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Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager Paperback – June 22, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Expanding on a 2007 interview in the literary magazine n+1, editor and interviewer Gessen draws together two years' worth of interviews with a despairing anonymous hedge fund manager. HFM, as Gessen calls him, didn't go to business school or major in economics, but has been working successfully in hedge funds for over a decade. With some context provided by Gessen, HFM schools readers in the stories behind the death of Bear Stearns, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the plunging dollar, the bailouts, the Madoff scandal, and, finally, the upswing. Though it's interesting to have a personal take on the tumultuous past two years—and HFM ends the interviews when the stress finally drives him to take a semisabbatical—the decision to tell this story in an interview format is tricky and ultimately unsuccessful; the choppy transcription format distances readers from the ideas at hand, and the points lose their punch. Fans of the original article will find this expansion compelling, but other readers curious about the factors behind the crash will do better elsewhere. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This book is a series of interviews with an anonymous hedge-fund manager (HFM) by the co-editor of a literary magazine (who admits to being ill-informed on finance); he sets out to understand what is happening on Wall Street. The HFM offers a brilliant financial professional's view of the economic situation in real time, from September 2007, when problems in financial markets began to surface, until late summer 2009, when the financial meltdown generally subsided and the financial community went back, in HFM's view, to business as usual. With definitions of financial terms and products, and explanations of domestic and global issues as they occur, HFM draws from his decade of nonstop work as a hedge-fund manager to educate the interviewer and us as the financial crisis unfolds. This is a great read. The interviews are edited in a readily understandable manner and will provide a thoughtful perspective for a wide range of library patrons who want to learn about the recent financial debacle. --Mary Whaley

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061965308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061965302
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #727,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Neurasthenic VINE VOICE on July 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book far surpasses the expectations set by its simple premise -- a series of interviews of an unnamed hedge fund manager who specialized in trading emerging market debt through the financial crisis of 2008. No secrets are revealed about the inner workings of the global financial system, and the factual content of the book can be found elsewhere. This book is great not because it explains a credit crunch, or how to trade bonds or manage portfolio risk (it doesn't even attempt to do these latter things), but because it provides an intelligent, funny, highly opinionated synthesis of far-reaching finance, economics, and even philosophy. Many readers will disagree with points made by the anonymous hedge fund manager who holds court in these pages, but I think any reader would benefit from the internal dialog with him we have while reading.

The end of the book, after the crisis is over, is not as compelling as the first part of the text. However, even the first 100 pages more than justifies the cost of the book and the time spent reading it.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Melissa Tang on July 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
I don't follow the news very much, just episodes of Daily Show that let me know the general state of the world. So I knew next to nothing about the causes and implications of the financial meltdown or the rationale of the bailout. I picked this book up because I liked the interview format and thought I could learn a little. It turned out to be an amazing read: it was fairly easy to understand, both the interviewer and interviewee were likable, and it gave me a lot of insight into the financial world. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about what happened with the economy, but find other, denser books too daunting.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C. Wagner on August 29, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If I would have known that this was a book of edited transcripts of interviews I probably wouldn't have bought it; but I didn't and I did and I'm glad I did. Unlike some of the other reviewers, I have read a lot about the financial crisis but this book is a unique look at that crisis from the heart and mind of an insider who lived through it. Anonymous is not cigar chomping Neanderthal, Wall Street aristocrat or a nerdy math wizard. He is sort of a really smart everyman; a guy you'd like to have a beer with. So buy this book get in the hammock with a beer and enjoy your weekend.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By titan_UAV on July 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
This was a great book. Very informative from the perspective of a seemingly objective financial expert. It's a long interview conducted over a few years, so it makes it very easy to read. With the amount of info conveyed, as a non-finance guy, I did not find it to be overwhelmingly academic at all, even though I learned a tremendous amount of new information.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Athan on September 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
I don't think you can read this book and make sense of it if you don't work in Finance.

But if I'm wrong and you can, that would make it my favorite book on the crisis. For the sake of keeping score, I rank this anonymous hedge fund manager above Joseph Stiglitz, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Robert Schiller, Alan Blinder, Neil Barofsky, Anatole Kaletsky, Simon Johnson, the lot of them. To say nothing of Matt Taibi, Michael Lewis, Jeff Sachs, Hank Paulson, Paul Krugman and the various other guys who have an axe to grind (much as I have thoroughly enjoyed some of their work).

The arguments are analytical, dispassionate and very clearly thought through. I found it impossible to disagree with anything the guy says and even on the bits he ultimately gets wrong I swear I can remember that with the information available at the time I was arriving at similar conclusions.

The book is proof, if anything, that markets at some level work: exposure to the market makes you think and analyze, it forces you to get to the bottom of what's going on. Ah, and it keeps you away from the extremes.

I particularly enjoyed reading what the author had to say about Simon Johnson's brave and inventive but ultimately flawed article in the Atlantic.

There are two things the book does not do: first, it does not have any particular order, it is not a narrative in any way shape or form like Sorkin, Blinder or Paulson are; second, it does not attempt to explain why it all happened in 2008, what was different in the last 20 years that did not hold true before.

For that, you'll need Stockman, which is however a very difficult book to read and an impossible one to enjoy.

The "Diary" has strengthened the faith I have in markets.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lao T. Sue on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a good book when combined with others. It can give the reader a good, intuitive introduction to how trading and markets work. If you read this book and no others, you'll know a little and have been entertained. If you go on from this book, you'll find it can serve as a good base for further learning. As someone with experience in the securities business, I enjoyed HFM's clarity of exposition, but didn't find him the brilliant chap the interviewer seems to believe he is. He's a smart guy, no doubt, and he thinks a lot about what he does, but let's not blow this out of perspective, folks. His thoughts on Lehman Bros, Bear,AIG and Madoff are particularly interesting. Not a classic, but a good exposition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Straddle1985 on July 31, 2011
Format: Paperback
At first I thought this book would be a trading diary covering trades a hedge funds manager made in the severe bear market of 2008, but this book doesn't contain any information on trades. It's just a very long interview with a hedge funds manager (HFM) being questioned by the author of this book. The book certainly ain't bad, it was a good quick read and very informing on the downfall of the banks and the troubles back then.

The main benefit of this book is that everything is explained pretty clearly. If you're willing to do an effort to understand what caused the downfall of the banks 3 years ago then this book is one of the best reads. The HFM covers everything chronologically and how he experienced it (first Bear Stears, then Lehman Brothers, then AIG, ..). Most books on this subject fail at explaining the main causes of financial crisis.

All in all, recommended as a quick read.
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