Brief Reviews of Three Books

These three book reviews are for books that I scanned, and did not read in depth.

Quantitative Equity Investing

The first book: Quantitative Equity Investing, is a book for practitioners with strong math skills, not average investors.  It reviews basic econometrics and factor analysis, and then applies these tools in an effort to sort out anomalies in investment markets, tease out important factors driving markets, and find workable trading strategies, considering execution costs, slippage, etc.  It has a brief section on algorithmic and high frequency trading.

On the whole, I didn’t find anything that new or amazing in the book.  Though there were a few things in the book that I hadn’t seen before, they were trivial things that I looked at and said, “Oh, yeah, of course.”

The book is generic in the way that it deals with the topic.  It is no going to give you ideas to pursue, but only tools that you can use if you have ideas tht you want to analyze, and turn into strategies.

Who would benefit from this book?

You have to have a very strong math background, including the type of Matrix Algebra that one would use in graduate-level Econometrics.  To that end, this book would be most useful to grad students wanting an introduction to how to apply their math skills to the markets.

The book is available here: Quantitative Equity Investing: Techniques and Strategies (The Frank J. Fabozzi Series)

The New Science of Asset Allocation

This book uses Modern Portfolio Theory in order to analyze asset allocation decisions.  Those that have read me for a while know that I think that is a flawed paradigm, in need of replacement.  For those that want a reasonable understanding of that paradigm in a short space, the book does that very well.

That said, the book has its virtues.  The chapter on the “Myths of Asset Allocation” shows that the authors have some depth of insight into the foibles and misunderstandings that surround asset allocation.  The book also goes into the importance of qualitative analysis of managers, looking up from the numbers so that you can avoid allocating money to the next Madoff.  It also describes the use of derivatives in order to control risk exposures.

Each chapter ends with a short summary of the takeaways from the chapter, which serves to reinforce the points of the book.

Though the book has the word “new” in the title, I did not find much new in it.  If one is looking for novel implementation methods for asset allocation, best to look elsewhere.

Who would benefit from this book?

This is not a book for average investors.  It is for professionals who want to brush up their asset allocation skills, and young professionals wanting insight into asset allocation.

The book is available here: The New Science of Asset Allocation: Risk Management in a Multi-Asset World (Wiley Finance)

The Economics of Food: How Feeding and Fueling the Planet Affects Food Prices

To me, this was the most interesting book of the three, but I feel it was mistitled.  A better title would have been: “Fueled: The Effects of  Using Food for Fuel” or something like that, because the central question of the book is to what degree has using crops to produce biomass for fuel production (usually ethanol) affected the costs of food and fuel.

I found the book is very even-handed, to a fault.  It argues that the use of crops for fuel production had little impact on food costs, and that there were many other factors that made food prices rise when ethanol production was going gangbusters.  Weather, domestic and foreign demand and many other factors had a role in moving food prices, not just ethanol.

After reviewing the book, I have a better sense of the complexity of the question, and that it will not admit easy answers.

Who would benefit from this book?

Anyone who wants a basic understanding of food economics, and how that is impacted by a wide number of factors including using crops for the production of fuel would benefit from this book.  The book is well written, and seemingly balanced.

The book is available here: The Economics of Food: How Feeding and Fueling the Planet Affects Food Prices

Full disclosure: The publishers sent me copies of these books, hoping that I would review them.  I review about 80% of the books that get sent to me.

If you enter Amazon through my site, and you buy anything, I get a small commission.  This is my main source of blog revenue.  I prefer this to a “tip jar” because I want you to get something you want, rather than merely giving me a tip.  Book reviews take time, particularly with the reading, which most book reviewers don’t do in full, and I typically do. (When I don’t, I mention that I scanned the book.  Also, I never use the data that the PR flacks send out.)

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