by Ken Fisher
Reviewed by Gary W. Silverman, CFP®
100 Minds That Made The Market is a series of mini-biographies, each three to four pages in length. They were not written in a specific order and the chapters (New Deal Reformers; Crooks, Scandals, and Scalawags; Technicians, Economists, and Other Costly Experts; to name a few) separate them merely for convenience. You certainly don't need to read them in order, and I suggest not doing so.
No, I didn't read all 100 biographies…yet. I reviewed this book during a Caribbean cruise, and it was a perfect book for it. Whether I had five minutes or fifty, I could pick up the book, begin anywhere, and surf around the chapters as my interest beckoned and my time remained. Each story is written in an easy-to-read style that is both interesting and informative. Using examples or snippets of the stories can give you some great material to use in client meeting or when making presentations.
The book doesn't contain accounts of the living. (Fisher says that you already have enough news stories about them; and anyway, the dead don't sue as much when you write about them.) Sure, you'll find Charles Dow, Edward Jones, BC Forbes, and Benjamin Graham; but mostly it delves into people that are lesser known and harder to learn about without quite a bit of research. In each biographical sketch, Fisher adds his own comments, criticisms, and observations. If you know Ken, you know he's opinionated.
100 Minds That Made The Market is a revision of a work Fisher did in 1993. The revisions are so minor that if you have that book or later reprints, you don't need to spend the money on this one. But if you don't own it yet, then it is definitely worth the price. While I think that most readers of this review would enjoy the book, it is also very suitable for gifting to both peers and clients.
Why should you read this book? I'll let author, Ken Fisher, answer that question himself. (I like being lazy.) From the introduction:
Why should you read this book? To have fun. As its author, my highest hope is for it to be fun for you. The 100 subjects I've chosen are fascinating, wacky, wild, and often just weird—yet they are powerful and at times very funny. Their lives are as fun to read about as they were to write about. Depending on who you are and what you do, want, and like, you might also benefit from the professional and personal lessons of their lives and learning more about the American financial markets' evolution. If you are a market practitioner in any form, these lives are role models of what works and what doesn't, how far you can bend things and when they break down, and what human traits go with market success and failure. But, as I said, the main reason to read this book is to have fun.
No, reading 100 Minds That Made The Market won't make you a better analyst, trader, or advisor. What it will do is make you appreciate the tremendous variety of styles and personalities that have created the market we live with today.
Gary W. Silverman, CFP®, owns a fee-only financial planning firm in Wichita Falls, Texas. He is the host of the television show Falls Informer, editor of the financial newsletter Personal Money Planning, and a frequent contributor to the print and broadcast media. Gary also teaches university courses in finance and management.
John Wiley & Sons
(available at Amazon.com and major booksellers)