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on September 15, 2011
This book is a gloves off, brutally honest account of what life is like working on Wall St. Dillian nails it by not hiding a thing about his experience and being brave enough to tell the world his perspective from the "dark side." Anyone who has worked in a sales or trading function, buy or sell side, will appreciate reading this piece. In addition, if you have no connection with Wall St other than the picture that politicians have painted by berating the group, I think this book will help shape your opinion. There is a lot of baggage that comes along with working on the Street that most people are not fully aware of and Street Freak gets to the heart of many of these conflicts.

I like to think of Dillian as the next Michael Lewis with a sprinkle of Bret Easton Ellis: Liar's Poker meets American Psycho.

Hats off to him for having the balls to say how he really feels!
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This is an extraordinary account of what it feels like to trade--and a book with the literary merit to electrify readers with no interest in Wall Street. Most books by traders, such as Victor Niederhoffer,Nassim Taleb or George Soros, filter the raw mental processes through a layer of rationalization. The authors want to impress you with their intelligence, not let you see their inner demons. Dillian is unfilted. Readers should be warned that means lots of farts, snot, bruises, vomit and other impolite things, and this in a book without a trace of grit. We never feel or smell these things, they are like crude graffiti neatly written on the wall of an antiseptic bathroom. Virtually every character (definitely including the author) is insulted and demeaned in ways that are highly incorrect politically. His customers are dirty, douchebags, hicks, slow or dozens of other bad things, never anything good. His coworkers are 95 percent bad things, 5 percent good (but only briefly).

Women, in particular, incite a constant obsessive objectification--and this in a book with absolutely zero sex. The only two women in the book who do anything other than provide a show for junior high school level crude lewdness, are his two psychiatrists who are described only as the "Russian model" and "startlingly attractive". Two words each for the medical professionals who saved his sanity, and only about appearance. His wife is barely in the story, except for a very crude sexual slur by another trader. The electric fan story is sufficient grounds for a sexual harassment suit. But it's not only women. Race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, weight, taste in music or clothes and anything else is grist for unpleasant smears.

However, this is not a crude rant, it is a Tourette Syndrome release of tension that is very common among traders. I have never seen it captured on paper like this. Polite authors pretend it doesn't exist, superficial ones treat it as a humorous foible. No one else, as far as I know, has had the honesty, writing talent and courage to expose it in himself. You don't understand traders if you don't understand their need to short-circuit the part of the brain that censors inappropriate behavior.

This book is not an insightful account of mental illness. For most of the book, the author acts like a "seami alki," that is an alcoholic with self-esteem and anger management issues, a combination sufficiently common among traders to require a slang term. His struggles with bipolar and obsessive-compulsive issues are treated matter-of-factly, accurate without being revealing. In fact, Dillian's clinical issues may mislead readers into treating his account as an unusual one. You don't need to be crazy to act like a trader.

The book is also not a useful account of how Wall Street works or why Lehman Brothers failed. The author's understanding of these things is about the level of fulminating editorials by people with no experience in finance. By tradition, it takes thriving through three complete market cycles to acquire trading wisdom. The author made it only though half of one cycle, and the upswing half which is less educational than the downswing. He is like a race car driver who knows little about automotive engineering, physics or how NASCAR makes money. He doesn't have to know those things to drive, he needs only practical intuition, and his ignorance makes his descriptions of the thrills of racing more honest because it's not filtered through what he learned from books.

Unfortunately, the book could perpetuate some false beliefs. There is no positive mention of risk management in this book. The author seems to trade whatever he likes, for whatever reasons he like, in whatever size he likes, without oversight or coaching. Now Lehman had some risk management issues, but letting junior traders run wild was not one of them. Lehman actually had very good trading floor risk management, better than many other firms. Dillian implies that if you made money you were a hero, however many rules you broke. This is definitely not true. Making money was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of success. The firm required consistent, explainable profits from risk-controlled strategies (on the trading floor, but unfortunately not in every department).

Both the firm and the economic environment conspired to disguise any capital or funding constraint on trading, and the author dealt only in liquid, exchange-traded securities. Lehman's middle and back offices took care of much of the plumbing. This makes his experience somewhat narrow. It's not inaccurate, but it's only part of the story.

So read this book to understand what a trader does, and how he does it, and how he feels about doing it. Do not read it for deep understanding of either finance or mental illness. Read it for the pleasure of an exceptional writer tackling an important profession with breathtaking skill, courage and honesty. But don't believe any of it, except the feel.
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on September 18, 2011
I have read a bunch of wall street books recently and I find Street Freak (I had pre-ordered it because I knew the authors daily-dirtnap newsletter and liked his style) being one of the better ones, because it doesn't try to explain what happened in the financial crisis and doesn't get entangled in who did what and when.

It reminds me of the book about Jesse Livermoore: it is a first person view of a guy's way into and through Wall Street. The writing is entertaining and sometimes even funny and I found it found it hard to put down.
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on September 22, 2011
I picked up "Street Freak" and was immediately hooked. I couldn't put it down. The amazing thing is that I've never worked on Wall Street. Dillian does a terrific job of pulling the reader into the chaos, the adrenaline, and the stress of a trading desk -- and he does it with a punchy sense of humor. I found myself alternately laughing out loud and sweating with nervous tension. As a bonus, Dillian provides juicy details on how much Wall Street guys actually make.

And, thankfully, this is more than just a book about Wall Street. Dillian is refreshingly honest about what was going on in his head through all of this. He leads us through the ups and the downs of both his personal and professional life, culminating in his eventual diagnosis with bipolar disorder.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get wrapped up in a great story.
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on September 7, 2011
Street Freak doesn't just put you in the Aeron chair of a single trader making markets in every ETF under the sun. It goes beyond the cologne, the order-in sandwiches and flatulence of the Lehman trading floor and puts you deep inside the brain of Jared Dillian--a "poor, smart and determined" Wall Street outsider with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

The characters are real and the trades are real. A department head is "a walking molecule of testosterone... who patrolled the aisles, rotating his shoulders and practically his entire torso just to tell people to go f--- themselves." And Jared recounts some of his biggest winning and losing trades with play-by-play accuracy.

While has-been traders like this reviewer will jaw-drop at how Jared literally moved markets on the "Street," it's the dark and deeply personal episodes of the "Freak" that make this a special read. Jared was a great trader, but luckily for us he's an even better writer.
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on September 20, 2011
I tore through this book the weekend I got it. "Street Freak" is a surprising book. It is a vivid account of life on the Lehman Brothers trading floor from 9/11/01 through the bankruptcy of the firm, but it's also a moving account of the author's struggle with his emotional and mental problems. Jared Dillian does an amazing job of pulling the reader in to the story of his transition from Coast Guard officer to ETF trader at Lehman. It's often funny, irreverent, poignant, and full of colorful characters! I was expecting an updated version of "Liar's Poker" or "FIASCO", and while there were certainly aspects of those two Wall Street classics, this book was as much about the author's personal journey and ultimate redemption.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed, and unreservedly recommend this book.
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on September 19, 2011
If you have found this review - if you are the type of person who is interested enough in the markets to be looking at books on trading, Wall St. and/or Lehman - then you just need to take the offer and get this book.

Yes, it is well written. And yes, it gives you lots of insights into trading dynamics in general and the culture at Lehman in particular. And while that is enough for the book to be recommended, the best thing about this book to me is that Dillian doesn't hit you over the head with his own analysis and his own conclusions as to what all of this MEANS. He just presents the facts, as unvarnished as I have ever read them, and the epiphanies that you have after reflecting on these facts are priceless.
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on September 13, 2011
Street Freak is a story about a Wall Street trader battling the ups and downs of the market while struggling with the ups and downs of undiagnosed bipolar disorder. For anyone who is bipolar, or who has known someone with this disease, the story really hits home. Set against the turmoil of the financial markets from the tragedy of 9/11 to the end of Lehman Brothers, the author takes us through his personal journey and the journey of this presumably unshakable financial institution. It's a wild ride and an amazing read!!! The writing moves us through the story with almost manic speed, peppered with the profanities that one would expect on the trading floor. A great memior for those who know the markets, and a unique insight for those of us who really don't. I highly recommend this book!!!
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on September 15, 2011
"What's it like to work on a trading floor?" is probably the most common question Wall Street traders get asked by those outside the industry, especially from those who want to work at an investment bank someday. Since the late '80s, the answer has always been, "Read Liar's Poker." With Street Freak, Jared Dillian has forced me to update my answer. Street Freak should be required reading for MBA students and undergraduates majoring in finance prior to sitting down for their first Wall Street interview.

Dillian speaks often about self-selection on Wall Street. In recreating the scene at Lehman Brothers, right down to the restroom antics, he has captured the culture of Wall Street trading floors perfectly. If reading about the testosterone-fueled, dysfunctional antics -- and profitability -- of the best traders on the floor make you long for a seat next to them, Dillian has done you a favor. He's given you the playbook to understand, embarce, and love that culture before you ever step on a trading floor. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

Make no mistake however, Street Freak isn't just a book about an adult playground known as a trading floor which doubles as a de-facto employment center for college lacrosse players. It's a memoir with a very serious undertone. When Dillian tells us an investment bank's assets walk out of the elevator every night, he means each little cog in the organization makes money with their mind. At the industrial enterprises that helped builed the wealth of this nation last century, it was the property, plant, and equipment -- these incredible high-tech manufacturing machines -- that generated profits. It turns out the trader's mind can be just as fragile an inistrument. Dillian lays bare this fragility in his own mind that overtook him during his time on Wall Street. And here's where self-selection comes in: The reader is left to decide whether to use Street Freak as an inspirational guide to get to Wall Street or a cautionary tale.

It either case, it's brilliant writing and Dillina's voice, fresh and vivid, is certain to be heard from again.
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on September 15, 2011
Jared presents a thrilling memoir of life on a trading floor and his rise through the ranks at Lehman. It's often raucous and outrageous and provides some moments of true hilarity. I raced through the book and enjoyed every minute of his accounts of the highs and lows of the last decade of Lehman and the affect it had upon him.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone looking for a highly entertaining read.
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