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everything i need to know, i learned from…

throw away your textbooks, burn your references. just go out and buy a novel (trashy-ness optional) today.

you’ll learn more from it, than any book in school, or so i’ve learned.

in my more than 3 decades of existence, i’ve learned the following:
1) novels are cheaper than textbooks or reference books
2) novels are more fun and interesting than said books
3) i’ve read some novels like 10 times and keep going back years later.

can’t say the same for my school books though.

what i’ve discovered is that the novels give a clear sense of ‘real life’ compared to the musty theoretical tomes in school. i’ve learned more from watching, reading what the characters go through, than merely the description, explanation and examples given in textbooks.
and besides the novel’s topics are infinitely more interesting.

let me give you an example.

1) Private Parts: This is a great book. No relation to Michael Chiang’s private parts (his comedy production, not his genitals….). A semi-autobiographical account of radio shock jock Howard Stern’s rise to prominence (or notoriety), this is an engaging read, from his dreams of becoming a radio personality “It dawned on me that if you were half a mutant you could probably get on the radio”. It also talks about his attempts to launch ‘Gay Dial a Date’ in Washington DC and being lauded for “one of the best, most senstivie treatments of Gay themes ever to air on the mainstream media”. The book is much better than the movie of the same name, and gives insight into one of the most influential men in radio.

It kinda makes me think that Singapore ‘shock’ DJ weenies ought to take a page out of Howard’s book. I don’t know about you, but hearing grown men call each other ‘brudder’ all day and acting like teenagers grates on my nerves after the first 20 seconds.

Besides getting an idea of how to create a distinct identity, the book serves as a primer to bring out creativity and innovation in an industry where everyone mimics everyone else.

2) Monkey Business (Swinging through the Wall Street Jungle) by John Rolfe and Peter Troob: not to be confused with the Black Eyed Peas “Monkey Business” Album, this novel (i’m assuming it’s fairly accurate) chronicles 2 guys who finish their MBAs at ivy league schools and attempt to break into the world of investment bank.

great for those planning to enter the finance industry, this work is studded with pearls of wisdom like:
1) don’t take a big crap and stink up the bathroom in your interviewers hotel room (you won’t be called back for a second interview)
2) how dapper bankers dress… “The DL Thompson partner who greeted us was straight out of a Charles Dickens novel. He had stuffed his generous ass into a tight pair of seersucker trousers. On top, he wore a bright red sweater vest that looked as if it had recently been pulled from the garbage receptacle behind the office tower that was home to DL Thomspon and Co’s offices…The guy was a freak, a bad Halloween rendition of an innkeeper out of the Canterbury Tales, and we were there to kiss his ass. His name was Chester Goodman III.”
3) For those with aspirations to list a company on the stock exchange or be on the investment banking team that brings it public, the authors happily deflate all high and mighty expectations. For example in explaining a stock offering prospectus, they happily explain the following sections:
“Use of Proceeds: Not too many people pay attention to this section, but they should. A careful reading of this section will tell you where the hell all the money from the offering is going. If it’s not going into the company coffers to help grow the company, but instead is going to pay out existing owners and management, then stay away. If owners are cashing out, there’s no reason for you to be cashing in”

pretty commonsensical advice for stock investors.
another handy explanation:
“Management – This section presents biographies of both the management team and the board of directors. Members of management and/or the board of directors generally get only two to three senstences each to make themselves seem important, so they maximize the balderdash per sentence. The Management section also presents the reader with an opportunity to assess just how inbred the board of directors is. A good way to figure out how likely it is that the directors are sucking money out of a company is to draw a chart with each director’s name in a box. Read through the Management section, and each time that you identify a professional or personal connection between two directors, connect their boxes with a line. If you also happen to know about other relationships between directors, for instance one director is married to another director’s daughter, or one director is an old college buddy of another director, you can draw a line in there as well. If upon completion, the chart looks like a spider web, then hold on to your wallet”

good stuff for those planning to enter the finance industry or looking for more insight into the workings of the stock market.

someone reading this book would gain enough insight to keep clear of the many companies in dire straits which have imploded in recent years.

3) An Unseemly Man: and less i be accused of promoting ‘cheem’ or esoteric books, there’s Larry Flynt’s autobiography. Flynt better known as the subject of the film “The People vs Larry Flynt” is probably best known as founder and publisher of porn mag Hustler.

The book chronicles his rise from a farmboy growing up in Kentucky, his sexual experience with a chicken, serving in the military, starting his first working class bar and working 24 hour days to promote it and keep it running. gradually he opens a strong of Hustler Clubs across Ohio with clubs in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo and Akron, all the while taking amphetamines (or ‘Speed’) to keep him working 4 days without sleep.

eventually he asserts his position as ‘this century’s most ardent advocate of First Amendment rights, a man whose landmark Supreme Court cases are studied by every law student in America’. In his fight against the legal system over First Amendment rights, the mainstream media reluctantly joins his cause, with the New York Times Company, the HBO, the American Civil Liberties Union, the heavyweights of the publishing industry rallying behind Flynt.

The books provides an interesting perspective, especially for those who might be interested in starting a business or going into journalism.

i realise that it’d probably be impossible that novels will totally replace textbooks, however think about how much more interesting if such novels were added to supplement the teaching in schools…

perhaps the times will change, but till then there’s the library and the bookstore.

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