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The most engrossing book I read this year was Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed. It’s the story of the financial collapse of the 1920’s, which precipitated the Great Depression. It focuses on four central bankers whose collective efforts pretty much wrecked the global economy. These guys were incredibly smart, and incredibly powerful, and it’s fascinating how things went wrong, and the ways in which their financial policies dictated all major global events from World War I to World War II. Also, it resonates pretty well with all of today’s financial problems, and gave me a much better understanding of what these guys are capable of doing.
The Recognitions by William Gaddis. I had heard for years that this was great, so I went into it expecting a lot, and it delivered. It’s a huge undertaking…it’s about 1,000 pages, but it requires such strict attention that often you find yourself reading a page several times. Somewhere about 500 pages in I realized I just had absolutely no idea what was going on, so I started consulting an online guide, which was very helpful in understanding the plot, but I guess may have disrupted the original rhythm, and messed up some important surprises. So I guess I’d advise reading without a guide…or at least trying…
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. I was surprised how funny this book was. I only bought it because it was the single English-Language book in an entire store in Utrecht, and didn’t really know what to expect. It’s a sprawling 19th-century saga (a-la Charles Dickens) with a huge cast. Everyone owes everyone else money, and no one’s paying up. There’s a lot of cowering behind a mask of dignity. If you were to change a few details it really could all be happening right now.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. I thought it was funny the whole time. It’s a very quick read. I read it on tour with my band, where there is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” which is a major theme.
Cobb: A Biography by Al Stump. Wow what an asshole Ty Cobb was! A very entertaining read. Sharpening his spikes was nothing…”The Georgia Peach” was a violent and notorious racist and murderer, who once beat up a disabled heckler.
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