Anything by James Clavell

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Anything by James Clavell

Post  Max on Sat Dec 04, 2010 11:15 am

James Clavell was in the navy for most of his life, and spent time in a Japanese prison. He eventually was released and went on to write a number of massive novels exploring the cultures of Japan, China, and to a much lesser extent Iran. These books are more for entertainment value than to provide any real insight into investing, but there are a number of lessons in there that I gained from reading them at a young age that have stuck with me. Almost all of these books have been made into movies. The movies are more entertaining than informative, but the books are excellent.

King Rat - In a Japanese prison camp, disease, starvation, hard working conditions are taking their toll on the british prisoners. However, there is an American imprisoned with the British who is eating well, is clean, and fit. He takes a young british soldier that can speak a number of languages under his wing to teach him the art of negotiation, and how acting as an intermediary between buyers (prison guards) and sellers (prisoners) and increasing the spread, he can profit hugely even in the difficult circumstances.

Shogun - A japanese general 400 years ago, plans to become military dictator of all of Japan (shogun). This epic novel gives a lot of insight into strategy and negotiation that focus on attention to minute details. The standards set by this book can only be found in fiction, but I defintely tried to take my strategic thinking to a whole other level of subtlety after reading this book.

Tai Pan - Wonderful story of the tea trade between China and Britain set against the backdrop of the annexation of Hong Kong by Britain and the battle between two rival trading houses. At the time, tea only grew in China. China was demanding only silver for payment. As China's silver reserves grew, the value of silver outside of China increased hugely. It was coming to the point where it was close to bankrupting England. So England starts smuggling in opium through merchant traders, and receiving payment by silver on the black market. Eventually, Britain plants tea in British controlled india and China's grip is broken. Gives an incredible appreciation for how attitude, reputation, and willingness to take huge risks and leave fortune or ruin in the balance on nearly every decision shaped the business dealings and negotiations in a literally cut-throat market. Again, I learned a lot about negotiation in this book according to a fictional standard.

Noble house - This 1,400 page monster takes place over over one week in 1970s Hong Kong and every page is non-stop action. It is the sequel to Tai Pan and continues the rivalry between the trading houses and more lessons on negotiation. The focus of this book is on the financial meltdown in Hong Kong that caused most British banks to pull out of Hong Kong in panic (in Hong Kong this was particularly acute due to lack of financial regulations). I think of the fictional banks that stayed, probably the real life equivalent is HSBC. This book has particular relevance today, but is more entertainment than practical lesson on what would happen. However, the self fulfilling psychology of a run on the bank was an interesting lesson, and perhaps this book made me more afraid of bankruptcy of Canadian banks failing than I should have been.

Max
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