For the general reader, a full-blooded introduction to an arcane world.

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THE FUTURES

THE RISE OF THE SPECULATOR AND THE ORIGINS OF THE WORLD'S BIGGEST MARKETS

Forbes senior writer Lambert delivers a history of the birth and evolution of Chicago’s swashbuckling futures market.

The buying and selling of futures contracts—agreements to receive at a future date a specific quality and quantity of a given commodity for a fixed price—had its origins elsewhere, but the practice took hold in post–Civil War Chicago, the prairie city built for trade. The Irish-dominated Board of Trade opened with a focus on grain; an early version of what became the Jewish-dominated Mercantile Exchange followed in 1874, specializing in butter and eggs. Hedgers used futures to minimize risk; speculators sought profits in the interstices of fluctuating prices. Their maneuvering served a useful purpose, marking the direction of prices based on the current market conditions, but from the beginning farmers and merchants saw the traders as “unscrupulous gamblers,” rogues staffing a “filching machine.” Over time the futures market would grow well beyond its humble origins, expanding from exclusively agricultural products—soybeans, corn, cattle and pork bellies—to more esoteric goods and articles like foreign currencies, stock options and carbon credits. Although Chicago’s now-merged and much-copied exchange handles billions of dollars, the whiff of disrepute persists. Lambert charts this market’s many colorful twists and turns, the scandals and the triumphs, and devotes loving attention to a parade of outrageous risk-takers. She follows the market’s migration from the brawling trading pits to the computer age, from its status as a mere stockyard adjunct to today’s stand-alone, glass-tower imperiousness. Although she provides lucid explanations of how the market works and how the various money-making strategies collide, the charm of her fast-paced, informal history comes from the book’s animating insight: “Finance is like biology: Everything is intertwined.” Drawing from interviews, newspaper clippings and various histories, the author demonstrates that geography, past-practice and, above all, individual personalities matter mightily in the shaping of markets. The futures market appears to have been invented to prove her thesis.

For the general reader, a full-blooded introduction to an arcane world.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-465-01843-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2010

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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