Exquisitely revealing and written with real polish: a first-class account.




A history of the modern stock market, detailing its transmogrification from a “gambling hell” run by speculators and cronies to a rational, sophisticated exchange open to all.

Though Wall Street was a stock market as far back as the 1600s, former Goldman Sachs Vice President Smith begins his evolutionary history in 1901, the year J.P. Morgan put US Steel on the market. Even after 300 years, the market was still very much an insider’s game: scandal-ridden, wracked by periodic bouts of speculative excess, and lorded over by imperious figures who considered themselves above any law. The author shrewdly balances terrific biographical vignettes of such market figures as Morgan, Charles Dow, and Edward H. Harriman (the man who never met a crash he didn’t like) with economic theory and market approaches. He manages to chart the great currents that surged through the market, from 1901 (when the stock market was a “battlefield on which highly personalized conflicts between financial titans such as Hill, Harriman, and Morgan, as well as dozens of lesser combatants, were played out”) to the current era (in which nearly half of all Americans own stocks). Along the way, he does a good job of reviewing the 1929 crash (and uncoupling it from the subsequent Depression), detailing government interventions (such as the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934) in the market, chronicling the rise (largely through Charles Merrill) of the middle-class investor, introducing Harry Markowitz and the concept of portfolio covariance, debunking the notion that JFK caused the 1962 market gasp (through his heavy-handed interference in the steel industry), and poking a finger in the eye of go-go fund managers. Volatility adjustment, generally accepted accounting standards, and price/earnings ratios have a sensible place in the story, and Smith is savvy enough to admit that much of the movement of the stock market (particularly the panics and crashes) remain enigmas.

Exquisitely revealing and written with real polish: a first-class account.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-28177-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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