Tag: Book Reviews

A Look Back at 2009 and A Look Ahead to 2010

I know it’s a little late for a year end review, but I thought I finally have time to finish this post.  I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite things from 2009 and take a look ahead to some interesting thing for 2010.

2009 was a fun year.  I graduated with a degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin, made great progress on Entrustet, made some good friends and traveled to Europe with one of my best friends to visit another.  I was in another great friend’s wedding, got my consulting company off the ground, saw some amazing sporting events and got more involved in Madison.  I even stuck with my blog.

My Best Posts (in no order)

The Business School Way of Life

Is the Dollar America’s Achilles Heel?

America Doesn’t Plan for the Future

The Entrepreneurial Push

Every Startup Needs a Mentor Team

My Decade in Review

My Favorite Books (read, not written in 2009)


Three Cups of Tea


Always Running

The White Tiger

I’m looking forward to going to South Africa for the World Cup this summer, attending South By Southwest and continuing to work on Entrustet.  I think 2010 will be another fun and interesting year for me.  I hope your 2010 is too!

Predictions for 2010s

I know it’s just about impossible to look forward a few months, much less a year or even a decade, but here’s some guesses as to where we are headed.


  1. Gold will continue its rise in response to more US government debt creation
  2. Developing countries continue to grow more quickly than developed countries.
  3. Unemployment will become the biggest political problem next year, but entrepreneurs will be somewhat sheltered

Longer Term

  1. The Reserve Status of US dollar will be called into question.  Look for China and the rest of the world to continue to diversify away from US government debt.  I don’t know when this will happen, but I can’t see any other solution to the US’s massive debt and unfunded liabilities.
  2. At some point, bubbles in China, US debt and others may pop.  This could lead to lower stock values and a resumption of the bear market.
  3. China will move from manufacturer to the world toward one of the leading innovators.  China will continue to assert itself on the political and economic stages. Look for their dominance in rare earth metals.
  4. Entrepreneurs around the world will be successful, as large companies do not want to invest in new technologies and talent is cheap.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

October Book Reviews

I only had time to read two books in October, but they were both interesting and well worth my time.  One was fiction and one was non-fiction.   Check out my reviews from past months here.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life InsuranceSteven Levitt and Steven Dubner.  SuperFreakonomics is a great follow up to the Stevens’ first effort, Freakonomics.  If you enjoyed Freakonomics, you will love SuperFreakonomics.  They tackle all sorts of problems with data, which you hardly ever see in most other walks of life.  Ever since I read Freakonomics, I’ve been fascinated with the way they look at problems and issues and I’ve been reading the Freakonomics blog in the New York Times daily.  In SuperFreakonomics, Levitt and Dubner tackle emergency room safety, the efficacy of child car seats, prostitution and most controversially, global warming.  They also present some amazing history about this history of vaccines, car seats and health care in their trademarked, data driven, but still humorous style.

I won’t ruin any more of the book for you, but there has been a huge outcry from the global warming establishment about SuperFreakonomics’ take on global warming.  Dubner and Levitt say that global warming has become a “new relgion complete with dogma and good and evil.”  They have been proven right because they were immediately criticized by the global warming establishment when the book was released.  I liked the way they tried to bring reason and science back to the global warming debate and move it away from political, religious debates that it has become, but was suprised that they advocated so hard for geo-engineering.

Levitt and Dubner (and I) love to point out that most of our problems come from unintended consequences of well meaning policy decision.  Many times, these unintended consequences could have been predicted ahead of time, but weren’t looked at for a variety of reasons.  They advocate geo-engineering the planet, but don’t take any time to talk about the potential unintended consequences.  There may not be many (but I doubt it), but I was expecting them to address the issue at least a little bit.  That said, SuperFreakonomics is entertaining, informative and well worth reading.

Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart.  Not many books can make me laugh out loud.  I was on a flight to NYC, reading Absurdistan and trying not to laugh out loud and failed fairly miserably.  Absurdistan is the fictional story about a young, Jewish, fat, son of an oligarch, Russian immigrant to New York City and his trials and tribulations going between Russia, the US and Absurdistan, a fictional country located near Iran.  I read it on the advice of of someone who likes many of the same books I’ve read and wasn’t disappointed.

Shtyngart’s writing is really fun.  He mixes in hip hop references with geopolitical feelings musings that would only occur to a Russian who moved to the US.  One of my favorite parts is about how people in the 3rd world applaud whenever a pilot safely lands a plan “as if it were some kind of miracle”, whereas in the West, people complain about being late and rush to get off.  The section on a Holocaust Museum in Absurdistan is brilliant writing and worth reading on its own.  The books is a scathing critique of just about everything from Russian politics, American foreign policy, fat people and corporations.  While a little slow in places, each chapter has at least a gem worth finding.  I recommend reading this book if you like history, politics, different cultures and good writing.  As a bonus, after reading Absurdistan, Oscar Wao and The White Tiger, I now know how to say a certain part of the male anatomy in Russia, The Dominican Republic and India.

August Book Reviews

I read three very different, but interesting books in August.  All were non-fiction, but had to do with completely different areas.

Soccer Against the EnemySimon Kuper.  Kuper is an English journalist who covered soccer at the start of his career, moved to finance and economics but got bored and moved back to soccer.  This book is similar to Franklin Foer‘sHow Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization, one of my favorite books from last year.  Kuper travels around the world attending soccer matches right after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Each chapter could stand alone as a short story, but they flow together well enough to create a narrative about soccer around the world.  My favorite chapter in the book was the one about Dynamo Kiev, the biggest and most successful club in Ukraine.  Dynamo has turned into a huge business, not just a soccer club.  Any foreign company that wants to do a joint venture in Ukraine tried to partner with Dynamo for tax reasons and because everyone in Ukraine knew Dynamo and would be more likely to support the project.  It’s interesting to see how sports teams become bigger parts of an economy and become “Més que un club” or more than a club, which is FC Barcelona‘s motto.  If you like soccer, check out this book.

The 4-Hour WorkweekTim Ferriss.  I had skimmed this book a year ago, but had not gotten a chance to read it carefully.  Whatever you think of Ferriss, the book contains so some worthwhile time management skills, business strategies and ideas that make you reexamine your lifestyle.  Ferriss tells the story about how he went from an office job where he worked many hours per week to creating a product that lets him travel the world and only requires him to work as little as four hours per week.  I agree with his ideas that “mini-retirements” should be spread out throughout life, rather than working your entire life to retire when you are in your 60s and I enjoyed hearing how he has used the new global supply chain to launch a product with minimal up front costs, but he lost me with his story about how he won a gold medal at the Chinese National Kickboxing Tournament and has a world record in Tango.  While Ferriss comes across as a bit of a loner who believes that the ends justify the means in pretty much all facets of life, it would be a mistake to completely dismiss the book because of the arrogance of the author.  I’m confident that if you read the book, you’ll find at least a few of his ideas worthwhile.

A Pint of PlainA Pint of Plain: Tradition, Change and the Fate of the Irish PubBill Barich.  I started this book because I had just gotten back from a week in Ireland, visiting, among other things, a few Irish pubs.  The book is about Barich’s attempt to find a traditional Irish pub to be his “local.”  The book starts off well, but is pretty slow and delves too much into each pub’s individual history for my taste.  His chapters on how Ireland has changed in the last 5-10 years as a result of globalization are interesting, but the most interesting take away from the book was his stat that bars in the UK that change formats to and Irish pub see 3x greater turnover than from before the format change.  There is something powerful about the Irish pub that makes it successful all over the world.  I wouldn’t bother reading this book.  Instead, check out your local Irish pub or go take a trip to the real thing in Ireland.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

July Book Reviews

One of my favorite parts about traveling is having extra time to read interesting books.  When I travel, I usually try to pick at least one book that is relevant to where I am going to be.  I read some great books in July and all but one of them were fiction.

The White Tiger(review), by Aravind Adiga, Time magazine’s Asia correspondent, is a look at both parts of India: The Light emerging technological power that serves as the backbone for many multinational companies and the rural, poverty stricken Darkness.  Its main character starts out living in rural poverty, the son of a rickshaw puller.  He moves up the social and economic ladder through street smarts, entrepreneurship, good luck and old fashioned hard work, but the story is much more interesting than a traditional rags to riches story.  Adiga puts the readers into the shoes of a poor man without options in such a way that by the end of the book, many readers completely understand why he makes choices that anyone not living in his situation would consider immoral.

Adiga writes in an unusual, but powerful style.  The entire book is written as a letter to the Chinese Premier Wen Jaibo, but I quickly forgot this fact until Adiga reminded me at the beginning of each chapter or with a witty remark in the middle of a story.  The White Tiger is well written and presents a side of India that I hadn’t really thought about.  I have no idea if many of the stories that Adiga write about are actually based in fact, but either way, The White Tiger is an excellent book.  Its sort of like a less sad version of The Kite Runner, but based in India instead of Afghanistan.  I highly recommend it.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (review), by Junot Diaz, is another work of fiction that deals with the Dominican-American experience living in New Jersey and traces the origins of the Dominican movement to the United States.  It follows the lives of a Dominican family from the days of the grandparents living under the Trujillato, The Trujillo Dictatorship, all the way to the grandson, Oscar who is a college student in New Jersey.  Like the White Tiger, Oscar Wao is written in a very interesting style.  It intermixes historical facts with lengthy, but entertaining footnotes and intersperses lots of Dominican slang (in Spanish of course).  You do not need to understand Spanish to read the book, but it definently helps give you a better understanding of what the characters are thinking.

Diaz puts the reader in the shoes of each character, letting the reader have a brief look into Dominican life at different points throughout history.  He writes with anger at the Trujillo regime, but with love for his native Dominican Republic.  The book is interesting and well written and a fun read, but may not be for everyone.  Diaz’s use of Spanish and copious amounts of science fiction/fantasy references might be a bit too much for some, but if you can get past it (or read the book with your browser open to google) you will enjoy it.

Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut.  Slaughterhouse Five had been on the top of my “to read” list for awhile now, but I had not gotten around to reading it.  I ended up reading it on the train from Brussels to Amsterdam and then again in a park in Amsterdam, fairly close to the Germany and a battleground during the Second World War.  The book is interesting, especially in the writing style, but I want to focus on Europe and WWII.  It was amazing to read the book while on a train through the route that the Germans took to invade the Netherlands and then France.  The farms and small towns would have been overrun by Germans in the 1940s, but now they are thriving parts of the Dutch and Belgian countryside.  It was a struggle not to picture the German tanks in the fields, crushing all resistance in the early parts of the war and then the American and British armies beating them back in the later part of the war.  Its amazing that Europe gets along so well now such a short time after such a devastating war.  If you didn’t have to read Slaughterhouse Five in high school or college, check it out now.  Its a fairly quick, but interesting, read.

Founding Brothers – Joseph Ellis. Founding Brothers focuses on the personal interactions between the revolutionary generation of American history.  Ellis takes a non-traditional approach and makes the book more readable than most history books.  My favorite short story was about the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton and the events leading up to it.  Imagine if modern day politicians had to defend their honor against slanderous attacks with a duel.  Maybe bloggers, the media and politicians themselves would have more accountability?  I’m certainly not advocating for the return of the duel, but it would be pretty funny to see Dick Cheney (and his poor marksmanship) propose a duel against one of his political opponents.