The Big Short – Michael Lewis
I know there was a housing crisis or something in the states? I knew enough to have a conversation about it. Though I couldn’t do much more than that. Now I sort of can? Basically the housing market collapsed because Wall Street developed a financial system so complicated that only a small handful of people completely understood it.
Long story short. Government gives mortgages to people who can’t pay them. Those mortgages get bundled into bonds that are sold buy banks. Those bonds, since they include a portion of good mortgages, get AAA ratings from either Moody’s or S&P. Meanwhile, they’re still shit. The worst bonds get smashed together again into CDO’s, which try to diversify the risk even more. Obviously they don’t. Now you have too many bonds backed by loans that will become worthless.
Then a bunch of smart people say, “Hey! These mortgages are going to default. I’ll buy insurance on them. That way, when everyone realizes no one can pay back 5 mortgages all at once, I’ll be straight ballin.”
Lewis tells the story from the perspective of a few people who saw this mess coming years before it actually happened. That angle gave the story a really interesting narrative, which made understanding the more technical stuff slightly easier.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
I saw the movie before I knew it was a book. That’s not something I’d normally do. I’m the guy who reads the book, then watches the movie and knows deep down that the book was better, but tries really hard not to be “that-guy.” The guy who goes around telling everyone, “Yeah, it was good, but it’s nothing compared to the book.” Having said that, the movie is a pretty good adaptation of the novel.
It reads a lot like Angels and Demons or The Davinci Code. Very fast paced, small words, plot-twists etc. It’s very entertaining and quick to read.
The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson
It had the same pace as the first one. One thing I didn’t realize until halfway through was that the title could be taken literally and figuratively. It’s clever in like an oh-I-can-see-both-ladies-in-that-picture sort of way.
Surely, You’re Joking Mr. Feynman! – Richard P. Feynman
Richard Feynman is one of the coolest people I’ve ever read about. This is one of my favourite books.
Theodore Roosevelt is the most interesting person I have ever read about – fiction or non-fiction. This is the best non-fiction book I’ve ever read.
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
Murakami is a fantastic writer. I’m not always a huge fan of his plots, but I find that I learn so much about writing and word choice that in the end it doesn’t really matter.
When I read this I had been feeling really confused as to what constitutes a “healthy” diet. Should I be eating no carbs? Is dietary fat bad for you? What’s insulin resistance? Should I be on a ketogenic diet? This book helped me answer those questions. I eat no carbs, tons of meat, lots of veggies and sweet sweet fat.
Cool story about ultra-marathon runners, barefoot running and the joys of physical activity.
The World of Karl Pilkington – Karl Pilkington
Karl is very unintentionally funny because you can empathize with his logic – no matter how off base or socially ridiculous it is. You’ll say to yourself, “wow that’s dumb, but I know how he feels.” Once he tried to buy a bed and was shocked that it didn’t come with a mattress. For Karl the whole situation rested on the absurd notion of, “Why would you buy a bed without a mattress? A bed should come with a mattress.” You and I know that it doesn’t, even though it sort of makes sense that it should. But things like this sort of fly over Karl’s head. Then hilarity ensues.
Chip gives some good points on marketing. I wasn’t really thrilled with this book. Then I realized I could remember most of it even though I read it a few months ago. Made to stick? I guess so.
Alright. Don’t read this book if you’ve got a lot on the go, or you’re in the middle of reading something else. This isn’t a light summer read. This is the most challenging book I’ve ever read. Was it good? Yeah? Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it. I’d say it’s a rewarding experience – like running a marathon or writing the UFE.
If you want to get a good idea of what his writing is like, then read this commencement speech he gave at Kenyon University. It’ll help you get your feet wet. This interview will help too. Start from the 23min mark.
The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals – Edward Payson Evans
Back in the day courts of law used to prosecute animals. For example, a pig would manage to escape from its pen, run into a farmhouse and eat a baby. Then a court would convict the pig of infanticide, dress it up as a person and then hang it. I don’t even know where to go after that last sentence. Is it a good book? Yes, because it’s so ridiculous? It’s not long. You can bang it out in a day or so.