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3.4 out of 5 stars
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3.4 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2008
On finding this book as similar to things that I had previously read- I felt it was right up my street with regard to my interests and the suchlike- combining some of my favourite topics. I was not to be dissapointed, an interesting story, combining personal anecdotes about how even the most clever person cannot second guess the power of the stock market makes this an unmissable read for anyone interested in the world around them.

After the slightly slow start and repetitive moments at times- this book really gets started and moves into full swing. Easy explainations for those with no previous knowledge and references for those with makes it great for all levels. Whilst I felt I may have heard some of this before I could not put it down and it left me wanting to know more about the world around me.
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on 18 July 2004
This is an excellent book. I notice that some of the reviewers on the Amazon US site were a little critical - I suspect that they misunderstood what the book was about before they bought it.
Just to clarify, this book is not a 'Fail-safe Share Dealing' book. In fact, at no point does the book even suggest which strategies may be the best - it picks holes in them all.
Instead, the book provides an introduction to share trading in a light-hearted style. Starting with the psychology of investors, it moves on to share evaluation techniques like examining 'fundamentals'. At the end it moves on to the mathematical techniques used by some traders.
Mostly philosophical, it does contain some maths (probably anyone with A-level/1st year undergrad maths will have no trouble with it). A witty, insightful and entertaining book.
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on 9 July 2007
This is a very poor book. Its not clear who the intended audience was meant to be. Its too basic for any market particpant and the explanation of market statsitics is not clear enough for any lay investors. The rest of the text is a confusing explanation of why the autor invested and then stayed invested in Worldcom and lost money. Its difficult to relate the quotes from the press to this book. If it was meant to be amusing then it missed by a mile.
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on 29 May 2005
I was lured into this book by the well-written cover blurb, but sadly that was the best thing about the book. It promises to be an examination of the mathematics of markets, but the analysis is absurdly shallow. Paulos devotes pages to such topics as compound interest, which is presumably well understood by most school children - he never gets much deeper.
The book is actually reasonably entertaining, with some interesting little mathematical paradoxes and anecdotes, but overall it is poorly written and unfocused. At one point Paulos essentially admits he wrote the book to try and recoup his losses on the market. The feeling that the author is dashing off the book to make money is hard to shake.
The book might be a good introduction for someone completely new to the stock market, however, the extremely shallow treatment will frustrate anyone looking for more.
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on 10 October 2004
The author is no doubt a great mathematician. But in reading this book I couldn't avoid to remember a film about playing poker by Matt Damon and John Malkovich. There is well shown how, when one knows well the principles of the play, and there aren't many, winning in poker is a question of human psychology and knowledge. John Allen Paulos knows all calculus necessary to play in stock market but he hasn't the instinct of a poker player or a gambler, and I think stock market has much, very much of that. Furthermore when he lets himself to play his intuition and makes a choice for WorldCom as he thinks is a modern business his instinct fails.
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on 31 October 2015
In his book, Paulos's approach to stock markets, human belief and the mathematics of decision is refreshingly different. To the novice and the initiated alike, the book offers a well-informed, yet unambiguously presented, account of how we as investors reason the way we do and a solid attempt to explore why. It is a rather friendly introduction to market movements as constructs of human expectation, our perceptions and misperceptions of probability and often our conviction for specific outcomes, mostly grounded on raw belief; While written 12 years ago, Paulos's work is of clear historical significance; it is a clear introduction to markets' primordial laws and paradoxes that mathematics make quite clear to the one who cares to notice, and must be read and viewed in the context of the booms and busts, crises and panics that occurred since modern-time markets.
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on 19 June 2005
This book seems to have dissappointed a few reviewers; I suspect that some expected a conclusion that helped them play the markets and others, a sophisticated algorithim to explain market behaviour. The book offers neither but is interesting and fun to read which is no mean feat when the subject matter is a rather dry topic.
There are many books about the stock market but few that I enjoyed as much.
I also recommend Richard Thaler on Behavioural Finance, Taleb on Hedging and Dot Con on the Internet bubble. Christopher Fildes is always worth a read too.
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on 2 November 2004
A complete waste of my time and money. The best thing about this book are its title and back cover. Those pushed me to buy it, but just about every page in between has nothing to do with what the book is supposed to be about.
The book and the back cover lead you to believe that this is a book about a mathematician that, obviously, uses complicated mathematical models (chaos theory, neural networks, nonlinear differential equations passed through my mind) to invest in the market. No such luck, Joe. This is the story of a guy that bought ONE (yes, one!!!) stock and lost his shirt on it. And wait, he didn't buy it because of the signal provided by any mathematical model. He did it, over and over, for all the same silly reasons that many investors bought technology stocks in the late '90s. The guy makes every possible silly mistake you can imagine. But the mistakes are so silly you can't even learn from them.
And one more thing. Even about that one stock, don't expect to learn anything about. My rough guess is that the book discusses this stock purchase in less than one page out of each 20. The silly story is told at the very beginning, and the stock is mentioned in a paragraph here and another there, but the book is not at all about that. Really, it was very disappointing. This guy discussing things that have to do with finance (and that are probably marginally interesting for completely unaware readers) but not at all about "playing the market," let alone with mathematical models. I didn't buy this book so this guy could explain to me the benefits of diversification, or how to calculate the risk of a two-stock portfolio. And yet, he discusses that and many similar issues, which have nothing to do with the topic of the book.
In short, stay way clear from this book. The issues discussed in it, are much better covered in many other books. And the issues it is supposed to discuss, it simply doesn't.
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If you would like an objective view of the stock market, are comfortable with math and enjoy a little irreverence in your investment reading, you will love this book. The material is easily accessible for anyone who finds algebra not too taxing. Professor Paulos minimizes the formulas for you by using anecdotes, simple brain teasers and practical examples instead.
What makes the book delightful is his self-effacing sense of humor. I cannot remember reading another book in which a writer is as candid and funny about his own failings as an investor. Only Andy Tobias comes anywhere close. The book's running joke is the professor's disastrous obsession with buying WorldCom stock using borrowed money before it became apparent that the company's reported earnings had more to do with wishful thinking than reality. It is this example that makes the book also insightful for the reader because it shows how easily our emotions and instincts can lead us astray, even when we understand as much about the stock market as Professor Paulos does.
I have read dozens of stock market books that have attempted to explain the "numbers" aspect of stock-market investing. None of them covered as much ground or did so as succinctly as this book does. I was very impressed by the depth of reading that this book reflects. Although it is not an academic book, the rigor is impressive.
The basic point is that the stock market is a lot more complicated than anyone can hope to understand, and likely to be more volatile than almost anyone will be comfortable with. Professor Paulos provides potential remedies for both (index investing, diversifying active portfolios, and using derivatives as insurance against large risks).
One of the many brilliant math examples shows how some games cannot be won with "success" strategies, but if you can combine a certain two "failure" strategies you will be a guaranteed success. With that wonderful point, the idea of being a contrarian was better expressed than in anything else I have read on the subject.
By inserting himself in the book through the WorldCom example, Professor Paulos powerfully introduces the element of individual and market psychology. Although he is neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, the book abounds with material about the psychology of how the market works and why investors make mistakes. To me, the ultimate lesson here was that one's stock market approach has to be one that fits emotionally well . . . or you will never execute it successfully.
Ultimately, successful active investing requires you to correctly pick what everyone else will find irresistible not too long before that compulsion hits them. I came away, once again, delighted that index fund investing is available as a sure-fired way to outperform more than 90 percent of all professional portfolio managers while sleeping soundly at night.
After you finish enjoying the book, I suggest that you also think about where else you commit your financial resources in large measure more due to your emotions than to your sense of how to calculate an advantage. How could you change your approach in that other area to be more emotionally and financially rewarding?
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on 1 September 2016
Probably should be titled "A mathematician that makes silly bets on the market during the dotcom boom and lost a lot of money..".

He then goes on to blame volatility and randomness for these bets. Wasn't a great read.
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