Note: I might keep updating this post, so if you don’t care to see the updates, just ignore it if it pops up on your reader.
I just finished reading Michael Lewis’s Flash Boys, which is basically about high frequency trading on the stock exchanges. I highly reccommend this book if you want to understand some of the terms that are bandied about in relation to the stock market, such as HFT and algorithms. And if you want to understand what went down in the 2008 financial crisis, The Big Short, which is now a movie, is the go-to book. Lewis has a way of laying out these complicated topics in a way that is engaging, but also lucidly explanatory. The interesting thing about the HFT development is not so much that essentially they thrive on unfair access to market information, with several big banks colluding, not how not transparent the market is, more so since the 2008 financial crisis, not even that they thrive on speed, but that while our common perception is that the stock market has become a virtual mumbo jumbo of computers and formulae – in effect, virtual – it turns out that to achieve this, they had to go back to basics. To wires and cabes and switches and digging trenches in the ground to achieve those extra microseconds that would give them the market advantage. That even the virtual comes down to what the poet Gertrude Stein called, the thingness of things.
And that while we nowadays think of Wall Street as full of big bad wolves, in this jungle, there are some outliers and sometimes even the big banks can become forces for good. Heh. It strikes me now that even the last book, The Big Short, was about mavericks who had some sort of moral fibre mixed in with the moneymaking.
After finishing Flash Boys, I began to think about how Michael Lewis was now an author whose work I would read just because it is written by him and bound to be good. And I thought about which other authors have this status in my book. For example, as much as I love Pride and Prejudice and count it among my favourite books, I have never been able to read another Austen novel – though I am determined to persist with Sense and Sensibility. Here is my list of authors whose work I pick up on spec:
- Salman Rushdie: I have read almost everything by Salman Rushdie and enjoyed almost everything except East/West *(non-fiction), Fury, and the Ground Beneath Her Feet (which I ditched halfway through and must return to someday). The lesson from the two I didn’t read is that I prefer his novels that are primarily set in India and do the magical realism thing.
- Anuja Chauhan: Chick Lit writer extraordinaire and never fails to disappoint. I have reread her novels with satisfaction and basically she features heavily in my PhD so no surprise there.
- Helen Fielding: Well, Bridget Jones’s Diaray is my gospel, so. But I even liked that Olivia Joules novel that noone else did. And I want to buy it. When I have bookshelf enough and time.
- Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan: This one is a surprise to even me (though she too features heavily in my PhD) but I have enjoyed everything she writes and will buy anything new she comes out with. I surprisingly loved even the YA book.
- Allison Weir: I read these fictionalised Tudor histories (she is a historian so she is drawing on propositions in Tudor scholarship and tend to be grounded in fact).
- Sophie Kinsella: Admittedly, even the Shopaholic series is beginning to annoy me now (Becky really needs to show some growth) but I’d wager I’d still pick up anything by her. Though I’m uninterested in her Madeleine Wickham stuff.
- JK Rowling: I even loved the Casual Vacancy and her detective series under the Robert Galbraith pseudonym. I draw the line at all the Beedle and Bard spin-off stuff though.
- Michael Cunningham: I have read two of his novels – The Hours (which counts as one of my favourites of all time, as well as the movie) and By Nightfall (which I borrowed in lieu of something else by him that was recommended and that I couldn’t find, and which I ended up loving) – and I’m pretty sure I’d love anything else by him, though I have not actually gone out looking for it.
- Rainbow Rowell: I wrote about her here.
Authors I will read only a specific series of:
- Indu Sundaresan: Any of her history books. Similarly, I loved Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni’s Palace of Illusions but I don’t feel inspired to pick up any of her other books.
- Janet Evanovich: The Stephanie Plum series. Even when they get repetitive, I will follow this one through to the end. But I’ve tried and failed to get engaged in the other series.
- Hilary Mantel: The Cromwell Trilogy. Although it is obvious she’s a very fine writer, I don’t feel particularly desirous of reading her other stuff. Though I might.
- Patricia Cornwell: Kay Scarpetta series. I have tried the others and they failed to captivate me. Even the Scarpetta series has gone tired, but I am still caught up with the characters.
Who are your go-to authors?