Saturday, February 20, 2010

What I've Been Reading

I enjoy good memoirs. At their best, they can give you a sense of what it would be like to lead a different life, to walk in another's shoes. Political memoirs are usually a disappointment, as the writers typically have an agenda, such as establishing a place in history or angling for the next job.  They seem more like spin than truthful self-assessment.  Memoirs by nerdy academics, rare as they are, are among my favorite, in part because I can easily see myself in them and in part because the authors are often brutally honest.

All this is a prelude to a book recommendation: My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance, by Emanuel Derman. I have never been a physicist or worked on Wall Street, but this book gives a good sense of what both career paths are like.

The book was written, by the way, before the recent financial crisis. As a result, one does not get a sense of how the author would put recent events into perspective. But by the end of the book, the author is skeptical enough about the use and abuse of financial models that I suspect he would not be terribly surprised when they went awry.