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Reminiscences of a Stock Operator: With New Commentary and Insights on the Life and Times of Jesse Livermore (Annotated Edition) Hardcover – December 21, 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is the fictionalized biography of perhaps the most famous financial speculator of all time-Jesse Livermore. This annotated edition bridges the gap between Edwin Lefevre's fictionalized account of Livermore's life and the actual, historical events, places, and people that populate the book. It also describes the variety of trading approaches Livermore used throughout his life and analyzes his psychological development as a trader and the lessons gained through hard experiences.

  • Analyzes legendary trader Jesse Livermore's strategies and explains how they can be used in today's markets
  • Provides factual details regarding the actual companies Livermore traded in and the people who helped/hindered him along the way
  • Explains the structure and mechanics of the Livermore-era markets, including the bucket shops and the commodity exchanges
  • Includes more than 100 pages of new material

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator has endured over 70 years because traders and investors continue to find lessons from Livermore's experiences that they can apply to their own trading. This annotated edition will continue the trend.

Amazon Exclusive: The Inside Scoop on Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, Annotated Edition
Content from author Jon Markman

My annotations bring the history, people and strategies of Reminiscences to life in a way that enrich the already mesmerizing reading experience. Many investors, including hedge fund great Paul Tudor Jones, who wrote the foreword, consider Reminiscences to be a bible for speculators due to its profound psychological insights and its brilliant epigrams on tradecraft. It's also just a gripping read. The annotated edition is oversized and includes lots of illustrations and photos, so it really does make a handsome and impressive gift.

And it's not all about Livermore and trading. You'll learn about the German Jewish immigrant who helped Abraham Lincoln finance the Civil War by selling bonds in Europe and later rescued the slain president's widow from poverty after Congress voted against pensions for presidential widows; and about the dramatic gold corner of 1869 that almost crushed the nation's financial system and was known for decades as "Black Friday''; and about colorful rogues such as Jim Fisk, Daniel Drew, James Keene and Jay Gould who each shaped modern Wall Street in their own way.

Who was Jim Fisk? A biographer called him, "A big, burly, blond creature who looked like a butcher, jovial and quick witted, with the manners and gaudy habits of a publican; he was a swindler and a bandit, a destroyer of law and an apostle of fraud; he was a clown in velvet waistcoats and spurious admiral's uniforms, a fatuous fat man who never grew up, playing with railroads and steamboats, canary birds and ballerinas; his private life was to many a public dismay, his public conduct to some a private scorn; he was, for a while, the most successful, the most conspicuous, the most significant figure in the sinister business world of New York. And to the hundreds of his fellow citizens -- thousands, as was shown when his funeral passed by -- he was charitable, light-hearted, open-handed big Jim Fisk; a community which loathed Jay Gould adored him; and when he died they adored him with ballads. The America of the Sixties produced him, and nowhere perhaps, except in the America of 1870, could he have existed.''

Who was Jay Gould? The prime example of a speculator during the Civil War era and a prototype for the manipulators who rule the Street today. Called the ''Wizard of Wall Street,'' he was a man of great contrasts. On the outside, he was a timid, short, frail, sickly, almost effeminate man who rarely looked anyone in the eye. On the inside, he was a ruthless, smart, cold-blooded predator who would extract his profit with indifference from friend or foe. What his physique lacked, his intellect and spirit provided in abundance: He was endowed with a rare ''courage, grit, insight, foresight, tireless energy, and indomitable will,'' according to a biographer, who added: ''He played the great game of speculative finance for all it could be made to yield without disguise or apology -- a stranger to honesty and good faith; a personality of alarming cunning deprived of all feeling, scornful of any consideration or rectitude. An operator who always played with loaded dice; an administrator whose only interest lay in the accumulation of selfish profits; a genius whose talents were completely devoted to the limited spheres of his own enrichment; a parasite of disaster, an instrument of calamity, a destroyer.''

Gould was really an amazing character, because he was totally unethical and everyone knew it, but he still managed to make the public see him as a major financier and businessman rather than as a con man. And he was, but just barely and because laws were so thin. One of my favorite stories, which I won't explain at length here, involves his massive bear raid on Western Union to force down its price. He was rewarded amply with millions as a short-seller. But that wasn't his goal. Just when the stock reached the single digits after starting well over $100, he started to buy it back without telling any of his former raiding partners -- and it turned out the idea all along was to buy the whole company on the cheap, which he did. And then he moved into its modern, fortress-like offices in Manhattan.

Responding to Gould's brutal treachery in the deal, his partners -- not exactly naifs themselves -- made comments that echo across time as they could easily be said about some financiers today. Banker Russell Sage said: ''Gould gave us his contract. That was no good. He gave us his word, and that was no good.'' Keene said: '''Gould is nothing to me, and I don't care what he does or says as far as I am concerned." But the toughest line comes from a former Civil War major who thought he was a partner in the deal, until he was ruined in the reversal. He said, "It would exhaust the capacity of the English language to fittingly characterize the meanness, the duplicity, and the treachery with which this scoundrel has treated me. For weeks and months he has lied to me in the most varied and persistent manner. He has all the time pretended to be my friend, and yet in secret he has been constantly plotting my overthrow.''

Gould left his family $72 million when he died -- the equivalent of almost $1 billion today -- and was never charged with any crimes. He is now usually referred to as a shrewd businessman, not a scoundrel. The value of studying Wall Street's history has never been more clear. Gould's spiritual successors today are not nearly as overt, but they certainly stalk the halls of the exchanges today with similar intent. Regulations have cleaned up the place a lot, but not as much as you might think. So it's our job as private investors to recognize, neutralize and avoid the latter-day Goulds, because we're never going to beat them in a head-to-head confrontation.


"...is big and beautiful, cutting across two centuries of booms and busts and market and economic history, with a myriad of vintage historical photos and instructive historical charts throughout." (Barron's, November 1, 2010)

"This is a wonderful classic for any investor or economic historian...the style is pacey, robust and humorous." (Professional Investor, October, 2010)

"A 10 best finance book.
Does the ongoing financial turmoil leave you scratching your head? Worry not, here's our pick of the finest - and most readable - books about Big Money..."
(The Independent)



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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley (December 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780470481592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470481592
  • ASIN: 0470481595
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book and a must read. I hate giving it a low mark. But my reason is not for the content itself, but the Kindle edition.

I am just stunned at how the editors (or whomever) did such a poor job on the Kindle edition. It is unreadable. The annotations are mixed in with the text, not hyperlinked. Disaster. What a waste of a wonderful medium!

I went ahead and bought the non-annotated version. It's wonderful. I can actually read it. I suppose it's nice to the have the annotated version to refer to later, after I'm actually done reading the ACTUAL book.

To the folks behind the Kindle edition -- shame on you. You rushed it out and it shows.

Update: I went back and read the annotated version after having read the non-annotated version. The annotations are actually very useful! But the problem for me was in the readability.

Update 2: I've bumped it up to 4 stars. It's a fair point that one commenter made that the review should be on the book, not the layout. However, there was a real issue with this layout that made the book very difficult to read. At any rate, perhaps they've solved it (get the free sample and see for yourself); the book itself is marvelous.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I first read "Reminiscences of a Stock Operator" in 1985, I have to admit, I found myself skimming it as it did not hold my attention. Markman has enhanced that book many fold. Not only is it now rich with financial history during that era, it brings to light much of the message that was not apparent in the original. If you have ever read the original, read this one, and my bet is you will appreciate it much more. You can read the original here, or you can read a detailed history of the financial world in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, or you can read them both, all in this book. Nice!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Aged 14, Livermore leaves his family of subsistence farmers and arrives in Boston with $5. It will be another 5 years until the first Dow Jones index, comprising of 12 stocks, is formed in 1896.

Price (1891-1901)

For 10 years Livermore day trades. As he says: "in a bucket shop where your margin is a shoestring you don't play for the long pulls". Bucket shops are places where no actual transactions take place (the house takes the opposite side of the bet). Bucket shops offer three advantages: instant execution, a guaranteed stop loss and lots of margin. In fact both times Livermore goes broke (and in debt the first time) he does so when trading from brokerage firms, not bucket shops. Livermore has trained himself to "read" small moves of up to 2-3% and his orders are "at the market". In the brokerage firms however (where $1000 will "only" get you $10,000 of stock), he gets terrible executions and this is the reason he goes broke both times before he turns 24 in 1901. The second time he also had to face violent price movements in Northern Pacific on Thursday May 9, 1901. The stock was cornered and went from $160 to $1000 and closed at $325 only after Morgan and Harriman reassured traders that they would not force delivery. (The ticker had a 10 minute delay from action on the floor). Again, Livermore will go to the few remaining bucket shops to make some money (which were becoming fewer by that time, until they were banned in 1915).

Time (1901-1908)

From here on, Livermore will try to cash in on the big bet. As he says: "A big swing will mean big money if your line is big, and to be able to swing a big line you need a big balance at your broker's." He has to change his game.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I read Reminiscences of a Stock Operator around ten years ago. I was trying to understand trading dynamics in the market, and the book was mentioned frequently.

It is a classic. But can a classic be made better? In this case yes. Jon Markman, an able financial writer, has written notes around the narrative, with pictures and graphs that illustrate many things that would be obscure to the reader of the book. Markman brings forgotten people to life, and motivates the events that transpired.

It was an exciting era, one where the common law of contracts played a greater role, and statutory law played a lesser role. It wasn't no-holds-barred, but it was close.

We are experiencing our own era of leverage that is too high, and what happens when it breaks. The protagonist of the book, Jesse Livermore, aims for best advantage, and learns as he goes along, going broke several times in the process, and dying broke as well. Leverage cuts two ways. Live by leverage; die by leverage.

Paul Tudor Jones II writes an appendix to the volume, as well as a foreword. Being a trading billionaire who started from scratch and went broke a few times, he is an excellent man to get into the mind of Livermore on a modern basis.

Who would benefit from this book: Historians would benefit, as would those interested in trading. Economists wanting to get a look at market microstructure would also benefit. Livermore, more than most, gives a full view of technical analysis, because he lays bare the motivations of players, and how other players attempt to devine those motivations.
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