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The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments
The Manual of Ideas: The Proven Framework for Finding the Best Value Investments
by John Mihaljevic
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $23.20
62 used & new from $14.75

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Work on Value Investing, September 15, 2013
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This book contains very readable and effective discussions and analyses of the different approaches to value investing. Although there are many examples of ideas and approaches by well-known value investors such as Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, John Neff, Seth Klarman, Bruce Berkowitz, etc., the reader is introduced to a large number of value investors (and their ideas) that most of us haven't heard of to date.

Value investing, as the name implies, focuses more on identifying corporate values (whether they are on a company's balance sheet, as is often the case, or elsewhere), and it is much less focused on whether or not a company beats analyst expectations next quarter. Momentum investors and traders most likely will not view this book as an interesting read. However, for value investors or those curious about value investing, this is one of the best investment books I have read in a long time.

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't
The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail — but Some Don't
by Nate Silver
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.72
209 used & new from $5.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just right for the lay reader., July 27, 2013
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If you have an interest in statistics and predictions, this is an excellent book to address your interest. The author covers a lot of ground, showing how relevant the statistical process is in many areas, such as weather forecasting, sports analysis, and economics. Frankly, statistical surveys (and, worse, public opinion surveys) are frequently mischaracterized in the popular media, so it really pays to have an understanding of the limitations of statistical analysis. You don't need an advanced degree (or even an undergraduate degree) to get a lot from this book. That is saying a lot, since the author addresses a lot of fairly technical material in an understandable way.

This is the book I have recommended the most in recent weeks.

Invicta Men's 14331 Specialty Tonneau Watch with 3 Textured Leather Strap Set
Invicta Men's 14331 Specialty Tonneau Watch with 3 Textured Leather Strap Set
Offered by All Glitters!!!
Price: $94.99
5 used & new from $94.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This thing is huge., July 27, 2013
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By the time you have gotten to this review, you probably have a good understanding of this watch's appearance and style. I have only one additional item to emphasize, and that is that this watch may well be larger than some people realize. If you are a large guy, there should be no problem. If you are shorter than average, chances are this watch will look too large on your wrist. If you are of medium build, look at the watch's dimensions, cut out a similar size paper "watch," and see what you think before you buy it. I wish I had done this.

One more thing: The separate black and brown leather wristbands are a nice touch.

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out
The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out
by Clayton M. Christensen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.43
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, but don't expect miracles., April 11, 2013
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The title of this book, written by Clay Christensen and Henry Eyring, seems intended to invoke comparisons with Christensen's earlier (and highly successful) book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." Indeed, the authors pursue a similar approach in this book, which is devoted to the changing environment that higher education finds itself today. That approach--that "disruptive" change often starts where you least expect it and grows while most people fail to take seriously the nature of the ongoing change--seems applicable to a number of industries and institutions.

Clearly, there are some similarities to change in the technology world (the subject of "The Innovator's Dilemma") and the world of higher education. That said, while acceptance for "The Innovator's Dilemma" was broad and deep, there seems to be significantly less enthusiasm for "The Innovative University." I suspect one of the reasons is that it would necessarily be difficult to meet or exceed the high bar set by the earlier book. Another reason, I suspect, is that the field of education is harder to subject to a similar analysis.

In sum, if you are expecting ground-breaking work and a lot of clarity, you may be disappointed. However, if you lower your expectations some, you may find enough thought-provoking material to make this book a worthwhile read. Christensen is a first-rate thinker, and I read this book initially in deference to his reputation.

Full disclosure: I have no professional or personal connection to either author, and I have never been one of their students. I did attend a talk given by Christensen once (on a different topic), and I was impressed by his command of the subject and his communication skills.

What Would Ben Graham Do Now?: A New Value Investing Playbook for a Global Age
What Would Ben Graham Do Now?: A New Value Investing Playbook for a Global Age
by Jeffrey Alan Towson
Edition: Hardcover
34 used & new from $8.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Fine Book, But Remember That Ben Graham Didn't Write It, April 6, 2013
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If you want an intelligent analysis of what Ben Graham might do today, particularly in the more international investment environment that exists nowadays, this is a fine book. The author makes a good case for his approach, though I couldn't help but wonder whether or not Graham would agree. Frankly, I wish the author had chosen a different title and simply presented his ideas as entirely his own.

Perhaps a better way to apply Graham's teachings to today's environment is to study Graham directly and then make your own applications to today. I don't think that process would be that difficult. If you want to get as close to Graham's thought process as possible, there is no substitute for reading what Graham himself wrote--primarily "The Intelligent Investor" (for professional investors and nonprofessionals alike) and "Security Analysis," by Graham and David Dodd, (primarily for professionals).

The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works
The Instant Economist: Everything You Need to Know About How the Economy Works
by Timothy Taylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.85
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rare Find: A Book to Make Economics Understandable., February 9, 2012
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This review is being written from the perspective of someone who has studied economics for a lifetime and taught it to college students. I have come to realize that when an introduction to economics is presented as if it were designed to be the first course among many for economics majors, it is invariably deemed by most people to be quite boring. However, when economics is presented and explained as the study of how people make decisions in life, all of a sudden it becomes much more interesting. This book takes the second approach, and the author does a good job summarizing a variety of key concepts in short chapters of about eight pages each. You can read the chapters in any order (or even skip some) and still gain a lot of useful information.

Importantly, this book is not written using either an academic or overly simplistic approach. With a minimum of work, the average person can understand the material and not feel insulted. Almost equally importantly, the book is written in a blessedly non-partisan style.

Before I opened the book, I very quickly sketched out the most important topics I thought it should address: scarcity, opportunity costs, the role of prices, "marginal" analysis, monetary and fiscal policies, specialization and trade, and externalities. Upon reading the book, I found all of these topics addressed and many more: the interplay of supply and demand in market equilibrium, elasticity, the Federal Reserve, international exchange rates, personal finance, etc.

Would I give this book to someone with an interest in economics if they had precious little background in the subject? Absolutely yes. And I'd bet they would enjoy it.

Sharpen Your Heels: Mrs. Moneypenny's Career Advice for Women
Sharpen Your Heels: Mrs. Moneypenny's Career Advice for Women
by Mrs Moneypenny
Edition: Hardcover
78 used & new from $0.01

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Most of History, "Anonymous" Was a Woman., February 8, 2012
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This review is being written from the perspective of someone who has worked with women, for women, and (later in life) as an employer of women, some of whom became very successful in their careers and some of whom had a more difficult time climbing the proverbial ladder of success. As I will describe in a moment, the advice is fascinating, and I recommend this book for professional and career women of all ages.

The authors are "Mrs. Moneypenny with Heather McGregor." Mrs. Moneypenny (not to be confused with Miss Moneypenny, the secretary for James Bond's boss, M) is the pseudonym used by a Financial Times columnist who has written on women's topics for 12 years. She runs her own successful business, is married and has three children. McGregor is a leading London headhunter, has three academic degrees, teaches from time to time at the prestigious London Business School and the Cass Business School, and chairs Career Academies UK, an educational charity. Importantly, nobody has ever seen Mrs. Moneypenny and Dr. McGregor at the same place at the same time. In short, we have a very well qualified and successful author.

This book is well written, easy to read, and incorporates a no-nonsense approach that the reader will likely find to be effective and even inspiring. It is substantive, yet you will likely find it hard to put down. It makes use of many years of the author's observations and experience. With a few of clarifying comments here and there, here's how the main part of the book is organized:

1. What You Know. Qualifications matter, because they give you confidence, act as an independent testimony to your capabilities, and provide you with important links to others.

2. Who You Know. The author wrote her PhD thesis on the concept of "social capital."

3. It Is Never Too Late. I loved this chapter. As the author explains, far too many women give up on their ambitions for the stated reason that "it is too late." Truth be told, it's seldom too late.

4. Just Say No. To get a feel for the author's style, here's how she begins this chapter: "No! Say it. Say it again. Say it out loud. There, see? It's not that difficult, is it?"

5. You Can't Have It All. Perhaps the most important chapter in the book, according to the author. I won't spoil what she has to say.

6. ...But You Have To Do It All. This chapter is specifically for working women with children and women with other responsibilities.

7. Financial Literacy. This was my favorite chapter (I'm an economist). Basically, if you want to become successful in business, you need to be able to speak the language of finance.

8. The Third Dimension. Mrs. Moneypenny tells you that it's not enough to be good at your job and run your home life well. You need a "third dimension" (from a number of alternatives) to round out your effectiveness.

9. Doing Your Own PR. Virginia Woolf once said, "For most of history `Anonymous' was a woman." You need to spend about 5 percent of your time doing your own PR, and you need to understand the most effective techniques.

10. You Can't Do It Alone. The author tells young women that there is no such sentence as, "I can't do it." Rather, the real sentence is, "I can't do it alone." There's good advice here for working with others to improve your effectiveness.

At the end of each chapter there is a "homework" section that helps readers summarize the chapter and organize their activities. I will end with Mrs. Moneypenny's closing advice: "A final word to all the ambitious women who will read this book. When you get to the top--and if you follow my advice, you will do so--remember to turn around and reach back to help the generation of women behind you. As Madeleine Albright once said, `There is a special place in hell for women who don't help other women.'"

Confessions of an Advertising Man
Confessions of an Advertising Man
by David Ogilvy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.05
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Candid Advice from an Advertising Master., January 16, 2012
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While this version of the book is dated 2011, David Ogilvy died in 1999, so don't expect new additions or improvements from Olgivy to this timeless classic on advertising. That said, this remarkable book passed the million copy threshold over 20 years ago, and there are good reasons for its enduring success. Basically, it is simple, direct and easy to read, like good advertising copy. If you are interested in advertising, this is a book that has stood the test of time. If you want to read more reviews, you can check out an earlier (presumably out of print) version of this book.

According to Ogilvy, he originally wrote this book in 1962 in order to attract new clients to his advertising agency, to condition the market for a public offering of Ogilvy's shares, and to make himself better known in the business world. I think it's fair to say that he succeeded on all three points. Although Ogilvy subsequently stated that if he were to write this book again, he would be "less indiscreet, less boastful and less didactic," the book doesn't strike me as overly boastful or pompous. You would expect an advertising man to be sold on his own ideas.

Ogilvy gets straight to the heart of matters for advertisers. Here is how he organized the book:

1. How to manage an advertising agency.

2. How to get clients.

3. How to keep clients.

4. How to be a good client.

5. How to build great campaigns.

6. How to write potent copy.

7. How to illustrate advertisements and posters.

8. How to make good television commercials.

9. How to make good campaigns for food products, tourist destinations and proprietary medicines.

10. How to rise to the top of the tree--advice to the young.

11. Should advertising be abolished?

Although you may not read this book in one sitting, it is short enough and interesting enough that it won't take you very long to finish reading it. Finally, to give more flavor to Ogilvy's approach to advertising, here are a few of his more famous thoughts:

"Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating."

"Big ideas are usually simple ideas."

"It is important to admit your mistakes and to do so before you are charged with them."

"In the best establishments, promise are always kept, whatever it may cost in agony and overtime."

"Tolerate genius."

And one of my favorites (which I've shortened), because it shows a blend of insight and self-awareness: "It is a mistake to use highfalutin language when advertising... I once used the word "obsolete" in a headline, only to discover that 33% of [readers] had no idea what it meant. In another headline I used the word "ineffable," only to discover that I didn't know what it meant myself."

Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Psychological Edge
Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Psychological Edge
by David Dreman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.50
70 used & new from $9.71

42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Role of Psychology in Investing., January 10, 2012
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This is a substantial, well-organized work by one the pioneers in what is today called behavioral finance/investing. As he has been doing since the late 1970s, author David Dreman states his case that the academically-popular Efficient Market Hypothesis (sometimes oversimplified as the "random walk theory") doesn't adequately recognize or account for the fact that psychology plays an important part in investment decisions. To help make his points, Dreman guides the reader through major investment bubbles and panics, starting back with Holland's tulip bubble in the 1630s and progressing through the more recent real estate bubble. (Some of the important aspects of volatile markets have remained quite similar over the centuries. The reason, according to Dreman, is that while the investing environment may have changed over the years, human psychology hasn't changed nearly as much.) Dreman makes his arguments, backs them up with lots of data and discussion, and offers his views on how to (1) make volatile investment environments seem less scary, and (2) take advantage of the opportunities that develop in volatile times. You don't need degrees in finance, business, economics or psychology to enjoy this book. It is written for the intelligent lay reader, and my guess is that most people with an interest in investing will find it very readable.

This is Dreman's fifth book on investing (see below), and given the similarity of titles I wondered just how different this book would be from the earlier versions. Here's a list of his works:

Psychology and the Stock Market: Investment Strategy Beyond Random Walk, written in 1977,

Contrarian Investment Strategy, (1980),

The New Contrarian Investment Strategy, (1982),

Contrarian Investment Strategies - The Next Generation, (1998) and

Contrarian Investment Strategies: The Psychological Edge, (2012).

Having followed Dreman for a long time and read his books, here is my conclusion: The current version is substantially new and makes for an informative, enjoyable read. However, while the illustrative material and discussion are largely new, Dreman's arguments for contrarian investing are, at their root, similar to those he's made since 1977. If you haven't read his earlier books, this is an excellent introduction to and exposition of contrarian investing. If you have read his earlier books and are looking for a different investment theme, look elsewhere. If you've read his earlier books and are interested in more material on contrarian investing, there's a lot of good information in this book. I got my money's worth.

The book is organized into five parts:

Part 1: "What State-of-the-Art Psychology Shows Us." This part includes a history of manias and bubbles, with emphasis on the aspects of human psychology that contribute to these episodes.

Part 2: "The New Dark Ages." Dreman describes how the Efficient Market Hypothesis came to be accepted by many academics and how it affected the way large institutions (mutual funds and pension funds, for example) invested their money.

Part 3: "Flawed Forecasting and Poor Investment Returns." Dreman argues that economic forecasting is very difficult, and investment strategies based on developing a better forecast of next year's GDP are going to prove to be disappointing sooner or later.

Part 4: "Market Overreaction: The New Investment Paradigm." These chapters represent the core of Dreman's contrarian strategies. Simply stated, markets have a demonstrated history of going to extremes, each time with a believable "this time is different" story. However, if you can keep from becoming caught up in the conventional wisdom of the day, you can work to exploit market overreactions.

Part 5: "The Challenges and Opportunities Ahead." Dreman discusses today's specific economic and investment environments, problems and possibilities.

Don't buy this book with the expectation of discovering specific stock recommendations, because you won't find them. Similarly, don't buy this book with the expectation that the author hasn't fallen for some of the same mistakes he describes in this book, because he has. Investing is tough, and every investor is going to make plenty of mistakes. However, if you want stimulating food for thought, this is an interesting and informative book. While I wouldn't recommend it to a confirmed "technical" analyst, I do recommend it to those who are open to the concept of contrarian investing.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 12, 2012 12:33 PM PST

Math Girls
Math Girls
by Hiroshi Yūki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.99
40 used & new from $19.94

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Types of Readers Who Will Enjoy This Book., December 28, 2011
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This review is from: Math Girls (Hardcover)
As I write this review, Math Girls ranks about way down at about 37,000 on Amazon's best-seller list, despite it being a recent release. That's no surprise, since this book isn't for everyone. However, where there's even a spark of math interest within the reader, this is a fascinating and captivating book, well worth the reader's time and effort. (And, like most things worthwhile, it will take some effort.) Unless you are remarkably proficient in math, I wouldn't classify it as an easy read. Nevertheless, because the author has structured this book in a way to very actively involve the reader's curiosity, the concentration and thinking the reader is called to do will turn out to be enlightening (and even entertaining) for many readers. So who will likely enjoy this book? Here are some types of readers:

1. Students (most likely, middle school through college) with at least an inkling of interest in the mathematical way of thinking (with emphasis on the word "thinking," not memorization). Despite the book's title, girls and boys will both appreciate this clever book.

2. Math teachers who want to go beyond standard textbooks in order to cultivate a hunger for mathematics within their advanced students. Maybe ordinary students, too.

3. Parents who sense their children just might become turned on by some of the incredible history and elegance (yes, elegance) of math, but who might best benefit from a non-threatening book to help encourage and stimulate their interest.

4. Someone who once had a real interest in math, but ultimately got sidetracked by seemingly more practical studies in engineering, applied science, econometrics or other such disciplines.

5. Readers who have heard of Euclid, Gauss and Euler, don't know a lot about them, and are attracted by the idea of sharing and appreciating the thoughts of these historical pioneers.

6. Anyone who never had a really good math teacher and who senses they've missed something.

In sum, math is an international language of science and thought, and books like this that help stimulate the reader's math interest--especially for students of all ages--can help open doors to exciting futures, whether they be specifically in science or generally in life, for those fluent in this remarkable language. Best wishes for all those who start this journey of discovery.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2014 10:57 PM PDT

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