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Newsletter Number 27 • January 16, 2007

Books

In December Dena and I were fortunate to spend 2 weeks at a resort in Nuevo Vallarta, 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We had perfect weather, shared good times with friends, and I had ample time to read some wonderful books which I will now recommend.

For those of you who are interested in speculation, markets, world economies, and how the truly successful speculators think and operate, Inside the House of Money, by Steve Drobny is an absolute must read.  Drobny, a co-founder of an international research and advisory firm, does a masterful job of explaining what global macro hedge fund investors do, and then he has 15 chapters, each one based on an interview with a very successful global macro hedge fund manager.  This book was fun to read, extremely informative, and I believe can help anyone and everyone in their understanding of the investment process and its risks and rewards.   I rank this book right up there with the other classic “must reads” in this field, such as Reminiscences of a Stock Operator and Peter Lynch’s One Up On Wall Street.

Barrack Obama’s memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, is one of those books we all “should read”.  Politically I am and have always been a Libertarian.  I have had lots to complain about with all of the President’s who have been elected during my lifetime.  I have never voted for either a Democrat or Republican for president.  Obama is really charismatic, and I feel he is a man of strong intellect, integrity, and a deep wholeness.  Even though I disagree with many if not most of his policies (mainly because I think government is the problem and he thinks government can be at least part of the solution) I think I could vote for this man.  That is why I read this book.  It is very significant that this book was written 12 or 15 years ago, long before he had national recognition and national political appeal.  It is a fascinating story of his unique birth, upbringing, and maturation.  It is probably a book that he would not want everyone to read, because it might make some accuse him of being a racist.  The book is fascinating and extremely candid.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I have increased respect for this man as a human being.  It is a very powerful and I think most of us would find it extremely rewarding to read and experience.  He gets my vote if he runs!

Eleven Minutes, a novel by Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, has been translated from Portuguese, and according to the blurb on the cover is “a gripping exploration of the potentially sacred nature of sex within the context of love.”  I found this book to be both enthralling and intriguing.  It has a fairy tale feeling about it, and is the story of a young girl from a Brazilian village who learns about love and life through her adventures as a prostitute in Switzerland.  The book claims to be a fictionalized version of a true life story.  Certainly this is “X-Rated” but it transcends sex and I found it to be very moving and transcendental in its views and experiences about love, life, and pain.  This book is one of those hidden treasures that one feels privileged to have discovered and enjoyed.

The Monk Downstairs, by Tim Farrington is a touching little “feel-good” novel that I think almost everyone would enjoy.  The novel is well-crafted, and the characters are interesting and worth getting to know.  It is about a very interesting relationship between a single mother and the gentleman who has just left a monastery to move in and rent her in-law apartment in the Sunset District of San Francisco.   This book is a real charmer and both Dena and I really enjoyed it.

Tony and I have mentioned Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, in the last couple of newsletters.  Ms. Gilbert’s book was probably the book I liked best in 2006, and if you have yet to read it, please do not wait another day.  For me reading that book was like eating the best bowl of ice cream ever, I couldn’t stop eating it, but I didn’t want to eat it because then it would be gone.  Having such a strong feeling about the book and the author, I picked up The Last American Man, also written by Ms. Gilbert.  This is a biography of a very unique man, Eustace Conway, who has lived in the Appalachian Mountains, near Boone, NC (and in fact had land dealings with David Kaplan which were mentioned in this book) and who has recreated the lifestyle of frontier living.  Conway is truly unique, and there is no way I can even begin to describe his many attributes and complexities.  The book is fascinating and will keep any reader fully engaged.  This is a story about a totally unique man who is incredibly skilled and unbelievably complex.   Gilbert obviously admires him, but she does not shy away from revealing his many faults.  This is one very unique slice of life that is worth tasting.

I just finished reading a remarkable little book, by a very remarkable man.  Catching The Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, by David Lynch is one of the sweetest most uplifting books I have ever read.  I am not a big movie fan, and in fact the only movie that Lynch made which I saw is Mulholland Drive, and I can’t say it ranks anywhere up there with my favorite flicks.  But this book is very honest and incredibly charming.  I learned so much about the man, his art, and why he so effective in getting people interested in Transcendental Mediation.  This book is one that everyone who practices TM or might be interested in practicing TM ought to read.  Hats off to David Lynch!

Finally, for those of you who have not read it, or may be new to our mailings, I want re-recommend Shantaram.  I continue to believe it is one of the finest works of fiction written in the last decade.  It is an opus right up there with Shogun.  If you need more info on Shantaram just click on it to read our review on our website.

Len Oppenheim
Happy 2007

Having thoroughly enjoyed Bones of the Master by George Crane, I was happy to find that he had written a later book that goes further into his physical and spiritual journeys : Beyond the House of the False Lama: Travels with Monks, Nomads and Outlaws.

This one is darker than the first with more of Crane’s emotional pain and addictions taking center stage. With less emphasis on the Buddhist master Tsung Tsaai , the subject of Crane’s first book, this memoir is on the most basic level the author’s spiritual log.

If you enjoyed Bones of the Master, I would recommend this title to you as well. This book works as both prose and poetry and is filled with the insights of a man trying to make spiritual sense of the human condition.

Another title I just finished is Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer a sad yet gripping memoir of a young man from a well to do, highly successful family... who one day decides to leave it all and enter the wilderness of Alaska.. alone and with only one bag of rice for provisions. The psychological study of the why he would make such a journey as well at the detective work by the author in deducting the true cause of the young man’s death reads like a riveting mystery. A very gripping account of a man lost to society in the same vein as The Last American Man.

Going over my reading over the last year or so I have to say the following titles have left the most impression on me.

I would highly recommend any one of the following.

Eat Pray Love : One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

Bones Of the Master : A Journey to Secret Mongolia by George Crane

Beyond the House of the False Lama : Travels with Monks, Nomads and Outlaws by George Crane

Seducing the Demon : Writing for my Life  by Erica Jong  ( If you are a writer or would like to be I highly recommend this title)

Jarhead : A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles by Anthony Swofford ( Powerful poetic memoir that is in the end anti-war)

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

And my all time favorites

Spiritual Enlightenment the Damnedest Thing by Jed McKenna (Spiritual Enlightenment as you never experienced it before)

Cliff Walk by Don J Snyder ( A man loses his job and finds a new life)

Martin Eden by Jack London (My favorite novel… a fictional account of Jack London’s life.)

Silence of the Heart by Robert Adams (a moving spiritual book that helps propel the reader to eternal silence.)

When I think of the past year.. I notice the simple interactions as having the most profound effect on my life.

The lengthy conversations are lost out to the simple ones that are fewer words yet more profound with a deeper personal connection. The simple smiles we give each other… which are free and spontaneous... give so much to the recipient.. Changing the day from so so to holy.

I would at this time like to express my gratitude for Len & Dena Oppenheim.

They have both done a wonderful service to the community by keeping an independent book store alive in spite all the extreme competitive  pressures from outside.

Len and Dena see the importance of strong independent business and the need for individuality in local communities instead of a rubber stamp downtown approach to business.

Happy 2007 to all
I look forward to your many smiles this coming year.

Tony

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