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Publisher's Summary

A Financial Times Book of the Month pick for April!

Is it worth swimming in shark-infested waters to surf a 50-foot, career-record wave?

Is it riskier to make an action movie or a horror movie?

Should sex workers forfeit 50 percent of their income for added security or take a chance and keep the extra money?

Most people wouldn't expect an economist to have an answer to these questions - or to other questions of daily life, such as who to date or how early to leave for the airport. But those people haven't met Allison Schrager, an economist and award-winning journalist who has spent her career examining how people manage risk in their lives and careers. 

Whether we realize it or not, we all take risks large and small every day. Even the most cautious among us cannot opt out - the question is always which risks to take, not whether to take them at all. What most of us don't know is how to measure those risks and maximize the chances of getting what we want out of life.

In An Economist Walks into a Brothel, Schrager equips listeners with five principles for dealing with risk, principles used by some of the world's most interesting risk takers. For instance, she interviews a professional poker player about how to stay rational when the stakes are high, a paparazzo in Manhattan about how to spot different kinds of risk, horse breeders in Kentucky about how to diversify risk and minimize losses, and a war general who led troops in Iraq about how to prepare for what we don't see coming.

When you start to look at risky decisions through Schrager's new framework, you can increase the upside to any situation and better mitigate the downside.

©2019 Allison Schrager (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"In this delightful book, financial economist and risk expert Allison Schrager shows us that the same principles employed by multi-billion dollar pension funds can help us improve risk management in our own lives. She teaches these principles while entertaining us with a series of off-the-beaten-path case studies. By creating distance from our own experiences, she allows us to better understand the principles of risk. It works! Whether a complete novice or a seasoned risk professional, the reader is in for a treat: Bon Appetit!" (Robert C Merton, distinguished professor of finance, MIT Sloan School and Nobel Laureate)

“Prostitution seems like a long stretch from the risks most of us deal with, such as outliving our retirement funds, but Schrager inventively extracts five life lessons from her interviews with practitioners of the so-called oldest profession, as well as others who’ve chosen unusual career paths.” (Bloomberg Businessweek

“If you want to understand risk better, you have to go into some unconventional settings. In the tradition of Freakonomics, that’s what Allison Schrager does as an economist, and her book is not just informative - it’s an entertaining read too.” (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Originals and Give and Take

What listeners say about An Economist Walks into a Brothel

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Great Brothel Analysis But Oblivious To Bond Risks

The author's risk analysis of both sides of a brothel transaction is wonderfully creative. Yet, it is astounding that a PhD economist would repeatedly use the term "risk free" to refer to bonds, thereby evidencing a failure to appreciate credit and duration risk.

9 people found this helpful

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a few good stories

Good basic ideas and some good examples, but repetative and few specifics
Narration was good, easy to understand.

3 people found this helpful

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Good not Great

I heard the author interviewed on NPR. The opening portion is interesting but the subsequent stories just get progressively dull. I really wanted to like this book but by the time it gets to the end, the battle of 38 easting and I just didn't care.

2 people found this helpful

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Makes Risk Fun

Allison Schrager highlights different occupations and people who manage risk in their own ways, whether or not that’s how they thought about it that way. Prostitution, gambling, and sports.

1 person found this helpful

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nothing earth shattering

It wasn't bad but doesn't do near as good of a job articulating risk and risk management as Nassim Nicholas Taleb does. She has only really studied risk but has not truly taken risk. She talks about her course of study as being risky but I don't see that as being "risky." This is the normative take on risk, not something new. Like getting risk management from your investment person... Average.

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Great book about risks and how to deal with it

The writer is the economist specialize in retirement plan. She explains risk in comparing with many occupation such as a prostitute, a poker player and a big wave surfer, all of which have a high risk and how to deal with it. Also what is it comparing to the investment and financial world. In short, I love the book.

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Easy to understand

These were interesting ways to think about risk. Perfect for someone newer to the concept of economic risks.

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Mediocre content sounds interesting but no essence

Nothing new, no explosive determinations - i loved the battle story !

Read it only if u lack financial notions.

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Easy to understand

This is an excellent narrative guide to economics. The stories are easy to follow. I'll probably listen again

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Boring

You will understand the concept after an hour of listening. Author uses real life stories about publicly known people so those parts of the book are interesting.

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  • Anna Davis
  • 07-09-19

Great book

Really enjoyed this. Well explained and very thought provoking for anyone interested in financial markets.