The Lady of the Lake, Andrzej Sapkowski

I’m pretty sure I haven’t read these books before but get the feeling that I’ve read something similar to Ciri moving through space and time. Oh well.

Always be scared if you’re the sidekick. Especially if one of the other sidekicks is stepping away from the stage…

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A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin

SciFi/fantasy makes for great reading when I’m overwhelmed with too much going on. And something like this is great to just sink into.

The resolution at the end is…. mindblowing! And of course, there can be no better way forward. This works even as a metaphor for life. 

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The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People, Susan Orlean

The author is (was?)  a writer for The New Yorker, and I picked this up more for studying her style of writing. Consider crafting statements such as this:

She has an apartment in Paris and a house in Beverly Hills, a room key in Manhattan, the story of Hollywood of the late sixties and seventies in her head, and no particular plans.

Wow!

There is a beautiful structure to her articles, most end with a poignant, wistful, cliff-hanging quality that leaves the reader wanting more. 

Much to learn…

 

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Whatever Arises, Love That: Matt Kahn

I came across an amazing quote from this book, so picked it up. However, I’m putting it down after a couple of chapters. There was no coherent framework or logic, and what I read just came across as a series of disconnected platitudes. I suppose in a couple of hundred pages, one would accidentally come up with a few sentences that sound like deep philosophy…

I guess I’m being overly critical, but I’m going to stick with the stoics and the Gita.

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Stories of Your Life and Others, Ted Chiang

I took an extremely long time to read this book, savoring each story for its originality and philosophy. And for the superlative writing. 

Arrival (the movie) is based on The Story of Your Life. I watched this as well as Tales from the Loop, which may very well have been based on Ted Chiang’s writing. 

As to the stories… I don’t know if I’m reading too much into this, but a common theme that I found was some form of circularity. Going back to the beginning, sometimes spatially, sometimes temporally, sometimes logically, sometimes physically (in the sense of physics) and sometimes emotionally. 

The Story of Your Life is meticulously crafted; Chiang conveys emotions by describing what happens rather than what is felt. And the key insights into how the visitors view time builds up slowly and is up to us to interpret more than him serving up explanations. The overall concept and perspectives on life and time left me with a wonderful analysis framework.

 

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Bad Money – Inside the NPA Mess and How It Threatens the Indian Banking System, Vivek Kaul

This book makes my blood boil. 

I’ve been pretty mad at the amount of money the government spends on propping up white dinosaurs like Air India. It’s our money – the citizen’s and the taxpayer’s money. And it represents a lost opportunity, where that could have solved many other problems that need funding. 

The scale of the NPA mess is astounding. Rs 200,000 crores! Can you get your mind around this number? I can’t. And all because of short-sighted, selfish, lazy, asinine, idiotic policies. And because the people in power are lazy. And don’t care. And don’t want to do the right thing. 

I’m going to stop before I blow a fuse.

The book itself is fairly easy to understand. It should be required reading for all of our armchair economists. And every time we moan about India being a poor country, and the lack of funds for everything from basic necessities to education to infrastructure to defense… we should keep in mind the sums that are flushed away (okay, deep breaths, Shrirang,  count to ten…).

I do wish that the publisher had hired a competent editor. I daresay even Grammarly would have fixed quite a few of the odd punctuations, turns of phrase, and downright weird typos.

If you are close by, please pick up my copy. If not, buy one. But read this book. We all need to. 

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The Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham, Jason Zweig

I first read this book in the early 2000s, and I think I missed the point completely! The intelligence pointed to is not in selecting the right investments, but in the emotional intelligence needed, and the maturity required for avoiding the wrong ones. The core message is more defensive in nature (don’t lose money!).

Unfortunately, in my case, the book makes sense in retrospect. Unfortunately, in the case of most young ‘uns who aim to make their millions ‘trading’, it makes zero sense. Maybe we should make it required reading for anyone opening a brokerage account?

Jason Zweig does a great job in his commentary, using the post-dot-com scenario to highlight Graham’s original arguments. Of course, he has plenty of targets, given when he was writing! But then, he would have the same in the current situation as well.

I find it amazing with the current pandemic that the US market dropped — and came right back! It’s as though there will be no earnings impact due to the virus. In India (as of now) there’s been an about 30% drop, but I fear that there are other systemic problems that have not been taken into account yet.

The more money I lose in the stock market, the more sense the book makes. Now if only I could apply the lessons before I make my decisions

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Grass, Sheri S. Tepper

I don’t remember where I saw a recommendation for this book and it had been on my virtual pile for quite a while, so I had no preconception of what to expect. It started off slow, and I was having second thoughts about continuing, but man, it picked up steam. What a ride (no pun intended) (you’ll get the reference if you read the book)!

This is not so much sci-fi or fantasy as a mediation on the human mind. And what better way to examine it than through alien eyes? And what better way to measure a person than to see how they treat their tools? There are many other themes woven into the novel, from religion to selfishness to thirst for power. 

And since this was published in 1989, the reference to next-generation communication devices (“tell-me”) and locators (“locators”) is quaint.

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