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Great books to read in the Christmas break

Staff members, fund managers and clients share their current reads…

For this final article this year, we asked staff members, two fund managers and a few clients for reading tips over the Christmas break. The list below is what they came up with. We would like to take this opportunity to wish all readers and clients a joyful festive season.

 

Non fiction

 

The Unusual Billionaires, by Saurabh Mukherjea

In this book, the author Saurabh Mukherjea profiles seven Indian companies, selected from a list of 5000 companies listed on Indian stock exchanges. He describes them as ‘Unusual Companies, built by Unusual Billionaires’.

He tells the story of Asian Paints, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank, Marico, Berger Paints, Page Industries and Astral Poly and attempts to distil what makes these companies truly outstanding, and why that these companies have been able to deliver successful results over multiple decades. The book offers a valuable insight into trading conditions in India.


Ma Huateng and Tencent: A Business and Life Biography, by Leng Hu

A must read for anyone who owns Naspers shares, as Naspers is the owner of about 35% of Tencent’s shares. Tencent was founded by Ma Huateng, Zhang Zhidong, Xu Chenye, Chen Yidan and Zeng Liqing in 1998 and has since become one of the most popular and largest internet service portals in China.

One of the company’s first successes was an instant messaging tool called QQ which has now expanded into QQ Games, Qzone, QQ.com, 3g.QQ.com, Tenpay, PaiPai, SoSo and WeChat. Under Ma’s leadership, Tencent has moved into web portals, social networks, multi-player online games and e-commerce. In 2014, Time Magazine recognised Ma as one of the world’s most influential people.


East West Street, by Philippe Sands

Phillippe Sands is an international lawyer and a professor of law at University College London. He is the author of Lawless World and Torture Team and is a frequent commentator on CNN and the BBC World Service.

According to the book’s flysheet, East West Street ‘…looks at the personal and intellectual evolution of the two men who simultaneously originated the ideas of ‘genocide’ and ‘crimes against humanity’. The two men, unknown to each other studied at a university in Ukraine, a city variously called Lemberg, Lwów, Lvov, or Lviv’.

The book is also a family memoir’ the author traces the mysterious story of his grandfather, as he moved through Europe in the face of Nazi atrocities.


The One Hour China Book: Two Peking University Professors Explain All of China Business in Six Short Stories, by Jeffrey Towson and Jonathan Woetzel.

If you have got just one hour and want to find out about doing business or investing in China, read this book. The book takes readers through six megatrends, including urbanisation, the huge manufacturing scale, the rising numbers of Chinese consumers, money, the ‘brainpower behemoth’ and the Chinese Internet.

Jeffrey Towson is an author, private equity investor and Peking University professor. His favourite theme in his writing and lecturing is how Chinese consumers and companies are disrupting global markets.

Jonathan Woetzel is a senior partner of McKinsey & Company. He opened McKinsey’s Shanghai location in 1995 and has lived in China since then. He currently the global leader of its Cities Special Initiative and the Asia-based Director of the McKinsey Global Institute.


Red Notice: How I became Putin’s No 1 enemy, by Bill Browder.

If you haven’t read this true political thriller about a US hedge fund manager and how he fell foul of the Putin regime, now is the time to do it.

Subtitled ‘A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice’, Browder’s tale starts in Chicago as the son of a Russian immigrant family and his graduation from Stanford Business School. In the early 90s he spotted investment opportunities in post-communist Russia and by 2005 was the largest foreign investor.

He was then expelled from the country after he exposed the corrupt oligarchs robbing the companies in which he was invested. Browder’s attorney Sergei Magnitsky was tortured and murdered by government agents. This book tells the story of Browder’s search for justice for his attorney. A post-script to the story is that Browder’s name has come up in the recent Trump election/ Russian email saga.


Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Published 2009 this book argues that the oppression of women worldwide is ‘the paramount moral challenge’ of the present era, much as the fight against slavery was in the past. The title comes from a quote from Mao Zedong meaning ‘women hold up half the sky’.

Quote from the book: ‘More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine gendercide in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.’


Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, by Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss, the writer who brought us the best-selling 4-Hour Workweek starts his new book by explaining how it was that he wrote Tribe of Mentors.

‘… In 2017, several of my close friends died in rapid succession. It was a very hard year, as it was for many people. It was also a stark reminder that time is our scarcest, non-renewable resource. With a renewed sense of urgency, I began asking myself many questions:

 
  • Were my goals my own, or simply what I thought I should want?
  • How much of life had I missed from under-planning or over-planning?
  • How could I be kinder to myself?
  • How could I better say “no” to the trivial many to better say “yes” to the critical few?
  • How could I best reassess my priorities and my purpose in this world?

To find the answers he approached 130 top athletes, artists and investors for their best ideas.


The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century, by Walter Scheidel.

Walter Scheidel is an Austrian-born historian who teaches ancient history at Stanford University, California. He has written many books on the economies of ancient societies, especially the Roman Empire. He has a special interest in transdisciplinary approaches to world history.

In The Great Leveler, he argues that ever since the discovery of agriculture, complex societies have generated or led to economic inequality and that government policy has no capacity to ameliorate, or even reverse this trend over the long term.

He writes that the lessons of history are clear; only war, revolution, state collapse or catastrophic plague, or a combination of these events can destroy the wealth of the rich.


Billions of Entrepreneurs: How China and India Are Reshaping Their Futures and Yours by Tarun Khanna.

The author of this book published in 2010 is Harvard Business School professor, Indian-born Tarun Khanna.

It makes sense to try and understand the two countries that will be home to 70% of the world’s middle class in just a few years. Khanna looks at the growth trajectory of China’s and India’s economies, where they overlap and where they diverge and compete. He also writes about how Western companies can participate in this development.

 

Dark Winter: How the Sun Is Causing a 30-Year Cold Spell, by John Casey

Anyone with an opinion on climate change should read this book. It would be difficult to label the author a crackpot, as he is a former White House national space policy advisor, NASA headquarters consultant, and space shuttle engineer.

The book tells of Casey’s research into the sun’s activity, which began almost a decade ago. Casey’s studies resulted in the identification and recording of a solar cycle that is now reversing from its global warming phase. In Casey’s view this heralds a global cooling for the next thirty years or so. In his view, this will have a dramatic impact on the world’s citizens, especially the production of food.


Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, by Peter Temin

Temin is an economist, economic historian, author and economics professor at MIT. Before The Vanishing Middle Class was published earlier this year, he was best known for his research into the causes of the Great Depression.

In this book he argues that the United States has become a nation of rich and poor, with few families in the middle. He writes that American history and politics, particularly slavery and its aftermath have played a crucial part in the widening gap between rich and poor. He describes how although almost half of black Americans are poor, most poor people are not black.

‘Conservative white politicians still appeal to the racism of poor white voters to get support for policies that harm low-income people as a whole, casting recipients of social programs as the Other ; black, Latino, not like ‘us.’ In the dual justice system, the rich pay fines and the poor go to jail,’ he writes.


IPL: Cricket and Commerce, by Alam Srinivas and T.R Vivek.

For cricket fans:

This book presents an insight into the grand auction process of national & international players. It includes interviews with young cricketers for whom life changed after IPL.

 

Ageless Body Timeless Mind: The Quantum Alternative to Growing Old, by Deepak Chopra

Over two million copies of this book have been sold since it was first published in 1994.

Deepak Chopra was a trained doctor on the east coast of the United States before taking on Ayurveda and spirituality as full time job.

Chapters include ‘The Land Where No One is Old, Aging and Awareness, Defeating Entropy, The Science of Longevity and Breaking the Spell of Mortality.

 

 

Fiction

 

In the midst of winter, by Isabel Allende

The story starts with a minor traffic accident in Brooklyn. 60 year old human rights scholar Richard Bowmaster hits the car of Evelyn Ortega, a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. This event leads Bowmaster to seek advice from his tenant Lucía Maraz, a 62-year- old lecturer from Chile.

The three central characters are brought together in a story that moves from Brooklyn to Guatemala in the recent past to 1970s Chile and Brazil, sparking a love story between Richard and Lucia.

The book explores human rights issues and the plight of immigrants and refugees.


Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

Asian American writer Celeste Ng has set her second novel in the ordered, conventional 1950s-ish neighbourhood of Shaker Heights. Her central characters are members of the affluent Richardson family whose house is burnt down in an act of arson.

She creates three subplots designed to highlight moral quandaries regarding child birth and pregnancy. The three stories involve adoption, surrogacy and teenage pregnancy. Questions raised about whose rights and desires take precedence (the mother, the adopter, the sperm donor) highlight the ever-present role of race and privilege in American society.


The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy

This is the second novel by Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy, published twenty years after her debut, The God of Small Things. As with her first book, Roy’s targets are the injustices of the caste system, globalisation and fundamentalism.

Through its cast of characters, primarily Anjum, a hijra or transgender woman and S Tilottama, an enigmatic architect the book examines the emotional, political and financial cost of the war in Kashmir, the corruption of Indira Ghandi, the Gujarat riots in 2002.


Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout.

Strout’s use of language has been compared to Toltoy’s, John Steinbeck’s and Anne Tyler’s. A previous book, My Name Is Lucy Barton was longlisted for the 2016 Man Booker prize.

This book is a collection of nine short stories set in Amgash, Illinois. Each story is a tale of small-town life that illuminates a more profound truth. The stories all include a reference to the character of Lucy Barton, who readers experience through the eyes of others. In each story, readers engage with the dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others.

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