Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good Reads

A few books I've snuck in over the last month, all of which I'd recommend:

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee: there is a reason that Coetzee received the Nobel Prize in literature, epitomized by this book, which is both extraordinarily difficult to read and almost impossible to put down. The book deals with complicated topics in such sparse text, that it seems like the literary equivalent of a spring trap: an ugly thing designed as a masterful piece of craftsmanship that traps the reader in a painful grasp. Far and away the best book I've read this year.

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins: ever since the Selfish Gene, a really great book, Dawkins has been an indispensable popularizer of evolutionary theory. The Blind Watchmaker is quite good, piggybacking off the deist conception of life as the bi-product of a designer (where have we heard this recently?), to illustrate how evolutionary processes actually work. The most striking point by reference to the popular imagination is this: there is no point, or more properly, no fixed design. Infinitely better than the cringe-worthy God Delusion, this is a book that really ought to be required reading for high school students taking biology courses.

Corporate Finance: A Valuation Approach by Simon Benninga and Oded Sarig: ok, I confess, I had to read this book for a class, and the class was given by the authors. I probably would not have read this otherwise. (An interesting aside: both professors commute from Israel to Philadelphia to teach. I thought I had a bad commute!) However, I have done a series of courses on corporate finance touching on the topic of valuation and have read several books on valuation. This book continually gave me new insights into how to approach valuation problems, which, as I've noted, are a persistent challenge for entrepreneurs and software startups. The book is worth reading on its own, or at least worth knowing someone who has read it.

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