by Tim Clissold
Although Tim Clissold’s book offers advice on doing business with the Chinese, it can also be a primer for die-hard Occupy protesters. From it they’ll learn that throughout history, China has been “difficult to influence and very, very proud”, to quote Clissold quoting former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright. But, while it plays by its own rules, there are ways to make deals stick. “Stability is always the key for government officials,” says the author, an investment analyst who returned to his native England after a 20-year stint in China – only to return to buy “carbon credits” from polluting Chinese industrial companies. Other nuggets include: never attack directly; stick to practicalities and don’t get hung up on principles. Westerners, he warns, are wrong to assume China will eventually become more like the West. Regarding its re-emergence on the world stage, he adds: “We are not yet prepared for China.” Skilfully weaving in personal experience and history, Clissold shows why we might “sacrifice the plum tree in order to save the peach”.
Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains
by Paul Barach
Sky Dagger Press
Paul Barach self-published this book with funds from a Kickstarter campaign, which underscores his can-do character. That much is evident from his story about embarking on a 1,200km journey around Japan's island of Shikoku, a pilgrimage originating, some believe, in the 8th century and which is linked to Buddhist monk Kobo Daishi. Feeling lost in life, at age 28, Barach goes "to search for some direction", although it feels more like "in search of a book". A stand-up comic, writer and black belt in Kyokushin karate, he sets off knowing little Japanese - then loads down his tale with too much of the language - and having done scant research. The pain, injuries and indelicacies of extreme travel are all there and relayed with humour, although the bathroom episodes could have been pared back. He is also honest about the boredom that can be part of such experiences. Barach's "misadventures" in the midst of temple hopping are entertaining, but readers looking for deep reflections on life should probably try elsewhere.
How to Speak Money
by John Lanchester
(read by Sean Pratt)
How to Speak Money is a dummies' guide - except you won't feel like an idiot admitting you don't really understand certain terms bandied about in public. Quite the opposite: John Lanchester doesn't talk down to his audience, who only "sorta kinda" understand economics and money, and who might feel the process of figuring it all out is like learning Chinese: you work out the meaning word by word. Part of the problem is obfuscation and "reversification", whereupon a term is turned into its opposite. But it's also because the underlying realities are complicated, Lanchester acknowledges. In this audiobook, narrator Sean Pratt takes listeners at a comfortable pace through the lexicon of money. From "A and B shares" you are led alphabetically to the "zombie bank" and, in between, find out about fat-finger mistakes, the Eddie Murphy rule (made famous in Trading Places), who gold bugs are, and that 90 per cent of all hedge funds that have ever existed have failed. Making the explanations readable - nay enjoyable - is Lanchester's way of bridging the gap between the people who know about money and the rest of us.