The New Indian Express Reviews Bad Money, Calls It Brave and Brilliant

The New Indian Express has reviewed my book Bad Money.

It has this to say about the book.

Kaul’s book is brave and brilliant, and must be made mandatory reading for all.

Kaul’s Bad Money is never less than engrossing.”

You can read the complete review here.

The book is available at all major bookstores all across India.

You can also buy it on Amazon. 


Beyond the pink press





If you are a regular reader of the business press in this country, you would know that there is a marked tendency to give a “positive spin” to most things. “All is well,” is a mantra often espoused.
But anyone who has some understanding of the Indian economy, knows where to look for data and can look beyond the spin, would know that beneath all the foundation and the lipstick, there are big cracks. And these cracks might soon start to hurt.
Mihir S. Sharma’s Restart—The Last Chance For the Indian Economy is one big rant on those big cracks (and I mean it in a good way. If the business press is not ranting, someone’s got to rant). Sample this—Every year up till 2030, 13 million Indians will enter the workforce. To give each one of them a job, jobs need to grow by 3% per year. Since 1991, they have been growing only at 1.6% per year. In fact, as last financial year’s Economic Survey points out, for the shorter period between 2004-2011, the job growth has been at a minuscule 0.5% per year.
So, the pink papers may be jumping up and down about the huge number of jobs being offered by companies at college campuses, the overall reality is different.
Then there is the case of Indian agriculture employing too many people. As Sharma writes: “According to the last Census, in 2011, 55 percent of India—over half worked in agriculture. The sector, however, provided less than 15% of India’s gross national product. So, in other words, farms employed most of India’s people, but produced very little.” This has led to a situation where only 17% of the people who worked on farms survived only on money they made from their farm. Everyone else did some extra work.
The solution is to move people away from agriculture and into factories. Sharma suggests that the farmers understand this. Nevertheless, India is not building as many factories as it should. In fact, the manufacturing revolution has given this country a complete skip. As Sharma puts it: “We even sell the absence of a manufacturing sector as a brilliant innovation.”
And there are multiple reasons for why India does not really have a manufacturing sector. The labour laws suck, ensuring firms start small and continue to stay small. The crony capitalists are not used to paying for factors of production. And Indian politicians have never bothered to explain the importance of economic reform to the citizens of this country.
If India’s demographic dividend has to remain a demographic dividend this needs to be set right. Sharma goes into some detail explaining what needs to be done.
To conclude, Restart is a good read for any one wanting to know the real state of the Indian economy. On the flip side, in order to make the book read like an economic thriller, Sharma let’s the journalist in him overide the economist in him and makes way too many generalizations. That could have been avoided. At the same time a book of this kind could have done with a little more data and number crunching.

The review originally appeared in the Business World April 6, 2015

(Vivek Kaul is the author of Easy Money trilogy. He can be reached at [email protected])

The ten best Nonfiction books of 2014

single-man-coverVivek Kaul

It is that time of the year when media houses go around writing about the best of the year that was. Given this, I thought it would be an appropriate time to put out a list of what I think are the best nonfiction books that I read in 2014. The list is biased to the extent of what I read, which are basically books in the area of finance and economics. Also, some of the titles were released earlier and I only happened to read them in 2014. The books are listed out in a random order. So here we go.

Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists by Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales: I had read this book when it was first published in 2003. At that point of time I was basically trying to figure out what to do with my life, having finished an MBA in information systems in 2002 and at the same time having realized that the MBA degree was one big con job. In 2014, the book was published again with a new afterword. I read it again and appreciated the book much more than I had done in 2003. The book is a great read for anyone who believes in the idea of free markets. It tells you loud and clear that the incumbent capitalists are the greatest enemies of the free market. The book also helped me understand why so many big businesses in India manage to default on their bank loans without the industrialists having to face the consequences of the same.

After the Music Stopped by Alan S Blinder: This book was published in 2013, but I happened to read it only this year. The best books on historical events are written many years after the event has happened. Take the case of what I think is the best book on the Great Depression—The Great Crash 1929, written by John Kenneth Galbraith. The book was first published in the mid 1950s almost quarter of a century after the Depression started. One possible explanation for this is the fact that writing many years later, the author can leave out all the noise and concentrate on the most important issues. Over the last six years many books have been written on the financial crisis, but After the Music Stopped, in my opinion is perhaps the best book on it. It summarises the economic, the political as well as the legal angles of the financial crisis very well. If you are looking for a ready reckoner on the financial crisis, this has to be your go to book. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty: This was by far the bestselling title in economics during the course of this year, having been the number one book on for a while. It is very rare for an economics book running into 700 pages to be number one on Amazon. In this book the core argument offered by Piketty, who is a French economist, is that capitalism has led to greater inequality among people over the years. Piketty offers a lot of data from the developed countries to make his point. The book did not go down well with the American economists, and after it appeared many of them tried to discredit it by trying to find mistakes in the data and methodology used by Piketty. Who is right and who is wrong is too long a debate to get into here. Nevertheless, Piketty’s book remains a must read for the fantastically lucid way in which its written and the several original ideas that it offers. The Dollar Trap by Eswar S. Prasad: The United States is in a huge financial mess. Nevertheless, dollar remains the go to currency of the world at large. Whenever there is a whiff of a crisis anywhere in the world, money is pulled out and moves to the dollar. Ironically, even when the rating agency Standard and Poor’s cut the rating of the debt issued by the United States government from AAA to AA+, money moved into the US dollar. Prasad explains this “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar and the reasons behind it. While the US may not be in a great financial shape, but the world at large still has faith in the dollar. Prasad summarizes the situation well when he says: “It is possible that we are on a sandpile that is just a few grains away from collapse. The dollar trap might one day end in a dollar crash. For all its logical allure, however, this scenario is not easy to lay out in a convincing way.” The book is a great read for anyone trying to understand one of the most fundamental disconnects of the times that we live in. Flashboys by Michael Lewis: No one quite writes about finance like the way Lewis does. From his first book Liars Poker to the latest Flashboys, each one of his books on Wall Street and its ways has been a bestseller. One reason for the same is the fact that Lewis started as a Wall Street insider in the investment bank Salomon Brothers (which has since gone bust) and has managed to maintain his contacts since then. Flashboys is essentially a story of the people and systems that make up algorithmic trading that has taken Wall Street by storm. A majority of the trades on Wall Street are not driven by humans any more. They are driven by computers with a lot of processing power. And that is the fascinating story of Flashboys. If you are the kind who likes reading thrillers over weekends, this is just the right book for you.

Business Adventures by John Brooks: I first discovered Brooks in the process of writing and researching my books. Someone suggested that I should be reading Brooks’ version of the Great Depression called Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938. The book was a fantastic read and made me realize that Wall Street had a Michael Lewis even before the real Michael Lewis appeared on the scene. Early this year, Bill Gates wrote a blog on one of Brooks’ other books called Business Adventures. He called it the best business book that he and Warren Buffett had ever read. This blog pushed the book to the top of the Amazon charts. It was re-issued after this. The book is a collection of twelve long articles that Brooks wrote about the American businesses, government as well as Wall Street, for the New Yorker magazine. And it has tremendous lessons for almost everyone connected with business and finance.

Single Man—The Life & Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar by Sankarshan Thakur: This book is the joker in the pack. In a list full of books on economics and finance, here is a book on politics. Having been born in erstwhile Bihar, I have always been interested in the politics of Bihar. And there is no better writer on Bihar in English than Thakur, who works as a roving editor for The Telegraph newspaper. Thakur chronicles the rather turbulent life of Nitish Kumar, starting a little before the Emergency, and goes on to chronicle the life of the Bihari politician over the next four decades. As he does that he also goes into the history of Bihar over that period. Unlike a lot of other biography writers, Thakur also goes into Kumar’s unhappy personal life. The book is an excellent model for how to write a biography of an Indian politician. What we normally get to read are either hagiographies or out and out criticism (as is the case with so many books on Narendra Modi which swing at both ends). There is rarely a biography of an Indian politician which takes the middle path. If I had to choose just one book to read this year, then Single Man would have to be it. And this would be more for Thakur’s andaz-e-bayan(the way he tells the story) than Kumar’s story per se. How Not to Be Wrong—The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life by Jordan Ellenberg: This is another joker in the pack. I absolutely love to read good books on Mathematics. Ellenberg in this book goes around explaining the practical aspects of Maths in everyday life. He explains in great detail how media often uses Maths incorrectly to draw wrong conclusions. He also tries to answer some really interesting questions: How early should you get to the airport? What’s the best way to get rich playing a lottery? And does Facebook know you are terrorist? If you are feeling a little adventurous and want to go a little out of your comfort zone, this is just the right book for you.

The End of Normal by James Galbraith: I am reading this book currently and am around half way through it. James Galbraith is the son of John Kenneth Galbraith, who I feel was one of the most lucid writers on economics that the twentieth century saw. Galbraith junior writes in the same lucid way as his father did. Since the financial crisis broke out, economists and politicians have tried to tell the world at large that “all is going to be well,” and that the financial crisis was just caused by bad policy and bad people. Galbraith challenges this world view and offers four reasons against it: the rising cost of real resources, the futility of military power, the labour saving consequences of the digital revolution and the breakdown of law and ethics in the financial sector. Long story short: The global economy will not see acche din(good days) any time soon. Hormegeddon—How Too Much Of a Good Thing Leads to Disaster by Bill Bonner: The regular readers of The Daily Reckoning would know by now that this has been one of favourite books of the year, given the number of times I have already quoted from it in my columns. I have been a big fan of Bonner’s writing since I first met him in late 2008. In this book Bonner goes about explaining how too much of a good thing in public policy, economics and businesses, leads to disaster or what he calls FUBAR (f***ed up beyond all recognition). Bonner offers many examples from history to make his point—from Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia to the outbreak of the Second World War to America’s War on Terror. He then goes on to show that these disasters cannot be prevented by well-informed people with good intentions because they are the ones who cause them in the first place. 

So that was my list of what I thought were the ten best books that I read this year. Happy reading. The India edition of The Daily Reckoning will be taking a year end break and will be back early next year on January 3. Here is wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Meanwhile you can continue reading the international edition of The Daily Reckoning authored by Bill Bonner. The article originally appeared on as a part of The Daily Reckoning, on Dec 24, 2014

Reversification: A one-word explanation for what’s wrong with the world of finance

how to speak money

Vivek Kaul

When MTV first came to India in the early 1990s, I was hooked on to the channel in a matter of a few months. Growing up in a small town, the channel was my first “real” exposure to what we called “English” music. Until then my only exposure to English music was “Michael Jackson” and like others of my generation I was more aware of his mannerisms than his songs.
One of the things that got me hooked to MTV was reggae music. And one of the first reggae songs that I heard was Inner Cirlce’s
Games People Play. Other than the music of the song which was very peppy, what I liked was that for the first time I was able to make out the lyrics of an English song.
One paragraph of the song went like this:
Oh the games people play now
Every night and evety day now
Never meaning what they say, yeah
Never saying what they mean.

This paragraph has stayed with me since then and I have realized its meaning in various contexts at various points of time over the last two decades. One area where this paragraph particularly applies is finance. The writer John Lanchester in his new book
How to Speak Money comes with a new term to explain this . He calls the term “reversification”. He defines reversification as a “process in which words come, through a process of evolution and innovation, to have a meaning that is opposite to, or at least very different from, their initial sense.”
A good example of reversification in finance is the much used term “Chinese wall”. In real life, the Great Wall of China is a very big wall that was built over several centuries to keep the enemies out of China. One of the biggest misconceptions about it is that it is visible from the moon.
So, what does it mean in finance? “Inside the world of money, though, the term ‘Chinese wall’ means an invisible barrier inside a financial institution which is supposed to prevent people from sharing information across it, in order to avert conflict of interests,” writes Lanchester.
Let’s take the example of the Chinese walls that are supposed exist between stock analysts who make investment recommendations to investors (i.e. whether to buy, sell or hold the stock of a company) and the investment banking division, which takes companies public, by getting them listed on a stock exchange.
This wall is regularly broken whenever a profitable investment opportunity comes up. Take the case of the dotcom bubble in the United States in the 1990s.
Even with many internet firms wanting to go public, Wall Street still wasn’t in a bargaining position. The bargaining power was with the 20–30 year olds, who ran most of these new internet companies, or the Silicon Valley venture capitalists (VCs) who had backed them. The youngsters and the VCs did not ask for a cut in Wall Street’s fee. What they wanted instead was an assurance that the Wall Street firm would support the price of the stock after it had been listed on the stock exchange.
And, of course, this had to be done legally. This was important for the Wall Street firms because new companies wanting to come out with their IPOs looked at this parameter before choosing the Wall Street firm which would handle its public offer.
The way Wall Street handled this was very clever. Before going public, the Wall Street firm promised the company that the in-house analyst of the firm would initiate coverage of the stock a few days after it got listed on the stock exchange. No favourable coverage or for that matter, a “buy” rating was promised because that would have been going against the law. It was assumed that the Wall Street firm would have nice things to say about the company it had just taken public. And so the Chinese wall was broken. Even in India, it has been observed that the stock broking division of a financial institution has nice things to say about a company that has just been taken public by the investment banking division of the same financial institution.
The way the financial system has evolved large financial institutions have different businesses which “if the system is to function without conflicts of interest – shouldn’t really be there.” But that is not the case. Hence, as Lanchester puts it “the Chinese walls…were worse than non-existent; they were opportunities for the bank to make money…that’s reversification.”
Another excellent example of reversification is a hedge fund. As Lanchester writes “the word ‘hedge’ began its life in economics as a term for setting limits to a bet, in the same way that a hedge sets a limit to a field…The idea is that by putting a hedge around a bet, you delimit the size of your potential losses.”
But is that the case? Before we get into that let’s try and understand what really is a hedge fund. Legally, there is no term called a “hedge fund,” unlike, say, “mutual fund.” The term “hedge fund” was apparently first used by the
Fortune magazine in a 1966 article to describe an investment fund managed by Alfred Jones, a Columbia University sociologist, diplomat and steamboat purser who had turned into a fund manager. The article had a very interesting title. It was headlined “The Jones Nobody Keeps Up With”.
In 1952, Jones wanted to launch an investment fund which would not only buy stocks on which he was bullish on, but also short-sell the stocks (i.e., borrow and sell) which he felt were overpriced and, thus, would fall in price in the days to come. At the same time, he thought that with the expertise he brought to the table, the investors in the fund should be willing to pay him a slice of the profits he made for them.
Jones wanted to buy as well as short-sell stocks. The money that he generated from short-selling stocks would partially fund the buying of stocks which he felt were undervalued. This way, he ensured that the exposure was “market neutral,” or, in a simpler language, he “hedged his bets.”
The strategy of Alfred Jones of buying some stocks and selling some others came to be known as the equity long-short strategy. He outperformed the mutual funds which could only go long, that is, buy stocks. They could not sell them short because it was deemed to be a risky strategy. Jones also used leverage, that is, borrowed money, to spruce up his returns. Jones received 20 percent of the returns he generated for the fund as compensation.
The success of Alfred Jones was copied by many others. “The classic hedge fund technique, as created by Jones, is still in use: funds employ complex mathematical analysis to bet on prices going both up and down in ways which are supposedly guaranteed to produce a positive outcome,” writes Lanchester.
But is that really the case? A majority of the hedge funds fail. As Lanchester points out “90% of all hedge funds that have ever existed have closed down or gone broke. Out of total of about 9,800 hedge funds worldwide, 743 failed or closed in 2010, 775 in 2011, and 873 in 2012 – so in three years, a quarter of all the funds in existence three years earlier disappeared. The overall number did not decrease, because hope springs eternal, and other new hedge funds kept being launched at the same time.”
This is reversification at its best, where the word ‘hedge’ has been turned into exactly opposite of what it originally meant.
Another excellent example of reversification is securitization, which has “nothing to do with making things more secure.” Let’s try and understand this step by step.
A big financial institution sells financial securities and raises money. The money is used to buy home loans or mortgages from banks. These home loans are then pooled together. The people who have taken these home loans pay interest on these loans as well as repay their principal. This money comes into the common pool. From this pool, the financial institution pays interest on the securities it has sold to investors. It also repays the principal out of it. This process is referred to as securitization.
In the days when banking was a boring business, banks lent out the money they had collected from deposits. They also kept the loans on their books till they matured. They made money as long as the interest they paid on their deposits was less than what they charged on their loans,a ssuming that the borrower did not stop repaying.
But with securitization the bank does not maintain the loan on its books any more. It passes on the risk to the investor who buys the securities being issued. As Lanchester puts it “It[i.e. the bank] only takes the RISK of the loan for the amount of time between making the initial house loan, and the moment when it has sold the resulting security – which can be a matter of days. The bank has no real interest in the financial condition of the borrower. The basic premise of banking – that you only lend money to people who can pay it back – has been broken.”
Hence, the bank is more interested in giving out home loans rather than verifying whether the borrower has the capability to repay. This was a major reason behind the current financial crisis which started in September 2008.
Lanchester in coining “reversification” has come up with a term which explains a lot of what is wrong in finance. The examples discussed above clearly show that. As Lanchester writes “These are all examples of how process of innovation, experimentation and progress in the techniques of finance have been brought to bear on language, so that words no longer mean what they once meant.”
And this has created a major problem. “It is not a process intended to deceive…But the effect is much the same: it is excluding and it confines knowledge to within a priesthood – the priesthood of people who can speak money,” concludes Lanchester.

(Vivek Kaul is the author of the Easy Money trilogy. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

From the history of money to Gandhi: Best non fiction books of 2013

Vivek Kaul
 It is that time of the year when the media goes on an overdrive making top 10 lists on various things that happened in the year that was. So here is my list for the top 10 books in the non fiction category for this year (The books appear in a random order). Also, let me confess at the very beginning that this list is slightly biased towards books on economics and finance, which is what I love reading the most. 
1) The Undercover Economist Strikes Back – How to Run – or Ruin – an Economy – -Tim Harford (Little, Brown Rs 599)
Tim Harford is my favourite writer when it comes to the non fiction category. His entire focus in anything that he writes is to ensure that the reader understands what he is trying to say. Not many writers make that kind of effort. And that possibly explains why Harford’s books like 
The Undercover EconomistThe Logic of Life and Adapt, have been bestsellers.
In his new book, Harford tries to explain macroeconomics and the financial crisis that is currently on to the lay reader, in very simple English. In fact, Henry Hazzlit’s 
Economics in One Lesson (first published in 1946) remains my favourite book, when it comes to books which explain the dismal science in a language that everybody can understand. Harford’s The Undercover Economist Strikes Back now comes a close second.

2) Calcutta – Two Years in the City – Amit Chaudhuri (Hamish Hamilton, Rs 599)
My favourite Bengali author is Mani Shankar Mukherjee. His translations in English, appear under the name of Sankar. I discovered Sankar’s writing a few years back when someone recommended his book Chowringhee to me. Since then I have read a few other translations that have appeared in English. But I have read close to seven or eight translations of Sankar in Hindi. In fact, whenever I discover a bookstore which has Hindi books, the first thing I tend to ask them is do you have any books of Sankar? Nobody writes about life and its frailties like Sankar does.
Amit Chaudhuri, I feel comes a close second to Sankar, when it comes to writing books set in Calcutta. I have tremendously enjoyed reading his novels over the years. His new book Calcutta -Two Years in a City is about the Calcutta that was, the Kolkata that is and the Kolkata that will be. Given the fact that Chaudhuri hasn’t lived in Calcutta all the time (he spent a large part of his childhood in what was Bombay and since then has lived a lot in Great Britain) and neither has he left it completely, only to come back during Durgo Pujo, the book doesn’t get overtly nostalgic (like a lot of Bengali authors tend to) about the city. So, for example you will find very little of Satyajit Ray and Mother Teresa in the book. But you will find a lot about Bihari labourers who come to the city hoping to make it in life.
Chaudhuri also chronicles the change in Kolkata quite well. Older British buildings being demolished to make way for newer apartments. Oxford Book Store, the city’s most famous book store, now storing fewer books and more of CDs and stationery. The famous city eatery Flurry’s also makes an appearance.
If there was a book that I would want to read on a relaxed rainy afternoon (or a chilly foggy morning) with a cup of tea and a couple of samosas by my side, this would be it. (Another book that I would like to mention here is Amitava Kumar’s A Matter of Rats – A Short Biography of Patna. Having grown up in erstwhile Bihar I loved reading the book. My only complain with the book is that it ended just as I was starting to enjoy it) 

3) Who Owns the Future? – Jaron Lanier (Allen Lane – Rs 850)
This is a fascinating book which raises many questions about the digital revolution that is currently on. One of the major questions that Lanier asks is what makes a few websites like Facebook, Instagram, Google, Twitter etc, so valuable? As he writes “its value comes from the millions of users who contribute to their network without being paid for it. Networks need a great number of people to participate in them to generate significant value. But when they do, only a small number of people get paid. That has the net effect of centralising wealth and limiting overall economic growth.”
Lanier also asks whether we are becoming too dependant by concentrating our digital lives around a few companies. As he writes “Suppose Facebook never gets good enough at snatching the ‘advertising’ business from Google. That’s still a possibility as I write this. In that event, Facebook could go into decline, which would present a global emergency…If Facebook starts to fail commercially, suddenly people all over the world would be at the risk of losing old friends and family ties, or perhaps critical medical histories.”
The same argument stands true for Gmail as well. For most of us it is a repository of a large amount of information, communication and documentation, that we need to keep going back to time and again. In that sense, these websites are becoming more like electric utilities as every day goes by. Who Owns the Future raises some fundamental questions that do not have easy answers. 

4) Gandhi Before India – Ramachandra Guha (Allen Lane, Rs 899)
Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography – The Story of My Experiments with Truth, was one of the first non fictions books that I happened to read. And as a young adult I found it very boring. Over the years I have been told that the Gujarati original is inherently more interesting and the translation in English, doesn’t quite work as well as the original (Gandhi translated the book himself). Also, the other complain that I had with Gandhi’s autobiography was that it does not get into much detail about his years in South Africa.
Ramachandra Guha’s Gandhi Before India addresses both the issues that I had with the autobiography. Guha’s research is top notch and he establishes in great detail that it was the years that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi spent in South Africa, was what made him Mahatma Gandhi. Interestingly, Guha also tells us that Rabindranath Tagore was not the first man to call Gandhi a Mahatma. It was his doctor turned jeweller friend Pranjivan Mehta. The book also talks about the sacrifices made by Gandhi’s immediate family to help his struggle in South Africa. His eldest son Harilal regularly went to jail. Even his wife Kasturba went to jail for the cause. His nephews were also a part of his struggle.
This book is a must read for every Indian in order to realise how great Gandhi really was. 

5) Battles Half Won – India’s Improbable Democracy – Ashutosh Varshney (Penguin Viking, Rs 599)
The book’s subtitle tells us what the book is all about. As Varshney puts it “the odds against democracy in India were extremely high”.
Democracy came to West after the industrial revolution which ensured that incomes had reached a substantially high level. In the Indian case, democracy as a form of government was adopted when only around 15-17% of the population was literate and the per capita income was very low. In fact, many countries that emerged from decolonization adopted democracy as a form of government. But of these countries democracy survived only in India, Mauritius, Belize, Jamaica, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Each of these countries other than India are very small and have a higher income than that of India.
Also, research shows that democracies that have an economic growth rate of lesser than 5% per year collapse at a higher rate than democracies that have an economic growth rate of higher than 5%. As Varshney puts it “India’s economic growth rate has been higher than 5% per annum since 1980, but in the period 1950-1980, Indian economy grew at only 3.5% per annum.” Given these reasons, it is very surprising that democracy in India has not only survived, but is thriving. The recent success of the Aam Aadmi Party clearly proves that.
To know the reasons behind why democracy has survived in India, Varsheny’s book is an excellent read. 

6) Emergency Retold – Kuldip Nayar (Konark Rs 295)
The only period since independence when India has not been a democracy was the period between June 26, 1975 and March 21, 1977, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi, got the president Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of emergency.
Veteran journalist Nayar writes about the period in Emergency Retold. The book was first published in 1977 under the name The Judgement. The paper back edition was released this year. Nayar’s book reads like a political thriller. It starts on June 12, 1975, when Justice Jagan Mohan Lal Sinha found Indira Gandhi guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign in the 1971 Lok Sabha election. Two weeks later Indira Gandhi got the President Ahmed to declare a state of emergency.
Nayar goes into great detail about how this was done. One of the interesting things he points out was that a copy of the censorship rules and details of the machinery required to implement them in Philippines, was provided to Sanjay Gandhi, by a businessman fried of his Kuldip Narang, who in turn had got it from his friends in the American embassy. The book is full of such interesting trivia from those times. In the end, it is also a grim reminder of the cost that India has had to pay for keeping the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in power for large periods of time since independence. My only complain about the book is that there are just way too many typos.

 7) 40 retakes – Bollywood Classics You May Have Missed – Avijit Ghosh (Tranqubear, Rs 395)
This book is really the joker in the pack. I read it early October on a day I was very bored and finished reading it under four hours. 
40 Retakes is a book on 40 brilliant movies which flopped or did not pass the critics’ test over the years. Given the number of Hindi movies that get made every year, it would have been very difficult to arrive at the list.
I am no expert on the Hindi cinema of the 50s, 60s and 70s, but have watched a fair bit since the 1980s. Some of my favourite movies like Prakash Jha’s 
Hip, Hip, Hurray set in Ranchi and Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Khamosh set in Pahalgam are a part of the list.
Kabir Kaushik’s 
Sehar and Tigmanshu Dhulia‘s Haasil, probably two of the finest movies set in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh, also make the cut. Ketan Mehta’s terribly underrated Aar ya Paar, a movie which I fell in love with when I first saw it, even though it was a rip off of a James Hadley Chase novel, is also a part of the list. Anurag Kashyap’s Gulal, Shimit Amin’s Rocket Singh and Sudhir Mishra’s Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi make it to the list as well.
A movie which should have been on the list is Kundan Shah’s 
Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, which I feel is the best Shah Rukh Khan movie till date. At the risk of getting booed I would like to say that Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa is Kundan Shah’s finest film. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro was made on the editing table.
Navdeep Singh‘s Manorma Six Feet Under, should have been a part of the list. It’s a terrific re-working of Roman Polanski’s China Town
8) When the Money Runs Out – The End of Western Affluence – Stephen D King (Yale University Press, Price not mentioned)
Economists who work for financial institutions are expected to be optimistic about things. But doesn’t seem to be the case Stephen D King, who is the Group Chief Economist at HSBC. In When the Money Runs Out, King points out that there is a lot that is wrong with the way the financial systems all over the Western world have evolved. The fundamental point that he makes in the book is that the ability of the developed countries to keep generating a reasonable economic growth has gone down. There are economic and political implications of the same. When the West was growing the governments promised a lot of benefits to its citizens. They are no longer in the situation where they can afford to pay off these benefits.
Most developing countries instead of getting used to the new low growth scenario have responded to it by printing huge amounts of money, in the hope of creating more economic growth. King calls them stimulus junkies. He discusses in great detail why its not so easy to suddenly stop or go slow on money printing, something which the Federal Reserve of United States has been trying to do for a while.
Anyone looking to understand how the current financial crisis will evolve in the years to come, should be reading this book.

Money – The Unauthorised Biography – Felix Martin ( The Bodley Head, Rs 599)
Over the last few years, the history of money has fascinated me a lot and I have read scores of books trying to understand how money actually evolved. But my journey on the history of money ended with this book. It’s a must read for anyone wanting to understand on what money really is?
Mofussil Junction – Indian Encounters 1977-2012 (Penguin Viking, Rs 599)
As they say, save the best for the last. If there was one book that I would have read this year, it would have to be Ian Jack’s 
Mofussil Junction. The book is a fantastic collection of short write-ups and essays on India. In fact, Jack’s prose at times makes you feel that you are reading some classic fiction.
My favourite essay in the collection is Somewhere 
to Call Their Own. The essay deals with Anglo Indians who decided to settle down around 1500 feet up in the Chota Nagpur hills, in this town called McCluskiegunje, near Ranchi. The most interesting character in this essay is an Anglo Indian girl called Kitty Memsahab, who actually sells fruits at the McCluskiegunje railway station to make a living.
As the concluding lines of the essay go “Down at the station I saw Kitty again…Now she was preparing a basket of oranges for the evening train and joking in Hindi with brewers of country liquor. She seemed to have made her peace – perhaps not with India, which is too large and complicated an idea, but at least with that small part of it where she was born.”
Reading about Kitty reactivated an old memory about a story that the India Today magazine had done around her sometime in the late 1980s. I have vague memories of the magazine carrying a photograph taken from inside a train showing a white woman selling bananas. 
This 2013 story that appeared in the Mint suggests that Kitty might still be selling bananas.
I also loved the epilogue of the book tremendously. Here Jack talks about a person called Major that he used to know in what was Calcutta. As the concluding lines of the book go “I got divorced soon after and with no in-laws to visit I didn’t see Kolkata again for nearly twenty years. The Major died – I’m not sure how. Smoking while walking could have been a contributory cause, it being a rule he often ignored. I miss his uncomplicated, upcountry curiosity: why, how, where, when? I miss his mischief. I mourn those figures slithering in the Hooghly’s mud, happy to make fools of themselves, once upon a time.” As I said, fantastic prose.
PS: If I could extend this list, the two books that I would put in are Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya’s 
India’s Tryst With Destiny and Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen‘s An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions. Another book that I would like to add to the list Neil Irwin’s The Alchemists – Inside the Secret World of Central Bankers.
An edited version of this article appeared on on December 27,2013
 (Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)