The burger's good, too

February 20, 2008 in Finance

Tonight after squash I started to cook dinner, but after setting off the smoke alarm for what I must confess was the second time since I moved here, I headed over to Harry's Steakhouse/Cafe (I'm not sure which one I go to. I think it's the cafe. Whichever one is downstairs.). After a late match, I like to sit at the bar or one of the nearby high tables, have one of their awesome burgers and a beer (Heineken, yes) and bring a book. I stay and read until I'm tired, and then I come home and fall asleep. It's pretty much a perfect after-squash ritual (If I'm not alone then it's convenient to stay at the Harvard Club -- the burgers are fantastic and surprisingly cheap; one suspects they take a loss on food to make up for gouging us on everything else...).

All of which was simply a long introduction to the only reason I'm still awake now -- a great book I was just reading at Harry's called (boredom alert) How I Became A Quant. So far (I'm only on the second chapter), this is one of the best finance books I've read, and so far it's not even very much about finance. It's basically a collection of stories by 25 prominent quants about how they stumbled upon their careers. Sort of like 25 mini-versions of My Life as a Quant stitched together. Anyway, the introduction opens with this:

Because you are reading this introduction, one of four things must be true. Your are a quant and are intrigued by the idea of reading the stories of others like you. You are not a quant, but aspire to quantness, and you are seeking some insight on how to achieve that goal. You are neither a quant, nor have such aspirations, but you want to understand the way Wall Street really works, perhaps to gain some perspective on the vast and unsympathetic forces affecting your life in mysterious ways. Or, missheleved among the science fiction and fantasy titles by a harried employee, the title has struck your fancy as, perhaps, a potentially satisfying space opera. There might be other things besides these four, but we can't think of any.

So basically if Dave Barry wrote a finance book, it would turn out like this one. Or, uh, this one. Anyway, the first chapter - which has proven much funnier than the second - includes a pretty apt description of a certain school:

Harvard University, the school up the road that once wanted to merge with MIT and call the combination Harvard...

All around it's shaping up as one of the better books I've read in a while (Hitchhiker's Guide notwithstanding). And yes, that's the Black-Scholes equation up there. The book seems quite obsessed with it.

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