A Book A Week Challenge – Week 3

As Joseph “coop” Cooper quotes in Interstellar ‘It’s like we’ve forgotten who we are, Donald. Explorer, pioneers, not caretakers’

Nigel Cliff in his historical panoramic narration of Vasco da Gama’s voyages to India makes sure you were reminded who we were- Explorers.

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Book #: 3

Title: The Last Crusade- The Epic Voyages of Vasco Da Gama

Pages: 560

This book bring our attention to two of our first generation explorers, Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus- that highly ambitious kid and Vasco da Gama- that planning leader. As you flip through the pages, you get a clear sense of why Vasco da Gama was regarded as a better explorer of the two. (Note: the protagonist of the book is Vasco da Gama, so you might be reading more positive notes about him than Columbus)

It was a tough read for me, given the names of people, locations, timeline that featured in the book but it was book of huge revelation for me. It starts from the time – so long ago- when the world was still figuring out and discussing the differences in the ideologies of Islam and Christianity. As the years passed by, the little was talked about the ideologies with increasing emphasis on who should take over the world. It is even more amazing to realize even after 15 centuries and ages of civilization, we are back at square one.

(IMO- of what I read) If William Darlymple offered us ‘full-meals’ of history, then Nigel Cliff serves you that ‘best exotic dessert’ you ever had in your life.

One interesting feature of this book is the way it was narrated. More often than not, history books were written with the sole purpose of putting the facts out right in the most chronological way possible. Nigel Cliff takes a step ahead, he links up two major pieces of history (however, interlinked they were, deserve a separate narration) and blends it up so much to give you a sense of why we are the way we are today.

The other feature which drags your attention is the language. Generally, only the conversations, dialogues, names and the set up would be adjusted to the period in which the story happens. Nigel Cliff does even better. He uses the early-English, medieval- English and Late 16th century- English even in narration. The root words were used from the continent in which the story happens.

Overall, it was a great reading experience. Recommended read.

A Book A Week Challenge- Week 2

Week 2 reading was a classic.

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1984 by George Orwell

Pages: 327

Classic (in literature) (n.): Any writing that questions or proposes radically challenging ideology in the contemporary world. 

1984 by George Orwell fits this definition to the dot. It stood the test of time way too strongly than many other books.

Not more than 50 pages into the book you know what you were getting yourself into. You would be dragged into the world of Oceania and start to feel the mental discomfort that you have to live in this world occupied by Big Brother.

You can’t even blink an eye nor allow your forehead to twitch because it sends a message out to ThoughtPolice, who would drag you to ‘Room 101’, where you would have to confront your strongest fears.

The book or rather the manifesto of Brotherhood talks on the fundamentals of – ‘collective solipsism’ but questions some of the basics of ‘objectivism’ proposed by Ayn Rand.

The questions keep popping up about existence of reality ‘as within oneself’ versus ‘as to be perceived by your consciousness no matter what’.

If the reality existed only how you perceive it by your consciousness then how would a future generation learn about the present unless there is some evidence that they can refer too? Does ‘objectivism’ plug into their equation the ‘time’ factor?

Irrespective of what happens in any dystopian world, there is always love. There is power, there is crime but then there is love. Like many love stories before and like many after, love story runs in a very challenging environment only to make us realize the value of it.

Most relevant quote of all time:

“Every society is divided into three classes: High, Middle and Low. The aim of High is to remain where they are. The aim of Middle is to change places with the High. The aim of the Low is to abolish all the distinctions and create a society in which all men shall be equal” 

And you know where it always ends up.

A Book A Week Challenge- Week 1

End of First week  rings the closing bell for my first book of 2016.

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Flash Boys: Cracking the Money Code by Michael Lewis

Penguin India

Pages: 288

The more I read, the more I realize how much I enjoy reading about white collared crimes. It’s always intriguing to learn about how conscious actions driven by vested interests of large corporates impact the lifetime efforts of many helpless individuals.

First it is Robin Cook for medical crimes and now Michael Lewis for financial crimes. Both to be blamed for this new found interest of mine.

Michael Lewis shoots at you a continuous stream of financial jargon and reiterates every time he throws a new word at you, he makes sure to point out that many ‘experts’ even within industry were not really sure what those words meant. But, the most interesting aspect of this is, every time a new jargon pops up, he halts the story and takes a step back to explain what that term means.

The book focuses on High Frequency Trading and the mad affiliation that these bigger banks have in gaining speed in accessing the information before everyone else. Their attempt is to gain as much possible with the arbitrage- Rebate arbitrage, Latency arbitrage, Slow market arbitrage, Dark Pool arbitrage and many more as you flip the pages.

More often than not, the aspect that gets overlooked in these type of books is how the story is narrated. Every character is introduced in the backdrop of 9/11 attacks and how they evolved into building up a ‘honest’ exchange called ‘IEX’. It would only be slightly unfair to call ‘Brad Katsuyama’ as the lead protagonist, who is set out on a mission ‘restore fairness in the U.S. stock market’ , when every single character adds its our own glory to this story.

I should thank my friend Sudhakar for this wonderful recommendation. Couldn’t have started with a better book.

For those interested in reading quick synopsis, here is an article by Andrew Ross written for Guardian describing the aftermath of this book release. But, I would definitely categorize it into ‘Must Read’

I know a quarter of this book is fiction- which I don’t care about; half of it is grey zone- you can argue for ages about its authenticity – which I am not really concerned about; but there is other quarter which is absolutely true and that is sufficient to make me sick to my knees.

I conclude this with two most simple but relevant quotes from this book:

  1. “You line them (resumes) up on a paper and say may be there is a ten percent difference between them. But one guy is getting paid three hundred grand and the other is getting one point five million. The difference is one guy has been given the big picture and the other hasn’t (sic)
  2. “It’s (stock market) an industry that over glorifies data, because the data is so easy to game and the true data is so hard to obtain”

End Note: Every nano second is expensive.

A Book A Week Challenge

Start of New Year brings with it new aspirations and resolutions.

Here is one of them which would be a regular feature of this blog. I am going to post the books that I am reading in a particular week and a brief one paragraph summary after I finish reading each book.

I decided to read 52 books this year (at a rough estimate of A Book A Week). The reading time for each book might not exactly be a week but on average it should turn out to be one.

There is a wide range of books that I plan to read during this year based on topics completely distinct: politics, business, self help, fiction, classics and so on.

So Here we start:

Week 1:

Book 1: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis.

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Who among you are willing to hop on?  We can use it as a group challenge.

Happy Reading Year ahead.

 

 

It all starts here…

Every time a story is narrated about a historic event, this would be the most common starting phrase. I am here neither to narrate a story nor create history. But, I can say with a lot of confidence that my story might be a part of history. So, I am out on a mission to make a beautiful read. If not for the millions of population on this earth, at least for me.

The closing phase of 2015 helped me to focus on self awareness. As I sat down to decide on my goals or resolutions that would help me be a better person in 2016, I browsed through whole lot (a lot of them) of articles. I referred to ‘Medium’, ‘Men’s Health’, ‘INC.com’, ‘Forbes’ etc. and many more ’20 things to do’ or ’30 challenges’. The more I read, the more I became aware of the amount of time one spends in creating that awareness about himself.

In the end, I finalized on a handful number of goals and resolutions (Note: This is one of them too, in case you wondered).

Enough of planning and time to get to business.

As a first step, I decided I would write some history for myself.

History about what would happen in my life or the world in which I live during 2016.

So, I decided to go back to the traditional approach of narration:

‘It all started here …’

I thought it would only be ideal to list down what I expect from this year:

1. May the sense of sanity prevail — religion, power and everything can come next

2. Let’s respect the existence of each other — no discrimination on color, race, country and whatever that splits us (I know it is too cliched but isn’t that the basis our evolution)

3. Before we go in search of a place somewhere in the universe, let’s make this planet a happy place to live.

So, what is the history that you want to narrate?

Closing notes from this wonderful song from Magic Man (Album: ‘Before the Waves’)