Associate Professor of Accounting

Friday, January 11, 2019

Latest Reads

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Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Jared Diamond) - A Pulitzer Prize winner for general non-fiction, this book explains why some human societies succeed more than others. It explores the geographical and environmental advantages that these societies and civilizations enjoyed, making their culture and technology more advanced, and ultimately shaping the course of their modern economies. It is fascinating to read how most Eurasian civilizations got a head start in agriculture as opposed to remaining content as hunter-gatherers. The foregoing agrarian-based societies, with a temperate climate suitable for different kinds of crops, were able to raise and domesticate animals that not only gave them food but also helped to test and train their immune systems, thereby advancing faster in terms of food production, storage, and surplus. These advantages led to population growth and development, which then turned into various societal and technological advantages that allowed these Eurasian civilizations to conquer other nations. Examples of such advancements include the invention of weapons (Guns), the immunity to diseases that weakened and reduced the population of other civilizations (Germs), and the ability to obtain a durable method of transportation (Steel). This book is an engaging read that fosters not just a better understanding of human history and society, but also of the economy we know today.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari) - This book, a New York Times Bestseller, was recommended to me by my co-author Professor Qi Chen (Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business). As a history aficionado myself, I find this book to be fascinating and eye-opening at the same time. Thousands of years ago, there were several human species roaming the earth concurrently. The "Man from the Neander Valley" (Neanderthals), the "Upright Man" (Home Erectus), the "Man from the Solo Valley " (Homo Soloensis), the Homo Floresiensis, the Homo Denisova, and the "Wise Man" (Homo Sapiens) to name a few. Each of them had different traits, conferring them advantages and handicaps, but all strove to outdo and outlive one another. Yet, fast forward, today, only one species survives, the Homo Sapiens. The species that went from building simple canoes to staging empires and creating space shuttles, capable of engineering the environment, and forever wanting yet never fully contented. What makes this species different? This is the story of the animal that became a “God”. This is the story of us, and of what we may become.

Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics (Nicholas Wapshott) - Keynes VS. Hayek. Hayek VS. Keynes. Which is which? Two brilliant men from two very different walks of life rocked the world of Macroeconomics with their very different and very opposing views on how to restore an economy that had gone awry. John Maynard Keynes was a well-known and respected Cambridge Economist who had worked for the British government during World War I. As a respected top Economist in Europe who had published several books and was known for being an optimist with a euphonious voice, Keynes championed interventionist fiscal policies. That is, he argued that governments should save in economic booms and spend in recessions. Meanwhile, a newcomer, Friedrich Hayek, an unknown Economist from Austria who knew little English and conducted himself with an ultra-formal demeanor, had a more skeptical approach. He posited that the economy should be left alone and that attempts to intervene were pointless and could be dangerous. Though their respective opposing points of view stood clearly in conflict, these two Economists developed a fascination with each other's work. Due to their polarizing convictions of what determines macroeconomic growth and what the government's role should be in affecting it, the world was set for a debate that gets constantly revisited whenever there is any economic turmoil. In the end, it wasn't a question of whether Keynes or Hayek's position was ultimately right. Macroeconomics has landed somewhere in the middle. Perhaps a more pressing and still debated question is, which of the two stands as better guidance for today’s economic policies?


Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell) - What is an Outlier? An Outlier is a person or thing that is very different from all other members of a particular group or set. Think for instance about people whose achievements fall far outside of our normal experience. For a long time, we have taken as given the notion that very successful people are extremely unique and intrinsically out of the ordinary. They must have real innate talents that propelled them to the top, and they must have worked really hard. The truth is, both things are true, yet talent and hard work are not enough. This book delves into the lives of people we may regard as outliers in this world - the Crème de la crème. What makes them different? Are such people born outliers? or are they just a mere product of their background, culture, upbringing, and life circumstances? This book is filled with stunning, compelling, and amusing evidence. It is a delightful and an entertaining read that explains, among other disparate phenomena, why there are no star hockey players born in the Fall, why the smartest man in the world is not necessarily the most successful in life, and why Asians are good at Math. Malcolm Gladwell is an author who tries to make sense out of everything we already see but we commonly overlook. I just love his work. Can't wait to explore his other books like The Tipping Point and Blink.


Origin (Dan Brown) - Robert Langdon is back and, as a fan of Dan Brown's work, I find this book to be as riveting and engaging as Angels & Demons as well as The Da Vinci Code. This time, Harvard Professor of symbology, Robert Langdon is in Spain attempting to solve the mysterious murder of a 40-year old billionaire, computer scientist, futurist, and atheist Edmond Kirsch, who had a private meeting with three members of the Parliament of the World's Religions: A Bishop, A Rabbi, and an Imam. Kirsch was supposed to unveil a shocking discovery that could potentially affect all religions and question humanity's origin and existence. Such unveiling was disrupted by chaos and Kirsch's discovery could be lost forever. Robert Langdon is determined to find out such discovery and is on a quest to decipher cryptic passwords, symbols, and clues the way he knows best. This book is a real page-turner and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Thanks to my good friend and true bookworm Melvin Cohen who recommended me this book.


Veranda Entertaining (Clinton Smith) - As a former painter, I like arts and interior design, and of course, I am a big fan of Veranda Magazine. This book is a beautiful compilation of what Veranda is known for. Lush, and eye-catching and engaging photos of different home interiors and decors along with some tips and guides on how to prepare your abode for any events, be it for a casual brunch gathering, a quick afternoon tea, or a fun festive special occasion. Even if you are not really into interior design and home styling, you will still have fun browsing the photos of this volume, plus, this makes for a great coffee table book.

Beaches - From the renowned photographer Gray Malin, who is famous for his dreamy aerial shots of beaches around the world. This book may be large but don't worry because it's really light. The beaches photographed here are from several different cities across continents and each one is simply stunning and colorful. My favorite, of course, is the one from Barcelona, which reminds me of back home in the “Spanish Riviera”. I could get lost in every page of this book, just staring at the shapes and figures captured from an aerial photography perspective. 

I Wrote This for You - This is a prose bestseller from the South-African writer and new-media artist Ian S. Thomas. I enjoy browsing randomly the pages of this book which combines non-traditional poetry along with some dramatic images. The words here are just so heartwarming, inspiring, and are simply beautiful. 


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