A Slightly Irreverent History of Technology and Markets

“!http://static.flickr.com/26/56506710_e0051abe8b_m.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0060840978/qid=1129911170/sr=8-1/ref=pd_bbs_1/002-8539828-2184811?v=glance&s=books&n=507846 _How we got here: A Slightly Irreverent History of Technology and Markets_ is a superfast history of capital markets and the computer industry. A free pdf copy is available at “the publishers website”:http://www.pragmaticprogrammers.com/hwgh.html. Most history books push a ton load of facts at you which sometime makes it hard to grasp the bigger picture(s). This book forgoes the details for a whirlwind tour of the industrial revolution, the evolution of capital markets, and puts today’s IT revolution in perspective. The book jumps all over the place, but is very interesting nonetheless.

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Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy

I’ve been waiting for this book for the last five years… the author has written bits and pieces of the contents in “various”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsDec2006/cover3dec2006.htm “articles”:http://www.newsline.com.pk/NewsDec2006/cover1dec2006.htm over the years, but finally the entire book is done. There was a bit of “drama at the book launch”:http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/01/top4.htm, which put it on the front page of Dawn.

Now, generally I write about a book after reading it, but this book has been *banned in Pakistan!* Someone high up to must have read in today’s paper about the book launch,and ordered it removed from the shelves today in the morning. “Liberty Books”:http://www.libertybooks.com/, the only major bookstore chain in Pakistan pulled the books from the shelves without selling a copy, while OUP, the publishers in Pakistan sold a few copies in the morning before closing sales. The author’s friends and well wishers must have been congratulating her all day long, as the sales of the book around the world are going to shoot up drastically along with the credibility of the book.

It was a interesting time for the book to come out, as while on one hand the Chief Justice’s illegal dismissal is putting a spotlight on the many constitutional transgressions by the military, while the book exposes the economic plundering of the country by the military. A second front, so to speak, and no army wants to fight on two fronts at the same time.

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China Inc: The Relentless Rise of the Next Great Superpower

“!http://farm1.static.flickr.com/223/501968764_f34e2fd69f_o.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/China-Inc-Superpower-Challenges-America/dp/0743257359/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-4163017-4181617?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1179402305&sr=8-1 An interesting overview of China’s rising industrial might and how it came to be. Misses out on quite a bit, but throws a new angle on things. It is a bit alarmist, but than, any non-Chinese should be, the book points out – for what will the rest of the world do once China makes everything?

What’s interesting is that China has industrialized so far so fast because of it’s people, not so much the government. Another interesting aspect is that so many companies there operate illegally, or started with illegal financing, that circumventing rules is like breathing in China – the many years of breaking the law under communism just to survive has drilled it into the people. Hence the total disregard for intellectual property rights (and all other laws which they can get away with). The interesting aspect is that it’s not just the software companies who suffer – it’s all the other companies who buy the software and compete with China who also end up with the short end of the stick.

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

“!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2007/OmnivoresDilemma_med.jpg 175×266!”:http://www.amazon.com/Omnivores-Dilemma-Natural-History-Meals/dp/1594200823/ref=sr_1_1/002-4163017-4181617?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1177053454&sr=8-1 The most interesting book I’ve read in a while, and one all species who eat should read. It’s an eye opening account of the food chain which feeds us all. The basic gist is that all food is not equal, and vegetables and animals provide very different nutritional values depending on how they’re grown. The author in an interview said “Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but what about the unexamined meal? Industrial agriculture depends upon us not examining-in fact, knowing as little as possible about-the food we eat.”

This really is a staggering simple concept, and is obvious that the real wonder is that after a lifetime of evolution how a few decades of frankenfood much of humanity completely forgot to think about one of the most important activities we do – eating. Industrial farmings over reliance on fertilizers and pesticides is destroying the very food grown, along with destroying the environment and weakening those who eat it, whether man or animal. “Fast Food Nation”:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/books/2006_08/fast_food_nation.html told the horribly sad story of the modern industrial animal, but this book tells the entire story of how food reaches you.

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“!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2007/freakonomics.jpg!”:http://www.freakonomics.com/ A brilliant book. Economics isn’t just about monetary policy, inflation and trade – the book applies it to everyday situations and really brings to life the power of economics. Clicking on the book image will take you to it’s website – so here is the requisite “amazon link”:http://www.amazon.com/Freakonomics-Revised-Expanded-Economist-Everything/dp/0061234001/sr=8-1/qid=1167998440/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/104-0735866-8419915?ie=UTF8&s=books.

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Thomas Freidman: The World Is Flat

“!http://static.flickr.com/58/180518747_44b8524bba_m.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374292795/ref=amb_link_974142_2/103-4190596-3315055?n=283155 A good overview of globalization. In short, Friedman dumbs down the complex issues of globalization and makes them understandable for all. Highly recommended, especially for people who haven’t read much about globalization before. It’s reads more like a super long newspaper column than a book, but it gets the globalization message across. There is quite a bit of “criticism”:http://nypress.com/print.cfm?content_id=12841, for it goes on an on saying much the same ad nauseum, but worth while reading along with something by the likes of “Joseph Stiglitz”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_E._Stiglitz.

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Pervez Musharraf: In the Line of Fire

“!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2006/mush_in_the_line_of_fire.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/Line-Fire-Memoir-Pervez-Musharraf/dp/0743283449/sr=1-1/qid=1159172750/ref=sr_1_1/104-0735866-8419915?ie=UTF8&s=books In the days of mashups, this book is fittingly Web 2.0: A misture of several old speeches, an infomercial and a biography all rolled into one. For the low, low price of Rs. 1295 you get 3 books all rolled up into one nifty hardcover!

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Fast Food Nation

“!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2006/fastfoodnation.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060938455/002-4895661-3006400?v=glance&n=283155 An eye opening book on what lies behind the shiny facade of most fast food restaurants today. The book pokes deep inside the modern American meat packing industry, which the race for the ever cheaper and larger McMeal has turned into a monstrosity. Micheal Pollan’s “brilliant interview on modern meat”:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/interviews/pollan.html covers the some of the basics talked about in the book very well. A key factoid: *By the time a modern American beef cow is six months old, it has seen its last blade of grass for the rest of its life.* Industrialized meat farming is more akin to medival europe back in the dark ages than something out of this day and age.

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Charlie Wilson’s War

“!http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/images/2006/charlieswar.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0871138549/002-4289368-6803240?v=glance&n=283155 This is the book on how the US got involved in Afghanistan supporting Islamic militants against the Soviets. Highly recommended. George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War is the story of how one man, U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson, almost single-handedly launched the several billion dollar CIA/Saudi operation in Afghanistan to force out the occupying Soviets, without a vote in Congress, and without the clear approval of the President. What started as barely a nuisance campaign turned into the greatest covert operation in CIA history.

Besides the Afghan war, this book gives a brilliant insight on how the US government works. Those from the third world will find themselves at home with all the congressional wheelings and dealings. The amazing thing is the amount of power US congressmen and senators have. Thirdworld senators are barely able to push around a few million dollars, while their US equivalents are dealing in the billions.

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The Human Story : Our History, From the Stone Age to Today

“!http://static.flickr.com/37/83325680_fa0386581b_t.jpg!”:http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060516194/qid=1136632334/sr=8-3/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i3_xgl14/103-1138994-8658258?n=507846&s=books&v=glance The most easily readable history of the human race, by far. This is the dumbed down, eurocentric cliff notes version, aimed for those who haven’t read any history at all. Ideal for those who run screaming from anything like a history textbook. In the author’s words, “This book tells how ancient wandering peoples settled … Read moreThe Human Story : Our History, From the Stone Age to Today