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from Breakingviews:

Review: Putting a face on China’s vague ambition

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Can a large country be summed up in a single book? The notion may seem preposterous. When it comes to China, however, too many foreign writers seem determined to try to cram a state of more than 1.3 billion people into a few hundred pages. Few would dare attempt anything similar with the United States, which has a quarter of the population.

The typical approach is a sweeping overview. The reader is overwhelmed with a torrent of statistical superlatives to demonstrate how the Middle Kingdom has become richer, increasingly powerful, more productive, less equal, spectacularly corrupt, extremely indebted, dangerously imbalanced or whatever else supports the author’s broader thesis.

“Age of Ambition” adopts a refreshingly human perspective. Evan Osnos spent almost a decade in China as a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune and the New Yorker. The book is, he says, “based on eight years of conversations.” The result is a series of portraits of individuals coming to terms with rapid changes. They provide a welcome balance to the remarkably persistent image of the Chinese as a large and faceless mass.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Hustling helps Africa’s partial success

By Martin Hutchinson

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

“Kanju” makes modern Africa work. In her new book “The Bright Continent,” the American journalist Dayo Olopade claims that this Yoruba word for hustling, striving and rule-breaking explains how the invisible hand outwits the dead hand of corrupt bureaucracy in much of the continent. Sadly, kanju also makes most African countries tough places to do fully organized business.

from Breakingviews:

Review: The puzzle of Fred Goodwin’s rise and fall

By Peter Thal Larsen

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Early in 2009, the British government was preparing to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland for the second time in four months. An emergency injection of capital in October 2008 had failed to shore up confidence. Now taxpayers were being asked to cover potential losses on almost 300 billion pounds of toxic RBS assets. Yet as the details of the rescue were finalised, British public opinion was in uproar over a much, much smaller sum: the 700,000 pound a year pension being paid to Fred Goodwin, the bank’s former chief executive.

from Breakingviews:

E-book: China’s mounting debt problem

By Peter Thal Larsen

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

 

The country’s economic rise is built on cheap finance. But with debt nearing 200 percent of GDP and much investment wasted, the foundations are looking shaky. “The East is Red” examines the origins of the boom, the current strains, and the painful choices China now faces.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Will the real Mao please stand up?

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

The portrait of Mao Zedong watches over Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, but it’s still impossible to know the man behind the myth. Nearly four decades after his death, China’s modern leaders invoke his name at their own risk. Consider two of the most popular English-language biographers of the Great Helmsman.

from India Insight:

Piecing together the ‘Great Tamasha’ of Indian cricket

The Great Tamasha” is a book about cricket, but it is also a tale about the rapid rise of modern India and the corruption that plagues it. A series of scandals in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the glitzy Twenty20 tournament run by the country’s cricket board, got James Astill hooked to the game in India. What followed was the 40-year-old journalist’s first book - an account of India’s rich cricketing tradition, politics, religion and the emergence of the cash-rich IPL.

Astill takes the reader from the slums of Mumbai to a village in north India, places where cricket is as much tamasha (spectacle) as it is religion. Bollywood stars, business tycoons and cricketers, both past and present, feature in “The Great Tamasha”. So does Lalit Modi, a former IPL chairman, now an outcast in India’s cricketing circles.

from Breakingviews:

Review: The rise and fall of an Asian tycoon

By Katrina Hamlin

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

Mohsin Hamid understands corruption. His new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, is as insightful fictional portrait of a crooked yet oddly sympathetic tycoon. Hamid doesn’t condone skullduggery, but this detailed profile is an instructive guide to a darker side of rising Asia.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Tales from China’s wild lending frontier

By Peter Thal Larsen

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own)

Joe Zhang has impeccable timing. The former investment banker’s book about running a small Chinese microcredit firm, “Inside China’s Shadow Banking”, has hit shelves just as concerns about the country’s runaway credit boom are capturing global headlines. Yet despite the title, it’s China’s state-owned banking system that emerges as the tale’s dysfunctional villain.

from India Insight:

Book lovers in India lap up myths with a makeover

Mriganka Dadwal knows everything about the Ramayana, the ancient Hindu epic that tells the story of warrior-god Rama and the abduction of his wife Sita by the powerful demon king Ravana.

The journalist-turned-entrepreneur says she would love to read the epic from the point of view of the vanquished Ravana. And now she can.

from Breakingviews:

Review: Walking cure for cash-strapped U.S. cities

By Martin Langfield
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Many American cities, from Detroit to San Bernardino, are under financial pressure. Jeff Speck, an urban planner, has a suggestion: make them more pedestrian-friendly. His book “Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time” makes the case. Provide it, and they will come.

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