Tag Archives: Book Reviews by Bill Dahl

Lasso The Wind by Timothy Egan – A Review by Bill Dahl

I have a longstanding personal discipline when it comes to selecting books to read; every 5th book or so –  I require myself to read something published approximately 10+ years ago.  Thus, I encountered author Timothy Egan for the first time. Tonight, I just ordered three more of his books (I started my second Egan work last night)…

Lasso The Wind

I was absolutely – blown away – pardon the unintentional poor pun – by Lasso the Wind…I could NOT put it down. Spellbinding, literary talent beyond you wildest imagination, research to warp your mind, fantastic story-teller, unparalleled non-fiction and a contributor to American history the likes of which I have never encountered. Needless to say, I am now addicted to Egan’s work!

I typically read somewhere between 60-100 books a year. As of August 2017, Lasso The Wind is my unequivocal year to date favorite.

The way Egan weaves his storytelling and his research is – well – it’s simply unique and deeply engaging for the reader. JUST BUY THIS BOOK!!!

The history of the American West is widely and deeply inhabited by fictional myth. Egan eviscerates that B.S. in a way that leads one not only to a new, better informed understanding – but – leaves you inspired to continue to be curious about common understandings of history – and to examine the notion of “progress” that continues to lead humans to do unthinkable things to one another – and the planet we inhabit.

An absolute treasure…Trust me!!! Expect to read into the wee hours of the morning…I did. A book – and an ARTIST (author) for a broad audience. WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


 

Cattle Kingdom – The Hidden History of the Cowboy West by Christopher Knowlton – A Review by Bill Dahl

I have read extensively about the history of the American West. It’s a book like Cattle Kingdom that excites me about the fact that the myths that oftentimes inhabit our historical understanding  – can and will be displaced – and rewritten – when exquisitely talented authors like Christopher Knowlton take the reins.

Cattle Kingdom

The depth and breadth of the research that this work contains supports the authors thesis – confirming that history is subject to unearthing new and yet unrevealed discoveries – that can provide the sinew for a new understanding. Knowlton unequivocally demonstrates this unique  journalistic talent. Knowlton’s prose and storytelling ability are hypnotic and mesmerizing.

This is distinctly not a story that requires a preference for tales about the American West. The manner in which Knowlton weaves his story – and brings life to the characters and context – will draw readers who simply desire a really, really good book.

I must admit I had some reluctance deciding whether or not to purchase this volume. I overcame that and am really glad I did.

Many aspects of this book will bring tears to your eyes, ripping your heart apart. You’ll get angry and disgusted. The drama that Knowlton brings to life is addictive…it’s a page turning pleasure. The decimation of the Bison herds had me smelling the carnage that Knowlton described.

For those with an affinity for garnering a better understanding of the American cowboy, the influences in the development of the American West, the cattle industry, the origins of the nature of land ownership in the Western U.S. psyche, the influence of capital in the development of the American West, the beef industry, conservation, wildlife management – and – again – those who desire to be immersed in a truly fascinating true tale – well – this book is for you.

I honestly can’t imagine anyone selecting this book to devour and not coming away completely satisfied about their decision.

Frankly, I urge you to select Christopher Knowlton as your guide to the hidden history of the cowboy West. You’ll be delighted you did. Trust me…believe me…A PHENOMENAL BOOK!!!

YEEHAW!!!

Killers of the Flower Moon – The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

Killers of the Flower Moon – The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann – 2017 – Doubleday NY,NY

Killers of The Flower Moon

 

Riveting. Disgusting. It took way too long to tell this true story. This is a heartbreaker in far too many ways. Yet, BRAVO!!! for Grann to invest his life in revealing the truth – in an enthralling and sensitive way.

The reader will be submerged in the drama, characters and context that is painted so deliberately and eloquently by Grann.

This is a “I can’t put it down” work of American history. Yet, it’s vastly more than that.

Required reading. Absolutely OUTSTANDING!!!


 

Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought – by Andrew W. Lo – A Book Review by Bill Dahl

For a scholar who writes of his early life: “In second grade, my mother received a note from my teacher informing her that I might be “retarded”—the term of art in those days—and could use some extra help.” P. 125 — Welcome to a marvelous book by Andrew W. Lo.


 

Andrew W. l.o is the Charles E. and Susan T. Harris Professor of Finance at the MIT Sloan School of Management and director of the MIT Laboratory for Financial Engineering. He is the author of Hedge Funds and the coauthor of A Non-Random Walk Down Wall Street and The Econometrics of Financial Markets (all Princeton University Press). He is also the founder of AlphaSimplex Group, a quantitative investment management company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What’s great about this book are several things:

  1. You do NOT have to be a graduate student at MIT to enjoy this book. If you enjoy cutting edge multi-disciplinary insights into human behavior, this book is for you.
  2. This book requires unlearning – for me, authors that do this are rare and invaluable.
  3. This book FINALLY begins the arduous process of integrating the science from a multitude of fields into a coherent thesis: :”A new explanation for the contradictions and paradoxes discovered in the battle between the rationalists and the behavioralists. I call this new explanation the Adaptive Markets Hypothesis.”  P. 185.
  4. The author is a superb story teller with no intellectual ax to grind.  His wonderful heart comes through in the way he writes…it just makes the reading experience vastly more enjoyable. Thank you.The nature of our understanding of economics, finance and human behavior is changing (as it must). As one who enjoys writing and research in this genre, I find, as the author states; “But every time I finished one book, I felt impelled to read another because of gaps or inconsistencies in what I’d just read.” P. 302 Adaptive Markets put an end to this experience for me (although I WILL continue reading!!!).

That’s why Adaptive Markets – Financial Evolution at the Speed of Thought – by Andrew W. Lo  is so darn important. The work is very much an integration of the most compelling scientific findings from a myriad of fields that Lo sutures together in a straightforward and coherent manner. It is also a body of work that will undoubtedly inspire additional research.

Evolutionary biology represents an organizing framework for Lo’s reasoning. I found the framework very illuminating. A few quotes from the book:

“The Adaptive Markets Hypothesis tells us that profit-taking alone isn’t enough to explain market success in organizing human behavior. We’re motivated by fear and greed, but also by a sense of fairness, and perhaps most important, by our imaginations.” P. 417

Just as the human eye is susceptible to optical illusions, the human brain is susceptible to illusions about risk and probability.” P. 62

“Economic rationality isn’t wrong; it’s just incomplete.” P. 200

Financial evolution proceeds at the speed thought, where several generations of ideas can come and go within the time span of a productive working lunch.” P. 231

A financial crisis can be as disruptive to people’s lives as a major war.” P. 320

“This means that culture is also subject to evolution, to the same processes of variation, selection, and replication as a biological species or a mental narrative”. P. 345

There are important interactions between culture and environment, in some cases reinforcing bad behavior.” P. 352.

This is a terribly important work. I hope it will inspire the essential, civil dialog and research endeavors that are currently woefully underfunded to explore the emerging, new frontiers in finance – and our understanding of all the audiences in these environments.

I HIGHLY recommend this superb work.


 

ENJOY!

 

The New Masters of Capital – American Bond Rating Agencies and the Politics of Creditworthiness by Timothy J. Sinclair

A journey into a cavern of capitalism that is rarely explored.


 

The New Masters of Capital – Sinclair

The assessment of financial risk in society evolves. In this volume, one gets a guide to the inner working and evolution of Moody’s, Fitch and Standard & Poors. Yet, it is vastly more than that.

As Associate Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick, Sinclair’s methodology and commentary are simply magnificent. With such a paucity of books authored on this subject, I searched and selected this volume. I am very glad I did.

The honesty that guides the author’s analysis is refreshing:

Rating, as it exists today, is not rocket science. It attempts to meld quantitative and qualitative variables that are not commensurate and therefore cannot be placed into an equation. It is crucial to understand this point for much of the commentary in the financial media passes over the inherent subjectivity of bond rating.  Ratings are not deducible. They reflect the application of rules of thumb. What follows from this observation is that ratings are judgments – the realization that ratings are actually more contestable than they may appear.” (emphasis is mine. p. 176).

In a society where quantitative modeling seems to lead to “leaving it to the experts” – the realization that subjectivity in risk assessment remains an all too often overlooked element within this reality. Sinclair’s chapter on Blown Calls (and the footnotes therein) are tangible evidence of this fact.

The chapter entitled “Unconscious Power” was absolutely fascinating. The ever-increasing global power that these entities exercise over humanity is an awareness that did not go unnoticed by this reader.

This book is a gem, crafted by an incredibly capable and insightful scholar. Timothy J. Sinclair is a superb guide.

I HIGHLY recommend it.


 

 

 

The Many Panics of 1837: People, Politics, and the Creation of a Transatlantic Financial Crisis by Jessica M. Lepler

Superb! Period!


 

Far too many financial histories inhabit the shelves and stacks that have one thing in common: an intellectual agenda in search of support. This work is a uniquely refreshing exception. It is a work that distinctly deserves the scholarly recognition it has received – from many, diverse audiences.

Lepler Many Panics

I enjoy reading in this subject area. This particular work was delicious for me for a myriad of reasons. Here are a few:

1. Linguistics – Lepler’s appreciation for the words, terms and phrases people used to describe their life experience was precious to me. It is too often overlooked by other authors.

2. The sheer depth and breadth of Lepler’s research was, to say the least, unique and vividly rewarding for her readers.

3. Lepler’s appreciation for the impact of “culture” was quite apparent – again and again – enlightening.

4. AGAIN – Far too many authors who write financial histories seem to have a thesis that they attempt to validate via the introduction of a supporting narrative – such is the human penchant to “be right” and get at “the truth.” Lepler’s methodology and multi-dimensional approach to the issue of “many” panics was terribly refreshing.

5. It was a pleasure to read a financial history book that was authored by a bonafide historian vs. an economist or a political hack with an agenda. The author’s objective dedication to her scholarly craft was apparent on every page.

6. The author’s critiques of other works were, in my opinion, “spot on.” I was grateful for the courage to say what she wrote.

7. I adored the characters brought to life. It made the book fascinating.

8. Lepler’s appreciation for epistemology was apparent throughout.

9. The author’s contributions from the “phrenology folks” were priceless.

10. Lepler’s focus on the impact of communication (or lack thereof) between persons, media outlets of the day, groups and organizations (and governments) is a fundamentally important dimension of the author’s contribution.

As Lepler states on page 253: “Even when economic events seem beyond the control of any individual, the shaping of their meaning remains within our grasp.” – How marvelously this work remained true to this statement – in every sense of the phrase.

My edition of the “Many Panics” by Jessica M. Lepler is marked up like a child writing with crayon on a kitchen wall. This book is a treasure for me and I have learned to become a better researcher and story teller because of it. It is simply VERY rare to have the privilege to devour and digest such a magnificent work. I sincerely hope that Lepler’s dedication to a tireless methodological approach for source documents will serve to inspire other historians and writers – and students – as this work inspired me. This work will occupy a prominent position in my personal library. I will refer to it quite often.

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS WORK!!!