Book review: Our pick of the year’s best reads
Dec 21, 2012
A lookback at five of Moneyeek's favourite books from 2012.
Professional Investor Rules
By Jonathan Davis
Published by Harriman House
Want to learn more about investing but lack the time to read a tome? Then try Jonathan Davis’s latest book. A typical entry lasts no more than five short pages. A variety of investors are represented, ranging from Victor Niederhoffer to the Rothschilds. There is even a contribution from Yale Hirsch, who bases his approach on finding seasonal anomalies.
While this book lacks the technical depth of more extended works, it does manage to inform and entertain; each chapter is brief and focused. That makes it an ideal read to dip into over Christmas, still feeling you’ve come away with some useful knowledge.
• Professional Investor Rules by Jonathan Davis is published by Harriman House (£12.99).
Raffles And The Golden Opportunity
By Victoria Gleninning
Published by Profile Books
This year’s overhaul of China’s leadership will have had many in the Communist Party wondering how to maintain their grip on power. They may look to Singapore for clues as to how one-party rule can coexist with free-market economics and a nominal democracy.
Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Sir Stamford Raffles tells the story of how the city-state was founded. “Glendinning gives us a fascinating picture of the working life of this world-changing man,” says Isabel Hilton in The Guardian. Duncan Fallowell praises her “magical and meticulous biography”. Today’s Singapore is capable of challenging the supremacy of New York and London, making this is a must-read book.
• Raffles And The Golden Opportunity, by Victoria Glendinning is published by Profile Books (£25).
By Nicholas Taleb
Published by Allen Lane
In his new book, Black Swan author Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests that, while we need a financial system that avoids catastrophic failure, volatility is vital to its health. “This is a bold, entertaining, clever book, richly crammed with insights, stories, fine phrases and intriguing asides,” says Matt Ridley in The Wall Street Journal. However, David Runciman calls it “a big, baggy, sprawling mess” in The Guardian. The Independent’s Boyd Tonkin agrees with Taleb’s argument, but “felt the urge to fling this hefty volume on a non-random path towards his swollen head”. Taleb, it seems, is still a Marmite writer.
• Anti-Fragile: How To Live In A World We Don’t Understand by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is published by Allen Lane (£25).
Diary Of A Hedgehog
By Barton Biggs
Published by Wiley
Barton Biggs’ death this July generated a great deal of coverage for a man who wasn’t well known outside the investment world. The Times called him “one of the investment world’s most original and idiosyncratic thinkers”. The Wall Street Journal agreed that he “typified a class of Wall Street investment strategists who seemed smarter, wittier and more creative than anyone else in the room”.
This book is a collection of his thoughts on market conditions between 2010 and 2012. While most fund managers write dry, boring prose, Biggs peppers his book with personal anecdotes, lessons from history and even poetry. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
• Diary Of A Hedgehog: Biggs’ Final Words On The Markets by Barton Biggs is published by Wiley (£19.99).
Market Sense And Nonsense
By Jack Schwager
Published by Wiley
Jack Schwager is best known for the Market Wizards books based on interviews with top traders. As Yahoo! Finance’s Aaron Task puts it, they “are a monument to the wisdom of certain investors, and how they’ve been so successful”. Schwager’s latest book draws on his own experience and these interviews to point out the most common investing mistakes.
“Everybody, and I mean everybody, who has an investment portfolio will profit from reading this book,” says Brenda Jubin on Investing.com. The “clear prose with abundant examples” means even someone “with absolutely no statistical background will understand Schwager’s points”.
• Market Sense And Nonsense: How The Markets Really Work (And How They Don’t) by Jack Schwager is published by Wiley (£26.99).
The best of the rest
Facebook’s disastrous initial public offering conjures up memories of the late 1990s tech bubble. Andrew Smith covers that era’s excesses in Totally Wired: On The Trail Of The Great Dotcom Swindle (Andrews McMeel, £19.99).
This is “a book whose time has come,” says Ed Caesar in The Sunday Times. Conservative backbencher Douglas Carswell argues in The End of Politics and the Birth of iDemocracy (Biteback Publishing, £12.99) that technology is making the idea of a big state increasingly redundant.
Charles Moore praises this “thoughtprovoking book” in The Daily Telegraph, although Tristram Hunt warns that “Carswell fails to appreciate that the market is just as capable as the state of exerting oppressive power and restricting positive freedom”.
The paperback version of Niall Ferguson’s book Civilization: The Six Killer Apps of Western Power (Penguin, £9.99) has received good reviews. “With the skill of a master strategist, he marshals facts and opinion,” writes Christopher Hirst in The Independent, while The Times’s Dominic Lawson praises his “rigour and empirical soundness”.
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