Book Reviews, Economics

Best Books Of 2017

Bowing to reader demand, I’m sharing my personal, idiosyncratic choices for the best books of 2017, with links to my reviews.

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Best Books Of 2017
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Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong

Much of the advice we’ve been told about achievement is logical, earnest…and downright wrong. In Barking Up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker reveals the extraordinary science behind what actually determines success and most importantly, how anyone can achieve it. You’ll learn:


Richard Bookstaber, The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction

Our economy may have recovered from the Great Recession?but not our economics. In The End of Theory, Richard Bookstaber discusses why the human condition and the radical uncertainty of our world renders the standard economic model?and the theory behind it?useless for dealing with financial crises. What model should replace it? None. At least not any version we've been using for the past two hundred years. Instead, Bookstaber argues for a new approach called agent-based economics, one that takes as a starting point the fact that we are humans, not the optimizing automatons that standard economics assumes we are.

Bookstaber's groundbreaking paradigm promises to do a far better job at preventing crises and managing those that break out. As he explains, our varied memories and imaginations color our economic behavior in unexpected hues. Agent-based modeling embraces these nuances by avoiding the mechanistic, unrealistic structure of our current economic approach. Bookstaber tackles issues such as radical uncertainty, when circumstances take place beyond our anticipation, and emergence, when innocent, everyday interactions combine to create sudden chaos. Starting with the realization that future crises cannot be predicted by the past, he proposes an approach that recognizes the human narrative while addressing market realities.

Sweeping aside the historic failure of twentieth-century economics, The End of Theory offers a novel and innovative perspective, along with a more realistic and human framework, to help prevent today's financial system from blowing up again.


Robert Carver, Smart Portfolios: A practical guide to building and maintaining intelligent investment portfolios

Smart Portfolios is about building and maintaining smart investment portfolios. At its heart are the three key questions every investor needs to answer:

  1. What to invest in.
  2. How much to invest.
  3. When to make changes to a portfolio.

Author Robert Carver addresses these three areas by providing a single integrated approach to portfolio management. He shows how to follow a step-by-step process to build a multi-asset investment portfolio, and how to rebalance the portfolio efficiently. He covers both investment in collective funds like ETFs, and also direct investment in individual equities.

Important features include:

  • Why forecasting future returns is so difficult, and how to account for uncertainty when making investment decisions.
  • How to accurately calculate the true costs of an investment, including costs that you may not even be aware of.
  • How to select the best ETF for each asset class.
  • How to compare the costs and other features of different ETFs.
  • How to select individual shares.
  • Calculating the number of shares needed for adequate diversification.
  • How to use systematic forecasting algorithms to adjust portfolio allocations.
  • How to cut trading costs through smart rebalancing strategies and execution tactics.

Robert Carver also explains how to blend assets with different levels of risk, and how to construct portfolios that suit the level of risk that the investor can cope with.

Smart Portfolios is detailed, comprehensive, and full of practical methods, rules of thumb and techniques, all fully explained with examples. It is intended for professional investors worldwide, including financial advisors, private bankers, wealth managers and institutional funds; as well as experienced private investors.


Michael W. Covel, Trend Following, 5th Edition: How to Make a Fortune in Bull, Bear and Black Swan Markets

Want to take the financial journey to a new investing philosophy that might very well affect the rest of your moneymaking life? No one can guarantee the yellow brick road, but Michael Covel promises the red pill will leave you wide awake.

Trend Following reveals the truth about a trading strategy that makes money in up, down, and surprise markets. By applying straightforward and repeatable rules, anyone can learn to make money in the markets—whether bull, bear, or black swan—by following the trend to the end when it bends. In this timely reboot of his bestselling classic, Michael Covel dives headfirst into trend following strategy to examine the risks, benefits, people, and systems. You'll hear from traders who have made millions, and learn from their successes and mistakes—insights you'll only find here. You'll learn the trend philosophy and how it has performed in booms, bubbles, panics, and crashes. Using incontrovertible data and overwhelming supporting evidence, with a direct connection to the foundations of behavioral finance, Covel takes you inside the core principles of trend following and shows everyone, from brand new trader to professional, how alpha gets pulled from the market.

Covel's newest edition has been revised and extended, with seven brand new interviews and research proof from his one-of-a-kind network. This is trend following for today's generation. If you're looking to go beyond passive index funds and trusting the Fed, this cutting-edge classic holds the keys to a weatherproof portfolio.

  • Meet great trend followers and learn their rules and philosophy of the game
  • Examine data to see how trend following excels when the you-know-what hits the fan
  • Understand trend trading, from behavioral economics to rules-based decision making to its lambasting of the efficient market theory
  • Learn trend trading philosophy and do it yourself or invest with a trend following fund

Trend following is not prediction, passive index investing, buy and hope, or any form of fundamental analysis. It utilizes concrete rules, or heuristics, to profit from a behavioral perspective. Trend Following is clear-cut, straightforward, and evidence based. If you're finally ready to profit in the markets, Trend Following is the definitive treatise for a complex world in constant chaos.


Aswath Damodaran, Narrative and Numbers: The Value of Stories in Business

How can a company that has never turned a profit have a multibillion dollar valuation? Why do some start-ups attract large investments while others do not? Aswath Damodaran, finance professor and experienced investor, argues that the power of story drives corporate value, adding substance to numbers and persuading even cautious investors to take risks. In business, there are the storytellers who spin compelling narratives and the number-crunchers who construct meaningful models and accounts. Both are essential to success, but only by combining the two, Damodaran argues, can a business deliver and sustain value.

Through a range of case studies, Narrative and Numbers describes how storytellers can better incorporate and narrate numbers and how number-crunchers can calculate more imaginative models that withstand scrutiny. Damodaran considers Uber's debut and how narrative is key to understanding different valuations. He investigates why Twitter and Facebook were valued in the billions of dollars at their public offerings, and why one (Twitter) has stagnated while the other (Facebook) has grown. Damodaran also looks at more established business models such as Apple and Amazon to demonstrate how a company's history can both enrich and constrain its narrative. And through Vale, a global Brazil-based mining company, he shows the influence of external narrative, and how country, commodity, and currency can shape a company's story. Narrative and Numbers reveals the benefits, challenges, and pitfalls of weaving narratives around numbers and how one can best test a story's plausibility.


Diana B. Henriques, A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History

Monday, October 19, 1987, was by far the worst day in Wall Street history. The market fell 22.6 percent – almost twice as bad as the worst day of 1929 – equal to a one-day loss of nearly 5,000 points today.

Black Monday was more than seven years in the making and threatened nearly every U.S. financial institution. Drawing on superlative archival research and dozens of original interviews Diana B. Henriques weaves a tale of missed opportunities, market delusions, and destructive actions that stretched from the “silver crisis” of 1980 to turf battles in Washington, a poisonous rivalry between the New York Stock Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, and the almost-fatal success of two California professors whose idea for reducing market risk spun terribly out of control. As the story hurtles forward, the players struggle to forestall a looming market meltdown and unexpected heroes step in to avert total disaster.

For thirty years, investors, regulators, and bankers have failed to heed the lessons of 1987, even as the same patterns have resurfaced, most spectacularly in the financial crisis of 2008. A First-Class Catastrophe offers a new way of looking not only at the past, but at our financial future as well.


Hari P. Krishnan, The Second Leg Down: Strategies for Profiting after a Market Sell-Off

The Second Leg Down offers practical approaches to profiting after a market event. Written by a specialist in global macro, volatility and hedging overlay strategies, this book provides in-depth insight into surviving in a volatile environment. Historical back tests and scenario diagrams illustrate a variety of strategies for offsetting portfolio risks with after-the-fact options hedging, and the discussion explores how a mixture of trend following and contrarian futures strategies can be beneficial. Without a rational analysis-based approach, investors often find themselves having to cut risk and buy protection just as options are at their most over-priced. This book provides practical strategies, expert analysis and the knowledge base to assist you in recovering your portfolio.

Hedging strategies are often presented as expensive and unnecessary, especially during a bull market. When equity indices and other unstable assets drop, they find themselves stuck – hedging is now at its most expensive, but it is imperative to hedge or face liquidation. This book shows you how to salvage the situation, with strategies backed by expert analysis.

  • Identify the right hedges during high volatility
  • Generate attractive risk-adjusted returns
  • Learn new strategies for offsetting risk
  • Know your options for when losses have already occurred

Imagine this scenario: you've incurred significant losses, you're approaching risk limits, you must cut risk immediately, yet slashing positions would damage the portfolio – what do you do? The Second Leg Down is your emergency hotline, with practical strategies for dire conditions.


Bill Martin, The Smart Financial Advisor: How financial advisors can thrive by embracing fintech and goals-based investing

Financial advisors stand at a crossroads. One path is grounded in traditional investing. Advisors who remain on this route face numerous hazards that impair their clients’ long-term wealth and endanger advisory viability. The other path requires practitioners to adapt by embracing technology and goals-based solutions.

Choosing the right road is vital for sustaining and growing advisory businesses in the years ahead.

Industry veteran and financial technology expert, Bill Martin, CFA, creatively explains how financial advisors can sidestep the seven major hazards their clients face in conventional investing by choosing the smarter path of goals-based investing. This rewarding journey shifts the focus of traditional investing from products and performance towards a collaborative, tech-enabled framework built on personalized advice. Goals-based investing redefines success in terms of achieving each client's unique needs, desires, and aspirations – an approach that clients overwhelmingly prefer and which, crucially, leads to better outcomes for clients and advisors.

The Smart Financial Advisor is a must-have guide for advisors who desire to differentiate and grow their practices amid commoditization, fee compression, and increasing regulatory requirements. Martin skillfully combines captivating stories, compelling research, and practical applications to show how you can embark on this path, engaging clients and improving their outcomes along the way.

By adopting the fintech and goals-based strategies within this book, not only will you learn the secrets to survive today’s industry challenges, but you will also discover how to truly thrive as a smart financial advisor!

Edward O. Thorp, A Man for All Markets: From Las Vegas to Wall Street, How I Beat the Dealer and the Market

A child of the Great Depression, legendary mathematician Edward O. Thorp invented card counting, proving the seemingly impossible: that you could beat the dealer at the blackjack table. As a result he launched a gambling renaissance. His remarkable success—and mathematically unassailable method—caused such an uproar that casinos altered the rules of the game to thwart him and the legions he inspired. They barred him from their premises, even put his life in jeopardy. Nonetheless, gambling was forever changed.

Thereafter, Thorp shifted his sights to “the biggest casino in the world”: Wall Street. Devising and then deploying mathematical formulas to beat the market, Thorp ushered in the era of quantitative finance we live in today. Along the way, the so-called godfather of the quants played bridge with Warren Buffett, crossed swords with a young Rudy Giuliani, detected the Bernie Madoff scheme, and, to beat the game of roulette, invented, with Claude Shannon, the world’s first wearable computer.

Here, for the first time, Thorp tells the story of what he did, how he did it, his passions and motivations, and the curiosity that has always driven him to disregard conventional wisdom and devise game-changing solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. An intellectual thrill ride, replete with practical wisdom that can guide us all in uncertain financial waters, A Man for All Markets is an instant classic—a book that challenges its readers to think logically about a seemingly irrational world.


Article by Brendan Jubin, Reading The Markets