Yearend Reviews

The best finance book I read this year was the first 248 pages of Alan Greenspan´s book. The worst book I read was the remaining pages of the same book. What was the need to pad it up?

Nassim Taleb wrote a more nuanced book, The Black Swan, than his previous rant,“Fooled by Randomness”.  Either he has become more subtle or I have, so I enjoyed this one more. Like some directors make the same film again and again, only a little better (like David Lynch), Taleb writes the same book again and again, but this is much better. Will Self, who got kicked out long ago from John Major´s plane for doing heroin on the flight,  wrote a very funny review of the book.

One book I really wanted to read, but never managed to get the time for was  William Cohan´s book on Lazard.  If I ever wanted to work at a bank, I wanted it to be Lazard, only then followed by Goldman Sachs.  Goldman´s bankers maybe very good, but they are boring  and Lazard has always had all the characters. Like Edouard Stern. Rumor has it that he was shot by a mistress  who wanted a parting gift of $1m, that Stern refused. So, she coaxed him into a latex suit in preparation of some orgy, shot him and left him bleeding. A friend dropped by, and thought that this latex suited body was a new piece of modern art that Stern was in the habit of buying and so left, without helping. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis.

In fiction, the best read was Manuel Vazquez Montalban´s “The Buenos Aires Quintet”. For me, a novel has to hark back to the first novels, “Gargantua & Pantagruel” byRabelais or “Don Quixote” by Cervantes. Echoing Borges story, “Pierre Menard”, Carlos Fuentes once said that the better one of his novel gets, the closer it is to Don Quixote. This novel is very Rabelaisian, full of  outrageous recipes, murders, music, sex and of course, Buenos Aires. And of course, in various parts of the book, it tips its hat to Rabelais.

In non-financial non-fiction, my best read was Bill Buford´s “Heat”, that chronicle of the year that the author spent as a slave in Mario Batali´s kitchen at Babbo and later, as an apprentice to various people in Italy. Again, the link to Rabelais, food and recipes. Maybe I should listen to my shrink a bit more and develop new interests.

Another nice read was Mohsin Hamid´s “The reluctant fundamentalist”. A short book that can be read at one sitting, it works very well as an allegory, as James Lasdun points out in this review.

A remarkably bad book, but one very highly praised by critics is Ramachandra Guha´s“India After Gandhi”. Super-boring, it reads like a bad textbook. Maybe that is the final market for  it. If you have no new insights, why write a new history? I compare it with Tony Judt´s  Postwar, a wonderful new history of Europe after 1945. If you want to write a sweeping history, maybe being a little opinionated helps, rather than regurgitating accepted versions of history.

In blogs, I continue to maintain that there might just be four readable blogs in the Indian blogosphere. Headed by the remarkable Buoyantville, followed by Chandrahas, Neha and Meera.

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