In retirement, former big bank CEO Ed Crutchfield's reading list has leaned toward deciphering where the world is headed.
He recently read “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable,” by former trader-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. His disconcerting premise is that most events with major impacts – the 9-11 attacks, the rise of the Internet, stock market crashes – are unpredictable. Yet we delude ourselves into thinking we can predict such rare risks.
The book hit shelves last year just before the subprime debacle, leading banks to write off billions in losses their risk models hadn't foreseen. The book's well-received predecessor was Taleb's “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets,” which Crutchfield also read.
“I'm not an intellectual, but I am intellectually curious,” said Crutchfield, 67, who retired in 2000 as CEO of First Union, now Wachovia, and lives in Charlotte.
This summer, that had him reading “Cicero: The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician,” by Anthony Everitt. He enjoyed learning about a major historical character, another frequent choice. He also seeks insights from the spiritual, such as “The Attentive Life: Discerning God's Presence in All Things,” by Charlotte's Leighton Ford, an evangelical leader and Billy Graham's brother-in-law.
“It's a spiritual book, but not sappy,” Crutchfield said. “I'm not a holy roller.”
He likes to share, often sending books he enjoys to friends. His curiosity does not extend to iPods and similar tech toys, but he is a news- hound. Most days start with the Observer and The Wall Street Journal, read with morning coffee, in bed.
“My wife, Barbara, and I fight over who gets the front section.”