This holiday season will obviously be an unusual one. Many of us will be unable to visit friends and family, while the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic run high. While we wait for better times to come in 2021 with widening Covid-19 vaccine distribution, we at the BlackRock Investment Institute have put together a list of books that we have enjoyed this year and hope you will find inspiring to read during the year-end down time.

We split the titles into fiction and non-fiction, by alphabetical order – except for my pick, which is listed at the end.

Non-fiction

Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore. Michel Dilmanian, a member of BII’s Macro Research team, recommended the book for those who are interested in the Middle East or want to better understand the region’s complex history. The book tells the history of Jerusalem through the eyes of characters that the author discovered through archives – making it much more like a story than a history book. The beautiful and humorous writing is a plus, Michel said.

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. It’s fascinating to read that Leonardo championed perfectionism despite his reputation as a polymath – in our age of scarce attention, multitasking and settling for “good enough” results, said Arjun Kapur, a member of the BII team. “During the dreadful digitalized, scatterbrained isolation of 2020, I found Leonardo’s intense focus and perfectionism refreshing,” he said.

Lying for Money: How Legendary Frauds Reveal the Workings of Our World by Dan Davies. Eric Burroughs, Deputy Editor on BII’s publications team, said this enjoyable book by a former bank analyst has some quite amusing tables – not just the tragic ones (Enron and Bernie Madoff). Its main message: For market-based societies to function, trust always has been and always will be critical – and that trust can ultimately be taken advantage of by the ne’er-do-wells of the world.

Maoism: A Global History by Julia Lovell. Ben Powell, BII’s Chief APAC Strategist, said this book could help readers understand the success of China’s leader Xi Jinping in blending socialism with nationalism. Pay special attention to Chapter 12 where the author examines today’s China as compared with the country under the leadership of Mao Zedong, said Ben.