Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World

Heists. There’s nothing new about financial fraud, greed and hubris, but the scale of it all provides quite a story in a book by Wall Street Journal reporters Tom Wright and Bradley Hope titled, Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World. You may have read their reporting about the Malaysia kleptocracy and the 1MBD scandal involving Goldman Sachs. The book tells us about a young Wharton graduate, Jho Low who knew how to game the system, heisted a fortune for himself and others, at least $4.5 billion, and got lots of senior executives to be swayed by his manipulation. While there’s an entertaining aspect to this story if your money is not at stake, here’s a scary takeaway (p.85): “His was a scheme for the twenty-first century, a truly global endeavor that produced nothing – a shift of cash from a poorly controlled state fund in the developing world, diverting it into the opaque corners of an underpoliced financial system that’s all but broken.” The barn door may still be open. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Billion Dollar Whale from amazon.com.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Duped. Many readers may have followed the story of Theranos and CEO Elizabeth Holmes in the business press in recent years, especially the work of The Wall Street Journal’s reporter, John Cerreyrou. In his book titled, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, Carreyrou pulls readers into a business scandal involving prominent people who were duped. I hope he sold the book rights to Hollywood, since a screenplay would be great binge-watching melodrama. Holmes worked very hard to suppress Carreyrouy’s reporting of the scandal at Theranos, but her efforts failed. His investigative skills and the help of employees and others got the story right and the bubble that was Theranos burst. Business is usually more boring than this book, so corporate readers can be titillated by this narrative, and all general readers will find a human story of manipulation and deceit and greed that will keep the pages turning quickly. I wonder if one day we will hear Elizabeth Holmes’ side of the story, since she refused Carreyrou’s requests to be interviewed. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase Bad Blood from amazon.com.

Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency

Curated. I really didn’t want to read journalist Major Garrett’s book titled, Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency. First, I lived through the early Trump Presidency and I have paid attention, so why do I need someone’s rehash? Second, I read enough in newspapers and periodicals about Trump, so why should I bother reading this book? Third, we may need distance, more time, to process what has been important or a distraction during this period. Once I started reading this book, I began to appreciate the benefit in reading a curated first draft of how history may consider the early part of the Trump Presidency. Garrett skillfully sidesteps the distractions and selects what he considers the matters of most significance. History may prove Garrett right or wrong in his take, but this reader liked getting perspective from a talented journalist who’s been in the scrum all the way through. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride from amazon.com.

Small Fry

Complex. Choose your own reason for reading Lisa Brennan-Jobs finely written memoir titled, Small Fry. She writes beautifully. She has the skill to be in her life story and to be outside it at the same time. You already know that her late father, Steve Jobs, could be a jerk. He’s not the center of this story, although the father-daughter relationship comes across with love, pain and intimacy. All families are complex. Individuals are packed with strengths and weaknesses. We grow up because of or in spite of the child rearing we received. This memoir reveals the skills of a fine writer and an interesting person. Choose your reason but read this finely written memoir. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Small Fry from amazon.com.

Deros

Jake. The debut novel by John A. Vanek features a strange title, Deros, and a daring choice for a protagonist these days: a Catholic priest. Let’s get the title out of the way first: it stands for Date of Expected Return from Overseas. Protagonist Father Jake Austin is a war veteran who trained as a physician, and finds himself assigned to his hometown of Oberlin, Ohio. Vanek portrays Jake as a normal healthy guy, troubled by his wartime service, and prepared to fill in at a parish for an ailing pastor and work at a local hospital. Jake arrives in Oberlin just in time to attend his high school reunion and the stuff that happens then provides the plot for this first novel in a planned series featuring Father Jake. I enjoyed the story and the development of several characters. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Deros from amazon.com.

Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It

Showing. Witty readers are those most likely to enjoy James Geary’s creative ways of demonstrating wit in his book titled, Wit’s End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It. Instead of telling readers all about wit and analyzing it, he shows us what wit looks like in various forms. I found this book to be quick to read and I appreciated the author’s cleverness. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Wit’s End from amazon.com.

Milkman

Challenging. Reading is usually more fun than roaming in the stream of consciousness of Anna Burns in her novel titled, Milkman. This book won the Man Booker prize, and that’s why I added it to my reading queue. I recommend this book to patient readers who are comfortable with unusual structure, unnamed characters, and few signposts to help one figure things out. Fans of literary fiction who enjoy finely written prose are those most likely to enjoy this novel. I expect Burns won the prize because of her finely crafted language in this novel. For many readers, it takes more than language to bring reading pleasure. Those readers are warned about this challenging novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Milkman from amazon.com.