I've been on a Michael Lewis mini-tear. I recently read 'Liar's Poker' and 'The Big Short' and enjoyed both immensely. 'Flash Boys' is right up thereI've been on a Michael Lewis mini-tear. I recently read 'Liar's Poker' and 'The Big Short' and enjoyed both immensely. 'Flash Boys' is right up there with them. Hugely entertaining and yet disturbing at the same time. The story is about the effect of High-Frequency Trading (itself part of an ongoing game of 'whack-a-mole' between financial regulators and Wall Street) on the market place.
I must give credit to my cousin, Jonathan Birge for engendering my interest in this topic. For at least three or four years Jon's been clued in to the paradigm shift introduced by HFT. As Jon put it, stock trading has now been reduced to a war between teams of computers and programmers fighting over pennies and milliseconds.
Lewis and the story in 'Flash Boys' were recently featured in a piece on '60 Minutes'. Seeing that piece prompted me to want to read the book. Having read it, I can now see that things are so much worse than I ever suspected. An entire crooked infrastructure had grown around the electronic trading industry.
Highly recommended, especially if you have any interest in the stock markets....more
Really first rate book. Takes a little known but significant sporting event and gives it historical context. Great story about a quintessential AmericReally first rate book. Takes a little known but significant sporting event and gives it historical context. Great story about a quintessential American underdog. Compares very favorably to 'Seabiscuit'....more
A few months ago, I listened to a podcast by an author/hero of mine, Richard K. Morgan. He was talking about 'Air' by Geoff Ryman. He said it wasn't aA few months ago, I listened to a podcast by an author/hero of mine, Richard K. Morgan. He was talking about 'Air' by Geoff Ryman. He said it wasn't a great science fiction novel. It was a great novel period.
The same is true of Eliot Pattison's 'The Skull Mantra'. It's not a great mystery novel. It's a great novel period. It's an intricate mystery set in modern-day Tibet. It will keep you guessing until the very end. For me a great mystery is one where you feel like you have all the clues but still can't solve the puzzle.
The thing that struck me the most about 'The Skull Mantra' was the authenticity of the conversations, especially those featuring Tibetan Buddhist monks. You don't have to have studied anything about Buddhism to get the sense that these conversations accurately capture the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. Another sign of a great novel.
Pattison writes beautifully about the region. I have to think Pattison must have traveled the region. I can easily see how he won the Edgar for this.
I understand that there are other novels featuring Inspector Shan. I'll certainly be reading them soon.
I've read quite a few books about WWII and prior to reading 'Inferno' considered myself fairly knowledgeable about the subject. However, 'Inferno' expI've read quite a few books about WWII and prior to reading 'Inferno' considered myself fairly knowledgeable about the subject. However, 'Inferno' expanded and greatly deepened my understanding of the war.
In the forward Hastings explains that he is not here to retread over well-trodden ground. Much has already been written about the Wehrmacht's 1940 blitzkrieg of France, Pearl Harbor, Stalingrad and D-Day. Instead Hastings wants to focus on lesser known engagements and to try to show them to the reader from the eyes not of the marshals and generals directing them but from the perspective of the rank and file soldiers and helpless civilian bystanders.
He succeeds quite well in his endeavor. Perforce he must discuss the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. There's no way around that. But some of the most famous generals, men like Patton, Montgomery, Halsey, MacArthur, Guderian, and Rommel, are barely mentioned at all. And often when they are it is to point out their many shortcomings or their overblown reputations.
He spends what in other books would be a disproportionate amount of time on the Japanese campaign in southeast Asia and the fall of Singapore, often providing the perspectives of Malays and Chinese. A good deal of time is devoted to Burma and India, as well, and he gives equal time to trying to convey the view from its inhabitants eyes.
As my father pointed out in his review, Hastings amply demonstrates that it was the Russians who contributed the lion's share to the defeat of Hitler. And while I had known this, I hadn't quite realized just how lopsided their contribution was. It feels wrong to applaud this contribution, though, because this sacrifice was made only because Stalin and his marshals and generals were so callous in their disregard for their subjects' lives.
France comes across as fickle and venal. In the face of their own failure to repel the German invasion they became almost eager collaborators, often actively resisting the Allies. After reading this, I am shocked that the Allies gave France a seat at the victors' table.
Hastings doesn't recoil from illustrating the monstrosity of the two principal Axis regimes (although at 60,000, I think he underestimates the death toll of the Rape of Nanking; Iris Chang put it well over 200,000). However, he also shows where the Allies failed to live up to their ideals. This is particularly true in the case of the orgy of vengeance undertaken by the Russians as they liberate Russia and pursue the Wehrmacht into Germany and take Berlin.
In showing these failures, he never strays into moral equivalence (such as the Allied bombing of cities such as Dresden or Tokyo, and the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan). I applaud his properly calibrated moral compass.
He also takes on the conventional wisdom of the war, for example, showing that submarine warfare by the Axis in the Atlantic never seriously threatened the war effort. He also takes MacArthur to task for his egotistical and wasteful campaign to liberate the Philippines. In Hastings view, it should have been bypassed since by the time MacArthur returned, the Japanese army there was basically a hostage.
When I first finished this book, I rated it four stars. However, now having set my thoughts down on paper (as it were), I have decided to give it five. The proverbial 'must read' for all WWII enthusiasts....more