Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

( 13 )

Overview

Against the Gods, a narrative that reads like a novel, chronicles the remarkable intellectual adventure that liberated humanity from the oracles and soothsayers by means of the powerful tools of risk management that are available to us today. This is a richly-woven tale of Greek philosophers and Arab mathematicians, of merchants and scientists, gamblers and philosophers, world-renowned intellects and obscure but inspired amateurs who helped discover the modern methods of putting the future at the service of the ...
See more details below
Paperback
$12.85
BN.com price
(Save 35%)$19.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (103) from $1.99   
  • New (14) from $7.25   
  • Used (89) from $1.99   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 11
Showing 1 – 9 of 103 (11 pages)
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(18814)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

Acceptable
Buy from the best: 4,000,000 items shipped to delighted customers. We have 1,000,000 unique items ready to ship today!

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(18814)

Condition: Acceptable
Buy from the best: 4,000,000 items shipped to delighted customers. We have 1,000,000 unique items ready to ship today!

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(534)

Condition: Good
1998 - Paperback - Used - Good - - Shows some shelf-wear. May contain old price stickers or their residue, inscriptions or dedications from previous owners in first few pages and ... remainder marks. - .- - All orders are processed and shipped within 24 business hours, Mon - Fri. Expedited shipping and tracking available within the US. Hall Street’s No-Worry guarantee lets you buy with confidence! Read more Show Less

Ships from: Brooklyn, NY

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(1)

Condition: Good
Book is in good condition.

Ships from: Cedar Hill, TN

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(25290)

Condition: Good
Giving great service since 2004: Buy from the Best! 4,000,000 items shipped to delighted customers. We have 1,000,000 unique items ready to ship! Find your Great Buy today!

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(1086)

Condition: Good
Very minimal damage to the cover no holes or tears, only minimal scuff marks minimal wear binding majority of pages undamaged minimal creases or tears. Book may have writing, ... underlining, highlighting, wear to cover and corners, notes in margins, writing Read more Show Less

Ships from: Indianapolis, IN

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2005

Feedback rating:

(2564)

Condition: Good
1996 Paperback Our goal with every sale is customer satisfaction, so please buy with confidence. Every order is shipped the same day or the next day. This is a used book, in ... good condition, that may show some signs of use or wear. Read more Show Less

Ships from: Tontitown, AR

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2013

Feedback rating:

(3)

Condition: Acceptable
1996 Paperback Fair BOOK SHOWS WEAR FROM USE. STILL IN GOOD READING CONDITION. COVER HAS SCRATCHING. COVER SHOWS SIGNS OF BEING BENT. EDGES HAVE SOME WEAR, TEAR, AND SCUFFING. ... PAGE EDGES DIRTY. PAGES HAVE MOISTURE DAMAGE. WE SHIP ITEMS DAILY AND PACK THEM TO INSURE FAST, SAFE, AND QUALITY DELIVERY! Read more Show Less

Ships from: Titusville, FL

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
$1.99
Seller since 2009

Feedback rating:

(22262)

Condition: Good

Ships from: Toledo, OH

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 11
Showing 1 – 9 of 103 (11 pages)
Close
Sort by
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$12.49
BN.com price
(Save 43%)$21.95 List Price

Overview

Against the Gods, a narrative that reads like a novel, chronicles the remarkable intellectual adventure that liberated humanity from the oracles and soothsayers by means of the powerful tools of risk management that are available to us today. This is a richly-woven tale of Greek philosophers and Arab mathematicians, of merchants and scientists, gamblers and philosophers, world-renowned intellects and obscure but inspired amateurs who helped discover the modern methods of putting the future at the service of the present, replacing helplessness before the fates with choice and decision.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
What is it that distinguishes the thousands of years of history from what we think of as modern times? This is the question Peter L. Bernstein asks in the beginning of his new book, Against the Gods, and the answer put simply is...risk management.

Risk management? Well, that's not very poetic, is it? But as Bernstein points out, risk is essential to the development of our society; this is as true as the maxim 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' is old. But how did we discover the proper method for calculating insurance premiums in the first place? At what price should a crop future be set so as to be fair to both buyer and seller? It is questions like these that Bernstein, the author of a number of books on economics and finance, answers as he traces the emergence of risk management from calculating the probability of dice games to insuring investment portfolios.

Risk management by definition has to do with 'maximizing the areas where we have some control over the outcome while minimizing the areas where we have absolutely no control over the outcome and linkage between effect and cause is hidden from us.' But at the end of the day, a risk is still a risk no matter how carefully measured, so where does the time-honored 'gut feeling' come into play? This is the central question of Against the Gods, and the answers are enlightening.

We have Blaise Pascal and his probability triangle to thank for the birth of risk management. Pascal solidified the notion that there was a difference between playing games and thinking about playing games. His triangle of numbers is ageometric algebraic equation that can be employed to calculate, for instance, the odds that a team down one game to zero in the World Series has of coming back to win the pennant. (There are 22 combinations of wins and losses out of a possible 64 that the underdog will come back to win, by the way.) The problem with applying such calculations to real-life situations is that pure odds only work if each team has an equal chance of winning.

It wasn't until the Reformation that people began to that understand that they must take responsibility for their own decisions, and as Bernstein duly points out: 'Risk management only becomes possible when people are free agents.' So as awareness of self-determination spread, mathematicians put their minds to methods of determining risk while businessmen put their wallets towards using this information to limit risk.

It was in 1976, however, that one of the most highly developed forms of risk management heretofore imagined was spawned, from the mind of a Berkeley finance professor named Hayne Leland. For a premium, portfolio insurance guarded an investor against incurring huge losses in the stock market. Hayne had devised a scheme that severely limited the downside of the riskiest institution of all! For a time, everything went along gloriously for portfolio insurance, making millions for Leland, until the market crash of October 1987, when such huge losses could not be traded against the income of the premiums paid. At the end of the day, the best risk management failed in the face of the market's oldest precept: You cannot expect to make large profits without taking the risk of large losses. Related work was done by economists Robert C. Merton and Myron S. Scholes: For their mathematical theorems that accurately priced options (thereby drastically reducing the risk factor), they were recently awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Their theory is explained in depth in Against the Gods.

I felt a growing sense of anticipation as I read this book, expecting that the progress of risk management would lead me directly to the best investment strategies available. And though the book indeed follows this path, risk management as we know it today stops well short of achieving a foolproof method of playing the market. More to the point, it is human nature that does not allow these measurements to limit risk. "Against the Gods" reads like a good piece of historical fiction in which the events, facts, and dates come alive in the midst of the personalities who effected them. Pascal, for example, renounced mathematics twice in his life, both times turning to religion. With the claim of Renunciation, total and sweet, he gave up high living in favor of the monastery, leaving the unsolved intricacies of managing risks to future generations. And perhaps it is well he did, for it seems that we adhere more to the blind faith, rules of thumb, experience, instinct, and conventions that make up our gut than to the results of risk analysis.—Woodall Taft is a freelance writer who resides near Silicon Valley.

New York Times
Ambitious and readable. . .an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers.
John Kenneth Galbraith
With his wonderful knowledge of the history and current manifestations of risk, Peter Bernstein brings us Against the Gods. Nothing like it will come out of the financial world this year or ever. I speak carefully: no one should miss it..
Robert Heilbronerc
No one else could have written a book of such central importance with so much charm and excitement.
William Kristol
A fascinating and unusual perspective on modern man's Promethean attempt to master risk. The book reads easily and provokes thought—a rare combination.
Robert Ferguson
Peter Bernstein leads us effortlessly through the history of risk because he writes so beautifully. This is a book on a left brain subject that will have right brain readers lining up for more!.
Marc Faber
In Against the Gods, Peter Bernstein, a scholar, historian, and successful investor gives us the history of great thinkers whose visions put the future at the service of the present..
Barton M. Biggs
This looks like a new classic to me..
Charles P. Kindleberger
It's a sizzler!.
Washington Post Book World
Against The Gods appeared in the "Washington Is Also Reading..." section of The Washington Post Book World. The book is described as, "A comprehensive history of man's efforts to understand risk and probability, from ancient gamblers in Greece to modern chaos theory.
Money Matters
I must say that I enjoyed the book, it was written in a light-hearted manner"
Wall Street Journal
An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Risk management, which assumes that future risks can be understood, measured and to some extent predicted, is the focus of this solid, thoroughgoing history. Probability theory, pioneered by 17th-century French mathematicians Blaise Pascal and Pierre de Fermat, has made possible the design of great bridges, electric power utilities and insurance policies. The statistical sampling methods invented by dour Swiss scientist Jacob Bernoulli undergird diverse activities such as the testing of new drugs, stock-picking and wine tasting. Bernstein (Capital Ideas) animates his narrative with a colorful cast of risk-analyzers, including gambling addict Girolamo Cardano, 16th-century Italian physician to the Pope; and John Maynard Keynes, whose concerns over economic uncertainty compelled him to recommend an active, interventionist role for government. Bernstein also traces the development of business forecasting, game theory, insurance and derivatives, and surveys recent advances in risk forecasting made possible through chaos theory and by the development of neural networks.
Library Journal
For several centuries, mathematics has been the language of the exact sciences. Only in the 20th century has mathematics become predominant in other fields, particularly economics and finance. In this book, Bernstein (Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street), head of an economic consulting firm, traces the development of probability theory from its beginnings in analyzing games of chance, through its application to statistical theory and insurance, up to its present use in developing investment strategies to control risk. He includes excellent sections on portfolio analysis and on investments in derivatives. Bernstein clearly describes the people, their work, and the events that have revolutionized the thinking on Wall Street. -- Harold D. Shane, Baruch College, City University of New York
Library Journal
For several centuries, mathematics has been the language of the exact sciences. Only in the 20th century has mathematics become predominant in other fields, particularly economics and finance. In this book, Bernstein (Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street), head of an economic consulting firm, traces the development of probability theory from its beginnings in analyzing games of chance, through its application to statistical theory and insurance, up to its present use in developing investment strategies to control risk. He includes excellent sections on portfolio analysis and on investments in derivatives. Bernstein clearly describes the people, their work, and the events that have revolutionized the thinking on Wall Street. -- Harold D. Shane, Baruch College, City University of New York
The Wall Street Journal
An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book.
The New York Times
Ambitious and readable. . .an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471295631
  • Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/14/1998
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 117,851
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

PETER L. BERNSTEIN is President of Peter L. Bernstein, Inc., economic consultants to institutional investors. Mr. Bernstein is the author of six books in economics and finance, including the bestselling Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street, as well as many articles in the professional and popular press. He is the Editor of The Portable MBA in Investment (Wiley) and was the Founding Editor of The Journal of Portfolio Management.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

TO 1200: BEGINNINGS.
The Winds of the Greeks and the Role of the Dice.
As Easy As I, II, III.
1200-1700: A THOUSAND OUTSTANDING FACTS.
The Renaissance Gambler.
The French Connection.
The Remarkable Notions of the Remarkable Notions Man.
1700-1900: MEASUREMENT UNLIMITED.
Considering the Nature of Man.
The Search for Moral Certainty.
The Supreme Law of Unreason.
The Man with the Sprained Brain.
Peapods and Perils.
The Fabric of Felicity.
1900-1960: CLOUDS OF VAGUENESS AND THE DEMAND FOR PRECISION.
The Measure of Our Ignorance.
The Radically Distinct Notion.
The Man Who Counted Everything Except Calories.
The Strange Case of the Anonymous Stockbroker.
DEGREES OF BELIEF: EXPLORING UNCERTAINTY.
The Failure of Invariance.
The Theory Police.
The Fantastic System of Side Bets.
Awaiting The Wildness.
Notes.
Bibliography.
Indexes.
Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
Finance: What Is It, Why Is It, and Where Is It? by Peter L. Bernstein

Finance is a small word, but it covers a huge territory that includes markets, banking, corporate finance, the art of forecasting, accounting, taxation -- and more. In this universe, financial markets are the sun, a dazzling creation around which all the other activities rotate. I set the scene in this short essay, therefore, with some observations about markets before turning to the rest of the subject.

What is that frenzied activity in financial markets all about? Markets are places where buyers and sellers come together to do business; financial markets deal in money and risk. Financial markets are in the first instance a vehicle for financing governments and enterprises that need money. Beyond that, financial markets are a place where owners of outstanding assets can convert those assets into cash, or where owners of cash can find longer-term uses for their money. Financial markets thus give holders of assets with future cash flows the option of realizing the discounted value of those future cash flows in the present. In short, financial markets give investors the opportunity to change their minds, to reverse earlier decisions, at a cost and with a degree of immediacy that direct investment cannot provide. Think of the difference between buying 1,000 shares of IBM for a client and a house for your family.

Reversibility of decisions is the key element in risk. The reversibility provided by financial markets is their most important attribute. Financial markets are a kind of time machine that allows investors to compress the future into the present. Without financial markets, all assets would be buy-and-hold. Financial markets also provide tradable assets that directly hedge risk, by performing the remarkable function -- similar to insurance -- of reducing the holder's dependence on the markets to reverse decisions that might turn out unfavorably. Along the way, financial markets provide divisibility of outstanding issues, which means that investors can reduce risk even further through the invaluable device of diversification.

Through all these methods of reducing the risk of owning assets, financial markets lower the cost of capital and stimulate the spirit of enterprise. Recognizing these features of financial markets is essential to understanding the character of the risks and required returns of nonmarket sources of finance, such as banking, direct investment, and venture capital.

The impact of time on finance is not limited to markets. Time and finance are only opposite sides of the same coin. Finance means that those without cash can obtain cash today instead of waiting until tomorrow or the next day or the next. Thus, time is at the core of all aspects of finance, whether the transaction is in tradable or illiquid assets and whether it involves the sale of newly created financial assets or outstanding issues.

Finance is a service. We cannot touch, smell, or test-drive the next transaction we undertake. As a result, finance cannot operate without trust. Accounting, law, and regulation are indispensable features of a successful financial system. They come first. Finally, because finance is so involved with time, finance is about the future. This means that the study of finance must include techniques of forecasting combined with the valuation of future cash flows. But the future is unknown. So we also require the whole methodology of risk management for those occasions when forecasts turn out to be wrong.

The field is challenging, exciting in its development, and a place to make a fortune -- but also intensely competitive. It is also a fast-moving business: Like many other areas of our economy today, finance seems to be hit by innovation piled on innovation with extraordinary speed. You either keep in step or fall by the wayside. The work of academics and theoreticians in finance is now so closely joined to the efforts of practitioners that continuing education is essential for success.

Studying the literature cannot assure us of getting rich, but ignoring what the experts have to tell us has a high probability of dooming us to failure.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(1)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2013

    Approachable, with depth

    Excellent. The Nook version has several duplicated passages and some OCR errors, but the content seems complete.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Lucid, accessible history of risk management

    This work is a minor classic of financial literature. Business historian Peter L. Bernstein wrote it during the early 1990s, when faith in the power of quantitative models and financial engineering was at its apex, and he tells a heroic story. Beginning with Greek mythology, Bernstein shows how cultural ideas about risk and probability evolved through Arab mathematics, the European Enlightenment and Chicago School economics. He writes in a spare, straightforward style, and manages to convey the essentials of financial theory and the essences of great economists without losing the reader in a maze of equations. Of course, the 2008 financial crisis cast probabilistic models and financial engineering as global market villains. In retrospect, that makes Bernstein's evident admiration for those models seem rather touchingly ingenuous. Nonetheless, getAbstract finds that this is still one of the best popular introductions to the development of financial science.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2008

    Individual investor

    one of the best investing books ever written. whether you are a novice or a pro this book should be in everyones top 5 investor books. Fantastic overview of the overwhelming complexity of todays markets. Allows one to understand risk and how it relates to the our everyday lives pertaining to money. Mr. Bernstein lays it out very clearly what your odds are playing the stock market.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2007

    Excellent

    Bernstein strikes again - even better than his history of gold. Great stuff.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 10, 2000

    A must-read for first time investors

    Before plunking any money into any investment, read this book first. It may seem more of a chronology of probability and statistics at first, but stick with it. More importantly, this book will help you understand risk so you go into investments with both eyes open. This book would be a 'must-read' even if it did not venture into applications to the stock market. It is well researched and written.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2000

    Mischievous analysis of the history of captialism

    A great read... much more provocative and satisfying than some of the Longitude-style attempts at reasssessing big history. Bernstein looks at society and the growth of modern capitalism using the lode stone of risk, mixing math and history in an extraordinarily original way.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 24, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)