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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Atomic Habits, James Clear

I subscribe to the author’s 3-2-1 mailing list (it’s brilliant!) and on that basis, I had high hopes for this book. However, I guess I’ve read too many of this genre, and am too jaded…

Take a look, it may be right for you!

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Leonhard Euler: Mathematical Genius in the Enlightenment, Ronald S. Calinger

I didn’t realize how little I know about Euler until I read this book. I had a hazy awareness of him as one of the great mathematicians (along with Gauss) and knew he had worked on number theory, was related to imaginary numbers, of course, the Konigsberg Bridge problem, Euler’s identity and my favorite number, e. I also knew that he worked at St. Petersberg and was almost blind when he died. 

This exhaustive (exhausting?) biography of Euler opened my eyes to the breadth of topics he worked on – not just mathematics, but also mechanics, optics, music and astronomy. I have a better understanding of how he is placed with respect to other mathematicians and how he contributed to the development of science and pushed the boundaries of what was possible. 

I recently re-read (for the nth time)  The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and the parallels in development as described by Kuhn and what Euler does is amazing. Two striking points are – first, applying Newton’s laws to explain e.g., the motion of the moon was not straightforward and took plenty of debate and trial and error before it was accepted. I did not know this! Second, developing the calculus needed developing fundamental concepts like functions, logarithms of negative numbers  and 

It’s easy to study calculus today but to be in a state where even fundamental concepts of functions or co-ordinate systems do not exist

I’m actively thinking about current paradigm shifts, especially with respect to AI, and  

Newton’s laws were being debated for quite some time! How to derive the lunar orbit (3- body problem, but not like the book!) was a huge problem, and Euler relied on the ether to account for discrepencies

Motivation for deriving new maths (what is the current analogy?) ML is a paradigm shift, but no new maths (not that it is necessary…) well, maybe the attempt to describe how a NN works…

The energy and time spent on the Maupertuis-Koning affair are idiotic — it’s unknown today! (at least to me, till I read this book)

The effort to explain the motion of the moon & planets using Newton’s laws is fascinating. 

Before this, Euler was more than just a name, but mostly associated with e^i pi, series expansions and the bridges of konigsburg. Now he’s more real

would like to understand the proofs from number theory better. Add it to the list!

In those days mathematics and scientists had to contend with religion

So much of stuff we take for granted today had to be developed from scratch. eg differential equations, elliptic integrals, …

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The Weil Conjectures, Karen Olsson

I’m not sure what to make of this book. In terms of history and the individuals involved, it’s pretty depressing. In terms of mathematics, there isn’t much. There was the thrill of connection when the Japanese mathematicians Taniyama and Shimura (of the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture) pop up — this was crucial in Andrew Wiles’ proof of FLT. And there’s the hilarious Bourbaki episode, we need more of these!

At the very least, I’ll look up what the conjectures are (though I doubt how much I’ll understand), and this puts algebra back on my radar…

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The Course of Love: A Novel, Alain de Botton

See this. In the recent past, I’ve been observing an interesting pattern — I end up reading books closely related to each other, and one complements the other perfectly. In this case, I had been reading The Road Less Travelled, and it meshes perfectly with this book! I’ll skip my personal reflections on this book, but will include a few quotes:

If we are not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self-knowledge hasn’t begun

and

Compatibility is an achievement of love, it shouldn’t be its precondition

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The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck

Re-reading an old favorite, and encountering once again the thrill of identification and discovery! Like work experience is to an MBA, the wisdom in this book makes more sense the more life-experience I get. The last section (Grace) is the weakest, but that is again a reflection of where I am in my journey right now. 

And allow me to bask in a bit of self-validation – it takes great courage to change one’s world view. 

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This is Marketing, Seth Godin

I used to listen to the Akimbo podcast when I had the bandwidth, and have been an avid follower of Seth Godin’s blog for ages. I’m fully on board with the philosophy he espouses and was hoping this book would be an opportunity to tie up all the different threads that he has into one unified whole. Unfortunately, this was missing

Still, this is a book worth reading if you are not familiar with Seth Godin’s work. 

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Deep Thinking, Garry Kasparov

This was a memento from my colleagues at Shell when I was leaving. How wonderfully apt – something that captured my interests (chess and AI)! This book seemed like it would get into these topics at a philosophical level, rather than the nitty-gritty details. Or so I thought.

I was anticipating an enjoyable read, and desperately wanted to like it, but again, I’m abandoning it halfway through. I will write more about why in a bit, but I will leave you with the following incoherent quote (speaking of how successful Armenia has been in Chess Olympiads)

..despite my own half-Armenian heritage, there is no genetic explanation necessary for this success.

I cannot figure out what he is trying to say here!

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