Bloomberg News

Jobs Belittles ‘Bozos,’ Quant Models Fail in Top Business Books

November 09, 2011

Compiled by James Pressley

Oct. 29 (Bloomberg) -- Steve Jobs belittles his “bozo” colleagues, Barack Obama falls for Lawrence Summers, and quant Emanuel Derman deplores Wall Street’s “hypocrisies” in three of our favorite business books so far this year. Here’s a list of recommended titles.

“Adapt” by Tim Harford (Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Little, Brown). The Undercover Economist explains why “success always starts with failure.”

“Beyond Mechanical Markets” by Roman Frydman and Michael D. Goldberg (Princeton). A groundbreaking look at how to tame asset booms and busts.

“Boomerang” by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane/Norton). The author of “Liar’s Poker” and “The Big Short” returns with a collection of writings on his journeys through “the New Third World,” from Iceland and Ireland to California.

“Civilization” by Niall Ferguson (Allen Lane). The prolific Harvard historian explains how the West came to dominate the globe.

“Confidence Men” by Ron Suskind (Harper). An inside look at how Barack Obama came under the spell of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, “two men whose actions had contributed to the very financial disaster they were hired to solve.”

“Exorbitant Privilege” by Barry Eichengreen (Oxford). A brisk primer on the dollar’s role as the dominant international currency.

“Extreme Money” by Satyajit Das (FT Press). An idiosyncratic yet withering analysis of how 30 years of financial alchemy and excessive credit plunged us into the Great Recession.

“Fatal Risk” by Roddy Boyd (Wiley). An engaging reconstruction of how AIG came unstuck.

“The Futures” by Emily Lambert (Basic). A bouncy jaunt through the history of Chicago’s trading pits.

“Grand Pursuit” by Sylvia Nasar (Fourth Estate/Simon & Schuster). An absorbing narrative history of economists -- from Beatrice Webb to John Maynard Keynes -- who pursued the idea that mankind could control its destiny.

“Greece’s ‘Odious’ Debt” by Jason Manolopoulos (Anthem Press). A hedge-fund manager explains how his Greek compatriots gambled away their future -- and how German and French bankers egged them on. Who’s bailing out whom?

“Guaranteed to Fail” by Viral V. Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh and Lawrence J. White (Princeton). Four professors at New York University’s Stern School of Business explain how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got so big and why we must fix them.

“The Hare With Amber Eyes” by Edmund de Waal (Chatto & Windus/Farrar, Straus & Giroux): This meditative history of the once mighty Ephrussi trading and banking family defies literary pigeonholes. Though not a business book per se, it holds deep lessons about the creation and destruction of wealth.

“The Haves and the Have-Nots” by Branko Milanovic (Basic). The World Bank economist presents “a brief and idiosyncratic history” of inequality, from ancient Rome to contemporary London.

“How the West Was Lost” by Dambisa Moyo (Allen Lane/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux). A reasoned look at how the world’s most-advanced nations are squandering their economic lead.

“Idea Man” by Paul Allen (Portfolio/Penguin). This memoir by Microsoft’s co-founder offers a fascinating look at what it took to build the software behemoth.

“Love and Capital” by Mary Gabriel (Little, Brown). An exemplary biography of Karl and Jenny Marx and their children.

“Models.Behaving.Badly” by Emanuel Derman (Free Press/ Wiley-Blackwell). The former head of quantitative finance at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. explores why models failed during the mortgage meltdown and why modelers must use them more wisely.

“Money and Power” by William D. Cohan (Doubleday). The sometimes “schizophrenic” behavior of Goldman Sachs comes into focus in this history by the author of “House of Cards” and “The Last Tycoons.”

“The New Lombard Street” by Perry Mehrling (Princeton). A cogent analysis of how the financial crisis turned the Federal Reserve into America’s “dealer of last resort.”

“Oil’s Endless Bid” by Dan Dicker (Wiley). Petroleum prices have gone crazy, and a large share of the blame belongs to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and other banks, argues this Nymex trader.

“The Price of Everything” by Eduardo Porter (Portfolio/ Heinemann). An energetic tour of how prices work, from cheap sperm to $4,731 printer ink.

“Punching Out” by Paul Clemens (Doubleday). A blackly comic journal of what happens after a U.S. factory shuts down.

“The Quest” by Daniel Yergin (Allen Lane/Penguin Press). The energy economist who brought us “The Prize” sets out to debunk peak oil theory.

“Reckless Endangerment” by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (Times Books). A thoughtful contribution to the debate on whether Fannie Mae really was “ground zero” in the subprime- mortgage explosion, as some critics argue.

“Red Capitalism” by Carl E. Walter and Fraser J.T. Howie (Wiley). An eye-opening look at how Communist Party bosses control China’s economy.

“Spousonomics” by Paula Szuchman and Jenny Anderson (Random House/Bantam). A geeky guide to finding marital bliss through economics.

“Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster). A memorable biography of the brilliant and maddening man who revolutionized the way we work and play.

“Street Freak” by Jared Dillian (Touchstone). A former trader at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. describes his battle to survive and thrive in a business that drove him over the edge.

“Ugly Beauty” by Ruth Brandon (Harper). An incisive history of cosmetics tycoon Helena Rubinstein and Eugene Schueller, the founder of L’Oreal SA.

(James Pressley is a book critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

--Editors: Mark Beech, Jim Ruane.

To contact the writer on the story: James Pressley in Brussels at jpressley@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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