom Brady referenced it when reflecting on his 10 Super Bowl appearances. Author Don Miguel Ruiz highlights the teachings of the Toltec, who ruled ancient central Mexico, and offers four so-called agreements that could help people lead more fulfilled lives.

The last agreement, “always do your best” is something that resonated deeply with Garcia, much to his surprise. “To this day, I have the agreements in my office,” shares Garcia.

The other agreements include: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, and don’t make assumptions. While the advice seems sensible enough, Ruiz presents the teachings in a way that allows a personal examination of identity.

7. Good to Great

“I recently went back to this classic because it’s such a powerful book,” says equity portfolio manager Rob Lovelace. Few management consultants have influenced business leaders as much as Jim Collins. There’s a reason for that: rigorous research. Most of his findings are based on years of data that he and his team have amassed on what makes a company run.

In Good to Great, the author offers some surprising insights about what it takes to become a great company. For example, successful transformations rarely happen via a major rollout or change such as an acquisition. They are instead the result of a steady, blink-and-you-might-miss-it series of successes.

“It helps guide my nonprofit work and is a good reminder about the importance of governance,” Lovelace says.

John Emerson is vice chair of Capital Group International, Inc. and has been with Capital Group since 2000. He was the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 2013 to 2017. Prior to that, he was president of Capital Group Private Client Services.

Tomoko Fortune is an equity portfolio manager with 28 years of experience (as of 12/31/2023). She holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a bachelor's degree in economics from Dartmouth College.

Reagan Anderson is a senior vice president of government relations at Capital Group. She has 23 years of industry experience and has been with Capital Group for eight years (as of 12/31/2023). She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University.


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