Every investor wants> to know: How did we get here and what do we do next? The books our editors and writers have chosen here look at strategies answering those questions. A Nobel Prize-winning economist examines the misguided strategies that led to the economic crisis and hardship for millions of Americans. An expert on Chinese business outlines the best strategy for working with that economic powerhouse. And a noted business journalist explores how several forward-thinking executives created a new strategy for corporate governance. We ve also got two international thrillers, one set in Norway, the other on the high seas.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Reviewed by: AnnaMaria Andriotis
Leave it to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz to peel back the layers of this recession to get to the core of what caused the U.S. meltdown.
In Freefall, Stiglitz builds on the themes that have defined his career: the impact of a market on individuals, and the need for markets and government intervention to strike the right balance to benefit the overall good. He examines the now-familiar landscape of how the drive to increase bank earnings and profits during the real estate bubble imploded and destroyed lives of low- and middle-income Americans.
Though the worse appears to have passed, Stiglitz suggests that government bailouts haven t done much to prevent this crisis from reoccurring. Instead, they ve created a kind of safe harbor for the big banks to act recklessly while knowing that the government will come to their aid as it did before. The repeated rescues (not just bailouts, but ready provision of liquidity by the Federal Reserve in times of trouble) provide part of the explanation of the current crisis: they encouraged banks to become increasingly reckless, knowing that there was a good chance that if a problem arose, they would be rescued, Stiglitz writes. Regulators made the mistaken judgment that, because the economy had survived so well, markets worked well on their own and regulation was not needed not noting that they had survived because of massive government intervention. Today, the problem of moral hazard is greater, by far, than it has ever been.
It s hard not to feel shaken up when reading Freefall, because underneath the jargon-free explanations of what went wrong, Stiglitz seems to be sounding the alarm that if lessons aren t learned from this recession, further such crises await us in the not-so-distant future.
By Edward Tse
Basic Books; $26.95
Reviewed by Robert J. Hughes
Everyone today, from big corporate players to day traders, from hedge fund managers to personal investors, deals on some level with China. Here Edward Tse, chairman for greater China at the management consulting firm Booz & Company, aims to provide a playbook for working with the world s fastest-growing economy.
Tse offers advice from two decades of working with China, reconciling conflicts within the country s competitive consumer-goods industry and rigidly controlled telecommunications sector.
One of the reasons for China s growth has been its openness to foreign business, Tse believes. With that comes the learning curve of dealing with the regions within the country, and the growing sophistication of consumers there.
For companies dealing with China or for investors doing due diligence about the companies they are considering putting their money into he identifies four areas to be aware of: the emerging middle class and China s increasing urbanization; its competitive strength and entrepreneurial advantage; the state controlled economy that s open to market-driven change; the interdependence of China and other global markets. He also urges businesses to take the long view when dealing with China that rewards may come in years, rather than in mere quarters (as most shareholders expect these days).
By Walter Kiechel III
Harvard Business Press; $26.95
Reviewed by Robert J. Hughes
Intellectuals used to have an impact on politics, religion and government. Today, they re at the heart of how business is shaped, according to "The Lords of Strategy," by Walter Kiechel III, former editorial director of Harvard Business Review, and former managing editor at Fortune.
Here, Kiechel explores the ideas behind today s corporate world, singling out four intellectual businessmen: Bruce Henderson, who invented Boston Consulting Group; Bill Bain, of Bain Consulting; Michael Porter, who transformed the Harvard Business School curriculum; and Fred Gluck, who introduced strategy consulting to McKinsey & Co.
In Kiechel s view, these four men helped launch the corporate strategy revolution by applying the concepts of corporate consulting to business, rather than offering them as suggestions that would likely be discarded. He argues that today's business has become effectively intellectualized, even though he realizes that business leaders and consultants scoff at any term that suggests eggheads at work. But he believes the intellectualization of business happened because business people had to understand the nature of how the world worked by using their intellects.
Through profiles of Henderson, Bain, Porter and Gluck, Kiechel shows how this came about. His book makes for engaging reading, combining anecdotal reportage with business-writing wonkiness (growth-share matrices, charts and the like).
By Jo Nesbo
Reviewed by William Swarts
For a region that publishes more murder mysteries annually than it has actual murders, Scandinavia produces some of the finest crime fiction going these days. "The Devil's Star," the third book from Norwegian Jo Nesbo to make it into English, has been around for many years, but has just reached American shores as publishers mine the chilly north for hard-boiled detective novels.
In The Devil s Star, Harry Hole, the alcoholic, alienated Oslo police detective who made a splash in the gripping Redbreast, published here in 2007, returns to do battle with a serial killer and his nemesis within the department, the slightly-too-perfect Chief Inspector Tom Waaler.
In the midst of a summer city heat wave, murder victims start turning up in gruesome circumstances, and the hunt for a serial killer is on. Like all good writers of crime fiction, Nesbo evokes a sense of place Oslo and of culture Norwegian society where violence is rare and both the police and the press follow strict rules of conduct in their work. So too, mostly, do criminals, which leads one detective to observe that "the most characteristic trait of the serial killer is that he's American."
While The Devil s Star has its share of earnest rumination on the limits of Norwegian social democracy's ability to curb the rise of a more violent society, it also boasts plenty of action through Hole's pursuit of the multiple villains at work beneath the tasteful, blonde wood veneer of this calm, sweltering capital. The translation is solid and the plot moves crisply as Hole labors to save prospective victims, endangered colleagues and loved ones and, through his efforts, a piece of himself.
By Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul
Reviewed by Robert J. Hughes
Clive Cussler has been a reliable thriller writer for decades, with various mainly sea-based series, many featuring the adventurer Dirk Pitt. His new action-adventure thriller is his sixth focusing on the crew of the Oregon, including its leader Juan Cabrillo.
The story is set in the present, but has its roots in the past, when on what would be Pearl Harbor Day, five brothers make a discovery off the coast of Washington state. The men abandon their find because of the declaration of war. Some 70 years later, Cabrillo and his crew chase a fallen satellite and come across another discovery in the Argentine jungle. The two events are, of course, related.
Cussler, aided here by co-author Jack Du Brul, has put together a high-seas adventure that features high-technology, high stakes, buried secrets and ancient and modern betrayals. It s fast-paced and satisfying. Don t expect character development or psychological insights they re not the point in Cussler s entertaining, highly readable modern-day serial tales.