Book Review: Sapiens

The Book ‘Sapiens-A Brief History of Humankind’ is written by the Israeli Professor, Yuval Noah Harari

The Book has already sold millions of copies and I read it only after Bill Gates strongly recommended it.

The Book is a tour de force…explaining how humankind has evolved from physics to chemistry to biology.

He introduces lots of concepts in the Book which will challenge your long standing convictions about reality and how things are

I particularly enjoyed reading his chapters on religion and cyborgs

A Book of this calibre and intellectual force deserves a better review than can be written by a stock market wala.

A better book review can be found  here.

I would strongly recommend this Book to those folks interested in anthropology, philosophy and memetics.

Book Review: Democracy on the Road

The Book ‘Democracy on the Road‘ is written by Ruchir Sharma who is Head of Emerging Markets and Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley,New York

What is interesting about Ruchir is that he is a political junkie and has spent 25 years covering Indian elections -both at the national and state level.

His modus operandi is to take around 20 well known journalists-Indian and International-in a convoy of cars.Using their contacts, they will meet the local journos, talk to the local VIPs, attend a few rallies ,speak to the star campaigners and hence get a sense of which way ‘the wind is blowing’

What comes out in the Book is you can do all this and still be none the wiser of who will win the elections !

However there are certain insights in the Book which I found interesting:

  • Every party has a committed vote share.Yet, this vote share per se is not enough to put it over the top. So to win-you either divide the opposition or cobble up alliances
  • This is the reason why even a fragmented opposition once united can beat a strong leader – Example Indira Gandhi in 1977 or Vajpayeeji in 2004
  • Issues like development,policies etc don’t travel far in the rural hinterland. There what matters is the 3Cs -Caste, Candidate and Cash
  • The youth of this country is likely to vote the same way on caste,religion, community lines just like their parents
  • The women of this country vote their minds…their voting choices can differ from their husbands
  • Indians love to throw the bums out…hence its more likely that the incumbent govt will be thrown out than retained
  • The amounts of money spent on elections is mind boggling…in recent Karnataka elections, it was around 50 Cr per candidate while in MP ,it was around 5 Cr

Ruchir has an anti-Modi bias…that’s reflected in the Book and the journalists he travels with. He puts Modi’s chances of winning 2019 at 50-50

I would recommend this Book only if you are an Indian political junkie.

Book Review : A Zebra in Lion Country

The Book ‘A Zebra in Lion Country’ is written by Ralph Wanger who used to manage the Acorn Fund.

Ralph used to specialize in small cap investing and the book captures his experience and wisdom in the investing field.

This Book has a cult following amongst investors and its not hard to see why.

The title of the Book’s comes from the author’s comparison of fund managers to zebras. Both move in herds.The Zebra who is outside of the herd gets the freshest grass, but when the lions approach he is likely to be eaten first. The inside zebras may not eat well but they remain alive.

This explains why fund managers prefer playing it safe rather than investing in stocks that give outsized gains but carry risks as well, including career risk.

The author makes a case for investing in small cap stocks-they are easily understandable, the owners are accessible, they can grow more and are under-researched.

He also makes a good case of his investing philosophy -GARP-Growth at a Resonable Price.I believe GARP was a concept introduced by the first time in this Book.

One aspect of his investing style which I found very interesting was his concept of themes.He would identify a theme (or mega trend) that will play out in the coming years and would buy a basket of stocks in that theme.

With hindsight bias,such an approach could have yielded handsome dividends in the  Indian chemicals space when China clamped down on it’s own polluting industries.

Another interesting insight was that instead of investing in technology companies, invest in companies which can benefit from the technology. Our private banks come to mind here.

Another insight was that don’t invest in companies whose competitors are run by geniuses/ferocious folks. 

Written in a breezy humorous style,this book was published in 1997 around 20 years back.But yet, it still feels fresh and insightful

Just goes to show that nothing changes in the markets….the players change, the stocks change but human emotions of greed,fear,despair and hope remain the same.

I would strongly recommend this Book for those interested in the markets especially small cap investing. 


Book Review: Kaalkoot

The Book ‘Kaalkoot-The Lost Himalayan Secret’ is written by S Venkatesh and it is his debut novel.

The author is a friend of mine and hence I may be biased while writing this review.

The Book belongs to the genre of fiction books that are popular now – thrillers with a dose of mythology.

The story line has many twists and turns and makes for a light breezy read.

Do Buy this Book if interested in some time-pass reading.

Book Review : Mastering the Market Cycle

The Book ‘Mastering the Market Cycle’ is written by well known market guru Howard Marks

I am a huge fan of Howard Marks and his memos and I enjoyed reading his previous book ‘The Most Important Thing’

In this Book, Howard Marks talks about market cycles and how one should understand/profit from them.

He has coined a phrase to describe the forces at work:

“There are three ingredients for success-aggressiveness,timing and skill-and if you have enough aggressiveness at the right time, you don’t need that much skill”

So successfully positioning of a portfolio depends on what you do (turn aggressive/defensive) and when you do (depending on the stage of the market cycle)

The Book covers the regularity of cycles, the economic cycle, the cycle in profits, the credit cycle, the real estate cycle, investor psychology, the cycle of success etc

In the Indian context, I have found the one big difference between experienced and rookie investors is the ability to understand cycles and therefore to book profits.The rookie investor assumes the good times will last forever and doesn’t exit on time.

The Book mentions that 80% of understanding market cycles comes from 14 words : “What the wise man does at the beginning, the fool does in the end”

Buffett has reduced the essence of market cycles to just 9 words:

“First the innovator, then the imitator, then the idiot”

 I would recommend this Book to those wanting to understand market cycles.