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.
If you like this sort of thing, and I do, this is a nice wide-ranging sampler of Analects by Confucius, Tao te Ching, Inner Chapters by Chuang Tzu, Art of War by Sun Tzu, and a few similar sources I hadn't previously read. I find it very soothing and I get into a creative thinking "zone" when taking my long walks and listening to these loose and poetic parables and aphorisms, and imagining how they might fit with my world and time and thinking and experiences. It is a nice decompression and "unwind" mentally from the business and history tomes I am otherwise gobbling up. It is wide-ranging: there is a lot of basic and classical ethical thinking; there was an interesting bit of proto-imperialist thinking, a very stirring explanation of capitalist-style incentives (long before Adam Smith's day), and some very Machiavellian war planning thinking (pointers for using and expending spies, anyone?). Imaginatively, it is easy and fun for me to link bits of it to my own experience. But there is very little real effort at connecting dots to something actionable in a modern boardroom. I guess that is left to the mind of the beholder.
Anyone looking for a wide-ranging, systematic treatment of classical political thought/science might look elsewhere. I would retitle this something like, "some of this professor's favorite important political thinkers: a grab bag." As such, it is fairly well-delivered and a pleasant listen. It is in a sort of vernacular, personalized style, which I might call "very college, very undergrad;" not the sort of high academic delivery I might have expected. Some will prefer that, and for fine reasons: it will speak to a pretty wide audience.
This book came as a pleasant surprise. I initially thought (incorrectly) I might have to put up with a certain amount of emotive populist claptrap, in my search for good history and insights. This author, thankfully, is more balanced and responsible than that. The author takes a complex flow of history with all kind of financial players weaving through it, and calmly, thoughtfully assembles it all into very understandable sequences. I got so many insights on why banks have done what they've done, for better or worse: their business and regulatory environment over the decades is shown well and clearly. And of course, we get a fine review of the shadow-banks and other players and deals appearing on the scene too. This is my ONE desert island book (or book I would bequeath to younger people at this time) about "how USA got here and what's going on." As goes finance, so goes the structure of so much in our world, from the personal level to the biggest moves and movers out there. I feel I'm a better-informed citizen, a better planner in my life, and a better investor, for having read this. I have a much more ready grasp of the players and the story. It will be my pleasure to listen through this a second time.
Fortunately, the authors do raise arguments made by the banking establishment side of these debates, if only to give them short shrift and dismiss them. To that extent, it has enough intellectual honesty to keep me listening (along with its pretty comprehensive coverage). However, I would have preferred a more thorough exploration of opposing points of view. My perception is, this book does not hesitate at any point to tell me what I should think and conclude about these topics. I find I must filter it while listening in real time, considering and weighing the counter-arguments I know exist. Given all that, it is definitely a worthwhile expenditure of my time. It is good to see banking issues described around familiar accounting conventions such as balance sheet items.
Niall Ferguson seemed to break new popularizing ground with "The Ascent of Money," which in some ways resembled Kenneth Clarke's fantastic popularization "Civilization" and Jacob Bronowski's "Ascent of Man" of the 1970s. I enjoyed and was very inspired by all these works. Now, to my delight, many authors are exploring in more depth some themes also found in "Ascent of Money," particularly the transmission across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy of the business math and accounting in late medieval times that would transform the modern world. Here are also bits of art history, as math master and main character Luca Pacioli crossed paths with many important figures of the early Renaissance. Some readers may differ on the author's choices of topics in the later part of this book (and amazon book reviews will show this), but the Italian history alone for me is worth the price of admission.
This is a very good entry point (or refresher) for statistics. The author obviously invested time in putting together clear and simple examples. More advanced stats people might be disappointed. I like this better than another broad-audience statistics book, "The Signal and the Noise" by Nate Silver. For me, the explanations here are clearer and the concepts flow better.
I'm very pleased with this book. I find that the accounting ethics principles fairly well track those in my own specialty, law, but it is enlightening to see where accounting differs. A CPA has the public as a very important constituency, though the subject business (e.g., the subject of an audit by the accountant) pays the accountant's bills. The point of such services as auditing is to assure the public gets accurate material information, and other parties such as potential lenders to the business can see an accurate picture as well, but pressures from the subject company can, I'm sure, be intense (as they can from supervisors in the auditing firm who may have a keen interest in revenues from the subject company). Right away one can sense the sensitive and sometimes tough ethical challenges the accountant faces. The author goes pretty far also into more general, philosophical ethics topics, such as the categorical imperative in Kant's work. Many references are made to Enron, Arthur Anderson's fall, and Sarbanes-Oxley requirements, as well as emerging rules and regulators. This might not be good beach reading for many, but it is for me.
My biology background went as far as a couple of college (survey level) courses. I found this book readily understandable, and quite mind-opening. It wades right into questions such as, why and how do organisms become more complex and larger over time? What kinds of structures need to develop to make this possible, and how do these structures come into being? What effect does largeness and complexity have on the way mutation works? At what stage of an organism's development will a mutation (1) kill the organism, or (2) be incorporated as an "invention" into future generations of the organism, to its advantage? The mechanisms are very sensibly explained. I have a fascination with the topic of randomness too, and here the author takes distinctive stands. Many days, after glazing over on finance, law and history topics in audiobooks, I love to switch to this book and suddenly change how I am thinking and what I am noticing in my world.
This is a wide survey of founders in quant finance -- Bachelier, Black and Scholes, Ed Thorp, and others of that stature, as may have been heard in other audible offerings such as "The Myth of the Rational Market" and "The Quants." Here also are some more recent thinkers' explorations in modeling of complexity and catastrophes, and herding behaviors. The concepts as explained are accessible, a bit too spare and simple, but clear as far as they go (not far). There is nothing directly actionable here, it is more an introduction and popularization, a story-based work; much is anecdotal biography stuff. I like that, for the most part. What is described is an attempted adaptation by various thinkers of math and methods of physics to admittedly social sciences, finance and economics. The fit is quite imperfect, as is discussed. It is listenable and I thought it worthwhile, though little here was new to me. I did like the explanation of ruptures in bubble (also tank and missile compartment) structures, as adapted first to earthquake prediction and then to market crashes -- that was thought-provoking. The author unfortunately at the end droned on about this dream of a financial-economic (presumably publicly funded) Manhattan project that I quickly found starry-eyed, naive, repetitive and tedious -- one point off for that.
On the surface, the story is about a bunch of sort of swingin' 60s types on a cooking planet earth, with some corporate intrigue involving the arrival of a new hallucinogenic drug from some other star system, at the hovels of other bored swingers living at the stifling and claustrophobic out-world colonies.
As a dated bit of science fiction, however cleverly imagined, there are incongruities of technology (old phone technologies in the future, that sort of thing). But Dick was a storyteller beyond these superficialities. Listening to this is as close as I can imagine to (1) being unknowingly dosed with hallucinogens, and/or (2) having a sudden onset of major mental illness of a paranoid type, yet sometimes punctuated with things of great mystery or beauty. Or, perhaps, more like having a bona fide religious experience, but kaleidoscopic, not framed so that a clear message emerges. There are plenty of impressionistic suggestions. Yet, the characters (having this sort of experience) manage to be generally petty, calculating, small-minded, horny early 1960s corporate climbers throughout, as if a stupid breed of insect trapped in a more elegant and visionary trap than they can comprehend. Sorry if that doesn't make much sense. But the whole texture of this book is to continuously throw the reader off in terms of what is reliably real, while unfolding various possible explanations. For me, it does what I like art to do.
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