This is not a deep-analyzing treatise of how the derivatives markets work, or where they are heading. There were a few limited passages on that, especially at the end, which were my favorite parts of the book. This author is a good explainer. This book is more a readable snapshot of some fairly recent times during the merger of Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Mercantile Exchange, seen from inside CBOT (and a recent-hire, mid-level employee's perspective, not a dealmaker in the situation). Sometimes (unfortunately, right at the start) it dwells a bit on trivial office life and personalities. When will authors get that the tinny shallow supposed flamboyance of some of these people are mostly pathetic, and beside the point? I guess it is thought to add color. However, I found it a listenable tour through a place and time, with some very very basic explanations of the business of these organizations. And, it was an OK blow-by-blow of living through a corporate merger. Overall, this was a relaxing and light sort of business read, and in that, worth it. It really whet my appetite to learn more about these markets and exchanges. I wish we had something with more meat to it, in that regard, a bit more technical.
We follow this author from an unspectacular start in high school, to increasing success in college and university, to his starting up cutting-edge businesses. The author has a refreshing matter-of-factness, a lack of annoying vanity and razzle-dazzle. He effortlessly moves from clearly explaining some thinking-through of business and entrepreneurship problems, to their implementation by his finding the right people (with money, technology, legal, accounting, etc.) and doing each deal with them, to personal anecdotes that move the story along. He is willing to describe insecurities, awkward moments and setbacks, and thus to give us a "you are there" feel for his struggles, and his pushing forward, pivoting and adjusting, sweating through tough moments, to build success, at each stage. He doesn't bog down in any backwater of the story. The breezy style and lack of phony grandiosity is refreshing. He was in NYC at the ground floor of computerization of trading; he was the living, breathing, entrepreneurial expression of it, coming from the outside of the big Wall Street firms (though many of these ideas became big profit centers later for some of those firms, and the core of many later, more famliar Wall Street stories). He learned well in school, and started putting pieces together in new combinations, and knocking on doors to get it done. To learn a topic, I like to get to its primitive ideas and original thinkers, and work forward through its evolution, and this book serves nicely. It is a segment of the story I hadn't seen. The narrator fits very well with the matter-of-fact, plain-speaking style.
This book is actually a couple decades old. Anyone interested in this sort of thing ought to listen through at least one book like this. I like personally losing big as a centerpiece to the work: it wipes out that phony "I made a zillion dollars easy!" baloney. It seems to me that, with a basic arc of the story being, this writer was young and pretty clever and made a few moves and wound up with a lot of other people's money (and trust) in his hands, and proceeded to blow up, lose all the trading positions and get closed out. This story is told well (and more briefly) in a fave book of mine, Taleb's Fooled by Randomness. Here, there is a lot of color and detail of an earlier era, though of course the situations are not fundamentally different. A lot of terminology (including informal terminology) is described, plainly and well. And the author seemingly wanted to cram in any personal wisdom that might seem to sort of fit.
This book shows its age in some other ways. How about Steve Jobs presented as a guy who started clever, burned out, and wound up in some nowhere company making no profit? Oops, bad timing as the worst moment in his career was focused on, and the historical next chapter had not yet begun. But this is alright -- it reminds us how the supposedly smart declarations and prognostications of the writers of any time are bound to their own unavoidable limitations, and often seem quaint and bizarre later. That's one reason I read older books: to see what people got WRONG. So much for all of our fond assumptions, and that's the core message of this book.