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Reading List

The Northwood Holiday Reading List - 2024

Brad Jesson

Welcome to the Northwood Holiday Reading List.

As we took a moment to plan our holiday reading list, we found ourselves pondering the intricate web of complexities in our ever-evolving world. On the topic of markets, the S&P 500 is up 24% this year and has been mostly driven by the “magnificent seven” – they are now worth $10.4 trillion or around 28% of the entire S&P 500. Have we been here before? Well sort of, the trust-busting movement of the late 19th and early 20th century aimed to promote competition, protect consumers, and prevent the concentration of economic power in the hands of a few influential corporations – sound familiar?

In 1911, Standard Oil represented 6% of the entire US stock market and the Supreme Court ruled to dissolve and break up the company into 43 separate companies. Following the breakup, it’s share price fell 65% and new companies such as Exxon, BP, Chevron, Dupont, and Shell emerged. Some economists argue that the breakup led to more market competition, cheaper oil prices, and more diverse products for consumers in the following decades. Yet, as history demonstrates, the impact of such actions is complex and multifaceted, with divergent perspectives on whether they truly benefit consumers and the market in the long term.

Today, the top 4 largest companies in the US each represent 4 to 6% of the US stock market. We are witnessing ongoing dialogue around the power of big tech and other major conglomerates. It reflects the enduring relevance of the trust-busting era's lessons and the ongoing quest to balance corporate power with market competition and consumer welfare. It’s impossible to say whether we will see a similar movement, but there is certainly precedent. It’s important to remember that the top companies shift from decade to decade – only two of the names on the list in 2010 were on the list in 2021. Complete dominance for extended periods is very rare.

On the global front, geopolitical events continue to remind us how fragile our society is. The 2023 UBS Global Family Office survey highlighted the top concern of family offices around the world is geopolitics (last year it was inflation). From an investment perspective, it highlights the importance of diversifying a portfolio across various asset classes, industries, and geographic regions, with the aim to spread risk and reduce the potential impact of any single event or risk factor.

It reminds of George Freedman’s book The Next Hundred Years intro: “At a certain level, when it comes to the future, the only thing one can be sure of is that common sense will be wrong. There is no magic twenty-year cycle; there is no simplistic force governing this pattern. It is simply that things that appear to be permanent and dominant at any given moment in history can change with stunning rapidity. Eras come and go. In international relations, the way the world looks right now is not at all how it will look in twenty years . . . or even less.” With the forthcoming 2024 US election, geopolitics is poised to dominate headlines, underlining the unpredictability and transformative nature of global affairs in the near future.

Oxford’s 2023 word of the year is ‘Rizz’ which means “style, charm or attractiveness”. I am sure this is fun for Gen Z, but the Collins Dictionary word of the year “AI” seems a bit more apt. The use of AI quadrupled in 2023 and as it has become embedded in our lives and has dominated conversations about whether it will be a force for revolutionary good or apocalyptic destruction. My favorite comparison has been AI and the Atomic bomb – just as nuclear scientists faced remorse over the destruction caused, AI researchers are aware of potential risks. Both technologies hold immense potential but also pose significant ethical dilemmas. Some argue that like nuclear weapons, AI's development might be inevitable due to progress. However, ensuring responsible research, ethical guidelines, and governance will be crucial to align AI's trajectory with human values and minimize harm, emphasizing the need for global collaboration and regulations. The concerns raised in 2023 are very valid!

We’ve curated our latest reading list, including interesting books, articles, streaming options, and some other items that might interest you. I hope you enjoy the selection of content below and wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season. All the best heading into 2024.

Click on the titles below to see the full content.

Article Recommendations

New York Magazine | Jamie Dimon’s $4 Trillion Machine

The article is all about JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon and how JPMorgan Chase is ruling the banking world. It talks about Dimon's leadership, the bank's massive influence in global finance, and the ups and downs they've faced while becoming such a big deal in the financial game.

CollabFund | Expectations Debt

This blog post explores the concept of "expectations debt," discussing the consequences of owing future outcomes or achievements based on current expectations. It examines how this phenomenon affects decision-making, mental health, and personal development, emphasizing the importance of managing and balancing expectations to foster healthier perspectives and well-being.

New York Times | Abe Lincoln and Kevin McCarthy

A dive into the intolerance of differing views on both sides of the political spectrum.

Vox | Gen Z Is Bringing A Whole New Vibe To The Workplace: Anxiety

Gen Z (generally agreed, born in the late 90s to the early 2010s) is experiencing mental health strain. This piece examines why they have heightened job anxiety and stress in the workplace.

How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Health

This article gets into the delicate conversations of addressing a loved one’s health concerns. It dives into strategies for initiating these talks with empathy and care.

Atlantic | The Most Consequential Act of Sabotage in Modern Times

The piece takes a deep dive into the Nord Stream pipeline attack, offering a captivating exploration of diverse theories and potential suspects involved in this complex incident.

CNBC | If You Use These 13 Phrases Every Day, You Have Higher Emotional Intelligence Than Most People’: Psychology Experts

At Northwood we believe high EQ is very important – we look for it when bringing new members onto the team. We think higher emotional intelligence contributes significantly to personal and professional success by fostering better relationships, effective communication, stress resilience, and adaptability in various situations.

Maclean’s | Canada in the Year 2060

This a speculative piece about Canada’s future, considering environmental changes, technological advancements, societal shifts, and their impact on various aspects of Canadian life.

New York Times | Charles Feeney, Who Made a Fortune and Then Gave It Away, Dies at 92

Feeney co-founded Duty-Free Shoppers and committed to "giving while living," actively donating his wealth to various causes through his foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies. His life and legacy emphasized the impact of strategic philanthropy and inspired many others that have followed.

Globe and Mail | Still Sharp: How Isadore Sharp Built a Luxury-Hotel Empire

Isadore Sharp is known for founding the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – this is a great interview into the journey.

The Unexpected Baby Names That Will Be Everywhere In 2024

Apparently, dictionary names are bigger than ever.

Book Recommendations

The Next Hundred Years | George Friedman

The book is a forecast for the 21st century and a thought-provoking examination of the current geopolitical environment. The author makes the bold claim that while the two devastating world wars characterized the 20th century, a new set of opportunities and challenges will define the current one.

The Power of Geography | Tim Marshall

Marshall covers much ground, moving smoothly through each nation's background, current struggles, and options for the future.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

A thought-provoking read on the root causes of conflict and how we can all take steps to avoid them in the interest of peaceful relationships.

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA

A deep dive into the history of the CIA and its many, many missteps over the last 70 years.

Black Wave

A fascinating reappraisal of what went wrong in the Middle East over the last 40 years, and how many of today’s problems can be tied back to the longstanding regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Demon Copperhead

Dickens’ David Copperfield reimagined in a contemporary rural Appalachian setting ravaged by the departure of the coal mines, and the arrival of the opioid epidemic.

The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King

A great biography (and business book) covering the life of Samuel Zemurray from his time selling bunches of bananas on the docks in New Orleans, to becoming one of the richest and most powerful men in America.

Everybody’s Business: A New Agenda for Canadian Prosperity in the Twenty-First Century

Rotman School of Management professor Walid Hejazi’s new book on what we need to do to keep Canada competitive on the international stage in the 21st century.

Streaming Recommendations

Succession (HBO)

The saga of the Roy family wrapped up earlier this year after four gripping seasons on HBO. This biting exploration of family and business conflict has rightfully ended up on many critics best of the year (or decade) lists.

Mrs. Americas (Disney+)

A limited series focused on the ultimately unsuccessful effort to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in 1970s America. Well written and acted.

For All Mankind (Apple TV)

Now in its 4th season, Apple TV’s series explores what would have happened if the Russians beat the Americans to the Moon. The scope of this outstanding series continues to grow and grow.

The Bear (Disney+)

A Michelin-recognized chef moves back to Chicago to run his family’s sandwich shop after the death of his brother. Fast-paced and gripping.

Beef (Netflix)

A road rage incident between two strangers turns into a longstanding feud in Netflix’s 10-episode series.

Favorite Visuals:

As lifelong learners, we are always interested in reading or listening to material that broadens our horizons, challenges our thinking, and provides an all-important context for the decisions we make. This is true for the entire Northwood team.

We’d also be interested in hearing what you’ve been reading or listening to lately. If you’ve come across any particularly insightful books, articles, shows, or podcasts, please feel free to send them to us at, or Thanks to the many people who have already shared their ideas.

All the best,

Tom, Brad & Scott


Brad Jesson

Brad is a member of Northwood’s family office advisory group, working with families in the areas of goals based financial planning, investment management, tax planning, and next-generation education. In addition to his work with families, Brad is actively involved with Northwood next generation education and regularly contributes to Northwood's Thought Leadership Newsletter.

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