Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book Review: Diary of a Very Bad Year

Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager

Confession of a semi-anonymous stock trader: I don't read much in the way of non-fiction and especially not finance non-fiction.

But this small book came to my attention from the good, smart people at n+1, a literary magazine that I've been subscribing to for some years (and sometimes even reading!).

They published a few interviews with an anonymous hedge fund manager (HFM) in the magazine and on their website as the financial crisis was just unfolding and it was pretty interesting, if as much for the context as the content.  The HFM was charming, accessible, and really quite inciteful.  Also, it was kind of fun to watch Keith Gessen try and figure out what HFM was talking about.

Well I guess the response must have been good because Gessen kept going back and eventually gather enough interview content to compile them into a fairly sturdy book.

It was fun to read partly because, on purpose, I haven't read much about the crisis, and it turns out I'd forgotten a lot of the more ridiculous things that happened.  More importantly, I'd forgotten how scared we all were.

But beyond the actual story, which is familiar enough to anyone who reads the papers over the last 3 years, what was interesting about the book was just how articulate, and how clear-thinking HFM was in spoken-word interviews.  His ability to explain reasonably complex issues in really simple, interesting terms was amazing.

I can't quite recommend the book to everyone because ultimately it's still pretty esoteric in topic - a bond manager talking about the bond & private loan market during the most dangerous time to be a bond manager in the last century. But to anyone who has an interest in the mind of a man who is extremely well paid to think faster and further than his competitors, this is probably a good way to spend 10 subway rides.


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