Customer Reviews: Baruch: My Own Story
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"My Own Story" are the memoirs of Bernard M. Baruch, which he published in 1957 at the age of 87, after a long career as a public servant following a couple decades of fortune-making on Wall Street. Baruch starts with histories of his parents and tales of his South Carolina childhood before his family moved to New York when he was 10, where his father, a physician, became a pioneer in public sanitation and physical therapy. Baruch got his big break on Wall Street in 1891 when he joined the firm of A. A. Houseman, where he would enjoy great success for over a decade. Although Baruch retired from Wall Street, gave up his seat on the Stock Exchange, and sold all of his stocks when President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to the War Industries Board in 1918, "My Own Story" is dominated by his days investing, making deals, and building companies before middle age. Baruch says next to nothing about his role on the War Industries Board or the Treaty of Versailles. He mentions his duties on the U.N.'s Atomic Energy Commission only in passing at the end of the book.

Most of Baruch's experiences with the stock market are found in Chapters 7-14 and in Chapter 19, entitled "My Investment Philosophy", where he lays out his rules for speculating. Baruch's method was nearly identical to Gerald Loeb's, which Mr. Loeb articulated in his 1935 book "The Battle for Investment Survival". Both men were investors, not traders, who succeeded because they knew when to get out of the market. Chapter 12 is dedicated to the "Waldorf crowd", the glamorous and fabulously wealthy businessmen who frequented the Waldorf-Astoria. Baruch gives us his personal take on the extravagant "Diamond" Jim Brady, reserved and optimistic James R. Keene, and the boisterous "Bet a Million" John Gates. Baruch also discusses his involvement in founding and financing several ventures in raw materials after he retired from A.A. Houseman in 1904, among them the International Rubber Company, the Utah Copper Company (which invented strip-mining), and the Gulf Sulphur Company.

The last few chapters of the book recall Baruch's adventures at his South Carolina estate Hobcaw Barony, where several presidents went for rest and relaxation, including Roosevelt during WWII. Baruch ends with some discussion of his political philosophy, which seems to have vacillated with the wind over the course of his lifetime. From anti-carpetbagger Southern Democrat to laissez-faire capitalist to Prohibition advocate to New Deal Democrat to Cold War crusader for high taxes and arms build-up. Yikes! Baruch seems like a generous man, but his politics are incoherent. His prose style is direct and clear, his tone always amiable. I think Baruch is at his best when discussing Wall Street's era of "unrestrained individualism", dominated by "the titans of finance at the zenith of their power", and contrasting it with today's more regulated and more diverse financial market. Too bad Bernard Baruch was always on the outs with J.P. Morgan. But he has interesting stories to tell about Morgan's contemporaries, including his own role in the panic of 1901, precipitated by a corner on Northern Pacific stock.
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on July 10, 2003
Though legislation and time changes, human minds and rules of the game dont. In this book, the great "operator" of the first half of the twentieth century (I really think only Jesse Livermore and Bernard Baruch deserve the honor) talked of his political views, family relationship, and most importantly to trader readers like me, a lot about his "operation". Dont wanna be so hard sell here. However, if you like Reminiscences of a stock operator, you shouldnt miss this. In fact, there are many commonalities between the two, like their strong avoidance of tips and influence of "insiders", searching and acting on facts and facts only, mass psychology as the dominant market driver, demand and supply as the ultimate axiom, extravagant hopes and talk of a "New Era" in advance of financial panics, the seeming almightiness of Morgan, the formation of a pool by a speculative crowd is a sign of weakness, etc etc.
I am quite surprised to have found so few reviews here about this book relative to ROSO. Anyway, dont miss this.
p.s. I would like to quote some paragraphs from the book for your reference.
1. Page 105: Speculator comes from Latin speculari, which means to spy out and observe.... To be successful all human affairs including the making of peace and war, three things are necessary. First, one must get the facts of a situation or problem. Second, one must form a judgement as to what those facts portend. Third, one must act in time before it is too late.
2. Page 183: ...when money came into the hands of people too easily. Such money did not seem real. When men tossed around such huge sums in bets....they had lost all sense of value and of economics. No market in the hands of such people could be a stable or genuine one.....behind their bantering I sensed a feeling of insecurity, as if they were talking strong to cover up their own weaknesses.
3. Page 184: To enjoy the advantages of a free market one must have both buyers and sellers, both bulls and bears. A market without bears would be like a nation without a free press. There would be no one to criticise and restrain the false optimism that always leads to disaster.
4. Page 248: The true speculator is one who observes teh future and acts before it occurs. Like a surgeon he must be able to search through a mass of complex and contradictory details to the significant facts. Then still like the surgeon, he must be able to operate coldly, clearly and skillfully on the basis of the facts before him. What makes this tasks so difficult is that in the stock market the facts of any situation come to us through a curtain of human to disentangle the cold, hard economic facts from the rather warm feelings of the people dealing with these facts.
5. Page 318: This test of our ability to govern ourselves is really threefold. First, it is a test of values, of what things we will give up in order to make other things secure. Second, it is a test of our reasoning powers, of whether we have the wit to think our problems through to an effective solution. Third, it is a test of self discipline, of our ability to stand by our values and see our policies through, whatever the personal cost.
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on June 18, 1999
A great account of the life of one of the world's most famous investment speculators. Interesting perspective on some of Baruch's contemporaries, notably J.P. Morgan. A reader can also get a glimpse of some of the activities that inspired the insider trading laws that form the foundation for modern securities industry regulation. A very worthwhile book for those interested in finance, investing and history.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2007
This biography is a great read for anyone interested in this great man who counseled presidents and was associated with Winston Churchill. It is interesting in showing how far ahead of his time Mr. Baruch was in not only stock speculating but also discrimination and economics. He was a millionaire in his early thirties after a few good runs in the stock market and devoted the remainder of his life serving the public and helping the U.S. when WWI and WWII. If you are reading it for only his advice on stocks just read chapter XIX My investment philosophy. It is one of the greatest chapters you will find anywhere on successful stock speculation. He will explain to you that economic conditions do not drive prices, peoples perceptions do. Cut your losses fast. Sell your worst performers keep your best. Know what you are investing in. You can only truly learn the rules of stock trading by experiencing the losses personally. Here is a summary of his 10 rules summarized:

1. Only speculate if you can do it full time.
2. Ignore inside information and tips.
3. Have a complete understanding of a companies fundamentals before you buy the stock.
4. Don't try to buy bottoms or sell tops.
5. Cut your losses quickly.
6. Focus on and buy only a few stocks.
7. Review and update your investments periodically for changes.
8. Study your tax position to know when to sell at greatest advantage.
9. Never invest all your funds. Keep a reserve.
10. Stick to the field you know best in investments.

Chapter 19 is a must read for all serious stock traders.
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on September 22, 2013
My Own Story is a highly entertaining, thoughtful and richly detailed account of the life and times of Bernard Mannes Baruch, one of the most effective and influential men that America has ever produced.

The entertaining aspect comes from his focus on people: his ancestors who arrived in America in the early 18th century, his grandfather the southern gentleman and his father the Civil War surgeon, the many famous financiers with whom he associated in at the turn of the 19th century and his association as an adviser to seven US presidents.

The thoughtful aspect comes from his commentary about the financial, social and political events over his then 87 year life, when this book was published in 1957. As a young "runner" on Wall Street Baruch observed the panic of 1893, drawing the conclusion that great fortunes could be made by buying when everyone else had abandoned the markets. He describes many subsequent financial events in our nation's history and the historical figures involved, their personalities and how events shaped his investment philosophy. The chapters "Learning the Hard Way" and "My Investment Philosophy" will be of particular interest to all who speculate in the markets.

The richly detailed aspect comes from Baruch's wonderful storytelling ability and his clear writing style. One gets a unique insight into the personalities of the late 18th and early 19th century such as financier J.P. Morgan, top trader James R. Keene, Diamond Jim Brady, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and more. The early 19th century was marked by industrial expansion, particularly in the west. Baruch was an early venture capitalist and investment banker during this era, before these terms were coined, with a solid knowledge of mining engineering and transportation logistics as well as great negotiating skills and financial acumen. His stories of railroad acquisition wars, how the Guggenheim's built their fortune, the founding of Texas Gulf Sulfur and the technologies that made it possible, are all fascinating.

There is an element of hubris in the later chapters that is understandable and beneficial to a better understanding of this rather secretive man. Baruch prefaces his list of achievements and philanthropies with a story or two about the many attempts to defame him by those disgruntled as a result of his investment success or his decisions as the Chairman of the War Industries Board during World War II.

There are important lessons for investors and speculators who are able to read between the lines to peer into Baruch's personality. He developed courage from an early age. Growing up in the rough and tumble rural culture of South Carolina, where boys were expected to take care of themselves and fistfights were common. He took his father's advice to "never stand an insult," but frequently got pounded by the other kids. This made him tough and eventually led him to become a credible boxer, including lessons from boxer "the bigger they are, the harder they fall" Bob Fitzsimmons. He observed his physician father's caring attitude toward mankind, stoking his sense of fairness and generosity while mitigating his natural human impulse of greed. I think these two strong influences molded his later investment philosophy to produce a speculator with minimal tendency to fall into the fear and greed trap that leads so many to ruin. For example, he courageously bought sugar futures, based on his correct assessment that a feared tariff reduction would not pass the Senate, earning him his first million well before 30. On the other hand, he sold all of his holdings about two years before the 1929 market top, then sat and watched the market ratchet higher, and finally went short starting two months before the October 1929 crash. He was not afraid to miss out on the extended market blowoff and he had the courage to go against the trend near the top when that appeared insane to all others.

I often think that young people would benefit more from reading the biographies of interesting people like Bernard Baruch than from learning the diluted and boring version of history found in most textbooks. On any such reading list Bernard Baruch's "My Own Story" would be near the top. I rate it five stars.
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on March 5, 2006
This book is the best autobiography that I have ever read. Baruch, the Wall Street financier and advisor to Presidents Wilson through Truman, lived an amazing life. Unlike many autobiographies, which are written with an eye to aggrandizement, this one accurately portrays Baruch as a decent humanitarian that did not let his success and power go to his head. There are no intimations here (or elsewhere) that Baruch was dishonest or untrustworthy, and he served in many public service capacities without pay. Baruch writes about his friendships with guys like John "Bet a Million" Gates and "Diamond" Jim Brady. As an investor, I was impressed about how Baruch was able to write about his early failures in the market and was steeled by the fact that he made so many mistakes in his youth but was undeterred on the path to wealth. This book was so good I read it in one day.
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on April 14, 2004
This book was wonderful and informative. It was an autobiography on one of America's most successful political advisers and Wall Street Stockbrokers. Not only did Baruch share many life experiences, he also gave many words of wisdom that were very inspirational. I felt like I got to know Bernard Baruch and I now have a huge respect for the man he was. He truly cared about the United States and all of the people in it. He made his work personal. On page 85 he states that, "Above all else...the stock market is people (that)...pit their conflicting judgments, their hopes and fears, strengths and weaknesses, greeds and ideals." Baruch was extremely wealthy as a stock broker, yet he knew life was more than money earned. "....I realized how much there was could not be bought for money (178)" He was also very generous with the money he made. His mother told him to "do something for the Negro (289)", which he did. He donated money to help build a hospital but required that the hospital in South Carolina leave beds reserved for Negros. He also contributed money for college scholarships solely to African Americans. Overall this book showed me what a great man he was. It also gave many stories about his adventures has a stock broker and a political adviser under Woodrow Wilso and Franklin Roosevelt. Baruch found his passion in politics and economics. "A skilled operator in any field acquires an almost instinctive 'feel' which enables him to sense many things even without being able to explain them. (260)" I think Baruch had that "feel" and that is why what he did with his life was so rewarding.
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on May 3, 2006
A fantastic writer, a brilliant business leader and judicious statesman. Bernard Baruch's explanation of the background and definition of the term speculator in chapter IX, is one of the finest pieces of business mentorship and insight available in print. He believes it is an ability of priceless value in human affairs, especially the need to act in time. Practical wisdom in any age.
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on January 13, 2005
I re-read this terrific autobiography every few years just to immerse myself once again in the common sense and wisdom of one of the most brilliant men to have ever speculated in stocks. Before there was an SEC or computerized databases, Bernard Baruch made $200 million from scratch. He was a virtual "walking computer" who bested the most powerful financial figures of his day. A TRULY GREAT AUTOBIOGRAPHY!!!
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on November 26, 2005
If you want to know about the most interesting years in Wall Street, this is the book. It's difficult to understand but at the end you have a very big picture and knowledge about financial markets. For me Baruch writes everything you need to be a good investor. It's more useful than technical books about markets or a degree in economics.
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