Two books in one day – that’s either a long day or a delightful absence of television from my life.
Stephen Frey’s Shadow Account is fun (4 of 5 stars). Frey is a managing director at Winston Partners – a Virgina-based private equity firm and hedge fund, so think of him as the up-and-coming John Grisham of Wall Street.
The protagonist – an up-and-coming investment banker – gets tangled up in a complex story line that is based around an accounting fraud ala Worldcom / Enron. Unlike a lot of other books of this genre, Frey actually takes time out from the endless drama and plot turns to cogently describe key issues that apply to the real world (such as Chapter 8 where he addresses the question “… explain how a public company can manipulate its earnings.” Fifteen pages later he’s done a nice job of it in a way that keeps you in the story. This happens a few times in the book – which makes it a little easier to justify as on the border of the junk book category (notwithstanding the murders – real and fake, prostitutes, infidelity, insider trading, government conspiracy, and a senior white house staff that reminds me of the one in charge right now (minus Tenet).
I haven’t read any of Frey’s other books, but they’ll go on my mental floss pile.
Run (or click) don’t walk to buy Death by Meeting : A Leadership Fable…About Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business. The author – Patrick Lencioni – is an ex-VP Organizational Development that now runs his own consulting firm – The Table Group. In the past, he’s written a wonderful series of “business fables” that are must reads for any CEO or executive – especially entrepreneurial ones. Death by Meeting is his latest (and by far the best).
This is an extremely fast read – I started it this morning at 5am at La Guardia and finished it by the time we arrived home in Denver – while getting a solid three hours of sleep on the airplane. In addition to setting up the problem of excruciatingly bad meetings (which I’m sure everyone has experienced), he cleverly walks through his framework for solving the problem of horrifying meetings. As with any good fable, you will be able to relate to the characters, will laugh and cry, and at the end think ‘wow – that’s useful.”
I read a lot. I try to make sure every third book is mental floss (or – as my mom says, “junk.”) Today’s mental floss was Reckless Abandon by Stuart Woods. As in all Stuart Woods books, it’s a fun, breezy read where Stone Barrington hooks up with someone (this time – Holly Barker – who is the main character in some other Woods’ books) to go after a bad guy with the aid of his connected police / mafiaoso-son-in-law buddy Dino.
Surprise – the good guys win in the end.
Nope – this is not yet another post about Iraq.
I just finished reading Ugly Americans : The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions. Awesome!
Ben Mezrich previously wrote Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six M.I.T. Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. I directly knew one of the people in the book (an old boyfriend of my wife and a frat brother of mine) and indirectly knew another (a frat brother of Raj Bhargava, an entrepreneur that I’ve done five companies with) so I figured I was pretty biased when I thought it was a great book.
Mezrich did it again. Ugly Americans is riviting. It’s a true story about a clueless Princeton grad (John Malcolm) who randomly ends up in Osaka trading Nikkei futures for Dean Carney (an alias) at Kidder Peabody. After Joe Jett blows up Kidder, he ends up at Barings trading the same futures for Nick Leeson. After Nick Leeson blows up Barings, he ends back with Dean Carney in Tokyo who has started a hedge fund.
The book catalogs Malcolm’s exploits through his six years of being an Ivy League Cowboy in Asia, culminating in the trade of the century which will either earn $500 million in three minutes at the end of the day on a Friday or wipe out Carney’s hedge fund. Of course, there is plenty of Japanese culture, sex, some love, American’s gone wild, Yakuza, and twists and turns that could only happen in real life.
Highly recommended – along with Bringing Down the House.
How’s that for a title?
I’ve got two books, a Homer Simpson like “doh!“, and blog spam for you today.
First the books. My wife and I are huge readers (she’s also a writer). So – we read pretty much anything we can get our hands on. I’m always looking for recommendations – so send them to me.
Book one is Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin. Seth is an amazing writer (and fantastic guy). Everything he’s ever written is worth reading – even the stuff that’s crap (since it’s better crap than the other crap out there). I haven’t read Free Prize Inside, but mine is on order and I hope to have it soon. If you have any interest in business – read Seth’s stuff.
Book two is The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein. It’ll have you rolling on the ground laughing while you concurrently shit bricks about how close this teenager came to building a makeshift nuclear breeder reactor in his backyard (ok – it wasn’t really a breeder reactor, but a few more steps and all his neighbors would have been dead). The book started out as an article in Harper’s Magazine and evolved into a well written exploration of what happens when you mix the nuclear energy industry, a teenage mind, and a very dysfunctional family.
I’d just finished reading The Radioactive Boy Scout when I saw the following Market Alert from the WSJ: MARKET ALERT: Stocks Fall Sharply on Rate Fears. Now doh!