Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Book Review of "The Undercover Economist"

When you read “The Undercover Economist”, the first thing you should know is that it was published in 2005 - before the 2008 financial meltdown, before the 12 years of unparalleled stock market growth seen from 2009 to 2021, before the 2020 pandemic and of course before the current market turmoil of 2022. So do not be alarmed by the unbridled optimism in the free market and the overall vibe of “this music will last forever”.

Once you are able to look past this, the Undercover Economist is actually an engaging and thought-provoking read. It explains various economic concepts like power of scarcity, externalities, comparative advantage, and price sensitivity in simplistic and sometimes elegant ways. Each chapter starts with an everyday question like why all restaurants in Times Square are highly likely to be bad, why Starbucks always optimizes for location, why WholeFoods appears more expensive than Safeway, and so on. The two chapters that were simply mind-boggling to me were the ones about US Health Care and about the economic growth of China.

That being said, the book does tend to meander in some parts and becomes somewhat repetitive in places. A major beef I have is the handwavy way they have talked about immigration and its positive and negative impact.

All in all, give it a go if you are ok to get your hands dirty a bit. Stay away if you looking for a Freakonomics kind of a read. 4 out of 5 from me.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Book Review of "To Be Taught, If Fortunate"

“When the world you know is out of reach, nothing is more welcome than a measurable reminder that it still exists.”

“To be taught, If fortunate” is a brilliantly woven love letter to science. Yes, the plot is threadbare and yes, the characters aren’t fleshed-out in the traditional sense. But in this case, it’s not supposed to! Becky Chambers has fused the metaphorical and the SciFi aspects with utmost precision. The discussions about philosophy, morality, and ethics of space exploration and scientific experimentation are center stage as opposed to the usual aliens and “adventures”. The prose is beautiful and the tone is heartfelt and hopeful. It explores some of the most creative and fascinating ideas about SciFi in biology, evolution, and space travel. 

If you are in the mood for a book that reads like sipping a smooth drink in a cozy room feeling philosophical, then this book right here; this is it!

“We have found nothing you can sell. We have found nothing you can put to practical use. We have found no worlds that could be easily or ethically settled, were that end desired. We have satisfied nothing but curiosity and gained nothing but knowledge.”

Friday, June 17, 2022

Book Review of "I, Robot"

First published in the early 1950s, “I, Robot” by the great Isaac Asimov is super-entertaining, thought-provoking & surprisingly prescient. It is a collection of SciFi stories and the movie from the early 2000s looks like was very loosely based on one or two of the stories from this book. 

Compared to the SciFi writings of the 90s and the 2000s, I have always found Asimov’s prose to be dry and somewhat unemotional. But what it lacks in sentimentality, it more than makes up for by having very unique, original, and interesting story premises and conflicts. “I, Robot” is not an exception. A definite 4/5. 

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Book Review of "Mistborn #6 - Bands of Mourning"

“The Bands of Mourning” turned out to be a mixed bag of goods. On one hand, it follows the “Sanderson formula” to a T, a slow first act, a slightly better second act, and an insanely fast-paced, what-the-hell-is-happening-over-here third act! But on the other hand, the twists are slightly predictable and the character development isn’t super solid - with the exception of one character that I won’t spoil. What works and in my mind, makes this the best Mistborn Era-2 book so far is the perfectly executed ending. It ties up the story neatly and still ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger. Overall, if you have made it this far in the Mistborn Era-2, you won’t be disappointed. 4 out of 5.

"How could I have been so in control as a youth, yet often feel so helpless as an adult?” 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Book Review of "Mistborn #5 - Shadows of Self"

“Shadows of Self” - the fifth novel in the Mistborn series or the second novel in the “Mistborn Era 2” has everything that you would expect from a Brandon Sanderson novel - crisp storyline, well-executed action set-pieces, at least a couple of well-rounded characters and one or more unexpected twists. Compared to “The Alloy of Law”, this time the stakes are higher, the scope of the story is bigger and the antagonists are deadlier. All in all, entertaining & engaging, solid 4/5.

"That’s the thing about having an eternity, kid. It gets really easy to procrastinate."