A Business Week, New York Times Business, and USA Today Bestseller
"Ambitious and readable . . . an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers, whom Bernstein regards as true humanists helping to release mankind from the choke holds of superstition and fatalism." -The New York Times
"An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book." -The Wall Street Journal
"A lively panoramic book . . . Against the Gods sets up an ambitious premise and then delivers on it." -Business Week
"Deserves to be, and surely will be, widely read." -The Economist
"[A] challenging book, one that may change forever the way people think about the world." -Worth
"No one else could have written a book of such central importance with so much charm and excitement." -Robert Heilbroner author, The Worldly Philosophers
"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." -John Kenneth Galbraith Professor of Economics Emeritus, Harvard University
In this unique exploration of the role of risk in our society, Peter Bernstein argues that the notion of bringing risk under control is one of the central ideas that distinguishes modern times from the distant past. Against the Gods chronicles the remarkable intellectual adventure that liberated humanity from oracles and soothsayers by means of the powerful tools of risk management that are available to us today.
"An extremely readable history of risk." -Barron's
"Fascinating . . . this challenging volume will help you understand the uncertainties that every investor must face." -Money
"A singular achievement." -Times Literary Supplement
"There's a growing market for savants who can render the recondite intelligibly-witness Stephen Jay Gould (natural history), Oliver Sacks (disease), Richard Dawkins (heredity), James Gleick (physics), Paul Krugman (economics)-and Bernstein would mingle well in their company." -The Australian
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Table of Contents
TO 1200: BEGINNINGS
1. The Winds of the Greeks and the Role of the Dice 11
2. As Easy as I, II, III 23
1200–1700: A THOUSAND OUTSTANDING FACTS
3. The Renaissance Gambler 39
4. The French Connection 57
5. The Remarkable Notions of the Remarkable Notions Man 73
1700–1900: MEASUREMENT UNLIMITED
6. Considering the Nature of Man 99
7. The Search for Moral Certainty 116
8. The Supreme Law of Unreason 135
9. The Man with the Sprained Brain 152
10. Peapods and Perils 172
11. The Fabric of Felicity 187
1900–1960: CLOUDS OF VAGUENESS AND THE DEMAND FOR PRECISION
12. The Measure of Our Ignorance 197
13. The Radically Distinct Notion 215
14. The Man Who Counted Everything Except Calories 231
15. The Strange Case of the Anonymous Stockbroker 247
DEGREES OF BELIEF:EXPLORING UNCERTAINTY
16. The Failure of Invariance 269
17. The Theory Police 284
18. The Fantastic System of Side Bets 304
19. Awaiting the Wildness 329
Name Index 365
Subject Index 369
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
Bernstein strikes again - even better than his history of gold. Great stuff.
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.
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.