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Customer Review

on February 24, 2004
This book should have been called " A smart person loses money trading stocks and explains why it can't be his fault, since he is so smart". My fundamental criticism of this book is that it displays terrible understanding of what the business of trading is about. It is not about (primarily) picking a market direction. The primary skill of a trader is risk control. This is a concept not mentioned in this book, any other academic's book I have read, nor in any of the "throw a dart does as well as analysis" books on trading. Let a dart tell you when to take a loss or when to let a profit ride and then I'll believe it. Incidentally a dart would have exercised better risk control then Paulos did in his worldcom trade. Risk control is the heart of trading. I believe that a good trader could be given a position by flipping a coin and he'/she would still make money. This is because traders are good at managing risk.
So the book misses the major point of trading. It has a number of stories and some information- some interesting and some silly. At one point he explains that you can't make money because the market is a random walk(markov property). Later on in the book he explains how you can't make money because of mean regression. These two don't add up. Taleb's book makes all the intelligent points of this book and doesnt' smugly explain how it is impossible to make money since the author didn't. Incidentally my background is in academia (ms in mathematics) and I do trade for a living. I leave you with the words of Chuck Smith on trading- said to a trading crowd, but perhaps of relevance to Paulos et al: "This isn't rocket surgery"
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