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20 December 2005

Book Review

Over the last two weeks I read 2 books each relating to different areas. Here is a review of each of them.
1. Five point someone: Author: Chetan Bhagat.
Bhagat spent his graduate years in the prestegious Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur studying (?) mechanical engineering. For a guy who got 'Five point something' for his grade, his hero, Hari, has managed not only to get a girl friend, but also an IIT degree and loads of adventure (Man, people have spend years in engineering collages without getting anything). This book is a hilarious narrative of the life in IIT of three young men, Hari, Alok and Ryan ("guy whose muscles look something out of the biology text books"). This books takes you to your formative years which were arguably the best phase of your life. Very good read indeed.
2. The Number: Author: Alex Berenson
"Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it" so said George Santayana. This quote often comes to mind as you read 'The Number'. This book is set in lucid prose and traces the history and evolution of American Capital Markets in the 20th century. Starting from an analysis of the great depression of 1929, the book goes on to analyse the cause, the players involved and the what the US learned and applied from the fiasco. The book details the formation of the Securities and Exchanges Commission the very presence of which has brought some semblance of discipline to the market. The book is hardly appreciative of the top 6,7,8. .... whatever accounting firms who by having both consulting and accounting practice have had 'clashes of interests' . Siting the case of Enron and Arthur Andersen which led to the winding up of Arther Andersen and separation (even sell off) of accounting practice of the top 4 consulting firms.
The most worrisome part is the close parallel the book has with Indian Capital Markets in the present bull run. The overhyped 'Bubble', the unending optimism, the mad rush of retail investors, overhyped IPOs...... all these are being seen in the indian capital markets now. We as Indians need to take enough steps to ensure that we don't fall the same way as US Markets fell to learn the same lessons that US learned. Let us learn from history rather than being condemned to repeat it.

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