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Books

My book reviews

I am trying to do something different from just more general book reviews. I want to talk about the subject of the book, or make my own comments on the subject or just talk about a particular aspect or section of a book. However, I will give you a link to a normal book review.

I will also provide links to such things as biographical information on the author, the author’s website, and interviews with the author or YouTube items on the author, the book or talks by the author. I will also provide other links, if I feel they are pertinent.

For my book review blog, see www.spbrunner2.blogspot.com and for my investing blog review blog, see www.spbrunner.blogspot.com

Investment and Economics

Art of Risk, The by Kayt Sukel   
Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan  Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson 
Black Swan, The Nassim Nicholas Taleb  Bottom Billion, Paul Collier 
   
Common Wealth, Jeffrey Sachs  Great Degeneration,The by Niall Ferguson 
Double Entry,Jane Gleeson-White  Economics of Good and Evil, Thomas Sedlacek 
False Economy, Alan Beattie  Giving, Bill Clinton 
   
Great Reflation, The by Anthony Boeckh  Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas L. Friedman   
Identity Economics by Akerlof and Kranton  IOU by John Lanchester 
Lords of Finance, Liaquat Ahamed  Mystery of Capital, The by Hernando De Soto 
   
Panic by Michael Lewis   
Risk, Dan Gardner  Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki 
Stocks for the Long Run, Jeremy Siegel  Superfusion, Zachary Karabell 
   
This Time is Different,Reinhart & Rogoff  Undercover Economist Strikes Back, Tim Harford 
Wars, Guns and Votes, Paul Collier  The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Jeremy Rifkin 
   

History

The Alps, Andrew Beattie After the Reich, Giles MacDonogh
Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer Ashoka by Charles Allen
Asia's Cauldron, Robert Kaplan The Barbarous Years, Bernard Bailyn
Beward the Dragon, Erik Durschmied  
   
Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer Churchill, Hitler, Unnecessary War, Buchanan
The City by Joel Kotkin Civilization by Niall Ferguson
The Colder War by Marin Katusa The Conquest of the Ocean, Brian Lavery
   
Debt by David Graeber Doomed to Repeat by Bill Fawcett
Edward III by Richard Barber Empires of Food by Fraser and Rimas
Let Eastern Bastards Freeze, Janigan  
   
The Father of Us All, Victor Hanson Flash Points by George Friedman
The Fortunes of Africa by Martin Meredith From the Ruins of Empire, Pankaj Mishra
Going Dutch, Jardine The Golden Age Shtetl by Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern
Flight of the Eagle by Conrad Black  
Forces of Fortune, Vali Nasr Forge of Empires, Michael Knox Beran
   
Freedom in the Ancient World, Muller The Hammer & The Cross, Robert Ferguson
Heroes of Empire by Edward Berenson  
History of the World, Richard Overy History of the World in 12 Maps, Jerry Brotton
Horse, Wheel, Language, David Anthony How Civilizations Die by David Goldman
How Europe is Indebted to the Sikhs, Singh The Human Web, McNeill & McNeill
   
A History of Iran by Michael Axworthy In Ishmael's House by Martin Gilbert
India by Stanley Wolper Invisible Armies by Max Boot
Lost History of Christianity, Philip Jenkins  
   
The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee Maximum Canada by Doug Saunders
The Measure of Civilization, Ian Morris Mexico and the US, W. Dirk Raat
Mystery of Ancient Seafarers,Robert Ballard The Next Decade, George Friedman 
Origins of Political Order, The F. Fukuyama  Ottoman Centuries,The by Lord Kinross 
Ottoman Endgame, The by Sean McMeekin.   
   
Political Order and Political Decay, Fukuyama  Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall 
   
Reflections - Revolution in Europe, Caldwell  Restless Empire, Odd Arne Westad 
The Return of History by Robert Kagan  The Return of History by Jennifer Welsh 
The Revenge of Georgraphy by Robert Kaplan  Rise, Fall of American Growth, Robert Gordon 
Rise and Fall of Communism, Archie Brown  Rise, Fall of Ancient Egypt, Wilkinson 
Rise to Greatness by Conrad Black  Russia by Martin Sixsmith 
   
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari  The Sea and Civilization, Lincoln Paine 
Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan  The Social Conquest of Earth,E. O. Wilson 
The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama  Superpower by Ian Bremmer 
The Swerve, Stepehn Greenblatt  Thinking the Twentieth Century, Judt, Snyder 
   
Vanished Kingdoms by Norman Davies  War in Human Civilization by Azar Gat 
War, Definitive Visual History, DK  Why The West Rules, Ian Morris 
World Order by Henry Kissinger  The World until Yesterday, Jared Diamond 
   

Human Interests

100 Million Years of Food by Stephen Le  100 Year Old Man, The by Jonas Jonasson 
Almost Nearly Perfect People,Michael Booth  The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin 
Adbundance, Diamandis, Kotler  Advance Civilizations of Prehistoric America, Joseph 
   
Better Angels of our Nature, Pinker  The Big Shift by Bricker, Ibbitson 
Blink, Malcolm Gladwell  The Bonobo and the Atheist by Frans de Waal 
Exodua, Paul Collier   
Cooked by Michael Pollan  David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell 
Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book   
   
The Dictator's Learning Curve,William Dobson  The End of Illness by David Agus 
Eat Well Age Better by Mason and Stoffman  The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner 
The Geography of Genius by Eric Weiner  Gutbliss by Robynne Chutkan 
Hidden Half of Nature by Montgomery, Bikle  The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor 
   
In-Between Days by Teva Harrison  Insectopedia by Hugh Raffles 
Islamic Exceptionalism by Shadi Hamid   
   
The Knowledge by Lewis Dartnell  The Language Animal by Charles Taylor 
Life, A New History by Ward, Kirschvink  Life Ascending, Nick Lane 
Life at the Bottom, Theodore Dalrymple   
   
The Memory Illusion by Dr. Julia Shaw  Mindware by Richard E. Nisbett 
The Moral Landscape, Harris  Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman 
Natural History by Smithsonian  Not With a Bang But a Whimper, Dalrymple 
   
Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan  On God, Norman Mailer 
Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell  The Power of Why, Amanda Lang 
   
7 Laws of Magical Thinking, Matthew Hutson  The Smart Swarm, Peter Miller 
Smarter by Dan Hurley   
   
Thinner This year by Crowley and Sacheck  Tribe by Sebastian Junger 
The Triple Package by Chua and Rubenfeld  Upright Thinkers, The; Leonard Mlodinow 
Water, Steven Solomon   
You Could Live a Long Time, Lyndsay Green  Wait, Frank Partnoy 
The Wisdom of Psychopaths, Kevin Dutton  Wired for Culture by Mark Pagel 
   
Younger Next Year by Crowley and Lodge   
   

A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

Friday, January 23, 2015

This book's title is "A History of the World in 12 Maps". The book is a rather interesting way to cover a lot of history. It was rather a tough book to read. I find myself getting bogged down in parts, but I pushed through it and I was glad I did.

As usual there are some good reviews on Amazon if you care to scroll down to the section called Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com. As always, the Telegraph has a good review. This one is by Noel Malcolm. There is also a review in the Boston Globe by Matthew Price.

There is a good and quite short interview with Jerry Brotton on BBC. On YouTube Jerry Brotton gives a short review of his book. There is a longer video of Jerry Brotton talking about maps after being introduced by Steve Chilton at University College London. It is a longer version of the earlier YouTube talk, but I think that the subject is covered better and quicker in the earlier YouTube video. This is a very interesting question and answer video with Jerry Brotton also on YouTube. However, this last video is off the subject of the book.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


The Triple Package by Chua and Rubenfeld

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This book’s full title is “The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America”, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld. They talk about three cultural traits that make certain groups in the US very successful. These groups have a superiority complex, they are insecure and they value impulse control. It is quite an interesting book on American successful groups and why they are successful. It was an interesting point of view.

I often start off to read book reviews on Amazon. You have to scroll down a bit to find them, but they are often worthwhile. There is a good review of this book at the New Republic by William Deresiewicz. This review is probably the best one, but there is also one in the Telegraph by Allison Pearson. I generally like the Telegraph reviews, but this one did not seem to have anything interesting or critical to say about the book.

At Politics and Prose bookstore Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld have a chance to speak about their book. This video is almost one hour long. There is a shorter just over 15 minute talk by the authors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This talk covers a lot of what was talked about at Politics and Prose. The interview at Book TV After Words have the authors talk about the three qualities discussed in the book.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


The Power of Why by Amanda Lang

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

This book's title is "The Power of Why" by Amanda Lang. On the cover David Chilton the author of The Wealthy Barer Returns says "The Power of Why changes the way you think.... This is truly a great book". She talks about we should not shrink from problems but treat them as intriguing challenges.

As usual there is some good reviews on this book at Amazon. You have to scroll down to the customer reviews half way down the page. There is also quite a good review of this book by Jay Robb.

There is an interview of Amanda Lang by Peter Mansbridge. This is an interview just over 20 minutes. There is a very short introduction at Rotman School by Amanda Lang.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

This book's full title is Champlain's Dream: The Visionary Adventurer who Made a New World in Canada. The author is David Hackett Fischer. I have read other histories of the French in Canada, but presented in an interesting and very different manner. French history in Canada has, of course, talked about Champlain, but I had never read a book just about him. He was a much more interesting character than I had imagined.

I read a paperback version, so there are no recent reviews. There was a good review in the G&M by Jeffrey Simpson in 2009. There is an early one praising the author in the New York Times by Max Boot.

There is an interview of David Hackett Fischer through Random House on YouTube. In this video David Hackett Fischer talks about what drew him to Champlain and his research experiences. This is short video of some 6 minutes. There is also a talk by Fischer at the College of the Atlantic of Maine. This video is 1 and one half hours. His talk starts just over 4 minutes into the video.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Asia's Cauldron by Robert Kaplan

Monday, January 19, 2015

I have not been publishing much on this blog lately. It is not that I have not been reading or that I have not been making notes on what I have been reading; I just have not got around to publishing my notes. I have around 8 book reviews to publish ready, so I will try to get on to that.

This book's full title is Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific. The author is Robert Kaplan. This is another very interesting book by Robert Kaplan. If you have not read anything by Kaplan, you should. He presents history or an historical view of current interesting world developments. In this book he is taking about the South China Sea countries. I always learn something new and interesting about history from Kaplan.

There is a great review of this book at the NY Times. There is another great review at the Economist. The last review I want to mention is one in the Wall Street Journal. It is not only interesting, but a bit critical of Kaplan's writing, something you do not often see.

There is a talk by Kaplan at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). There is an introduction to Kaplan of just over 5 minutes. This is an interview by Steve Inskeep of Robert Kaplan. The video is some 55 minutes long altogether with Q&A starting at minute 33. There is also a video of Kaplan speaking at Global Ethics Forum. There is a very short introduction and the video is some 27 minutes long with Q&A starting at 19 minutes.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


The Zero Marginal Cost Society by Jeremy Rifkin

Friday, November 21, 2014

This book's full title is "The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, The Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism". He has a web site here. He also has a short 10 minute video presentation on this site.

I found this book quite fascinating. He starts off describing the first two industrial revolution and then goes on to say why we are in a third industrial revolution. The first revolution had print for communication, coal for energy and the railway for transportation. The second had radio and TV for communication, oil for energy and the internal combustion engine for transportation. The third will have the internet for communication, renewal energy for energy and driver-less vehicles and drones for transportation.

On Integral World Edward Berge gives a chapter by chapter review of this book of Jeremy Rifkin. At the Financial Times Richard Waters reviews this book. Waters calls this a thought provoking book and he is certainly right on that point. Another good article by Jeremy Rifkin is at the Guardian.

There is a speech by Jeremy Rifkin at Google. There is another speech by Jeremy Rifkin at Common Wealth Cub of California . Both these talks are about 1 hour long.

There is also a very interesting lecture by Jeremy Rifkin on Tuesday, 15 February 2005 in the European Parliament. This was about his book called The European Dream - America's nightmare?. Rifkin presented the core thesis of his book "The European Dream". According to him, the USA and Europe represent two different value systems and two conceptions of how to organize society.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Exodus by Paul Collier

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This book’s full title is Exodus; How Migration is Changing Our World. As always, this is another interesting book by Paul Collier. He talks about how migration affects no only the migrant, but the society that the migrants go to and the society the migrant leaves behind. This book was released with the title of Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century in the UK.

No matter what you think of Paul’s thesis, we do have a problem that there seems to be little rational arguments about immigration. The field is left wide open to demagogues. If Europe had allowed some rational discussions on the subject would there be so many anti-immigrant parties there now?

This review is interesting in that Michael Clemens and Justin Sandefur at Foreign Affairs completely pan Paul Collier’s book. They especially do not like Paul Collier’s thinking that immigrants came from socially dysfunctional societies. Balance this with the review from the Economist below. Ian Birrell at the guardian finds the book interesting and a valuable addition to the discussion on immigration.

The Economist review includes an interview with Paul Collier. They call Paul Collier is one of the world’s most thoughtful economists. Paul Collier gives a short talk in this video. The last video is a long one of 90 minutes by Paul Collier at the London School of Economics. Paul starts talking about 3 minutes into the video. His speech ends after just over an hour and then there is Q and A.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


The Undercover Economist Strikes Back by Tim Harford

Monday, June 16, 2014

This book's full title is The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How to Run or Ruin an Economy. This is an interesting book. It makes the economics and some economic concepts easy to understand. The book is also written in the form of a dialog. It is an interesting concept. I think that it makes the book accessible, especially do those who lack understanding of some economic concepts.

Tim Harford has his own web site here. On this site Tim Harford talks about his various books and recent and popular articles he has written. Tim Harford is also on twitter StockTwits. He is a Financial Times columnist.

There are some interesting reviews at Good Reads. Not everyone liked the dialog format. As always, the review at The Wall Street Journal is good. This particular review is by Roger Lowenstein.

Tim Harford speaks at the London School of Economics about this Book The Undercover Economist Strikes Back. The video is 1 hour with Q & A at the end. This is an interview hosted by Cato Institute. The video is 90 minutes and Tim Harford and Alex Tabarrok. Tim starts speaking at almost 8 minutes into the video. There is a shorter video of just 17 minutes on Wired.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


The Sea and Civilization by Lincoln Paine

Monday, June 02, 2014

This book's full title is The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World. The author of this book really knows his stuff. The book is well written and quite absorbing. He is well versed in the sea and ancient history as he is in what is happening on the seas today. Lincoln Paine has his own site.

There is a wonderful review of this book at The Wall Street Journal by John Darwin. There is also another very good review of this book at the Telegraph by Ben Wilson.

A Portland station in Maine has a short interview with Lincoln Paine. The US Naval College shows a lecture by Lincoln Paine on this book. Lecture is almost an hour long. The speech is around 37 minutes and there is a Q and A at the end. Here Lincoln Paine talks about Maritime History as human ecology.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Younger Next Year by Crowley and Lodge

Monday, May 26, 2014

This book's full title is Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit and Sexy - Until you're 80 or beyond. The authors are Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. I have read a number of books about being healthy in retirement or old age. They all say the same things. You need something to do that you are passionate about (that is do something you care about), you need to exercise, you need to eat properly and you need to socialize.

There is a wonderful review of this book by Clarence Bass on his blog site. Clarence goes into a lot of details about this book. There is a video review of this book by a couple of physical therapist. There is also an interesting review of this book at the Athlete In Me site.

This book has its own web site . Chris Crowley also has a blog about this subject. There is an interview by Jim Zirin of Chris Crowley. In this video, Chris Crowley talks about the Aspen Club.

There is a short PBS clip from a show done by Henry Lodger on PBS. Dr. Henry S. Lodger speaks at The UP Experience 2008. He talks about experiments were worms are made to live about 8 times longer than normal. This also works with mice and makes them live one third longer. This is generics. We should eat better and eat less, we should exercise more and we should care.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America by Frank Joseph

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This book's full title is Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America: The lost Kingdoms of the Adena, Hopewell, Mississippians and Anasazi. This is an interesting book. I thought I was buying a history book, but when I glanced at the back of the book, I noticed that it was classified as Ancients Mysteries/New Age.

According to Frank Joseph, all the North American civilizations were all started by alien peoples from Europe (Celts), Japan and South America. Really! I must admit I have a hard time believing this. Maybe one group emigrated from South America, this could be believable, but all of them?

Also, he says that when North American civilizations tottered then North American Indian tribes slaughtered them. He makes the native North American Indians out to be rather nasty people in the bargain. No wonder this book has been classified as Ancient Mysteries/New Age. It does not appear to be history as I understand history.

For this book I had a hard time finding any book review that did not just regurgitate the blurbs from the back of the book. There is one at Good Reads. There is a very interesting entry for Frank Joseph as Frank Cohen/Collin in Wikipedia. There is a second Wikipedia entry for Frank Joseph as Frank Collin.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 




Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America by Frank Joseph

Thursday, May 15, 2014

This book's full title is Advanced Civilizations of Prehistoric America: The lost Kingdoms of the Adena, Hopewell, Mississippians and Anasazi. This is an interesting book. I thought I was buying a history book, but when I glanced at the back of the book, I noticed that it was classified as Ancients Mysteries/New Age.

According to Frank Joseph, all the North American civilizations were all started by alien peoples from Europe (Celts), Japan and South America. Really! I must admit I have a hard time believing this. Maybe one group emigrated from South America, this could be believable, but all of them?

Also, he says that when North American civilizations tottered then North American Indian tribes slaughtered them. He makes the native North American Indians out to be rather nasty people in the bargain. No wonder this book has been classified as Ancient Mysteries/New Age. It does not appear to be history as I understand history.

For this book I had a hard time finding any book review that did not just regurgitate the blurbs from the back of the book. There is one at Good Reads. There is a very interesting entry for Frank Joseph as Frank Cohen/Collin in Wikipedia. There is a second Wikipedia entry for Frank Joseph as Frank Collin.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 




The World until Yesterday by Jared Diamond

Thursday, April 03, 2014

This book's full title is The World until Yesterday, What can we learn from traditional societies. I have always enjoyed books by Jared Diamond. I have read other books by him such as Collapse and Gun, Germs and Steel. He has a unique outlook and his books make you think.

There are a couple of good reviews of this book on the site of Good Reads. There is a rather long review of this book at the Guardian by Wade Davis. It is worthwhile to read. He talks a lot about Franz Boas, perhaps more than he talks about Jared Diamond. He has good and bad things to say about this book, but I found it all quite interesting. There is a short video (6 minutes) by Jared Diamond. (Unfortunately, there is a short ad before you can see the video.)

There is a video call "What We Can Learn from Traditional Societies" and it is a talk by Jared Diamond at RSA. It is not very long at 20 Minutes. Q&A starts at around 15 minutes. The talk is about growing old in traditional societies. There is a wonderful hour long video with a speech by Jared Diamond via C-Span2, Book TV. He starts off this talk, talking about growing old in traditional societies. At the end there is a Q & A. period close to 35 minutes in.

There is a short 5 minute video about the book with a interview of Jared Diamond

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 




Empires of Food by Fraser and Rimas

Monday, February 24, 2014

This book's full title is Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations. It was written by Even D. G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas. We in the Western world have had great weather and good crops for some time now. . But are we making the same mistakes as other civilizations have with monoculture and deforestation? The book does jump around a bit, but it covers some interesting facts of other civilizations at other times.

There are a number of good reviews on this book at Good Reads. You have to scroll down a bit to find them. There also is a good review by David Barling at the New Castle University site. There is a rather negative review of this book at The Independent by Christopher Hirst.

There is a video at USC Canada by Evan Fraser. This is a talk given in 2010. The talk is in four parts with 3 parts being around 15 minutes long, and one being less than 5 minutes. The link is to the all four parts. Also, the Big History Project talks about the evolution of agriculture.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 




The Great Degeneration by Niall Ferguson

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

This book's full title is The Great Degeneration - How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. I tend to pick up any book written by Niall Ferguson. He is always an interesting writer. You do not have to agree with all he says, few people do. Niall Ferguson always has interesting ideas and he makes you think.

He says that we have structural problems that are holding us back. We are leaving a huge debt for future generations. I certainly agree that we are leaving a huge debt for future generations and I believe we should not do that.

Read a Forbes columnist take on the latest Ferguson- Krugman dustup dustup . The latest from Ferguson is in Huffington Post. There is a Part 2 and a Part 3.

There is a great review of this book at The Wall Street Journal by George Melloan. There is also an interesting review of this book by Dimitri Nasrallah in the Toronto Star

There is a great interview of Niall Ferguson about this book by Charlie Rose on Bloomberg. On CDB Day 6, there is an interview with Niall Ferguson. This last one is radio, not video. There is an older video called the "age of debt" has come to an end by Niall Ferguson in 2012.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 




Ashoka by Charles Allen

Monday, February 03, 2014

This book's full title is "Ashoka, the Search for India's Lost Emperor". This book is really written as an adventure in finding information on Ashoka Indian ruler born around 302 BCE by colonial British amateur archeologist. It was however, a thoroughly enjoyable read

The problem is that Ashoka converted to Buddhism. Most Indians today are Hindu (with a large minority of Muslims). The Hindus at one point basically wiped out Buddhism in India so why should they celebrate a great King who was a Buddhist? I must admit I have not read many books on Indian history and would certainly like to know Indian history better.

There is a great review of this book at Winnowed. There is also an extremely interesting book review at Hindustan Times of this book. The reviewer, Patrick French, deployed the fact that Charles Allen talks about and gives most credit for information on Ashoka to British Colonist, not native Indians who did lots of work uncovering Ashoka. There is also another good review of this book by Samanth Subramanian at the Guardian.

Charles Allen talks at the Jaipur Literature Festival about Ashoka. This is an hour long video, which has Q&A at the end starting at around 37 minutes into the video. There is a 6 minute video on YouTube of Ashoka that is worth watching.

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


Life at the Bottom, Theodore Dalrymple

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I spend my mornings reading. I read a lot of interesting books and I would like to share some of them. None of my books are on the best sellers list, or very rarely on this list. They are all non-fiction. Also, since the Canadian Banks have reported their 2009 results, I will be updating my spreadsheets and reviewing them over the next few days. I follow 4 of the big 5 Canadian Banks.

Now back to Theodore Dalrymple. Theodore is a British doctor who was working in a British inter-city hospital and prison when he wrote the essays in this book. He writes a column for the London Spectator. See Spectator.co.uk . He also writes for the City Journal. See City Journal. Most of his books are a collection of essays he has written.

This book has stories of women and men trapped in destructive behaviors and environments. It is a look at the underclass life in Britain and the stories are not pretty. The story I want to talk about is the first essay called “The Knife Went In”. This story is about men in prison who are there for killing another person with a knife. However, they take no responsibility for their actions.

He first talks about a murderer who thought he was unlucky and that was why he was in prison for murder. It was not his fault, but the fault of the victim who was stabbed. If he had not been where he was at the time of the murder, the murder would not have happened. It was the murderer who was the victim in all of this. The stabbing is described as “The knife went in.” He really was not at fault. It was all due to circumstances beyond his control.

In this essay, he first talks about it being a mistake to believe that all men want to be free. He says on the contrary, if freedom entails responsibility, many people want none of it. The men he meets in prison, he says think of themselves as putty in the hands of fate. They do not believe that their choices or actions have any bearing on what happens to them.

With the men he talks to in prison, they feel that it is not their fault that they are in prison for such things as robbery. He says that they echo the police who increasing blame theft on the owners of property for failing to take proper precautions to protect their property. Like one man who stole from churches, because they were easy pickings. It was not his fault, the fault lies in the fact that the churches are poorly secured and easy to break into.

This is not the only book of Theodore Dalrymple’s that I have read. I find him an extremely interesting to read. He has very different opinions on what is wrong with our society and I am sure not everyone likes him for his opinions. But I always find his books interesting and entertaining. Why else would I read him?

Theodore Dalrymple is a pen name. He used this name to disguise whom he was talking about. His real name is Anthony Daniels. He is in Wikipedia, see Anthony Daniels . He is also on YouTube, see Theodore Dalrymple in Buitenhof for an interview. He also gave a speech in New York at the Harvard Club. See Theodore Dalrymple - Our Culture, What's Left of It - June 2005 .

If you are interested in buying his book, click on the book below to get it at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA 


False Economy, Alan Beattie

Friday, July 10, 2009

I should first remark on the title. As far as I can see, it was just chosen to get attention. I can see no other reason for it. For books on the economy to sell nowadays, it seems that they must be given a title that has a negative connotation about the economy or about capitalism.

This book is a bit of a history of money, markets and finance. However, there are better books on these subjects. If you want to learn anything about these subjects, you would be better off reading such recent books as the Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. In fact, any book by Niall Ferguson would be a great choice. Ferguson is a much better informed writer and he writes much better books.

However, one thing that Alan Beattie does point out that we would do well to remember is that it is not just Anglo-Saxon or Jewish people who do well in finance. It seems through out history that minorities in many societies have created thriving business communities. Minorities that have done well include many different ethnic groups and different religious groups. It is often the restrictions place on minorities that seem to account for this more than anything else does.

He also talks about theories of agriculture and slavery. He states that when land is plentiful, plantation owners would not be able to sit on their verandas and drink mint juleps if it had not been for slavery. If the laborers had been free, they would have simply left to start their own farms.

If you are like me and have already read everything that Niall Ferguson had written, then you might want to read this book. Alan Beattie does have a slightly different perspective on things. But, if you are limited in the books you can read, for what ever reason, then I would definitely suggest you read Niall Ferguson instead of this author. I have reviewed on my site Niall Ferguson’s latest book, Ascent of Money.

Alan Beattie has an essay on development at World Bank. There is a review of this book at Financial Times . He is also on You Tube.

If you are interested in buying his book, it is available at Amazon.com. Click here to find it in the right hand panel.

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Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed

Monday, April 20, 2009

The full title of this book is Lords of Finance, The Bankers who Broke the World, by Liaquat Ahamed. This is yet another book on the causes and cures of the Great Depression. This book is very readable and it shows you another aspect of the events around the Great Depression that are not usually discussed.

If you think that the people who are trying to resolve our current crisis know what they are doing, think again. If they are still arguing about the causes and cures of the Great Depression, how can anyone think that it is clear what should be done today. Although, as with any past economic crisis, the problems must be addressed by politicians and bankers in order for the economies involved to move on.

There have been a number of books about the Great Depression and Roosevelt. Conrad Black wrote a book about how Roosevelt saved capitalism. What ever else you might think about Conrad Black, he is a terrific writer. Of course, others have written about how Roosevelt prolonged the recession. The two main legacies from Roosevelt are the Glass-Steagall Act and the farm support policies. People still debate their merits; and passed and current helpfulness today.

In this book, Ahamed takes a different approach and concentrates on what would be Federal Reserve bankers today. He talks about mainly about Montagu Norman of the Bank of England, Emile Moreau of the Banque de France, Hjalmar Schacht of the Reichsbank and Benjamin Strong of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The book is great history, if nothing else.

One of the things he brings up is the relationship between Germany and France prior to the 2nd World War. France really did not suffer in the Great Depression and Germany was in great economic turmoil from the end of the 1st World War. France was determined to get reparations from Germany because of the 1st World War. There were many Germans who begged France to help Germany recover economically, but France ignored all their pleas. The Germans felt if there was no help coming for them, then there would be some sort of revolution in Germany with bad results. How right they were.

There is a review of this book at New York Times. See an article by Ahmed at Blogs and Stories. Also, see some questions and answers at The New Yorker. To see an interview with Ahmed, see YouTube.

If you are interested in buying his book, it is available at Amazon.com. Click here to find it in the right hand panel.

Amazon.ca, for Canada  Amazon.com, for USA