3 of top 6 NYT bestsellers reprise Trump’s last year in office, with two more to come

Sadly for democracy, the summer of 2021 has seen yet another flurry of books about former US president Donald Trump. The three main ones are shown in the photo above (taken from the Toronto Sunday Star’s reprint of the New York Times Book Review that appeared on August 15th, referencing late July sales).  

And two more may shortly join them on the list, both by authors who have tackled this terrain at least once before: one by Bob Woodward, Peril, coauthored with Robert Costa, and Mary Trump’s sequel, The Reckoning, which came out this week, more on which below.

While we did publish a version of this blog earlier this summer I have revised it to reflect the fact that the three books already published make up three of the top six bestsellers .

Notice that all three titles originated with words originally from Trump’s mouth. I have now read or listened to all three of I Alone Can Fix It (number 1 on the adjacent list), Landslide (number 3) and Frankly, We Did Win This Election (Number 6). Thank you for the sympathy.

In the case of the three books already out and flagged above, I borrowed ebooks or audio books from the Toronto Public Library’s excellent Libby service and/or a paid service called SCRIBD: a paid service that has a 30-day free trial. Not being a Trump fan, I really don’t relish the idea of actually paying for these books, although you could also argue the authors are performing a public service in reminding American voters of the folly they committed in 2016 and may yet repeat in 2024.

I certainly hope that these five books will be the last batch but fear that we’re not even close. 45 — as I prefer to call him — grabbed an outsized share of the world’s attention during his ill-fated first term and it’s well within the realm of possibility that he will continue to do so in what may prove to be a mere interregnum of the Joe Biden presidency.

If, God forbid, 45 also becomes 47 by winning in 2024 then all told the world would be subjected to more than 12 years of his commanding the media’s attention and that of the publishing world, like it or not. The implications for the global economy and by extension the stock market are not, I think, pretty, should the worst happen.

True, 2024 may seem like a long shot, given 45’s age (75), obesity and poor dietary and exercise habits, not to mention the multiple criminal and civil legal cases unfolding against him. One hopes that eventually all this will catch up with him and that the American electorate will finally wise up to the conman/would-be dictator. You can fool some of the people all of the time but are there really 74 million Americans who are blinded to 45’s obvious faults?

So far, he’s got away with everything


Apparently so. As Mary Trump wrote in the closing pages of her book on her uncle,  Too Much and Never Enough, “So far he’s gotten away with everything.” He’s dodged every bullet fired at him during his checkered career as real estate mogul, reality TV star and twice-impeached US president.

In her followup book, Mary outlines her ideas on how America can cope with the aftermath of her uncle’s chaotic four years.

Again, I read a library e-book and found the 205 pages of The Reckoning to be a fairly quick read. Roughly half the content reprises the first book and its focus on Uncle Donny. The other half, including the opening chapter, covers perhaps more American history than most Canadians will be interested in: especially its native origins and early days of slavery of Black Americans and/or a lot of analysis and recommendations for how America can emerge from the “trauma” that psychologist Mary Trump hypothesizes afflicted her and many other Americans following her uncle’s 2016 electoral victory.

Certainly, she has not dialled down her rhetoric about her uncle. A few sample passages:

She concedes that 74 million people voted for Donald, who she describes as “the least worthy person I can imagine.”

“…. despite, or because of, the four years of incompetence, cruelty, criminality, grifting, unconstitutional behaviour, treachery, treason, and most breathtaking of all, the fact that almost there hundred thousand Americans had died by Election Day as a direct result of Donald’s willfully malicious inaction.”


“Donald wasn’t just incompetent, laughable, and cruel — though he was all of those — he was actively laying the groundwork, through his rhetoric, his policies, and his perversion of democratic norms and institutions, for autocracy.”


What has this to do with Financial Independence?

What has all this got to do with Financial Independence? At first blush, not a lot. See for example this Hub blog I wrote from 2018: The glut of books about Trump and prospects for Boomers’ retirements. If he actually wins back office from 2025 to 2029, many of his generation will be retired if they’re not already.

The last time we looked at Trump books was last fall, as we steeled ourselves for the possibility of his reelection: apart from the Mary Trump book cited above I reviewed Michael Cohen’s Disloyal and Bob Woodward’s Rage. Again, note that Woodward is about to publish Peril, another book about Trump’s last year in office, coauthored with the Washington Post’s Robert Costa.

Which brings us to the three bestsellers flagged in yellow in the list at the top of this blog. Apart from them, hose interested in the Covid aspect of the Trump presidency might also want to read Nightmare Scenario. I  enjoyed it, although anyone paying attention to the news throughout 2020 will be familiar with the story arc: 45’s initial and ongoing denial of Covid, his attempt to keep the stock market from being spooked by it, and on through Operation Warp Speed and Pfizer’s announcement of its successful vaccine scant days after the election, which of course infuriated 45. Mary Trump’s The Reckoning also spends a lot of time on Donald’s negligence with respect to the pandemic


This is Michael Wolff’s third book on Trump, which in itself should be cause for pity for this author. The New York Times favourably reviewed this along with I Alone Can Fix It. Continue Reading…

Book Review: 12 takeaways from Michael Cohen’s Trump book, Disloyal

There are of course a glut of books about Donald Trump, especially now we’re fewer than two months away from the U.S. election. We have previously looked at several of these from an investment point of view, and most recently Mary Trump’s book, Too Much and Never Enough.

On the weekend I read Michael Cohen’s Disloyal, which — like Mary Trump’s book — provides the kind of insider perspective that outsider journalists and authors can’t quite match. Cohen spent a decade as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and “fixer” and as he says in the book, “I know where the skeletons are buried, because I helped bury them.”

In its review this week, the Washington Post is a bit harsh on Cohen but I found the book to be among the most insightful I have read about Trump: certainly more enlightening than John Bolton’s snoozer, or some of the early journalistic books like Michael Wolff’s Fire & Fury.

Below are a dozen takeaways that provide either insights not before quite articulated, or which seem to bear repeating. While much of what follows may be known or hinted at it in earlier books and journalistic investigations, Cohen wraps it all up with his ten years of close observance of Trump as he evolved from real estate hustler to Reality Show “star” and now his turn as the Reality TV president.

Clearly, Cohen views Trump as a purely transactional beast who cares little for anything but his own hide and possibly his close family members. He doesn’t come out and say it explicitly but my own view of Trump is that he epitomizes the single-minded pursuit of the four goals cherished by many in this secular society: Money, Power, Sex and Fame. And give him credit for this if nothing else: he certainly has attained copious quantities of all four.

1.) Motivation to run in the first place was as a “lark and a PR stunt.”

Trump, largely at Cohen’s instigation, initially decided to run for president because “it would be cool” and as “a lark and a P.R. stunt.” Or as Cohen has famously said, the presidency would prove to be “the greatest infomercial in the history of politics.” Not exactly noble motivations and there’s not a hint of even pretending it was ever about “public service.” Even if Trump’s team thinks he deserves the Noble Prize (which his team infamously misspelled the other day, when the correct spelling of course is “Nobel,” after Alfred Nobel.)

2.) What’s with the Putin obsession?

Trump’s fascination for Russia’s Vladimir Putin is based on his perception that Putin is also the richest man in the world, and therefore hugely influential. He also serves as a model for the “dictator for life” aspiration Trump clearly harbours. And, Cohen insists that should he lose the November election, he will try to find a way not to leave.

3.) “a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”   

No surprise here on this list of character traits. From page 15 of the e-book I read on SCRIBD:

“…. I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.”

It’s been previously reported how Trump has repeatedly stiffed contractors but Cohen cites several particular examples, including even those that backfired: like when he tried to welch on one of those famous $130,000 porn star payoffs covered by the tabloid National Enquirer.

4.) Pathological lying and baseless smears

The dirty tricks and pathological lying will continue. Cohen nicely recaps how the birtherism lie about Barack Obama originated, which first propelled Trump to media prominence. Similarly, he recaps the shameful smears that let Trump eliminate his Republican rivals in 2015-2016, ending with the smear about Ted Cruz’s father’s alleged (and ridiculous) role in the assassination of JFK.

5.) Sexual allegations

There’s plenty of salacious material about Trump’s sexual predator inclinations, both as the owner of beauty pageants and various ogling incidents, including ones about Cohen’s own daughter on a tennis court. That same daughter declared soon after Trump’s run was announced that he “wasn’t qualified” to become president. Out of the mouths of babes …. Continue Reading…

Book Review: Mary Trump’s entertaining read on Uncle Donnie

There seems to be no end to the number of books devoted to America’s flawed president but certainly the two dominant ones this summer have been John Bolton’s The Room Where it Happened and now Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough.

Bolton’s book topped the New York Times best-seller list last time I looked but I expect it will be knocked off shortly by Mary Trump’s intimate portrait of her uncle’s early days, and how his character and outlook has never really changed. Mary Trump’s book sold 950,000 copies within days of its release and should be nicely past a million by the time you read this.

I have copies of both books but confess to having given up on Bolton’s long snoozer once Mary’s much shorter and more entertaining book came out. Mary’s is just over 250 pages. Both books have been extensively reviewed since their release and of course the White House’s attempt to block publication of them and muzzle their authors only ended up backfiring and turning both books into bestsellers.

In Bolton’s case, I found the numerous reviews sufficient to get the gist of what he was saying: the book is just too pedantic and self-serving to tolerate unfiltered.

Mary’s book, on the other hand, is a compelling fast read, as you’d expect a book would be when written by someone actually in the Trump family. If indeed she believes Uncle Donnie is the world’s most dangerous man, then she’s a brave lady, as she demonstrated last Friday evening on CNN, when she ably rebutted Trump’s belated attempts on Twitter to discredit her.

I think most readers can safely disregard White House flack Kayleigh McEnany’s blanket dismissal of the book as “a pack of lies,” given that she also confessed at the same time she hadn’t read the book.

Perhaps Mary focuses too much on the early days of her father (Fred Junior) and his early death by alcoholism, largely caused by some abominable treatment by his younger brother (Donald) and their father, Fred Senior. But an understanding of this relationship is crucial to the book’s thesis, given that Mary notes near the end that “Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Mitch McConnell, all … bear more than a passing psychological resemblance to Fred.”

I found the book more compelling the further you get into it. The last few chapters are especially insightful and pretty damning, judging by the extent to which I underlined it.  Below are a few examples:

Protected from his many failures

Author Mary Trump

The last full Chapter (14, A Civil Servant in Public Housing) starts with an idea I’ve not seen discussed elsewhere, as Mary sees parallel “through lines” from the House where the Trump family was raised to Trump Tower to the West Wing; and from Trump Management to the Trump Organization to the Oval Office. The first reveals a progression of controlled environments that took care of Donald’s material needs, while the second constituted “a series of sinecures in which the work was done by others and Donald never needed to acquire expertise in order to attain or retain power …. All of this has protected Donald from his own failures while allowing him to believe himself a success.”

Also intriguing is the interpretation that — far from Donald  taking advantage of others, which he certainly did — “there was a line of people willing to take advantage of him.” This started with the New York tabloid press in the 1980s, which “discovered that Donald couldn’t distinguish between mockery and flattery and used his shamelessness to sell papers.”

By 2004, Donald’s finances were “a mess,” Mary writes, at which time his “empire” consisted of “increasingly desperate branding opportunities such as Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, and Trump University.” And this made him an easy target for Mark Burnett, who saved his career by convincing Trump to be the star of the reality TV show, The Apprentice, where he played the part of the successful businessman he wasn’t in reality.

She also recounts the many times his father bailed him out, including at least one of his failing casinos (It seems the House always wins, unless Donald Trump owns it). As she notes:

“Nobody has failed upward as consistently and spectacularly as the ostensible leader of the shrinking free world.”

In short, Mary concludes, her uncle “was neither self-made nor a good dealmaker … His real skills (self-aggrandizement, lying, and sleight of hand) were interpreted as strengths unique to his brand of success.”

Mary’s credentials as a psychologist also make her observations relevant, such as this shocking sentence:

“Donald today is much as he was at three years old: incapable of growing, learning, or evolving, unable to regulate his emotions, moderate his responses, or take in and synthesize information.”

The stress of distracting from his vast ignorance

While his fundamental nature hasn’t changed, he has experienced more stress since taking on the presidency. However, she explains: Continue Reading…

Retired Money: the glut of books about Trump and prospects for Boomers’ retirements

As the yellow highlights show, books about Donald Trump now dominate the New York Times’ non-fiction bestseller lists

As my latest MoneySense Retired Money column recaps in depth, roughly half of the top ten New York Times bestselling non-fiction books are about the Donald Trump presidency. You can access the full column by clicking on the highlighted headline here: How Trump’s policies are affecting my investment choices.

Soon after the 2016 election that brought Trump to power, my financial advisor and I would exchange emails about the latest books: initially biographies and warnings and then in the last year the current glut of books about the actual presidency and the administration.

I’m normally a fan of biographies and love him or hate him, it’s hard to ignore the life of Donald Trump, considering that everything he says or tweets can impact us all. Yes, he may or may not be a threat to the looming Retirement of the baby boom generation of which he is on the leading edge, but his hair-trigger temper and proximity to the nuclear codes gives us something more to fear than merely our financial survival.

Some of the books I mention do give some insights into the implications of this presidency for the global economy and stock markets. Others are mere political diatribes from the left or the right, while still others are more salacious tell-alls. Stormy Daniels, I’m looking at you! (The book is titled Full Disclosure.)

As the column mentions, there are a number of books written by rabid left-wingers who are convinced Trump is a serial liar and a treasonous sellout to Russia president Vladimir Putin, but there are also several written by conservatives and republicans who are more sanguine about it all. In the latter camp I’d include Conrad Black, Ann Coulter and David Frum, plus a few titles from FOX news personalities who are obviously sympathetic with “The President,” as they like to refer to him.

Crazy crazy or Crazy like a fox?  Continue Reading…

Retired Money: How to beat the banks at their own game

My latest MoneySense column reviews the new book by ex banker Larry Bates, titled Beat the Bank. As the headline suggests, it’s all about how to beat the banks at their own game, which ironically can mean owning the big bank stocks themselves! The full column can be retrieved by clicking on the highlighted text here:  Tips for DIY investors on beating the Big Five banks.

The formal launch date for the book is this Thursday: September 13, 2018. I first met Bates over lunch in March as his manuscript was nearing completion, where he expounded on what he called the “two Bay Streets.” Old Bay Street and its secrets are the focus of chapters 4 and 5, and New Bay Street is chapter 6.

Old Bay Street is not the investor’s friend

Most experienced investors will have encountered Old Bay Street at some point. This is the traditional investment industry: the commission-based mutual fund and brokerage industry, insurance company reps, investment “specialists” in the bank branches and various salespeople who call themselves “advisors.”

New Bay Street = Discount Brokerage, ETFs & fee-for-service planners

The New Bay Street includes providers of low-cost index funds or Exchange-traded Funds (ETFs) or online robo-advisers that automate the purchase and rebalancing of ETFs along with setting asset allocation.

At 62, Bates is well into his own “Victory Lap,” leaving employment for self-employment. Actually, his New Bay Street model isn’t all that new, as it describes models similar to what I myself described back in 1998 in my own financial book, Findependence Day. My version consists of buying ETFs at a discount brokerage and using a fee-for-service financial planner. The same year, similar principles were also described in Stop Buying Mutual Funds!, by Mark Heinzl, now a Globe & Mail stock market columnist.

Dinosaur banks have the lowest T-REX scores

Bates has fashioned something he calls T-REX scores  This is an acronym for Total Return Efficiency Index Score. A T-REX score of 100% would be paying absolutely no fees at all, no matter how long your time horizon.

Mutual funds with 2% annual fees would have T-REX scores of 54% over 20 years and true fees of 46%, but the longer you hold, the worse the performance; thus, over 40 years the T-REX would be 41% and the true fee 59%. Fees of 3% inflict even more damage. This is the basis for his statement that long-term customers of Old Bay Street lose half their money to fees. You can find more at his website at www.larrybates.ca.

The pure DIY model of buying individual stocks or bonds at a discount broker yields the highest scores: a T-REX of 96 to 99%. (Remember, the higher the better, with 100 being perfect).

Continue Reading…