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The Education of a Speculator

96 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0471249481
ISBN-10: 0471249483
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Editorial Reviews Review

What you typically hear about Victor Niederhoffer is that he trades for "the great Soros," that he doesn't wear shoes in his office, that the only newspaper he reads is the National Enquirer, and that a picture of the Titanic hangs in his office.

That's all true. But it's the logic behind the eccentricities that is the real story. The Education of a Speculator is a sojourn inside the one-of-a-kind mind of Victor Niederhoffer, a trader in commodities and a keen observer of life. He has trained himself to look at the world in a singular fashion: where the guy on the street sees opportunity, Niederhoffer has scoped out all the downsides and done the contrarian thinking necessary to turn a profit. Niederhoffer draws material from disciplines as varied as biology, music, cards, and sports. His book, written with humor and verve, offers readers a chance to see the world through his lenses. The result is a genuinely new perspective on life (unless you too happened to grow up a speculator). This is a terrific, rewarding book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Spiked with irreverent, often self-deprecating humor, this rambling memoir by the head of Niederhoffer Investments, a top-ranked Wall Street commodities trading firm, is entertaining, outspoken and sometimes maddening. Born in Brooklyn in 1943, the author, who grew up playing stoop ball, applies his street smarts to the art of speculation as he distills lessons from handball, chess, checkers, gambling, poker and also tennis, which he played while attending Harvard. National men's squash champion for 10 years, he retired from the game on principle after he was denied membership in athletic clubs that excluded Jews. Sketching an eclectic history of forecasting techniques from ancient Greece's Delphic oracle to the Federal Reserve, Niederhoffer extrapolates from weather predicting and handicapping horse races to estimating price movements, and draws strained if intriguing parallels among sex, music and speculation. Finally, he turns to ecology for an "ecosystem model" of futures and foreign-exchange markets. Although he lays out no comprehensive system, his book is full of unconventional advice on what and when to buy and sell.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (February 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471249483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471249481
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #69,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Lleu Christopher on July 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Education of a Speculator is a long, sometimes meandering account of the life of speculator Victor Niederhoffer. There is no particular order to this book, at least that I could discern; Niederhoffer jumps from topic to topic, going backwards and forwards in time. The style is almost stream of consciousness, with the main subject of finance digressing into topics as diverse as biology, music and squash (the author is a serious player of squash and other racquet sports). In addition to Niederhoffer's unconventional style of writing, the book assumes a fairly high level of knowledge regarding financial markets. Those (such as this reviewer) who are not well versed in the kind of articles, charts and data found in the Wall Street Journal or Barron's will often find themselves in way over their heads. For all this, I still recommend The Education of a Speculator, even to people not especially interested in the world of investing. Victor Niederhoffer is what may be called a holistic or macro thinker; he could also be called a Renaissance man. He has knowledge of many subjects and sees the connecting links between all events, objects and disciplines. He may not be right about everything, but his perspective is always interesting, intelligent and original. He combines the streetwise instincts of Brooklyn, where he grew up, with the scholarly mindset of Harvard, where he both graduated from and taught. As for investing itself, Niederhoffer, like many speculators (at one point he describes the overlapping definitions of an investor, a speculator and a gambler), has had many ups and downs in his life. When this book was written, he was at the top of his game; shortly afterwards he was wiped out.Read more ›
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In finance, "The Black Box" describes a hidden and usually quantitative process an investor might employ to select securities or markets. The author clearly employs such a box in his work though it seems completely subjective. The problem is, he does not see fit to explain the inputs; the book reads like a mystery novel without a resolution. In his defense, he does say, at the outset, that he is not going to teach you his methods. Yet you expect more. The book is a long (very long) recounting of his own personal history (including odd digressions on Coney Island, and his father, whom he worships through a nine-year old's eyes) as well as his interests--how these things created the savant. As Flaubert might say, it's the stuff of his "Sentimental Education." But investing is not strictly literary. Imagine a Brain Surgeon explaining his techniques by alluding to his liberal arts term papers and you'll grasp the essential frustation with the book. For example, the author equates trading with the performance and appreciation of symphonic music. Indeed, he says he hires musicians to move millions in options money. Why? He doesn't elaborate; only that they are better. Horse Racing is another analogy he mentions. But what are the statistical underpinnings? How does a Racing Form connect to the Wall Street Journal? One more: He claims that only old literature can train your senses for the markets. This strikes me as absolute hogwash, a philistine bowing to Aristotle to gain class. In all, it's as though he is trying to intellectualize his profession, as if just making money is vulgar; he's staking a claim for traders in the pantheon of artists.Read more ›
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Tim Josling on April 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a brain dump written without much apparent discipline. Niederhoffer's egotism and hubris can grate at times and the book is somewhat self serving e.g. the circumstances that led to his quitting squash for five years were not quite as they seemed.
However there is a lot of good material and if you like ideas you will enjoy the way he ties many different fields back to trading. Some of the ideas are baloney but many are not. I found it useful because it does give a lot of insight into how a top trader thinks.
From reading the book it was quite obvious he would blow up at some stage, which he has in fact done.
The chapter on the ecology of markets is worth the price alone. Also the one on the interconnectness of markets, and on deception and gamesmanship.
However this should definitely not be your only book on trading. There is hardly any useful material on risk management.
Worth a read IMO but a lot of people will not like it i.e. those looking for a cookbook approach to easy wealth.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By on March 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I began to read "The Education of a Speculator" with much enthusiasm, but I found that seductive jacket-cover promises and excellent marketing were no substitute for overwrought prose, shameless self-advertisement, and simple investment cliches. Indeed, the guise of offering trading advice is merely an excuse to publicly rattle the collection of silver spoons which have fed the author's obvious intelligence (or appearance thereof). Although the book is salted with various investment proverbs, they are rather dim compared to the showcase of the Niederhoffer pedegree in neon lights - not exactly what I was looking for. Check out Jack Schwager's Market Wizards and New Market Wizards for a concise treatment of better traders, superb advise, and no egos. "The Education of a Speculator" promises unique insights into the mind of a successful market guru, and in that respect, it is quite successful - however, it is a mind affected with chronic hubris and a victim of it's own percieved success. I am forced to the conclusion that, in the world of elite traders, Mr. Neiderhoffer's particular mind-set is more the accident than the rule.
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