Nonfiction books' Journal|
[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 19 most recent journal entries recorded in
Nonfiction books' LiveJournal:
|Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010|
Книга «Деловая кругосветка»
В в издательстве Альпина НонФикшн, вышла в свет книга Дмитрия Шевцова "Деловая кругосветка"
Более подробная информация на сайте www.povsemusvetu.ru
Объехать весь мир
и заработать при этом деньги
Дмитрий Шевцов, многие годы занимающийся прямыми инвестициями как в непубличные компании, так и в акции и облигации компаний разных стран, вместе со своей невестой Марией отправился в кругосветное путешествие, чтобы увидеть мир своими глазами, но не в привычном режиме турпоездки или деловой конференции. За 14 месяцев путешественники побывали на всех континентах, в 32 странах мира. Они начали с Европы и, проехав по Северной и Южной Америке, отправились на корабле на Антарктику, а вернувшись на Большую землю, продолжили путь через Австралию и Океанию, Азию и Африку обратно в Европу. Этот уникальный опыт помог автору книги не только увидеть по-новому мир, но и обнаружить много новых возможностей для инвестиций. Об авторе
Дмитрий Б. Шевцов родился в 1971 году в Тбилиси. После окончания с отличием факультета международного права МГИМО МИД России и Магистратуры Школы Права Мичиганского Университета, США работал в вашингтонском офисе юридической фирмы «Baker Botts» и в лондонских и московских офисах юридической фирмы «Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton». Занимал позицию Управляющего Директора, Генерального Директора российского подразделения «Ренессанс Капитала» - "Ренессанс Капитал Финансовый Консультант", ведущего российского инвестиционного банка; возглавлял банковскую группу и группу прямых инвестиций южно-африканского Standard Bank в России. В настоящее время является Упраляющим Партнером российско-китайской инвестиционной компании «Евразия Ресурсы».Выдержки из книги в ЖЖ
Больше информации на сайте www.povsemusvetu.ru
|Monday, June 1st, 2009|
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling
An interesting idea for a book. It claims we can deduce much about a person from their living or working space.
The book starts by detailing the big five traits of psychology
Openness(how willing you are to experience new things)
Agreeableness(how much you like other people)
The book goes on to argue that you can read clues from people’s living space. However mostly it is on merely two of these traits. If a person is open they are likely to have a wide range of books and if a person is very tidy then they are likely to be conscientious.
In many ways the book seems to argue that snooping might not be so useful. In general people tend to underestimate context(except with regard to themselves), and the book argues it is hard to deduce much from a few cues. For example, a messy person can tidy up or certain items can belong to other people or company policy might change the way a person’s desk is set up, etc. And things such as music tastes or drinking tastes are less important than we imagine.
The big problem with this book is that it is kind of obvious that conscientious organised people are likely to have organised personal spaces and open people are likely to have interesting reading material. This book counsels against making big deductive jumps, but that rather limits the scope of snooping. Snooping can be quite good at determining gender and the attractiveness of people (by the photographs of their partners).
The book is quite long as the author goes into various anecdotes about experiment he has done with college students. It is actually quite interesting, although I found myself a bit disappointed at the end of the book to discover that there aren’t really a set of rules that turn us into super snoopers and that in practice it is not such a good way to find out about people. There is also a section of the uses of stereotypes which sort of fitted, but felt very different in tone to the rest of book.
I enjoyed this book, but it is a bit of a guilt pleasure kind of book than on that will change lives or offers much in the way of deep insight. Current Mood: okay
|Wednesday, May 13th, 2009|
The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash
I probably bought this book too late. It is an analysis of how the credit crunch came to happen. It really starts from the 1970s and deals with how the American economy drifted towards consumption and how increasing complex credit instruments were derived to fund this consumption. The US government also borrowed heavily and failed to properly invest in the future. The story also cast Alan Greenspan, former head of the Federal Reserve, as the chief villain for holding interest rates too low for too long. The result of this has been a soaring asset prices in a boom that couldn’t last.
The book goes on to detail the expected losses and comes up with a figure of about $2 trillion. The problem is that this is a great book, but it was written in 2007 before the crash that no-one spotted. Now it seems we are already half way through the crash and so the book has rather been overtaken by events.
The book seemed to me to be relatively easy to understand and offered some explanation of the events. However it is probably still easiest to read by someone who at least follows the business news. There are quite a few terms thrown around that make the subject of finance hard to understand and this book is not really an introduction to that subject.
The author’s solution is to re-regulate banks and a reorientation of global monetary flows. Time will tell if he is right. Current Mood: content
|Friday, January 23rd, 2009|
Blood and Thunder by Hampton Sides
I have been meaning to post about this book for a while. It centres around the American West as it is being explored and settled by the Americans. The main person of interest is Kit Carson, an illiterate mountian man who seems to have been involved in all the wars and disputes that occurred at this time. This book is most interesting when it looks at the "little" people involved in the "BIG" events such as the Mexican, Indian and Civil wars. The chapters about the Navajo Indians were very enjoyable and I learnt a lot. This is an eventful period of history and this book covers it in a very readable and entertaining way, if you like a good Western film, this will appeal to you.
|Thursday, January 22nd, 2009|
The Bottom Billion - Why the poorest nations are failing and what we can do about it - Paul Collier
First off, WOW! What a great idea for a community! Thanks! Now onto the review:
Begrudgingly I have to admit this book is worth the read. The further I got through it the more my snorts of disgust at the author's arrogance became tainted with respect. At first he came across as a growth-at-all-cost supporter, despite his disclaimer that attention should be paid to HOW a bottom billion economy would develop (something he consistentlly ignored throughout). Statements such as "it was perhaps a mistake for the international system to to permit economically unviable areas to become independent countries" made it clear that this man is an economist with no interest in social issues whatsoever, and his defence of structural adjustment programs just raised my blood pressure even further.
However, once you sift through the unreferenced peripheral commentary to the core principles of his economic analysis, many of his points become noteworthy. For example, he explains the negative impacts of NGO advocacy on development (e.g. supporting aid and high trade barriers), the likely causes of repeated coups/conflicts arguably justifying external military interventions, and the reasons for economic stagnation in resource-rich countries to name but a few.
The reason why I value this book is that on the global scale the developing world is improving, even though we will miss the Millenium Development Goals in 2015. However, at the bottom of the pile the situation is precisely the reverse. As the developing world pulls collective self out of poverty, the poorest countries become increasingly locked into their dire situation. This is the target of the book, and the solutions he proposes are measured and well thought out. I couldn't say with certainty that they would work, and I think many of them are politically unfeasible, but they are definitely worth trying.
Among those I would support:
Changes to aid policy: focus on more challenging areas, accept higher risk and failure rates.
Trade reform: END AGRICULTURAL SUBSIDIES!! WE ARE WASTING OUR OWN MONEY FFS! "If aid is targeting the MDGs, then so should trade policy."
International investment charters that would replace signals from "kamikaze reform strategies" and make investment more attractive.
|Tuesday, December 9th, 2008|
LIfe at the Extremes:the science of survival
by Frances Ashcroft. This is basically about how we survive or die in extreme environments, it combines science with tales of daring adventures. The science is easy to follow and well explained but anybody who has read any adventure or exploration books will probably already know about the adventures described. There is also descriptions of how animals differ to us and can survive in their environments.
This is a good read, and i learnt a few things but i could have done without a lot of the discussion about bacteria, its just not very interesting to me and didnt really add anything to the book.
|Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008|
Who runs Britain? Robert Peston asks in the title of this book before adding - perhaps rather hastily - who is to blame for the mess we are.
Peston is the BBC journalist who has gone from a no-one to a someone whilst covering the credit crunch. He has even been mentionned in the house of commons as his reporting has alledgedly made certain panics worse.
This book looks at the stories behind the superwealth. These include long sections on Marks and Spencer and the attempted takeover by retail magnet Philip Green and the turnaround work done by Stuart Rose. The book then really moves on to examine the private equity industry which forms the meat of the book. He explains how they operate, what they do and how they are funded. This is a really strong section as private equity is rather an opaque industry. The book then moves onto cash for honours scandal where hours were sold before finally looking at the post office.
This book never really answers who runs Britain. The book details the fabulous wealth of private equity but the author admits they are not really power hungry yet. Politics is not really considered. Instead the book focuses on a few stories in detail - so M&S and the postoffice are explored in depth despite the fact they are not really the commanding heights of our economy. Peston regards the model of capitalism in which PLC run companies for the benefit of many shareholders(most pension funds) as more desirable than a world in which private equity funds capture economic returns for a few. He highlights the fact that the threat to offshore limits governments power and the risk that funding of political parties makes them vulnerable to these new elites.
Certainly the book is right to examine these new superrich groups rather than the conventional fat cat bosses whose salaries are far lower. It is not incredibly well written, but it is quite clear it reads like a magazine article at times. I don't think the book ever really looks at the current crisis, certainly not the root causes. The sections on private equity probably make the book worth reading, but there are a few bad sections - the post office section and the cash for honours section. These are presumably attempts to bring in the private sector into the book and the relationship with the public sector - but it doesn't work. Still this is an interesting book and a good read. Current Mood: thoughtful
|Friday, November 14th, 2008|
What They Teach You at Harvard Business School: My Two Years Inside the Cauldron of Capitalism by Ph
What They Do Teach you at Harvard is one man's review of the time he spent at Harvard.
It explains what is in the syllabus and provides a very, very brief insight into the theories that underlie business studies. I don't think reading this book is going to operate as a guide for anyone wanting to learn finance or as a mini-MBA in itself although there are plenty of books around that do that. Instead it looks at the culture of Harvard Business School.
The book is all about the atmosphere of the school, hard working, aggressive, masculine, american, capitalist. There seems to be a great deal of pressure and alpha male behaviour in the class rooms. And yet it is not that easy not to "fail" in terms of not passing. However failure is defined as a not getting a million pound a year job.
The conclusion is that the school is elitest, not as international as it claims, obsessed by money - especially short term money and overly business oriented. The author is a very reluctant capitalist. He also champions a better work-life balance than the HBS seems to.
I enjoyed the book as a light read. It is no real introduction to business theories or studying an MBA. But it does explain the environment that has produced many of the leading figures in the USA and global capitalism. Current Mood: complacent
|Saturday, October 11th, 2008|
Nixon :Ruin to Recovery by Stephen Ambrose
This was such an interesting read i really struggled to put it down, even though i knew how Watergate ended the events that led up to it are still capable of drawing me in. Nixon comes across as a flawed person who achieved so much in world events at the time and could have achieved a lot more if only he could have kept his dark side under control. Stephen Ambrose come across as someone who respects Nixon without liking him, but his enjoyment of the subject comes through very strongly.
i would recommend this for anyone who wants to read a political biography that doesn't praise its subject without looking at the flaws.
|Tuesday, October 7th, 2008|
What books are you looking forward to reading, but haven't got around to yet? Current Mood: curious
|Friday, September 26th, 2008|
born on a blue day by daniel tamnet
this is an autobiography by an autistic man with "rainman" style mathematic abilities. it is a fascinating read but at times does have an annoying tendency to be jumpy . i enjoyed the parts where he talked about numbers and how they appear to him but i would have liked a couple of chapters by his mum to say how she coped with a special child. she comes across as a strong character, and it would have been nice to know more about her.
i would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed "the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime" by mark haddon.
|Sunday, August 10th, 2008|
An Empire of Wealth by John Steele Gordon
This book is a 400 page economic history of the USA. It starts with the first colonists and continues up to September 11th.
The book thesis seems to be that the USA is the first world power to be founded on economic might. This is perhaps debateably as other empires have had economic might before, notably the British empire. And the USA has other sources of power, especially military.
The book is surprisingly interesting to read as it deals with narrative and rarely seems to quote numbers. In many ways it is a shame as it would be nice to know a bit more about rates of growth at various time. The book is unsurprisingly fond of the free market. Also it has a positive narrative as the various economic downturns are seen as leading to institutions that prevent the same events reoccuring. The book tends to regard the large industrialists as forces for good, and labour unions as negative - the illegal and immoral activities of some of the wealthiest people in society are ignored.
The broad theme is the USA had surplus land at the start of its history and sucked in labour. This lead to agriculture and extraction industries. Industrial goods were imported, but gradually the large size of the domestic US market lead to new industries and factories being created. This industrialisation was accelerated by the civil war which cut of European markets. The USA expanded even more rapidly after the civil war as the world economy surged. Then the First World War lead to further expansion as the USA was able to surge ahead of economies that had to borrow to pay for the war effort. This rapid growth continued until the Great Depression ended speculative booms and sank the economy into recession until the Second World War. The USA once again remained on the edge of the major battlefields and emerged stronger from the war, and after the war a surge in bent up demand further boosted the economy. Durng the Cold War the USA came to dominate the world economic system and helped to recreate the economies of Europe and Japan. Eventually the superior military spending of the USA broke the Soviet Union and the USA was the only superpower.
This book is a good overview to the USA history, but it did not really teach me much new. Moreover it seems largely to adhere to the view of history as a bunch of facts rather than huge forces unwinding, beyond the relentless rise of free markets. Current Mood: chipper
|Tuesday, August 5th, 2008|
Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong
This is Lance Armstrong second autobiography.
It deals with his Tour de France wins after the first and unlike his previous book deals to a lesser extent with his struggles with cancer, although he talk a great deal about his work with other cancer suffers.
This books explains how the cycling is really a team sport and how a team trains for the tour. There is quite a bit about how he struggles against adversity and what he regards as a winning mentality. His battles to prove he was not a drug cheat also get quite a mention. The book is a light read, he admits he isn't one for introspection and there is little in the way of great insights into his personality or private life. Despite this it is a good read, and it really doesn't take long to read. I preferred his first book, "It's Not About the Bike" and that is a more natural place for Lance Armstrong fans to start.
|Monday, August 4th, 2008|
SuperCrunchers by Ian Ayer
The idea of this book is to show how better computers are allowing us to better predict how people will react to situations.
The book triumphs the growth of statistic techniques and large data sets to allow society to make better choices. The book details examples in medicine, health and commerce to show how this is happening.
The problem is there is not much new in this book and it doesn't really hang together very well. It is written in a simple style, and a result of this is the book lacks depth. The examination of the issues is rather weak. Also whenever another researcher is named there is a mini-biography given. So we are told the hair colour, height, etc of various unknown people.
This should have been an interesting book, but it is a very lightweight read. I am not sure if there is a book out there that addresses a potentially interesting subject better. Current Mood: curious
|Wednesday, July 16th, 2008|
The Political Brain by Drew Western
This book looks at how people vote and what determines who they vote fo
r. It is written by a democrat, and so looks at how the democrats can beat the Republicans.
The central thesis of this book is that people determine how they vote based on emotions rather than cold, logical thinking. The candidates that do well need to tell stories that inspire people and link in with the candidates beliefs. To win elections requires a triumph of substance over form.
The book outlines this central thesis and then uses examples of how Republicans have already done this in debates and illustrates how a democrat should respond, by creating hypothetical responses. The impression is that democrats need to be nastier, the author does not have a problem with negative campaigns, especially if they are retaliatory. This is in part because not to respond doesn't raise a candidate up so much as make them seem weak and unable to respond.
Much is made of the way Republicians have hijacked language. An example would be a term such as "tax relief" which seems to have a positive impression, the fact these are often limited to a few executives is ignored.
This book is interesting and highlights the ideas that much of how we vote is based on how we feel about a candidate rather than a rational analysis of their points. The book is very US centric, and the same doesn't apply in other countries, as many issues such as abortion and gun control are not so contested. Also the book is also going to appeal to Democrats/ Liberals rather than Republicans/Democrats. This is an interesting book, but not quite a must read Current Mood: cheerful
History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr
This is a book that examines the history of modern Britain
, starting in 1945(ish) after the second world war and continuing right up until Blair left Downing Street last year.
The central thesis of the book is the way Britain has changed, specifically that politics has become more important and has been replaced by shopping. The ideas that bubbled under the surface of society in the post war years were a socialist nation that was rigidly planned, a white hot technocratic company, returns to an Edwardian morality and empire. But in the end it seems that freedom, consumerism and shopping triumphed. The author as a political journalist and seems hopeful that global issues will see a resurgence of interest in politics.
The book is a mixture of political and social history. The author paint vivid pictures of what it was like to be a Briton after the war or during the so called swinging 60s. The other side of this is his examination of the political intrigue at the heart of government. The way he zooms in on the elites struggle for power and their flaws makes dramatic and compelling reading.
The book is really well written, often it seems to be crafted like a novel. As a journalist it seems each page has been written to keep you reading, rather than just to relay the facts. At various points are some fascinating facts, like in the 1940s their was just a handful of gun crimes in London(literally four or five a year) or that half of the 70 odd ministers of state in Harold MacMillan government were related to him.
There are two major governments in the story. The first is the labour government that established democratic socialism and a retreat from Empire in the 1940s. The second is the Thatcherite revolution in the 1980s. Most of the rest of the governments are seen as weakly clinging to power, sticking with a quiet life and failing to create a really modern Britain.
I like the way this book shows who we moved from a conservative white nation of dirty, poor people, recovering from war and clinging to empire to the liberal, vibrant and shallow multicultural nation we inhabit today. And as the author says at the start of the book this is the life story of people now copped up in old people's homes in the country.
This is an excellent book, although it is 600 pages long it is a great read. Also worth noting there is a television program that accompanies the book. Current Mood: chipper
|Monday, June 23rd, 2008|
The Economic Naturalist: Why Economics Explains Almost Everything
This book is essentially a book of short essay that deals with how situations can be explained. It is basically a series of just-so stories.
The book consists of a problem such as why kamikazi pilots wear helmets or why coke comes in round tins and milk in square ones. Each is answered in the form of an essay which is less than 500 words.
This could have been an interesting book, but it fails. A lot of the answers don't really feature much economics at all or don't have the ring of truth to them. It is difficult to really get to grips with the issues in 500 words and so the whole thing seems rather superficial. The essay were also written by first year university students and so are not really on the cutting edge of economic theory.
The point of the book is to encourage the reader to view the world in a slightly different way. However the book is not especially deep and many of the answers are dubious or incorrect. I found it rather disappointing and lightweight. It is no freakonomics. Current Mood: blank
|Tuesday, June 17th, 2008|
The Trouble With Physics
This is a book by Lee Smolin. It begins by examining several of the problems the modern theoretical physic is trying to solve. These include unifying the scientific laws that govern large scale objects with those that operate over very small objects. The ultimate aim of physics is to produce a theory of everything, so that the entire physical universe can be explained as arising out of a few simple theories. The author’s hypothesis is that in the last 25 years there has been no real progress in solving the main problems he highlights.
Smolin believes that physics has become too focused on string theory. This argues there are 10 dimensions and everything is the result of one dimensional strings that pass through these dimensions. The forces and particles in the world are the result of vibrations of these strings. Since the 1980s this has been the hottest theory. This theory postulates many different possible universes and mathematical theories for each possible universe. The author believes that strong theory is basically wrong and has lead science in the wrong direction.
The problem for any book dealing with cutting edge science is to make it accessible to the reader and also something that is accurate. As much science as this level is mathematical this is hard to do. The alternative to using mathematics is to try and use metaphors and lose some of the accuracy. Unfortunately this book is hard to understand. And often he seems to leave things open, explaining that they are too complex to explain. You always feel you have to take what he says on trust and because he is attacking the orthodox position there is probably a lot that might not be regarded as accurate. He doesn't really play devils advocate to his own position. Indeed he is researching a theory called Loop Gravity, which he briefly explains.
The last section of the book is a sort of sociological treaties on science and the scientific community. He believes that conformity is too valued, creativity is stifled and there is a follow the herd mentality in science that is killing more imaginative solutions. I am not sure if the whole picture is quite as straightforward as he imagines, it is hard to believe there is a string theory conspiracy determining what happens in physics. It must just be that string theory is the least worst hypothesis available.
I found the book to be well written and enjoyed the prose style. But I had the feeling after reading it that I hadn't really learnt anything and the author is perhaps a maverick angry that the scientific community isn't paying more attention to him. Part of me wonders if a second reading might illuminate the issues further, but I am not sure it is worthwhile. Not a book I can recommend I am afraid. Current Mood: confused
|Saturday, May 31st, 2008|
This a review of the Lucifer Effect
which gives an account of how normal people end up commiting evil deeds. It was written by Philip G. Zimbardo, who was behind the Stanford Prison Experiment. Basically he created a fake prison and divided groups of students into guards and prisoners. Most of the book details what happened in the experiment, which was a descent into sadism by the guards in just a few weeks. The experiment was terminated after a week rather than the two it was meant to run. A lot of time is spent describing how the guards reacted, depriving prisonners of food and sleep and calling them names, locking them in solitary confinement and verbally abusing them. How on a day by day basis the abuse and mental anguish of the guards steadily worstenned. I suspect it was the lack of sleep that must have really destroy the prisonners. Also the impacts of the experiment on all those involved are considered, it seems that it was overwhelmingly a benign experience.
The prisoners are not really as closely analysed. Some rebel against the system, but this attracts more abuse from the guards. But the point is made that they were free to leave at any time, yet didn't do so. They seemed to genuinely believe that they couldn't leave and even plotted to escape.
The book then moves on to consider attrocities as Abu Ghraib in Iraq. His analysis of the behaviour of the guards is interesting and sympathetic towards them. For example the prison was under intermittant mortar attack, the Iraq guards smuggled in guards, civilians did the interrogation, guards were told to "soften up" prisonners, the prison was overcrowded, senior officers never patrolled the night shift and some of the abuses photographed were in retribuation for attacks by the criminals. One of the guards who received a long sentence had worked for 40 twelve hours on/twelve hours off shifts in a row and his time off was spent sleep in a prison cell.
Next he attempts to put the military and civil leadership of the US army on trial for the abuses. Interesting stuff, but it seems that there isn't really enough evidence to convict anyone or even to hold them morally if not legally responsible. It is not clear who is responsible, but on the other hand as an Iraq who had been abused I would want someone punished. I was pretty critical of the prison guards a few years ago, but I now see that in their position it would be hard to say for sure I wouldn't have acted in the same way.
The book then examines the Stanley Milligram experiements and others of their ilk testing the way people comply to authority and will happily harm others if an authority figure instructs them to do so. These experiments consist of an authority figure request a subject inflicts pain on a confederate. Overwhelmingly people do. Interestingly of those that refused they tended to just walk out of the experiment rather than attecting to stop the experiment, something I had never really thought about. As these experiments are carried out usually in universities asking for volunteers merely walking away wouldn't have stopped any real abusive experiments. In the Stanford Prison Experiment a priest, parents and a lawyer were allowed visiting rights and despite some protest no-one really acted to stop it.
The book then looks at another risk factor which is groupthink, the tendency of people to suspend critical judgements and go with the rest of the group - it looks at the Bay of Pigs invasion as the classic example. I might have liked to have seen this section expanded.
The theme of the book is very much that people are driven towards evil as a result of the situation or system they are in rather than an intrinsic evil within them. However the book does argue that some are more surspectible to evil by virtue of their personality - conformist and shy people especially.
The book does allow some room for individual agency and next considers how to resist being lead down the path towards evil. The 10 points are:-
1. Admit mistakes. Be prepared to cut losses as bad choices or actions.
2. Be mindful. Don't live in autopilot.
3. Take responsibility for your own actions.
4. Protect your individuality. Don't hide behind an identity.
5. Respect just authority, rebel against unjust authority.
6. Seel group authority but value independence
7. Be frame vigiliant, be aware of how issues and situations are presented to you.
8. Balance time perspectives. Think how the future you will look back on your actions and look back at past commitments. Avoid what the author calls an extended present, where proper consideration of consequences can be avoided.
9. Don't sacrifice freedom for security
10. Be aware you can make a difference to systems and situations.
The book then enters what is, in my opinion, its weakest section which looks at heroism. There is an attempt to provide a taxiology of heroism that is rather useless imho. Much of the book is well researched, but there is less scientific rigour in this part, probably because their isn't much research into heroism.
At times the book considers other attrocities and evils such as those in Vietnam, Rwanda and Nazi Germany. Although these are not analysed to the same extend of Abu Ghraib, probably because the author was an expert witness in the trial that followed.
This is a very good book, although I feel it is overlong and the author allows his political stance to colour the book somewhat. The chapter on heroism could have waited for another book really, and I am not sure it really fitted with the tone of the book. The overal theme is that evil is something that is normal for all of us. Current Mood: chipper