Review: Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, Edwin Lefèvre

Rating: 5 out of 5

While not a traditional Christmas book, somehow I have ended up reviewing this in the depth of the holiday season. Surprisingly, this works very well with respect to an article I recently read on giving gifts that keep on working for the recipient: stocks! I would propose my choice for the gift that keeps on giving is a book. There is no doubt that for those willing to dedicate themselves to study and understanding, books of many types can be a thrilling experience. Mr Lefèvre’s work on the fictional Larry Livingston is definitely amongst that class!

The first thing a reader should understand is that as the book describes speculation in the 1910’s, it is unusable as a guide on how to act in the 21st century. The author recognises this in one of the later chapters which is entirely dedicated to describing how the methods of the 19th century no longer work in the early 20th. The modern reader should be as capable of understanding that what is great about this book is not the description of specific trading methods, but rather that of human psychology.

The stories that are used to describe speculation here are all educational. Most of this comes through in the capacity of ‘the author’ to read into his own failings from the past — an ability most of us sadly lack. This retrospective inquisition allows Larry — a fictional representation of the real-world trader Jesse Livermore — to put his pen down exactly why he lost money. In some of these cases, it is clear that the understanding came years after, but it came and helped Larry/Jesse reach new heights.

I think that we also need to step one step beyond this book in one aspect: money itself. There are a few mentions in here how some money should always be protected, to provide for those that depend on oneself. Beyond that there is no call for altruism though as the person is written, it is clear that he is not a bad person: simply one out to prove his theories. Money also did not bring lasting happiness to Jesse Livermore with his life ending by suicide in 1940.

Lastly, a word of caution on the version of the book. I have always previously read this in Estonian, and in English the problem of finding a well-edited version seems to be more acute. The version I read (and am reviewing here) is the one I took up right now, and it has numerous errors of spelling as well as typesetting. I would recommend a different version, even if it costs more.

Overall, my recommendation is a strong recommend!

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