The topic of the book, how local government regulation stifles the construction of new homes in opportunity-rich cities across the United States, is vThe topic of the book, how local government regulation stifles the construction of new homes in opportunity-rich cities across the United States, is vital and pressing, unfortunately something that has been ignored by most politicians. The rent is too high because supply has not coped up with demand. And the supply has been low is not because we don’t have the ability to meet the demand, but because there is no free market in home construction as a huge web of regulations have thwarted builders. It may be surprising for some to learn that in many places, making tall buildings is outright illegal and in others, foolish rules mandating free parking makes them prohibitively expensive to construct.
Yglesias touches upon several important topics. One is the confusion among many people about housing prices. House owners feel happy when prices go up and generally, housing is looked upon as an investment. But in reality, this is a mirage as the profits made from a house sale will necessarily have to be used in purchasing another home to live in and so it is a wash. The increasing costs of housing takes a huge chunk of the monthly paycheck of the average American, reducing their quality of life. I would add that house prices should be treated as “inflation” as opposed to treating it as it is the same as a stock price increase so that people get the picture.
The author explains the paradox where the cities where the highest incomes can be obtained are the ones that are not growing the fastest, because housing is only available at prohibitive prices, or simply not available. Also, despite improvements in construction technology, we are not utilizing them much such as in making tall buildings because of regulations.
In the book, Yglesias also shows how both sides of the political divide have aligned themselves on the wrong side of the debate. The Left has a natural affinity for regulations, aesthetics, and preservation, combined with an instinct against rich developers and fails to see how this is affecting the pockets of middle-class and poor Americans. The Right should be a natural constituency to repeal some of these regulations, unfortunately identity politics has made them align against urbanism and adapt ironically apocalyptic rhetoric against Big Government supposedly forcing rural dwellers to move to the city. ...more
**spoiler alert** Warning: Don’t read this review if you haven’t read this book or the previous books of the trilogy.
And so it ends. I was afraid that**spoiler alert** Warning: Don’t read this review if you haven’t read this book or the previous books of the trilogy.
And so it ends. I was afraid that Suzanne Collins would make the Hunger Games trilogy into an adventure series with an A-to-Z plot. It would have been easy to do that by simply sticking to some of the themes in the first two books. We could have had the heroine Katniss Everdeen as the force behind the push to overthrow the Capitol. There would have been some action involved, but in the end the Capitol is overthrown and then Katniss has to decide which of the two heroes, Gale or Peeta, she would choose. Straightforward. But that is not how things unfold in “Mockingjay”.
There was a hint of this in the previous novel, “Catching Fire“. While Katniss is involved deeply in the most important event (the Hunger Games) again, she is not the driver of events. There are other parties (District 13 and the rebels in the other districts) who are working together and have made plans that require Katniss’s presence and participation, but not necessarily her knowledge of what is going to happen or her agreement to such actions. The ending of the previous novel showed how little Katniss was in control of events and how much she was kept in the dark.
“Mockingjay” takes this much further. It is a darker book than the previous two novels. And much more violent. We are introduced to a District 13 that is far from a heroic Utopia. Instead it is a disciplined militarized regime with strict rules, not much different from the behavior of the Capitol towards the Districts. Except that the leaders of District 13 promise a government that will allow the Districts to participate in decision-making. That future seems promising and worthwhile to fight, but it is not clear how the current way that District 13 is structured will work in the future.
Keeping in line with my comments about the previous book, Collins has a good way of introducing developments into the story. Many of them can be called surprises or even twists, but they work to enhance the story than become a distraction. Also, instead of milking a mini-plot for the entire book, Collins gets it resolved faster. For example, Peeta being held captive – that could have gone on for the whole book, but fortunately it does not.
There are a couple of genuine shocks though. One is the death of Prim, which turns the whole story on its head. The whole reason for Katniss getting involved in the original Hunger Games was her volunteering to take her sister’s place. Finally, in retrospect, we see that all she achieves for Prim is a couple of extra years of life. This comes entirely out of the blue, even though a seemingly throwaway sequence in the book should have alerted us to the possibility of the scene where Prim gets killed.
“Mockingjay” ends perfectly. The Hunger Games and the revolt involved brutal crimes and it would have been a disaster to ignore them. There is no fairytale ending. Katniss is shattered by the death of Prim and makes only a slow recovery towards normalcy, but even after decades, she is still haunted by the Hunger Games. Gale is gone, transformed by his work in the rebellion. We finally get to see the resolution of the love triangle and it is neither a choice by Katniss nor the result of a convenient death by the author. We see how the newly liberated republics were willing to commit similar atrocities as that done by the Capitol. And so it is clear that nation-building is a much different enterprise than freedom from oppression....more
I started reading Agatha Christie novels when I was in middle school. My first book was, surprisingly, “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?“, which didn’t haveI started reading Agatha Christie novels when I was in middle school. My first book was, surprisingly, “Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?“, which didn’t have Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple or even Tommy and Tuppence. It was a great mystery and pulled me into reading more Christie. After reading a bunch of Poirot novels, I had to read “Curtain”, the last Poirot novel, but I was unable to get it at our school library. It was several years later that I finally read it. And recently, I read it again to see how it felt.
The book starts off with a heavy dose of nostalgia. Somewhat like the beginning of “Norwegian Wood“. This is the last hunt for Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings as they try to find the person who commits the “perfect murder”. It is a serial murderer who manages to kill off several people in different places without being suspected and somehow there is someone else who is brought before justice. The plot is set in the same house as the “The Mysterious Affair at Styles”. Agatha Christie wrote this novel in the 1940s and had it locked up and only released close to her death. This meant that in some ways, the novel was written at the height of her mystery writing skills. I think all authors should do the same: writing a final novel for their famous character when they have their wits about them, but only publishing it after their death.
I cannot reveal the ending, so I will have to be necessarily vague in the next few lines. Poirot does explain everything at the end of the book, but it is not a classic Poirot story in the sense that there is little active investigation by Poirot in the story. Captain Hastings is the narrator and much of the action happens without Poirot. In “The ABC Murders”, we saw that a letter addressed to Poirot had a much deeper meaning than we understood at the beginning of the story. In “Curtain”, the presence of Captain Hastings is more involved than we think at first.
Once you know the plot, as I did in my second reading, it is amazing to see Christie at work. We see the murderer at work, and notice how Christie throws a lot of red herrings to confuse the reader. But what is remarkable about Christie novels is her adherence to Occam’s Razor, where the final answer is the one that is the most straightforward. Cutting through all the assumptions. Making us slap our forehead and say, why didn’t I notice that? It was all there in plain sight. We almost see two murders taking place and we still do not guess the murderer.
The author explains the Halo effect, which is how people talk highly of all aspects of successful companies and badly of failures, regardless of actuaThe author explains the Halo effect, which is how people talk highly of all aspects of successful companies and badly of failures, regardless of actual facts and circumstances. He explains various management delusions that arise from the Halo Effect. Finally, he looks at some very popular prescriptive management books like "In Search of Excellence", "Built to Last" and "Good to Great", and explains their deficiencies. A very timely book....more
**spoiler alert** I have cried reading books, but this is the first one I can remember shedding tears just three pages in. The story of life is about **spoiler alert** I have cried reading books, but this is the first one I can remember shedding tears just three pages in. The story of life is about loss and regrets, and “Norwegian Wood” in its opening paragraph breaks through our defenses with its splendid writing that simply envelops us and shuts us out of the present world. Of course, the original book is written in Japanese and I wonder how accurately the translation by Jay Rubin was of the emotions that Murakami conveyed in the original work.
But let me not misrepresent the entirety of the book by talking about the beginning. “Norwegian Wood” is not a tearjerker throughout. It is at times funny, sometimes mysterious, other times serious, but always engrossing. The plot is based in the 1960’s, an interesting time in Japan’s history, a little ways away from the defeat of World War II with a younger generation having no first-hand knowledge of the war and about to be part of a worldwide cohort that would be part of many tumultuous changes. The strange thing though in the book is that the protagonist and narrator (Toru) in “Norwegian Wood” actually has a very boring student life, even though much happens around him. The novel is rather conservative in that sense, with the narrator calling student radicals hypocrites, and being thoughtful about the changes happening in Japanese society.
But these only supply a backdrop to the story which is about the relationships that Toru has. One is with the enigmatic Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend who had committed suicide while in high school. Naoko also seems disturbed and unable to understand and build upon her feelings for Toru. She admits herself into a sanitarium to recover and lead a normal life. In the meantime, Midori, full of life, but also broken in some respects, enters Toru’s life. They establish a strong connection, but Toru still cannot reconcile that with his affection for Naoko. The book ends a bit like “Inception” in the sense that almost all the threads have been successfully resolved, but the creator wanted to add a little ambiguity at the end, even though the straightforward explanation is all there is.
Again though, the story is important, but what holds your attention is the depiction of the characters and what matters to them. Toru cannot let go of Naoko, even though he knows that she does not and perhaps could never have the same feeling for him as he does for her. Some of the characters (like the “Storm Trooper” and Hatsumi) appear only for a few pages, but have an outsized effect on Toru and his relationships. This is a book brimming with feelings and emotions.
P.S. “The Great Gatsby” is repeatedly mentioned in this book. So I went back and read it and I still didn't like it....more
One of the most spell-binding books I have ever read. Taking a subject that everyone can relate to, the teenage years of uncertainty, angst and rebellOne of the most spell-binding books I have ever read. Taking a subject that everyone can relate to, the teenage years of uncertainty, angst and rebelliousness, Salinger draws a incredibly vivid picture by describing a few event-filled days in the life of the teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield. The writing is sharp and brilliant.
I suspect that adult readers and teenage readers may interpret the book differently. The younger you are, the more idealistic you are. You are less compromising and more disposed to make rash judgments. Idealism co-exists with cynicism and self-righteousness. All these traits exist in Caulfield’s behavior and, if that is what you are looking for, he is your hero. But if you are an older person, you have made your peace with the real world – less idealism, more pragmatism. You empathize with the tortured soul of Caulfield, but you want him to come to terms with reality, a redemption that the novel only partly bestows upon him.
The mental journey that the book takes you on is strange. At times, you feel exhilarated. Sometimes, you are saddened and left shaking your head. You wait for a conventional end, but it is not forthcoming....more
The must-read book on how to eliminate bottlenecks within an organization and increase throughput while decreasing inventory and operating expense. PrThe must-read book on how to eliminate bottlenecks within an organization and increase throughput while decreasing inventory and operating expense. Presented as a novel, it walks the reader through the thinking behind implementing constraint-based processes. Also, it explains how these changes conflict with cost accounting principles. The book has been an outstanding bestseller and the principles have been implemented in many organizations....more
Writing the first Hercule Poirot novel, Agatha Christie does not place a foot wrong, as she creates a murder thriller that you simply cannot put down.Writing the first Hercule Poirot novel, Agatha Christie does not place a foot wrong, as she creates a murder thriller that you simply cannot put down. There are so many red herrings (especially one that is so deliciously fiendish) to put you off the trail of the real murderer. ...more
Using an ingenious story-telling device (which I shall not reveal), Agatha Christie toys with the reader in this tale of blackmail and murder. The retUsing an ingenious story-telling device (which I shall not reveal), Agatha Christie toys with the reader in this tale of blackmail and murder. The retired Hercule Poirot is on the scene once again. He knows that everyone has something to hide. Reading the book for the 2nd time after a long time (and knowing who the murderer was), I was shocked to see that I could not figure out how the crime took place. I guess that is the best compliment I can pay to this book....more
Excellent book of interviews with founders of different software and hardware companies. The author interviewed many industry icons such as Steve WoznExcellent book of interviews with founders of different software and hardware companies. The author interviewed many industry icons such as Steve Wozniak and Dan Bricklin, Web 2.0 application creators such as David Hansson and Mena Trott, as well as popular software entrepreneurs and writers like Paul Graham and Joel Spolsky. The founders talk about their dreams and fears, and what they think success is about and how it can be achieved. The book also contains their experiences in many unglamorous aspects of their work such as raising venture capital, dealing with legal issues, etc. A great resource for budding entrepreneurs....more
Wow! What a book! Christensen's insight that organizations cannot produce disruptive innovations to its existing products is both amazing and disturbiWow! What a book! Christensen's insight that organizations cannot produce disruptive innovations to its existing products is both amazing and disturbing at the same time. The book explains how rational and proper behavior on the part of managers can prevent innovation and shows that technical and managerial incompetence does not necessarily lie behind failures of innovation. Reading this book shows how easily we can fall into the trap of blaming people for failures when, in reality, correct processes, proper management and effective people may still lead to bad results because of the underlying rules....more
A book that keeps you thinking after you finish it. Is there life outside our planet? Have they been in contact with us? Have they included any markerA book that keeps you thinking after you finish it. Is there life outside our planet? Have they been in contact with us? Have they included any markers that would lead us to them? Are we alone?...more
Every person has encountered demeaning jerks in the workplace and had to face their intimidation and attacks. This excellent book is a survival guide Every person has encountered demeaning jerks in the workplace and had to face their intimidation and attacks. This excellent book is a survival guide to how you can keep your sanity in such an environment. It also illustrates that we may also at times behave like creeps and provides us ways to recognize and avoid such behavior. The book shows examples of successful jerks, but points out how such success could be delusional because there are high costs with such behavior. Finally, the author explains how an institution can create and implement a policy against such destructive people....more
A tale about the Partition of India, it depicts how ordinary human beings can become both monsters and martyrs in times of extreme crisis. Although thA tale about the Partition of India, it depicts how ordinary human beings can become both monsters and martyrs in times of extreme crisis. Although the story itself is set in a small village on the India-Pakistan border, the horror of Partition comes through starkly with its description of the sadistic acts of violence done by both sides....more
This is my favorite among the four Sherlock Holmes full-length novels. It follows the structure of "A Study in Scarlet" where, aside from the investigThis is my favorite among the four Sherlock Holmes full-length novels. It follows the structure of "A Study in Scarlet" where, aside from the investigation of a crime in the present, there is a lengthy flashback providing greater insight into the reasons behind the mystery. The story within the story is set in coal mines in Pennsylvania and is a thriller with a twist at the end. There are some inconsistencies in the story, particularly with regard to Professor Moriarty, but overall I would rate it excellent. ...more