Quant log | 4 min read

What to Read This Summer

Graham’s Quantitative Strategies team share their current favorite reads, each offering their insightful take on why these books have captured their attention. This thoughtfully curated summer reading list encompasses a wide spectrum of topics and genres. From enlightening non-fiction books about finance, science, and math, to fiction and the classics, there’s something for every literary enthusiast. Happy reading!

Finance

Oil 101  
M.  Downey 
A.’s Take: This is an interesting read and a deep dive into the Energy markets from production to distribution, so you get to learn about the big players and how things are connected in the Oil markets.  

The (Mis)behavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence 
B. Mandelbrot and R. L. Hudson  
R.’s Take: This book connects the idea of fractal geometry to the volatilities of the financial market and challenges the standard assumptions behind how market randomness is generated.  

Chaos Kings: How Wall Street Traders Make Billions in the New Age of Crisis 
S. Patterson 
C.’s Take: While I am not always a fan of Scott’s style, I was impressed with his grasp of some the nuances of the tail-risk hedging industry pitch, the access he obtained to the key actors, and his portrait of how these different actors have managed their rise to fame since the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and throughout the Covid crisis in 2020.  

Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street  
W. Poundstone 
B.’s Take: A great read.  


My Life as a Quant: Reflections on Physics and Finance 
E. Derman  
R.’s Take: This book is an autobiography by one of the pioneers in financial engineering, which reflects on his transition from theoretical physics to finance and how some ideas are translated.  

Science and Math

Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics 
J. Derbyshire 
A.’s Take: Easy to read with not very complex math. Shows different ways of looking at the Riemann Hypothesis.  

The Revolt Against Humanity: Imagining a Future Without Us 
A. Kirsch 
J.’s Take: A book about the Anthropocene era, so-called, and the end or transition of humanity.  It sounds dystopic, but it’s not… so much.  

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid  
D. R. Hofstadter 
T.’s Take: [A Classic.]  

In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World 
I. Stewart 
A.’s Take: A quick but entertaining walk through some very meaningful discoveries and what they mean in the historical context. Can be read in small increments as each chapter is pretty much self-contained, so time constrained folks should be able to put down and pick back up easily when able.  
 
Helgoland: Making Sense of the Quantum Revolution 
C. Rovelli 
P.’s Take: This book is about Quantum Mechanics and its many interpretations.  Carlo starts by going back to the early 20th century and paints a picture of the challenges and triumphs of physicists during the early years of Quantum Mechanics.  Great story telling.  
 
The Book of Why:  The New Science of Cause and Effect 
J. Pearl and D. Mackenzie 
A.’s Take: A great review of traditional statistical methods and thoughtful piece on causal inference and how Bayesian thinking should be applied to identify causal relationships. In no way tedious or textbook like. Start it if you like to dive deep into a book. Judea Pearl’s thinking is clear and direct but requires focus. Still great for a backyard or beach side read.  

Biography

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
K. Bird and M. J. Sherwin 
A.’s Take: Currently reading this. It is the source material for the new movie Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy. It documents the history of the Manhattan Project through the life of Robert Oppenheimer. It gives a remarkable view into all the challenges of developing the atomic bomb, including powerful inter-personal, political, moral, and ethical struggles, as well as dealing with the aftermath of the creation, specifically the terrible weight carried by those responsible for the creation of the bomb.  

Churchill: Walking with Destiny  
A. Roberts 
I.’s Take: A comprehensive examination of the man beyond his well-known leadership in WWII. Highlights his character and thought process throughout his time in the military and in public life.  

The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan 
R. Kanigel 
E.’s Take: It’s difficult to avoid finding Ramanujan fascinating, even if you have no interest in mathematics. It touches on how society treats brilliant, but non-traditional people. 

Fiction

The Dispossessed 
U. K. Le Guin 
N.’s Take: This SciFi novel is almost 50 years old now, but many of the topics touched on – freedom, society versus individual, ecology, feminism are very current. The story follows a physicist from one of two neighboring planets (one quasi-anarchist, the other hyper-capitalist) on the cusp of a great theoretical discovery. 

Richard II 
W. Shakespeare 
I.’s Take: A compelling history of Richard II, exploring the challenges faced by people ill-suited and underprepared for the circumstances of their life and how this can impact those around them.  
 
When We Cease to Understand the World 
B. Labatut 
J.’s Take: A fun read. 

Society

Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More than They Expect 
W. Guidara 
I.’s Take: An interesting look at the standards and processes that helped make Eleven Madison Park the standard bearer for service in the 2010s.  

Words Like Loaded Pistols: Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama by S. Leith 
E.’s Take: These days, ‘rhetoric’ is considered negative, but words matter, and we should be reminded of that.  

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