Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Recent Books

Some of the books I went through (or will go through), in no particular order:
  • Flashman and the Mountain of Light: Like every other book of the Flashman series - of which I have now read four - it's unbelievably un-PC, and incredibly funny. The cover says it best, really: "farcically outrageous and disgracefully entertaining". Flashman is probably one of my best finds, and this particular book is the best yet. I'm beginning to think that it narrates British colonization a lot more accurately than any real history book. Amongst all the fun and madness, it has some gems of prose. It also seems the author spent a lot of time doing historical analysis, since the detail is amazing. If, like me, you are from a minority group, you will undoubtedly find the book rather offensive; ignore it and keep going, if you can.
  • Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina: I had this on my list for a bit but forgot all about it. My interest was rekindled by Chavez, who decided to offer a copy of it to Obama. Cannot recommend this book enough, really. If you want to understand Latin America, and particularly the latest shifts to the left, this is a good starting point. Towering work. Read it in the original Spanish, but there is, of course, an English translation.
  • High Stakes, No Prisoners: A Winner's Tale of Greed and Glory in the Internet Wars: Mandatory read. This book was not at all what I expected - I was looking for a geeky read to lift my spirits. Instead its a gruesome account of the difficulties of startups in the silicon valley. Its really, really good. The language is not as polished as say Galleano's (how can you beat gems such as "People were in prison so that prices could be free"?); in fact, some parts are rather dry, such as the final chapters on market analysis. But this is still incredible stuff. Compelling reading. Should be mandatory for all computer science students (high-school and university).
  • Child of the Dark: The Diary of Carolina Maria de Jesus: Via Galleano, bumped into this. Ordered the English version (which is quite ironic, since the original is in Portuguese; totally forgot that Miguel had offered to buy me books in Portuguese, if required). Seems very promising.
  • Empires of Oil: Corporate Oil in Barbarian Worlds: Couldn't quite finish this one. Although it had rave reviews, and started interestingly enough, it proved to be too dry a reading. It seems to waffle a lot without providing any real insight. I may attempt it again - got half-way through it this time - but not for a good while. Seems a bit pro-oil, but there's nothing wrong with that if the argument is well constructed.
  • This is Not a Drill: Just Another Glorious Day in the Oilfield: Quite unlike the previous one, this is a compelling read. Always wanted to know what exactly oil workers get up to in the middle of nowhere, and this book explained it in great detail. Basically, the boys have a great laugh, while trying not to get killed and working their socks off. Fantastic humour - if somewhat dark.
  • Traders, Guns and Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives: Absolute classic. Must read if you really want to understand the finantial markets.

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