July 10, 2019 (last update)
Writing this blog is fun, but one of my other goals is to try to read more. Now I am not going to start publishing a book club review of material or anything like that but I thought it would be interesting to highlight the books that I am reading. If my readers have suggestions,they are also welcome
To be clear I read all the time. As most of you know I gave up on a real career way back in 2003, but I haven’t been hiding in a hole. Various ‘lifestyle’ jobs and a LOT of investing activity have kept me very busy. I read constantly. I read about companies, then learn about their marketplaces, their products, their customers, the economics that drives future growth (or not) and more. I read SEC filings for the fun of it. If that sounds like fun, then maybe we have something in common, but more likely it makes me sound like a geek. So one of my goals is to read more fun stuff.
Here are some of the books that have kept me company over the past couple of months. If you want to know how they end, just ask. If you want a book report forget it. I will sum up my opinion into usually no more than two sentences, and frequently they are short.
- In The Garden of Beasts – Erik Larson – I read this a few years ago, but with Trump’s actions, I wish all of my readers would read this historically accurate account of Hitlers’ first years in power. It is a great example of how powerful forces can slowly alter the balance of society by raising up some and diminishing others. When done without a conscience, the outcome can be both disastrous and unintended. It can also tip to disaster very, very quickly.
- The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – The latest edition has a nice forward from Margaret Atwood. It is an interesting dystopian examination of misogyny and how fanatical beliefs can lead to unintended loss of freedom for ‘non-believers’.
- The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway – A Classic Novel. One of many that I expect to attack this year . . . we will see if I get through them.
- Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami – A Japanese coming of age novel. The official English translation was excellent read but the novel was emotionally taxing.
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things
- The author has a few mental issues (truthfully, that’s why her blog is a big hit), and this book made me laugh out loud a number of times. It is not a novel, it’s a series of short essays and a bit over the top at times, and a bit of a downer at others. Sounds a bit like the author’s disease. It was an easy and enjoyable read.
- Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a family and Culture in Crisis
- What started out as an interesting story quickly became a ‘make me famous’ story of success and stamina to overcome a very troubled past. Interesting, but then you realize he was contemplating a run for the US senate just after it’s publication and well . . .
- Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
- Reading this tome has given voice to all of my inclinations about Donald Trump. For years while he has been building his image I have stated emphatically that he is a terrible businessman and an idiot and the machinations uncovered for this book clarify my assertions. Enough said. It’s a good read, but only if you are interested in the internal workings of a dysfunctional, budding dictatorship.
- Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
- This book meanders through the life story of Kathy H. The prose is very appealing and the book is an easy read, but it lacks any real excitement, just a sustained level of modest intrigue for what will happen to Kathy and her friends.
- Bad Girl, by Mario Vargas Llosa
- As I started this book I got the feeling it was a biography, and the details are magnificent, if somewhat distracting, but certainly lend an air of authenticity to the characters. A great story about love, social climbing and the vagaries of time.
- The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
- This is one of the best selling books of all time and I can understand why, but really, don’t bother reading it. It’s just blather about mystical reasons for justifying whatever path your on. A good book on planning would be more helpful.
- Red Notice, by Bill Browder
- This book should be read by everyone who wants to understand the dangers of dealing with Russia, their corrupt regime and the consequences for the world at large. This small bit of modern corporate and political drama is still playing out on the international scene (Canada recently passed the Magnitsky Act).
- Londongrad, by Mark Hollingsworth & Stewart Lansley
- Just starting this one, but it looks to be a nice bit of research along the lines of Red Notice. If you weren’t already worried about Putin, Xi, Trump and the rest of the leaders seeking absolute control of their country and indeed the world, these stories should scare the crap out of you. Certainly they should cause you to use your freedom to vote!! … [Update – August, 2018] Finally finished. This is not an easy book to read, with lots of details regarding the oligarchs, their minions and their transactions. I am particularly interested in the effects of this money trail on everyday citizens. With the ‘easy money’ pushing up prices on assets and causing distortions in sovereign markets. This book details effects on housing, autos, art and other luxury goods, but also does a good job of describing how the middle class was moved out of the way by this surge of spending. Also some notes regarding the inefficient taxation caused by these actions.
- The Immortalists, by Chole Benjamin
- An interesting read about a group of children and how their fates are all intertwined and seemingly controlled by a gypsy fortune teller. An interesting depiction of the gay scene in San Francisco in the 70’s as well as a depiction of life for an artsy high school drop out and her struggle to achieve her dream. The overall story isn’t very realistic, but these depictions were well done.
- The Art of Vanishing (A memoir of Wanderlust), by Laura Smith
- So I bought this book because it was to be an examination of what drives someone to drop everything and leave . . . it was not at all as expected. This is a story of author Barbara Follett who wrote two books before the age of 16 and then suffered through much of the rest of her (known) life until she (apparently) walked away from her life at 25 and has never been seen or heard from again. It is intertwined with the author’s own story about wanting to avoid societal norms and her attempts at the same, including trying an ‘open marriage’ with her husband. This book was nothing like what I expected and a fascinating read. I read it in 24 hours and had to know what happened to Barbara Follett. I would tell you what I know, but that would spoil the book.