Top positive review
37 of 42 people found this helpful
Stocks, commodoties and almost everything else
on July 19, 2003
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. That, of course, was several years ago and he is still active as a writer (he has recently written a new book) and investor. I have always been fascinated with the world of investing, especially the kind of volatile speculating engaged in by people like Niederhoffer. Even if you don't understand all the details and nuances, the book conveys the dangers and excitement of this unpredictable universe. The author has spent many years compiling and analyzing data concerning markets, and he discusses how difficult it is to make predictions based on past performance. It is easy to look at a chart and, after the fact, describe how stocks or commodities moved in a logical, predictable manner. Often when you try to apply any seemingly logical system using real money, the results are disastrous. Niederhoffer seems to conclude that markets are paradoxical -they are both logical and illogical; sometimes they follow patterns but sometimes they are chaotic. And, most importantly, we can never be sure when order or chaos will prevail. If there is one overall lesson we can take from The Education of a Speculator, it is probably something like this -reality is almost infinitely complex with every part connected to every other part, the whole thing organized by some vast pattern that can only occasionally be comprehended.