Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why I'm less inclined to do book reviews

If you've been around my blog for some time, you'll have realised that I am giving less reviews of the books that I've read. To date, I've finished (my definition is to read from cover to cover) 44 books and is in the process of reading 2 more books. I'm aiming for 52 books by the end of this year and I think I should be able to hit them pretty comfortably.

The reason why I didn't review books now is because after reading so many financial books, there is scarcely any one left that gives me more fresh insights. I've been wowed by morningstar series, fisher's books, accounting books...but after a whole year of immersing in them, they get pretty stale. That is good, I believe, because it's only after you had been seeing the same time again and again that you will begin to practise what you read. I've heard of marketing strategies that makes an important statement or idea repeated at least 7-8 times so that the message sinks in. I guess it's the same for ideas too.

It's not that I didn't get fresh insights - it's just that the insights are too few and in -between and it just didn't fit into a proper length for a blog article, much less a book review. Somehow, when I reviewed the books, it just didn't feel right when I read it. I sort of felt like I'm diluting the ideas of the books when I reviewed it - it's a feeling I didn't relish.

Another reason why I didn't review them is because time is getting tighter as I get older. There are only so much time left in each of us to do certain things. I think there are better things to do than to write some reviews that nobody really bothers to read anyway. Not that it really matters if people are reading them, because I started this blog without any commercial or monetary aim, and I've decided that in the foreseeable future, it won't veer too far away from this path too. The blog is really for me to pen down my thoughts so that I have an archive that I can read in the future.

Next year, I will be reading quantitatively lesser but qualitatively more. I should be re-reading some of the books that matter to me. Oh yes, and that Security Analysis book by Benjamin Graham, which still seats on my desk mocking my inability to stomach it cover to cover. I'm a very different person than one year ago when I first bought the book. I think for certain books, reading it at different times of your life phase will enlighten you in different ways - and that's exactly the books I'm going to re-read next year.

That PLUS reading more annual reports. I think it's time for me to really immerse myself in analysing companies - to really make use of what I've learnt by reading one book per week for one year.


PanzerGrenadier said...


Wow 44 books in a year! That's an admirable achievement.

I try to read 1 book every 2-3 weeks. You are right about quality vs quantity.

Nowadays, my book selection strategy is to rely on reviews. I start to read books that are referred by prominent bloggers or other authors. It's a word-of-mouth by people who matter type of approach and it's paid off.

I read "The Black Swan" due to your review which triggered me to read "Fooled by Randomness". I also have added books to my TOREAD list that were mentioned in other blogs I track in other areas such as Seth Godin's "Purple Cow" and "The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson that was mentioned as those blogs you have to read to understand more about how economics of demand and supply have changed with internet coming into the picture.

One thing I remember from an old British JC tutor who told us to always be reading because that is the only way you learn new things other than talking to people.

la papillion said...

Hi PG,

Glad that someone shared my sentiments on reading books - I also think that reading is the best thing to do in one's free time, instead of watching the mindless tv serials. I haven't been watching tv for like 8-10 yrs? I think the time used for such mindless activities should be channeled to more productive use, like reading :)

I'm going to get the "Your money or your life" book that you recommended me too, based solely on your good vibes after reading it :P

So how do you find Fooled by randomness? I think it's a better book than Black swan, because of its simplicity and ease of reading. Black swan can be quite cheam at times. Still, the spirit of both books are the same.

Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

I agree that time is pretty tight as one gets older. Hence it is important to plan and optimize our time. For me, reading is confined to the bus or MRT. At home, I only have time to read the papers.

If you remember I still have the very thick book on Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham. I thought I could be like Buffet and finish the book in one night. haha.


la papillion said...

Hi Derek,

Hoho, he did it in one night?? Impossible! Perhaps he bluff pple, just read one or two sections :P


PanzerGrenadier said...


There are similarities and differences between "The Black Swan" (BS) and "Fooled by Randomness" (FBR).

Both are books worth reading. I thought FBR had more anecdotes about traders whom he encountered that "blew up" and he used many of them to illustrate the hubris and pride of "master of universe" type of Wall Street trader who underestimated randomness and overestimated their ability to read the market.

BS also has some interesting anecdotes but he also highlighted some of the institutions that were putting their entire capital at risk e.g. Fannie Mae as well as financial institutions.

In a way, FBR comes across as more personal but BS is more technical (i.e. I sense that there were more references to technical studies and scholarly citations in BS than FBR). I guess the success of FBR helps to release his already low inhibitions to write in the highly idiosyncratic (or cheam) style that is typical Taleb.

I enjoyed both and liked the character Nero in FBR and that lady author in BS as they were (semi?)-autobiographical?!

These are books that really teaches you something that sticks with me partly because of his style of writing. I can never forget "masters of universe" reference :-)

la papillion said...

Hi PG,

I agree with your observations :) I'm a little hazy on FBR already, so probably going to re-read it.

Btw, the get the full meaning of 'masters of universe', you can read Liar's poker. It's a very funny book, full of insights, highly readable and entertaining. It's a page turner for me :)

"Masters of universe" reminds me of He-man :)