Worthwhile reading for budding plutocrats and numerate investors alike.



Accessible if sometimes-turbulent portrait of “arguably the most successful trader in the history of modern finance.”

James Simons, a math professor, founded Renaissance Technologies in 1982 and has since leveraged a battery of other mathematicians and machines to earn more than $7 billion per year in market gains—a sum that, Wall Street Journal writer Zuckerman (The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters, 2013, etc.) notes, is greater than the annual revenue of Levi Strauss and Hyatt Hotels. The firm does this with a staff that’s markedly smaller than the usual investment house, all of them “quants” devoted to a scientific approach to playing the market. Whereas investors such as Warren Buffett followed a “value” strategy that, as the textbooks have it, “recommended buying when prices cheapened and taking money off the table when prices richened,” Simons—who had earned his wings developing algorithms to break Soviet codes in the Cold War—followed trends closely, amassing historical price information and hiring people devoted to “foraging and cleaning data the rest of the world cared little about." Data can be cooked, of course; Zuckerman writes that Simons was impressed by the figures a rising investment manager named Bernard Madoff was posting, though he pulled his funds when he came to suspect them well before Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme was exposed. Simons’ devotion to numbers and algorithms did not rule out gut instincts, as with the near-ruinous market crash of 1987, though, as Zuckerman notes, the quants did better than their nonquant counterparts—one reason why the quants now rule the market. Of more than passing interest are the liberal Simons’ dealings with partner Robert Mercer, who applied quant methods to politics and came up with the likes of Donald Trump and Steve Bannon, a decision that brought enough heat on the house to force Mercer’s resignation.

Worthwhile reading for budding plutocrats and numerate investors alike.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1798-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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