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Benjamin Graham: The Memoirs of the Dean of Wall Street [Hardcover]

Benjamin Graham , Warren Buffett
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Sep 1996
When Benjamin Graham died at 82, he was one of the great legends of Wall Street: brilliant, succesful, ethical-the man who invented the discipline of security analysis. Time has only enhanced his reputation, with disciples such as billionaire investor Warren Buffet's continuing to praise Graham and crediting his work in their own successes. Now, 20 years after his death, his memoirs are reaching the public at last. Graham's story is a hugely satisfying chronicle of one of the richest and most eventful lives of the century. Here is a life that will captivate Wall Streeters and history buffs alike. Graham recounts his immigrant childhood in old New York-his excellent education in the city's public schools and on scholarship at Columbia University-the first crucial deal in his professional life-the devastating effects of the Crash of '29-and the tactics that helped him and his clients survive the Depression. Graham's fascinating account also encompasses his bold efforts at currency reform-his involvement with such towering figures as FDR, Churchill, Eisenhower, and Baruch-and looks at how success took its toll on his marriage and family life.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 351 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Inc.,US (1 Sep 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0070242690
  • ISBN-13: 978-0070242692
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is a pure biography 2 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book after reading Roger Lowenstein's book 'Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist' (1996) to read on value investing. Unfortunately, this book covers very little about techniques. And I mean VERY little.
If you want to get to know the person Graham is, get this book. You can skip this book and still produce superior investment returns (this, known as rational allocation of capital). For value investing, read Intelligent Investor, by Ben Graham.
This book gets 3 stars bcoz it serves its purpose as a biography but at the same time managed to discourage me from spending time finishing it, despite my passion for Graham's investment principles.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the dean of Wallstreet 14 Dec 2001
By A. Simotas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The book is very appropriately titled. The story is told directly by Ben, and it covers his life from his family when his father passed away to his education at Columbia after losing his scholarship the first time.
Ben was a colorful person, and reading an autobiography like this allows the reader to see the paths a great person chose in life to really become what we remember him for.
Of course, the fact the Warren Buffet was his best student and biggest advocate was probably the reason I picked the book up in the first place, but after reading it, I discovered the Ben was wise in more than just Wallstreet. My favorite wisdom derived from Ben is on the subject of sex and relationships, as he had so many of the latter while becoming the great investor that we first associate with him.
I feel that I learned skills that will help me grow to be wiser by reading his bio. I definitely suggest the book to anyone who is interested in not only Ben's life but in contemplating how to improve his or her own.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read! 6 Sep 2001
By Rolf Dobelli - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The Dean of Wall Street confesses. That would be a great lead, except that Benjamin Graham has little to confess. Rather, Graham, considered the father of modern security analysis, tells us about his life, career, and his intellectual passions. He shares his thoughts about a range of issues, and about his experiences. For instance, did you know that he valued his intellectual pursuits more than making money? Or that he was a Broadway playwright? These memoirs are more concerned with Graham's story than with his investment techniques. We [...] recommend this book to those who want to learn more about Ben Graham, the man. It is not for those who want to learn more about Ben Graham, the founder of value investing.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about Ben Graham, the man 28 April 2008
By Cheng Eng Aun - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book concerns Benjamin Graham, the man (well, he wrote it). There has been virtually no mention about investment principles other than his career and some corporate battles. However, I like the book because I wanted to find out more about the man who was arguably the greatest original thinker in security analysis and investment. I'll try to highlight below some points that I find interesting.

Ben explores his childhood and the difficulty brought about by the death of his father, and the "dignified" manner which his family conducts itself despite the limited circumstances. You can certainly sense that he is industrious and smart. If you read The Intelligent Investor: The Definitive Book on Value Investing. A Book of Practical Counsel (Revised Edition), the "Is Mrs Grossbaum worth five dollars" incident refers to this period of life.

According to him, his decision of calling Wall Street as his career was highly unorthodox at the time - no college men would ever go there then (nice contrast with today's environment!). He quickly rise through the ranks and before long is managing other people's money - though with some painful experience. Nothing is as painful as the 1929 crash though, but that might even be a blessing in disguise - Security Analysis: The Classic 1934 Edition was published in 1934!

Ben certainly has a sense of irony, as noted by reviews elsewhere and I would quote a section here: "I had applied myself diligently to reading the standard textbook on the subject [bond], The Principles of Bond Investment, by Lawrence Chamberlain, a ponderous tome in every sense. (How could I have suspected then that a textbook of mine would one day supplant Chamberlain's throughout the country?)"

And I do derive consolation from the fact that one does not have to be good at everything to be a good investor - Ben does has his dose of shortcomings as well! :P Well, "Let me describe my first extramarital affair in the soberest fashion" is certainly quite an impressive introduction! That is not to say that he is someone who is blatantly "colorful" and seeks to fulfill his desire as an end in itself. His reading of the classics and philosophy earlier in his life might have influenced him. He did realize rather late in his life that he is "humane but not human", that "love not as *an* experience of life, but *the* experience of life", and that he would have to be a little more humble and stop regarding himself as the only worthy companion of himself.

As you can see Ben the man is just as interesting as Ben the investor-teacher, and I believe it would be an interesting read to a large group of people. Sadly, it is out of print; I am fortunate that I obtained a pristine used copy at a reasonable price. Nowadays the book can fetch a very high offer price.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog 20 Jan 2013
By David Merkel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, but it is not a book on investing. Here is my rough breakdown of the book:

40% Ben Graham's childhood
30% Early work experience up until the Great Depression
10% His personal life with family and others.
10% His late-Depression successes in investing up to 1940.
10% His efforts as a playwright and as an amateur economist.

So, here's my biggest gripe about the book: in many ways, Ben Graham's biggest days as an investor -- his greatest times of success in the 1940s & 1950s don't get mentioned at all. I learned more of what he was like in that era from reading Alice Schroeder's The Snowball.

Should this surprise us? No. Ben Graham wanted to live the good life in modern terms. From his time as a youth, he was hard-working, growing up amid poverty, and he never wanted to be poor as an adult.

He was a very bright guy on many topics. He was not only studied in the humanities (which he loved more), he was exceptionally good at math. The book does not describe him in these words, but he was the first hedge fund manager, and the first quantitative investor.

What made Graham a lot of money was realizing that convertible bonds and preferred stocks carried a valuable option that was often undervalued, and so he would buy the convertible security and short common against it. Strategies like this, plus activist investing, where he uncovered information advantages on undervalued stocks allowed him to become wealthy.

And that was enough for him. Unlike his more focused protege, Warren Buffett, once the game got too tough, and a pleasant retirement was attractive, he trotted into the sunset, with modest contact with his former friends in investing.

The book does not describe his time teaching at Columbia, nor any of the great investors that he influenced. Ben Graham was interested in investing, but he was more interested in the humanities, and generally having a happy time. Thus, if you read this book, realize that it is about a slice of the life of Ben Graham. The first half of his life comes in great detail. The last half of his life comes almost not at all.

But this is not an autobiography, it is a memoir. As such, Graham tells us what he wants to tell us, and leaves the rest unsaid. He tells us a little about his thoughts on marital infidelity, but does not tell us how his ending companion ended up being his deceased son's wife.

All that said, we get what Graham wanted to reveal to us. Janet Lowe's book on his life is more comprehensive on his later days... even Alice Schroeder gives us more on his later life by accident of covering Buffett.

In summary: this isn't primarily a book on investing. It is a book on the thinking of one very bright man who invested and did well, and used the freedom that money brought for his own ends, both for good and for bad.

Quibbles

Already expressed.

Who would benefit from this book: If you want to know the early life of Ben Graham, this is a great book. Beyond that, you will be disappointed.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming autobio by a brilliant man with a diverse education and an eloquent tongue. 19 Jun 2010
By Kay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've read Securities Analysis front to back (yea, I know... I'm a devoted fan) and The Intelligent Investor, among several other books on corporate business valuation - just to set my credentials at the top.

And I have to say, this is one of the most fun I've had reading a book in a while. While you may think Graham is horribly dry in his investment books--with his Victorian and impersonal English--here he does an excellent job at writing an entertaining narrative of his life. I actually found myself laughing-out-loud pretty hard at some of the lines in it.

The 30-page introduction by Seymour Chatman is also well-written. It does a good job of summarizing and highlighting the book. I'd recommend you also read it.

Even if you don't care about Graham, you can treat the book as an entertaining piece of fiction, if you like. The book is that much fun and the stories contained are sufficiently interesting by their own merit to keep any reader laughing, sobbing, and happily eager to read until the conclusion.

There is no book preview on amazon, so I will use this review to explain the general contents of the book:
Starting page - Chapter title
vii - Introduction by Seymour Chatman (roughly 30 pages long)
1 - Childhood in New York
19 - Family Tragedies and My Mother's Perseverance
37 - At Public School
55 - High School Days: Brooklyn and the Bronx
73 - The Farmhand and The Mechanic
93 - The College Student
123 - My Career Begins
141 - Early Years in Wall Street
163 - The Beginnings of Real Success
185 - The Great Bull Market of the 1920s: I Become a Near Millionaire
199 - The Northern Pipeline Contest
217 - Family and Other Affairs
247 - The Midpoint of Life's Way: The Deluge Begins
267 - The Road Back, 1933-1940
279 - My "Career" as a Playwright
293 - The Commodity Reserve Currency Plan
309 - Epilogue: Benjamin Graham's Self-Portrait at Sixty-Three and his Eightieth Birthday Speech
The post script contains:
317 - Chronology
327 - Notes
337 - Bibliography of Writings by and about Benjamin Graham
343 - Index

You will see from the chapter list that this book contains NO investment advice. Please read any edition of "Securities Analysis" (except the 5th edition is not co-authored by Graham, but written exclusively by Dodd and a few other people) and "The Intelligent Investor" for Graham's counsel and instruction on investment analysis.
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