Best Books on Wall Street

Best Books on Wall StreetPUBLISHED ON AUGUST 7, 2020 | 20 MIN READ

Best Books on Wall Street

THE LIST:

1. Why Wall Street Matters
2. A Man for All Markets
3. Circle of Friends
4. Flash Boys
5. Bull by the Horns
6. The Panic of 1907
7. The Big Short
8. Hedgehogging
9. Liar’s Poker
10. Den of Thieves
11. A Random Walk Down Wall Street
12. One Up on Wall Street
13. Barbarians at the Gate
14. Too Big to Fail
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1 – Why Wall Street Matters | By William Cohan

This brief, easy-to-read book argues for a concept that is very simple to grasp: Improving the incentives will be more effective in averting crises than regulations. Drawing on history to make his situation, author William Cohan urges readers to love Wall Street — which he admits isn’t really simple to accomplish following the 2008 debacle — and its valuable role in allocating funding. Cohan could have gone into more detail about how Wall Street firms fund companies that improve the lives of folks. Nonetheless, astute readers will probably find his points helpful and fascinating. The question is whether Cohan is correct or wrong: Why do innovations have the virtue he sees could they be the path ruin and risk?

Concepts you can expect to read in this book include; the flaws, greed, and inequality of the system of capitalism is the shorthand of “Wall Street;” not many people appreciate the true importance of what the financial sector does for the economy; Wall Street is the biggest reason why America leads in so many areas of business; the 2008 financial crisis produce many regulations that may be ineffective; the Dodd-Frank Act burdens many small community banks, and even why personal responsibility was assigned from Wall Street. 

Quotes from the book;

We need to return Wall Street to its days of prudent risk-taking, where the leaders of the firms are held personally accountable for their bad behavior or foolish risk-taking.”

“At the time [1934], separating investment banking from commercial banking was more akin to separating the yolk from the white; today, it would be like unscrambling an egg.”

“The new regulations have cleaned up certain excesses for now but have also made banks extremely reluctant to make loans.”

“It also makes no sense…to punish the economic prospects of the nation as a whole…creating new regulations that prevent banks from performing their fundamental and crucial role in greasing the economy.”

 


2 – A Man for All Markets | By Edward Thorp

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The book narrates an astounding true story of Edward Thorp, a mathematics professor who, through his card-counting skills, taught humanity how to beat the dealer using the generally mathematical methods. His remarkable success paved the way for a gambling renaissance which soon after influenced him to apply the same in Wall Street – “the biggest casino in the world.” In this narrative, Thorp reveals his passion and his strategy on formulating solutions to erratic problems. The story guides its readers to unconventional thinking for all uncertainties – financial or not. It is a plausible classic which excites practical wisdom and drives critical thinking.

Quotes from the book;

“Life is like reading a novel or running a marathon. It’s not so much about reaching a goal but rather about the journey itself and the experiences along the way”

“I also learned the value of withholding judgment until I could make a decision based on evidence.”

“I wondered how my research into the mathematical theory of a game might change my life. In the abstract, life is a mixture of chance and choice. Chance can be thought of as the cards you are dealt in life. Choice is how you play them.”

“Success on Wall Street was getting the most money. Success for us was having the best life.”

“In the abstract, life is a mixture of chance and choice. Chance can be thought of as the cards you are dealt in life. Choice is how you play them. I chose to investigate blackjack. As a result, chance offered me a new set of unexpected opportunities.”


3 – Circle of Friends | By Charles Gasparino

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Charles Gasparina uncovers important questions on the impact and damages insider trading inflicts on individual investors. In 2007, the “Perfect Hedge,” America’s most extensive insider trading investigations, inside the investigation consisted of a “circle of friends” based on some of the most respected Fortune 500 companies, hedge funds, and investment banks. The scandal embarked into a tale of deception. The Circle of Friends: The Massive Federal Crackdown on Insider Trading – and Why the Markets Always Work Against the Little Guy ravels the financial fraud in how prosecutors revealed a nest of corruption. This book is recommended for its in-depth reporting and professional narrative to educate the little investor on the inner-workings of inside information. 

In it, you will discover; how American law prohibits the profiting from an insider or nonpublic information when selling or buying securities; the US began an investigation, in 2007, revealing what is known as the “Perfect Hedge;” this investigation led to the conviction of more than 70 individuals; Cohen and Rajaratnam use a model called the “mosaic theory” for their robust returns;  investigators obtain evidence that for the mosaic theory to work it required inside information; Rajaratnam was convicted in 2011 for insider trading; Cohen was never indicted, and even learn that index funds among other passive investments have been outperforming hedge funds in recent time.

Quotes from the book;

The world’s oldest profession is said to be prostitution, but if you’re looking for the world’s oldest economic crime, insider trading has to be at the top of the list.”

“Based on the initial pieces of information they were receiving from informants and witnesses, investigators became convinced that a massive circle of friends existed on Wall Street.”

“Friends share information mostly because friends trust each other, whether it’s because of shared life experiences or because committing illegality creates bonds of its own.”

“No one who studies the markets and financial systems have any doubt that…they [those who threaten the economy] will repeat the same practices that led to the 2008 collapse.”


4 – Flash Boys | By Michael Lewis

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In an interesting manner, Michael Lewis reveals the criticisms on algorithmic trading, a computer-based program that theoretically speeds up profit generation to traders through the use of algorithms in high-frequency. The writing focuses on a former Royal Bank of Canada official, Brad Katsuyama, who was known to have fought against the mentioned controversial trading method. The personal journey with Katsuyama, as evidenced in some quoted conversations, have led to realizations on the subject’s complexity. This has consequently split its readers’ critical opinions. Regardless, Lewis has again written an enthralling tale that surely had all of Wall Street on their toes.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“Someone out there was using the fact that stock market orders arrived at different times at different exchanges to front-run orders from one market to another.”

“Every systemic market injustice arose from some loophole in a regulation created to correct some prior injustice.”

“The team Brad was assembling at RBC didn’t have all the pieces to the puzzle…but they [were] willing to talk openly on the subject.”

“The average size of IEX’s trades was by far the biggest of any stock exchange, public or private.”

“Dark pools were …private stock exchanges run by the big brokers…they were not required to reveal to the public what happened inside them…no one but the broker who ran it had any idea what was happening.”

 


5 – Bull by the Horns | By Sheila Bair

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Sheila Blair, a former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) chief, incites how the devastation rocked the world by deep-diving between Wall Street and Washington – the politics, the bankers, the regulators, and the lawmakers. Being a witness to this downfall, her candid writing has been otherwise commended by many as smart and strong. During those tough times, Blair was also acclaimed to have been one of the many public officials who relentlessly tried to restore the economy through financial reforms that are still being applied up to this day.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“Why should the mother of a soldier in Afghanistan or a policewoman making $50,000 a year have to take losses on their uninsured deposits while the FDIC bails out big banks?”

“Financially, morally and politically, we cannot afford to let the financial sector drive us into the ditch again.”

“The myth that large banks were less risky because they had diversified loan portfolios proved to be just that: a myth.”

Geithner “seldom engaged with me directly, the main exceptions being when he was advocating for Citi and needed my help.”

“Never again did I want to see the FDIC given the Hobson’s choice of bailing out a bank or ‘letting the system go down’.”


6 – The Panic of 1907 | By Robert Bruner and Sean Carr

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Many would agree that there are similarities between the 1907 American and European financial crisis and the 2008 financial crisis. Both were involved with immense credit and liquidity shortfalls which crippled economic giants and the effect rippled across the globe. In a focus to deepen our understanding of the first major financial collapse, authors Robert F. Bruner and Sean D. Carr carefully explain the occurrence of the 1907 Panic Crisis. Using a series of case studies, they perfectly articulate the timeline and facts on how it all started from Wall Street and ended up wreaking havoc in Europe’s financial economy.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“Most of the crises of the nineteenth century had been unfettered panics; 1907 was more limited in its devastation because of [J.P.] Morgan’s leadership of the collective effort.”

“If people will keep their money in the banks, everything will be all right.” [– Morgan]

“Let no man or woman selfishly lock their hoardings in private security, but let them bring forth their surplus and add it to the public exchequer…to relive the present famine in the money market.” [– Andrew Carnegie]

“Ironically, the Fed, one of the landmark achievements of the Progressive Era, was a child of the ‘money trust’ that the Progressives feared.”

“It is entirely possible that capital market conditions alone in the fall of 1907 would have been sufficient to precipitate a banking panic.”


7 – The Big Short | By Michael Lewis

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This book turned to film by Michael Lewis is a famous account of the 2008 financial crisis. Lewis uses a character-driven narrative to magnify a dark but compelling story about those who missed seeing the collapse, those who understood the picture, and those that we’re simply victims of it. Interestingly, the characters’ backgrounds almost relate to real-life, hence, it earned a mix of feedback.  Mortgage-backed securities, the financial instrument that triggered the burst of the housing bubble, was heavily discussed alongside Credit Default Swaps; the product used by the few victors who benefited from the downturn of the economy.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“Wall Street bond departments were increasingly the source of Wall Street profits [in part because] in the bond market it was still possible to make huge sums of money from the fear, the ignorance, of customers.”

“There were more morons than crooks, but the crooks were higher up.” 

Michael Burry “attributed his unusual powers of concentration to his lack of interest in human interaction…he was able to argue that basically everything that happened was caused, one way or another, by his fake left eye.” 

“There was effectively no way for an accountant assigned to audit a giant Wall Street firm to figure out whether it was making money or losing money.” 

“In the murky and curious period from early February to June 2007, the subprime mortgage market resembled a giant helium balloon, bound to earth by a dozen or so big Wall Street firms.”  


8 – Hedgehogging | By Barton Biggs

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In a rare opportunity with world-renowned author and hedge fund manager, Barton Biggs, the important role of hedge funds is explained in the world of Wall Street. He discusses its relevance and how to identify the best opportunities to earn profit from it amidst the treacherous financial jungle. Biggs claims that hedge funds are the financial instruments of the rich and wealthy as one will need to raise a substantial amount just to own one asset. He interestingly describes the field in a cold and romantic manner with examples of real Wall Street situations of unethical, competitive, and double-crossing maneuvers.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“The people who have built hedge-fund empires have always been domineering, self-confident, blood-and-biceps personalities.”

“I don’t believe for a second that superstar hedge-fund investors are in any way similar to the random winners of a national coin-flipping contest.”

“Something horrendous (can) happen, like 9/11…but you can’t manage performance money on that basis.”

“I don’t believe in…the supernatural, but there are forces in nature and life that are far beyond our understanding, our ken. There is the stock market for example, a dark, mysterious beast that reflects not just economics…but the most basic human emo”

“Prices and society gravitate around a central value and in the long run revert to the mean.”


9 – Liar’s Poker | By Michael Lewis

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Back in the 1980s, Silicon Valley was unheard of in the public eye, Wall Street was the dominant force of the financial sector. However, just a few decades ago, the United States experienced an unprecedented wealth boom. Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street is the chronicles of the rise and collapse of the Salomon Brothers in its aggressive expansion and decline. Lewis writes from a journalist’s perspective during this crazy period on Wall Street. The book is a historical snapshot of Wal Street. BiggerInvesting.com recommends this book to executives, students, businessmen, and readers alike.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“Making profits on Wall Street is a bit like eating the stuffing from a turkey. Some higher authority must first put the stuffing into the turkey.”

“Because the 41st floor was the chosen home of the firm’s most ambitious people…the men who worked there had a hunted look about them.”

“Year-end bonuses are not tied directly to one’s profitability, but rather to the perception of one’s value by Salomon’s compensation committee.”

“The worst thing a man can do with a telephone without breaking the law is to call someone he doesn’t know and try to sell that person something he doesn’t want.” 


10 – Den of Thieves | By James Stewart

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Den of Thieves is a classic account of insider trading during the 80s, also known as the greed decade. Author and award-winning journalist James Steward attempts to turn an account of this market manipulation that ultimately led to the 1987 crash. The book is written in such a way that it keeps you in suspense and turning the page. Although the villains Ivan Boesky and Michael faded away in the public light, their philosophical ideology still dominated the  Enrons, Tycos, and Adelphias. The BI team recommends this book as a must-read from the educational perspective to those who trust their careers or their savings in these markets.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“In ways large and small, legal and illegal, the ordinary discipline of a free market of arm’s-length buyers and sellers was undermined.”

More than any other single person, Milken had been behind the massive revaluation of stocks that had carried the Dow Jones average above 2,700.”

If ever there were people who believed themselves to be so rich and powerful as to be above the law, they were to be found in and around Wall Street in the mid-eighties.”

“Historians and philosophers will debate for years the question of whether, in the cases of Milken, Boesky, Siegel, Levine, and their allies, the punishments fit the crimes.”


11 – A Random Walk Down Wall Street | By Burton Malkiel

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This newest edition of Burton Malkiel’s discusses the unpredictable investment landscape. This completely revised and updated work was born soon after the last “dot.com bubble” of the early 2000s. It’s a reassuring guide to anyone who desires to start putting their eggs to baskets. Aside from the new chapter about “smart beta” funds, the latest fad of the financial investment industry, Malkiel also features relatable ideas on exchange-traded funds and the emerging markets’ potential investment opportunities. Finally, it elaborates on the perpetual complexity of derivatives. Indeed, this deserves the claim as the first book to read when building a portfolio.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“A biblical proverb states that ’in the multitude of counselors there is safety.’ The same can be said of investment.”

“Although stock prices do plummet, as they did so disastrously during October 1987 and again during the early 2000s, the overall return during the entire twentieth century was about 9% per year, including both dividends and capital gains.”

“It should be obvious by now that any truly repetitive and exploitable pattern that can be discovered in the stock market and can be arbitraged away will self-destruct.”

“Can you continue to expect a free lunch from international diversification? Many analysts think not. They feel that the globalization of the world economies has blunted the benefits of international diversification.”


12 – One Up on Wall Street | By Peter Lynch and John Rothchild

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This book, One Up on Wall Street: How to Use What You Already Know to Make Money in the Market is a classic for personal investment. Much of the content is pre-bubble 1989 but offers haunting warnings about inflated price-to-earnings ratios on stocks. The authors give warnings to beginning investors.

In this book, you’ll learn; never ever invest in a stock because someone tells you it will be the next Microsoft; before buying anything you need to know what type of investor you are; companies fall into six categories, so categorize your investment decisions; don’t invest in stocks, invest in companies; the best way to find good stock is to study the companies.

Quotes from Carnegie;

The basic story remains simple and never-ending. Stocks aren’t lottery tickets. There’s a company attached to every share.”

“It’s impossible to distinguish cod from shrimp when your mutual find has lost the equivalent of the GNP of a small, seagoing nation.”

“This book was written to offer encouragement and basic information to the individual investor.”


13 – Barbarians at the Gate | By Bryan Burrough and John Helyar

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Greed, greed, and more greed bring never-ending reckless behavior. The Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco is a classic read as if the book is written today. The author reports on money-hungry CEO Ross Johson and Henry Kravis who is a power-hungry financier. Journalist Bryan Burrough and John Helyar capture behind the scenes of the deal of the decade. The BI team recommends this book to those seeking suspenseful, page-turning insights behind the deal of the decade.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“He felt like the man who entered the casino in a tuxedo one night and emerged the next morning in rags. Far worse, Johnson realized, he had lost all control of his fate.”

“Johnson remains a marvel at putting a salesman’s sheen on his actions and casting a blind man’s eye on their messy consequences.” 

“Reynolds Tobacco churned out $1 billion a year in cash, enough to fund the wildest schemes and cover the worst mistakes.”

“LBOs became a viable alternative in every takeover situation…because of they…promise[ed] operating autonomy and vast riches.”


14 – Too Big to Fail | By Andrew Ross Sorkin

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New York Times columnist, Andrew Ross Sorkin delivers an unrestrictive account of the most devastating financial breakdown of the 21st century, the burst of the housing bubble in 2008. With privileged access inside Wall Street, Sorkin leveraged on identifying the involved key players and orchestrated a heart-stopping narrative of one of the most turbulent moments in financial history. He manifested the details in the timeline while recounting the culprit that motivated the powerful people in business and politics to manipulate the world economy – ego and greed. Sorkin beautifully tied the contributions of each sectors’ failures to conclude a manic meltdown.

Quotes from Carnegie;

“In a period of less than 18 months, Wall Street had gone from celebrating its most profitable age to finding itself on the brink of an epochal devastation.”

“Fixed-income trading was nothing like Fuld and Gregory knew in their day: Banks were creating increasingly complex products many levels removed from the underlying asset.”

“Cassandras in both business and academia…warned that all this financial engineering would end badly.”

“Hank Paulson believed he was fighting the good fight…to save the economic system, but for his efforts he was being branded as little less than an enemy…to the American way of life.”

“Eighty-five billion dollars was more than the annual budget of Singapore and Taiwan combined; who could…understand a figure of that size.”


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Books Best Books on Wall Street – Summaries – Quotes