The Perspective Blog
Reading List

The Northwood Reading List, Q1 2022

Tom McCullough

The 2020s have been quite the decade so far. If I told you in December of 2019 that the new decade would bring a global pandemic, inflation above 7%, and a war in Europe threatening global stability -- all within a couple of years -- you would have thought I was crazy. But here we are.

After almost two full years of a global pandemic, many of us have been considering the new reality that is emerging and what it means for the future of economics, politics, and culture. The Omicron variant that flared up globally late last year reminded us that we are still in a fragile state – here in Canada we are just now emerging from yet another lock-down (hopefully the last one). When we look back at this pandemic in 10 years, one of the most remarkable stories may be the mRNA vaccine technology. Viewed with skepticism before the pandemic, there is growing confidence that it may be used against the ordinary flu, malaria, HIV and even cancer. The massive amount of investment into the technology may have spectacular spillover effects, but as with any technology only time will tell.

And just as the world is starting to picture the prospect of getting “back to normal” after the pandemic, Russia invaded Ukraine - the largest assault on a European state since World War II. In addition to the devastating physical conflict and human toll, we are also seeing the information -- and disinformation -- wars play out in front of our eyes. The social media era that has defined most of the 21st century thus far has helped make the world ripe for unchecked narratives and wild speculation portrayed as truth play out online with drastic consequences. As the first article below highlights, fact and mythmaking blend in this war. It will be key for the world to step up against disinformation – leaders are gathering in Europe this week to discuss how the West can counter Russian disinformation.

In terms of the markets, the Russian invasion has already led to major volatility globally. There is significant uncertainty about the outcome of the war, as well as the economic fallout associated with the unprecedented sanctions levied against Russia. While geopolitical crises can be scary and impactful in the short run, they rarely have a significant long-term negative impact on global markets. The below chart from Barry Ritholtz does a great job of illustrating that in the 80+ years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the world has lived through many serious geopolitical crises. Although many of these felt like the end of the world when they occurred (Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11), the S&P 500 (and most global indices) have steadily increased over that same timeframe.

Our latest curated list including interesting articles, books, and some podcast and streaming options that might interest you. With so many excellent options over the past few months, it was a challenge to pare the list down. I hope you enjoy the selection of content below.

As a lifelong learner, I am always interested in reading or listening to material that broadens my horizons, challenges my thinking, and provides all-important context for the decisions we make. This is true for the entire Northwood team.

On the lifelong learning note, please save the date for the Rotman Family Wealth Management Program June 2-5, 2022. This program has been running successfully since 2014 and provides practical insights and knowledge for family members who would like to successfully preserve, grow, and transition family wealth.

Over three and a half days, I and our other faculty members will be teaching families and individuals to become an excellent leader and/or contributor to the wealth management process and learn key building blocks and framework for successful wealth management.

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 me at [email][/email]. Thanks to the many people who have already shared their ideas.

All the best,Tom

Article Recommendations

Click on the title below to see the full content.

Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance | A New Way of Seeing Value
Witold Henisz, economist and professor at Wharton, dives into the flaws in ESG data and how managers of $35t in assets are struggling to integrate ESG data into their investing. The article touches on the early focus of “responsible investing pioneers” was around moral values, not financial value and paves a potential path forward for asset managers.

New York Times | Fact and Mythmaking Blend in Ukraine’s Information War
The Ukraine conflict is seeing widespread misinformation on both sides and this article highlights the challenges in fighting a war in the social media era.

This article from December is even more relevant today and suggests the autocrats are winning. It details the story around Belarus and Alexander Lukashenko, but highlights that autocracies are not run by one bad guy, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services, and professional propagandists connected across various countries.

Washington Post | The moral calculations of a billionaire
An interesting deep dive into one of America’s 745 billionaires.

Harvard Business Review | Boards Need Real Diversity, Not Tokenism
With ESG top of mind for many corporations today, research suggests that many boards have fallen short in efforts to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). This piece touches on the need for evolving views on diversity to go beyond tokenism.

The Business Times | Return of the trust busters?
In December, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) blocked Nvidia’s $40B acquisition of semiconductor company Arm. This article highlights how this significant move is a part of a larger policy agenda to loosen power concentration in major sectors in the US including technology, but also healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and finance.

Atlantic | America Is Running Out of Everything
A fantastic explanation of the Everything Shortage.

Young Money Weekly | So You Wanna Trade Stocks
A great article on the addiction of trading and the reasons why a young day trader quit. A great piece for the next generation.

Collaborative Fund | Nature Shows How This All Works
Morgan Housel relates extremes in the natural world to extremes in the investing world, highlighting that the most important question is not “How can I earn the highest returns?”, but “What are the best returns I can sustain for the longest period of time?”.

New York Times | America’s Anti-Democratic Movement
This article dives into the US anti-democracy movement that is making significant progress and encountering shockingly little opposition. It suggests that the movement is now bigger than Trump and the battle is happening in plain sight.

Atlantic | Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun
On the heels of the previous article, this piece highlights the potential democratic emergency heading towards to 2024 election.

Wired | Sea Level Rise Will Be Catastrophic—and Unequal
The US will see an average 12-inch rise in sea level in the next 30 years. The impact will be felt much more in some areas than others (where sea levels are rising and the land itself is sinking). The article explores how governments can react.

Atlantic | How Wanting Less Leads to Satisfaction
This well-explored thought piece dives into the definition of satisfaction and how tricky it is to achieve. The writer reminds us that we, not others, are in control of our life satisfaction and provides a few real-life tips.

Hazlitt | Rothko at the Inauguration
An astonishing long form essay by about Rothko (the painter), fatherhood, the depravity of the very rich, the Trump inauguration, but mostly about the mystery surrounding various great works of visual art.

Northwood Reading List

Book Recommendations

Click on the title below to be redirected to the book.

The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World | Adrian Wooldridge
Fascinating history of meritocracy and why it’s being blamed for many social ills. The author suggests that assigning responsibilities to the people best equipped to deal with them is better than the customs of corruption, patronage, nepotism and hereditary castes.

The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity | David Graeber, David Wengrow
David Graeber (famous for his involvement with Occupy Wall Street) and David Wengrow upend everything we think we know about the origins of human societies. This long read – at 704 pages – aims to change the course of human history but starting with the past.

The Power of Regret: How Looking Backward Moves Us Forward | Daniel Pink
A new Daniel Pink book that shows how to reckon with your regrets in a whole new way. The book is full of great stories of people re-imagining regrets as something positive.

Reader Suggestions

Will | Will Smith, Mark Manson

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times | Jonathan Sacks

Streaming Recommendations

A new addition to the reading list. Click on the titles below to see the streaming options.


Conversations with Tyler
Specifically, the episode David Rubenstein (co-founder on the Carlyle Group) on Private Equity, Public Art, and Philanthropy.

IntroCap Interviews | An interview with Tom McCullough
Karen Azlen and I chat on the family office industry, creating client confidence and navigating complexity.


CODA (a favorite for best picture)

The Power of the Dog

The Truffle Hunters


Inventing Anna



The Underground Railroad

Other Noteworthy


Tom McCullough

Tom McCullough is Chairman and CEO of Northwood Family Office. The combination of his background, along with his own family’s desire for a truly ‘comprehensive, customized and confidential service, led him on a search for a multi-family office. Tom is a frequent speaker on issues relevant to families of wealth and is the co-author of Wealth of Wisdom: The Top 50 Questions Wealthy Families Ask and Family Wealth Management: Imperatives for Successful Investing in the New World Order and the soon-to-be-released Wealth of Wisdom: Top Practices for Wealthy Families and Their Advisors. He is an adjunct professor and Executive-in-Residence at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management MBA program. He is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Western University’s Ivey School of Business and a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Wealth Management. He was recently awarded ‘Best Individual Contribution to Thought Leadership in the Wealth Management Industry’ by the 2020 Family Wealth Report Awards.

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