The Forbidden Game: Book Review

Book Review: The Forbidden Game by David Merkel, CFA of AlephBlog

forbidden-game-9781851689484_0 forbidden game

The forbidden game

I’m not a golfer, but I really liked this book.  The charm of the book is that it takes us through the lives of three men, and a host of lesser characters, and shows us how the growth of golf in China shaped their lives.  Two of the protagonists are Chinese, and one American.

The American, Martin Moore, was a promising golf course designer who did increasingly well designing courses in the US, Thailand, and China.   He learned how to get things done amid demanding bosses and ambiguous regulation.  Is building a golf course forbidden or not?  What if we call it a “health club?”  What if many locals object to their land being expropriated?

He succeeded amid many obstacles.  The next protagonist, and the one who had the most dramatic success was Zhou Xunshu, a man who went from not knowing anything about golf — an industrial worker, a common man, to being a golf professional.  His efforts were significant, and he underwent many hardships as he pursued his dream.

Then there is Wang Libo, a man who gets displaced by his home getting taken from him to build a golf course, and he takes the opportunity and builds a store/bar/restaurant near the complex to profit from the opportunity.

Three engaging characters amid the ambiguity of changing regulations, and whether it was legal to build new courses or not.

You will learn a lot about China in the process… what it is like dealing with an all-powerful Party whose machinations are secret.  And yet, one where if enough people protest, you can’t do anything, even if you have all of the permits in place.

You will get a behind-the scenes look at creating the world’s largest golf course twice, and the ambition of those who wanted to see it done quickly.

You will also experience the Chinese Dream, as the book’s subtitle suggests… the dreams and goals of those who want to live a life similar to middle-class Americans, but all the more poignant, because the path to getting there is often unclear.

To those reading me at Amazon.com, please Google “Aleph Blog Washburn” and you will be able to read a special Q&A with the author that I will post after writing this post.

This was an enjoyable book to read, and I think most people would learn something from it.

Quibbles

None.

Summary

This is a great book.  It will make a great gift to friends of yours who are golfers.  If you want to you can buy it here: The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream.

Full disclosure: The PR flack asked me if I would like a copy and I said yes.  She invited me to write a Q&A also.  Hey, look at the next post.

If you enter Amazon through my site, and you buy anything, I get a small commission.  This is my main source of blog revenue.  I prefer this to a “tip jar” because I want you to get something you want, rather than merely giving me a tip.  Book reviews take time, particularly with the reading, which most book reviewers don’t do in full, and I typically do. (When I don’t, I mention that I scanned the book.  Also, I never use the data that the PR flacks send out.)

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About the Author

David Merkel
David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website RealMoney.com. Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.