Book reviews

I’ve compiled some short reviews of the books I’ve read recently.

Adventure Capitalist by Jim Rogers (http://www.jimrogers.com)

Good book chronicling one of the world’s longest road-trips by famed investor Jim Rogers at the turn of the millennium. While overall a great read, some countries are only briefly mentioned and he could have added more discussion on the various predictions and conclusions he makes as a result of the trip including:

• The new commodity bull market has started.
• The twenty-first century will belong to China.
• There is a dramatic shortage of women developing in Asia.
• Pakistan is on the verge of disintegrating.
• India, like many other large nations, will break into several countries.
• The Euro is doomed to fail.
• There are fortunes to be made in Angola.
• Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are a scam.
• Bolivia is a comer after decades of instability, thanks to gigantic amounts of natural gas.

Tai-Pan by James Clavell

A true classic which is hard to put down once started. A fascinating look at the opium trade, founding of Hong Kong, and international relations with China in the 1800s all wrapped around an excellent plot. It also got me looking at the history of Malaria (http://www.malariasite.com/MALARIA/History.htm).

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com)

I first heard about this when Prof. Steven Levitt went on the Daily Show to discuss some of his interesting findings. Simply put, when given access to rare types of datasets an economist can come up with many interesting insights into the world.

White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow by Giles Milton

In early April there was an article titled “Freedom of the Cyber Seas” over at CSO Online (http://www.csoonline.com/article/print/329164) which compared piracy on the high seas in the late 18th century with the current security problems on the internet. This book provides further insight into how the European powers attempted to deal with the Barbary states and centers around the story of Thomas Pellow who was captured on the high seas and served Sultan Moulay Ismail for over 20 years.

Ambassador without Credentials by Sergei Snegov

Written in 1977 by Soviet SF author Sergei Snegov, this is a collection of 12 short stories exploring various ideas being researched by two brilliant brothers as they attempt to solve various mysteries. One of the stories lays out the same fundamental ideas explored in Michael Crichton’s Sphere over 10 years later.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

The inspiration for the film Apocalypse Now, follows a journey up a river in the Congo to an ivory trading station. Complex, dark, psychological, it succeeds in putting the reader into the same state of mind Conrad must have experienced in his own journey up the Congo River in 1890.

Coalescent by Stephen Baxter

Average SF book exploring the possibility of humans using a hive type social structure as seen in beehives or ant colonies.

Tales from the White Heart by Sir Arthur C. Clark

A great collection of short stories centered around discussions at a small London bar in the 1950s.

Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku (http://www.mkaku.org)

An excllent look at the historical development and implications of theories based on a multidimensional universe.

The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth

Good thriller centered around a plot by the Soviets to destabilize the UK government.

Hunting Al Qaeda by Anonymous

An account of the time spent in Afghanistan by a special forces unit of the US National Guard which tends to focus on the bureaucratic nightmare they encountered.

Chasing Shakespeares by Sarah Smith

A fictional book about two scholars investigating the Shakespeare authorship question in London. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakespeare_authorship_question)

The Trudeau Vector by Juris Jurjevics

A good thriller about an epidemiologist sent to determine the vector for a pathogen which is killing researchers at a remote Arctic station.

The Camel Club by David Baldacci

A decent thriller about a high-level conspiracy in Washington.

The Broker by John Grisham

Another decent thriller about a Washington lawyer being chased by various intelligence services.

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