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Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower Book Review

Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower Book Review

Author: Henry M. Paulson

First Published: January 28th 2014

ISBN:  1455545333 (ISBN13: 9781455545339)

Review by Catalin Avram

You might have noticed that lately pretty much everything is made in China. You might have also noticed how Chinese influence around the world is growing really fast. This book offers an amazing insider view of how China managed to go from dirt-poor to world super power in less than a generation. China managed to move 440 million people from farms to the cities in less than 30 years. By comparison, the entire population of the European Union is 508 Million.

Every country has its own social, economical and political challanges to deal with, but one must agree Chine’s problems are on a different scale. Paulson is a an american banker which served as the Secretary of Treasury during the Bush administration. He also held the title chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, so what better way to get a really nice “fly on the wall” view of high-level discussion and strategies for bringing Chine up to speed as an economical super power. The author offers a very detailed account and timeline of issues China had to deal with, the mistakes it made, the good things it did. One of the most interesting thing I learned in this book is the following: the Chinese people are extremely patriotic, but not in a fanatical way. They understand and they do put the greater good on first place. They also understand that, in order to bring everybody in China to a relatively good standard of living, some people must get rich first, and those people’s responsibility is to pull the rest with them (by creating a consumer market inside China).

Another interesting fact is how China’s economy works. It is a true hybrid between Communism and Capitalism. When the reform started, the farming was done using cooperatives which took everything from the workers working the land and payed them in return small salaries. After the reform, the cooperations remained, however, each farm / food producing unit has a quota to meet (for the state). If they choose to produce more food than the quota, then there’s a free market in which you can sell your stuff. In other words, you have a minimum income assured, and if you want to get ahead, you work/produce more. This incentivized an army of entrepreneurs to take advantage of this newly created economic reform.

I highly recommend this book to anyway interested and curious on how high level problems are discussed. Although it’s still the USA that has the upper hand in the world economy, China has definitely been doing something right in this reform – and a tight cooperation between both countries will yield economic prosperity for both.

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Disrupted – My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble Book Review

Disrupted – My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble Book Review

Author: Dan Lyons

First Published: April 5, 2016

ISBN:  

Review by Catalin Avram

This book is a must read for anyone currently working in a Silicon Valley type of startup. At first it sounded like a lame series of excuses coming from older man who can’t adapt to the startup trend, but if you stick to the book you realize Dan Lyons has some serious points. Being a journalist and a satirist (he used to ran the famous Fake Steve Jobs blog), and a little bit of a complainer, Lyons gives a full blown, no censorship view of what actually happens inside a tech startup.

I don’t agree with a lot of the author’s views on the start-up culture. He’s either overly exaggerating or he’s being overly sensitive about things which are just different than the status quo. There is also a lot of points I do agree on. The start-up cultures seem to be a combination between kindergarten and a frat house. This is very true. Where old financial companies and banks are on one end o the spectrum, these companies are completely on the other hand (it’s no joke when he mentions that if you don’t go for drinks after work with your colleagues it might, and it will be used against you, and viewed as “lame” because you’re not a team player and you don’t get involved).

Here is the HubSpot’s (the subject company) co-founders’ response to his book: (SPOILER ALERTS)

HubSpot’s Response to the Book

It is an incredible story, with some nasty twists. But more importantly, other than one man’s re-discovery and colorful language, the man question becomes: are we in a tech bubble where hipster kids run multi-million dollar companies where their burn rate is fueled by cheap money printed by the Federal Reserve? What do you think?

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A Brief History of Time Book Review

A Brief History of Time Book Review


Author:  Stephen Hawking

First Published: 1987

ISBN: 0553380168 (ISBN13: 9780553380163)

Review by Catalin Avram

Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest physicist of all time. His contributions to the world of science is phenomenal, some say on the same level as Newton or Einstein. He published this book 1987. It is a description of the Big Bang written in plain English, with no equations. It is an amazing summary of one of the newest and deepest fields in science today. I describes big ideas such as how the universe formed, quantum physics and time travel. This is a must read for everyone!

Favourite Quote:

If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?

What I learned from this book:

I learned that with a bit of patience you can explain big ideas to non-scientists. Not only that, but it’s imperative that some of the science be written, in depth, for non-scientists. This allows more people to contribute with novel ideas which will most certainly lead to breakthroughs.

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The Cold Fire Trilogy Book Review

The Cold Fire Trilogy Book Review


Author:  C.S. Friedman

First Published: 1991

ISBN: 0756403146 (ISBN13: 9780756403140)

Review by Catalin Avram

The Cold Fire Trilogy is an epic Fantasy / Sci-Fi saga based on the fictional world of Erna. In this distant world, an unlikely group sets foot to combat the world’s most evil. The narration is most awesome and the character build is superb. This page turner will keep you hooked until the end, until the final battle. One of the best Fantasy / Sci-Fi books; extremely underrated.

Favourite Quote:

There is no such thing as redemption, my friend. There is right, there is wrong, and there are a million shades of color between the two. Once you’ve done wrong, it is always with you. You just have to try and be better.

What I learned from this book:

In your journey you will find the most unlikely allies and the most unexpected foes. Careful who you open up to, they might turn from ally to enemy.

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Three Day Road Book Review

Three Day Road Book Review


Author:  Joseph Boyden

First Published: 2005

ISBN: 0143017861 (ISBN13: 9780143017868)

Review by Catalin Avram

Three Day Road is wartime narration and a sad story of the atrocities of the first world war. It follows two parallel narrations of Xavier Bird, a Oji-Cree boy who returned wounded from war. In one narration it describes the horrible encounters of tranche fighting and how some of his friends coped with the war and the second narration describes the long, three day road, taken by the boy and his last living relative back to Northern Ontario on a canoe. He is heavily addicted to morphine and falls in and out of consciousness. The are great comparisons between the beautiful and serene scenery seen from the canoe and the brutal landscape of war in trenches.

Favourite Quote:

“We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy.”

What I learned from this book:

War is bad, not only on the loosing side, but on anyone who is involved in any way, shape or form.

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Where Eagles Dare Book Review

Where Eagles Dare Book Review


Author: Alistair MacLean

First Published: June 1st 1967

ISBN: 1560254556 (ISBN13: 9781560254553)

Review by Catalin Avram

Where Eagles Dare is a fantastic fictional story of an allied infiltration behind enemy lines. It’s starring five elite commando members who parachute themselves deep into nazi Germany at the height of the second world war. Their mission is to infiltrate a high security castle situated on a peak of a mountain accessible only by gondola. It is a story of courage, deceit and irony. A great narration and vivid imagery of war-time espionage at its best. First published in 1967, it was followed up by a successful film, featuring Clint Eastwood, launched in 1968.

Favourite Quote:

Major John Smith: You’re late.
Mary Ellison: One day, I won’t come at all

What I learned from this book:

Sometimes deceit is necessary for a greater good, but everything comes with a price. Decisions must always take this into account.

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Beginning of Infinity Book Review

Beginning of Infinity Book Review


Author: David Deutsch

First Published: March 1st, 2011

ISBN:  0670022756 (ISBN13: 9780670022755)

Review by Catalin Avram

Beginning of Infinity is one of the most complete book written on what it means to be human and intelligence, covering a wide range of topics such as quantum computing, philosophy, psychology, politics and climate change.

It is one of the most comprehensive pieces of literature for someone interested in learning, in plain english, about very complex topics.

David Deutsch has an amazing quality of presenting an idea and then attacking it from all angles, trying to break it, until a logical conclusion is drawn.

The book is focused on the scientific revolution created during the enligntment era. He argues that advances in technology is based on knowledge, and that knowledge itself is acquired by having a societies who encourage education itself and questioning of the status quo – ie the need for explaining everything.

One of my many favourite ideas of the book is the “Earth ship”. Deutsch explains how sending a spaceship to colonize outer space is no different than how we currently live on earth. A ship that needs to support life across a few generation might seem like a crazy place from where there’s no escape and that the survival of the people is dependant of how well they manage their internal resources, including how they govern themselves. Although we look look at planet Earth as “home” and as a ‘safe’ place to be, it’s really not. It’s the advancement in technology that helps us a lot more than anything else. Imagine how long you could survive naked, outside, in the middle of the winter. So our own planet is not sheltering us from anything – if anything it’s trying to kills us, therefore our own survival and success solly depends on our knowledge of how the world works, which in turn helps us develop technologies to better ourselves.

Another important point of the book is the infinity itself. Deutsch argues that every time there is a new scientific discovery, it opens an unlimited amount of possibilities for advancement. From ancient Athens to modern day quantum computing, the book takes us through a journey of qubits (quantum bits) and parallel multiverses with a common history. Another main idea is that humans will always have new problems to solve and that we will never finish discovering everything. Overtime we have a new view on a theory we are at the beginning of a new infinity.

In terms of current affairs, Deutsch proposes a remarkable and eye opening idea regarding climate change:

The entire world is pumping a vast amount of resources and wealth into cutting down emissions which, in turn, will eventually lead to catastrophic outcomes for important fields such as agriculture. Everyone agrees with this. But what most people miss, is that almost nobody is putting any kind of effort into trying to solve these problems if (when?) they eventually occur. For example, some of the money and effort that goes into helping cut emissions by such and such until 2050 could be better put to use in research and development for creating such devices that can automatically extract the emissions from the atmosphere. In other words, let’s try harder to work on fixing a problem, not only to prevent it – because maybe (and we really don’t know) it’s too late for prevention.

I truly enjoyed reading this book and highly recommend it. Although it explained a lot of things, this book left me with more questions than answers and I think that makes the most sense.

Favourite Quote:

“[…talking about the fall of ancient Athens] Like every other destruction of optimism, whether in a whole civilisation or in a single individual, these must have been unspeakable catastrophes for those who had dared to expect progress. But we should feel more than sympathy for those people. We should take it personally. For if any of those earlier experiments in optimism had succeeded, our species would be exploring the stars by now, and you and I would be immortal.”

What I learned from this book:

I learned that we each play a role in the advancement of our species and that questioning everything and explaining why things happen they way they do is the key to technological advancement, which in turn is key to our own success.

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