HPB Humble Book Club Meeting March 2013

March 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm (Education, Events, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Lords of Finance Discussion Part Three (to read parts one and two, start here)

FinanceTitle: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Author: Liaquat Ahamed

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Economics/ History

Length: 508 pages

When all was said and done, Lords of Finance was a pleasant (and very meaty) read.  It was definitely nice wrapping up the completion of the book with a discussion at Half Price Books among customers turned friends.  The discussion definitely went down well with some home made German Chocolate Pie brought by a member.

DSC02708We sat together with internet research and a handy dandy chart of all the key players in Ahamed’s book and brought up our favorite quotes as well as bits and pieces that piqued our interest.

I was especially intrigued by the dialogue between Senator Mayfield and Senator Brookhart on pages 316-317 regarding Texas wanting to pass a bill prohibiting gambling via the stock market.  Apparently, there were a lot of hearings that went on “in an attempt to refine the distinction between investing and gambling.”  Upon reading this I immediately wanted to hash out the distinction and research the laws with others.  What a fascinating paper this would make for a young economics student to be assigned in order to both understand the inner workings of the stock market and to establish their own world view in terms of monetary ethics and morals.  Honestly, have you ever wondered… What is the line between gambling and investing? Off hand, I’m not sure I have a steadfast answer to give.  Do you?

At the meeting we talked about businesses that are publicly traded verses those that are not. We touched on Roosevelt and Hoover and what they had to deal with as presidents in comparison to what Obama is dealing with today, and over all what a relevant piece of history this book is.  One of my favorite quotes came very late in the book on pages 438-439:

When, in August 1932, a reporter for the Saturday Evening Post asked John Maynard Keynes if there had ever been anything like this before, he replied, “Yes. It was called the Dark Ages, and it lasted four hundred years.”

That line from Keynes about the Great Depression had me smitten with him.  When I got to the store, I immediately headed toward the economics section and picked out a book he wrote called The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. He has other titles that I also plan to purchase one day.

It took us awhile to decide who would actually be purchasing the only title by Keynes in the store. Everyone, I think, likes to read titles mentioned in books they read and Ahamed mentioned Keynes work quite a bit. We are in agreement that the books (both Keynes’ and Ahamed’s) should be used as require reading for economics classes, both high school and college.  As someone who actively participates in continuing education on a self-study basis, I am interested to see how the end of this book leads into World War II.  So many financial agreements were made and unmade, I want to know in detail how things were handled during the war on a financial level.  None of us in the group were financial historian buffs and were unable to answer our own questions, but discovering the answers in the future should be exciting.

As for our reading future as a group, we tossed around ideas for the next set of books.  This isn’t quite set in stone just yet, but it’s looking like the HPB Humble Book Club reading schedule will look like this:

April: On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan (we will probably also discuss Atonement)

May: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

June: The Princess Bride – William Goldman (the online Half Price Books book club will also be discussing this book in June)

July: John Adams – David McCullough

August: The Color Purple – Alice Walker

Any changes to this tentative reading schedule will be made at the April meeting.

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While Away with Winston

March 2, 2013 at 12:59 am (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Lords of Finance Discussion Part Two

FinanceTitle: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Author: Liaquat Ahamed

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Economics/ History

Length: 508 pages

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Winston Churchill.  That quote is really intense! But we’ve all heard it, I’m sure.  And everyone knows the name Winston Churchill, has a basic idea of what he looks like, and knows where he belongs in history.  Everyone knows he’s great.  But beyond one little paragraph of description and some quotes you’ve heard, how much do you actually know?

The second installment of the Lords of Finance posts is in regards to Parts 2&3 of the book.  Actually, it’s in regards to the parts in those parts that talked about Winston Churchill.  It was during these segments that I realized how much I didn’t know about him at all.

DoctorWho and ChurchillAll of my knowledge of the man prior to this book was based in a few intense quotes, a lot of school propaganda, and a few character appearances in Doctor Who episodes.  Frankly, prior to reading this book I didn’t feel much inclined to study up on Churchill, I mean could he be any cooler than how he is portrayed in Doctor Who? I doubt the real Churchill had a direct line to The Doctor or any time traveling space alien for that matter.  But obviously, one must move on from fictional portrayals and out of context quotes at some point in their life – and Ahamed makes me want to.

Winston-Churchill-Quotes-5While I was reading about the “turbulent pushing busybody Winston” with his silk underwear, champagne, and Havana cigars, I immediately remembered a story I heard about him once.  Someone once told me that Winston Churchill read a whole book every night before bed.  The two ideas are now inseparable to me… a fat tubby man in silk underwear reading a book with a cigar hanging out his mouth makes me smile! I don’t know if the story is true, and I don’t know how people know that he wore silk underwear, but now I must find out.

So mid sentence, I left my toddler at the kitchen table putting together a completely unrelated paper penguin craft, and took a look at my library shelves.  I have one biography and two books written by him.  The books look like they belong to a set, a familiar set that I took home impulsively pieces at a time; but now that I am looking at them with curious research eyes they seem completely foreign and magical.

I still have much to read about The Bankers Who Broke the World, but a little visit with The Last Lion would be nice.  What do you know about Churchill? Would you be interested in reading up on the great man with me?

Come discuss Lords of Finance at Half Price Books Humble on Monday, March 4th from 7:30-9:00 pm.

Follow this link to read the next installment in the Lords of Finance discussion.

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Economic Education

February 18, 2013 at 12:35 am (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Finance

Lords of Finance Discussion Part One (I am writing this only 150 pages into a 508 page book.  I anticipate a series of reviews, much like how I handled Les Miserables in 2012, except over a short amount of time.  I will have the book completed no later than March 4th, 2013)

Title: Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

Author: Liaquat Ahamed

Publisher: Penguin

Genre: Economics/ History

Length: 508 pages

Inevitably I read something and find about ten more things I need to read.  My constant lament on this blog is why we didn’t read more source documents in school.  So is it any wonder at all that while reading Lords of Finance for the HPB Humble Book Club I discover that I absolutely must have a copy of The Economic Consequences of the Peace? Probably not. Or it shouldn’t be.

In addition to that title, I find myself longing to dive into more history books on the time period as well as full length biographies on a few of the people mentioned.  You wouldn’t expect that kind of revelation out of reading a finance book, but Ahamed has a way of turning a phrase that makes interest and exchange rates, and the people directly responsible for their flux, fascinating.

I think this would be a great title to hand to a high school student during an economics course, it would definitely make the class more interesting.  I enjoyed my economics classes in college, taught by a clever little man with a wonderful accent (Scotland? Liverpool? Not sure) and had a great sense of humor despite teaching all his courses at eight o’clock in the morning.  But what I remember of high school economics was pretty cold and void of any kind of spunk.  It was filled with boring formulas, worksheets, and a fairly heavy textbook that we read very little of.  Obviously, the formulas are handy and important, but couldn’t there have been a little more meat? A little more perspective? A little more history?

Maybe living in a recession has weighed heavily in how I view the dollar, but I would like my child to grow to understand how much the economy effects politics, social customs, humanity, and art.

Idolizing money is a concern and a problem, but seeing how money fits into our lives and the bigger picture is important.  So often we are taught that money is separate and that we should keep it that way, but the truth is money is never separate.  Our history is riddled with money driven politics, so why is our history class and our economics class separate?  Our religions are filled with instructions on what to do with our money, our philosophies rooted in our thoughts on whether to live richly or poorly and how rich and poor are defined.  I think the history of banks, the dollar, and what your views are on the matter should all be addressed while you are learning how to calculate it, not as a completely separate train of thought.

HPB Book Club Spring 13 730Ahamed’s Lords of Finance was recommended to me by a customer at Half Price Books, it was actually chosen for the Humble location’s book club by that same customer, and I am so glad I took his advice.  We will be discussing the book as a group March 4th, 2013, starting at 7:30 pm.  Additional members are welcome, so if you are interested in the book and are in the area, please join us.  Treats are provided.

So far, the book is enlightening and informative, it covers a lot of the banking information provided in the documentary Zeitgeist without the haze of conspiracy theories and blasphemy.  I imagine we will have a lot to discuss when we meet. Until then, I plan to share my own thoughts here.

Other titles in my personal Economic Library:

Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations

Thorstein Veblen’s Conspicuous Consumption

Craig Karmin’s The Biography of the Dollar

Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door

Please share any titles you think should be added from a historical, philosophical, or sheer financial perspective.

Next Lords of Finance Discussion Installment

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HPB Humble Spring Book Club Picks!

December 14, 2012 at 6:42 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

HPB Humble Spring Book Club Picks!

January – A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (cooking/memoir)
February – March by Geraldine Brooke (fiction/literature)
March – Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed (business/economic history)
April – On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (fiction/literature)

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