Book of the Month by Mihir Desai
Editor’s note: Thanks to my son, Timmy, for this my favorite read of the year so far. I imagine that loving it depends on your perspective. My children and I consider ourselves wisdom-seeking writers who generally hold finance in disdain. And I know quite a few finance wizards who are not inclined to the arts. Desai, a long-time business and law professor at Harvard makes wonderful connections between the two disciplines – from as far back as Archimedes to as current as The Simpsons. I mean, who knew that the first examples of 529 college plans were romance savings accounts (for dowries) in 15th century Florence!
Editor’s note: Thanks to friend, Frank Dixon, for turning me onto Giffels, a local (Akron) professor and writer. Don’t let the theme of building his own coffin (yes, that’s the story) throw you off. Rather than morbid this book is filled with wisdom, warmth and laughter. It is quite more about living than dying. Whether the cause is the author’s writing or my comprehension, the book started to really delight and engage me more after page 148, when at least a half dozen times I would stop, say “wow” and reread the paragraph or section.
Editor’s note: I’ve read ten books on business and philanthropy over the least few months. None were worth sharing so I’ve been stuck on historical fiction but now it’s back to business. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s recommended it so I tried it. It was first published in the late 1960s so it took me a while to adjust to style and numbers and policies from the mid-20th century. Who remembers “Cornering” or the flash crash of 1962? As I adjusted, I realized that is what must have appealed to my business heroes. That in business, as in life, that never changes is that no matter the numbers, practices and policies, we are emotional and irrational beings.
Editor’s comments: It’s no secret to readers that I enjoy Erik Larson’s work. His unique blend of great research and near-fictional personalities creates a look at one year in England’s history while under siege from the German Luftwaffe. Actual facts from 45,000 civilian deaths (5,500 children) during the blitz year are embroidered not just by Churchill’s fame but also his and his eccentric family’s peccadillos.
Editor's note: This is an airy book of fiction about a bookstore on a barge on the Seine in Paris whose owner sets sail one day after 20 years of habits borne of a lost love. It is recreational reading to be sure with very lively, if somewhat far-fetched characters but by the end you realize it has a wonderful point to it all. That point is expressed in the favorite excerpt below which appears about mid-book.
Favorite Excerpt: "Habit is a vain and treacherous goddess. She lets nothing disrupt her rule. She smothers one desire after another; the desire to travel, the desire for a better job or a new love. She stops us from loving as we would like, because habit prevents us from asking ourselves whether we continue to enjoy doing what we do".