The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return

Mihir A. Desai. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27 (240p) ISBN 978-0-544-91113-0
In this slender but erudite treatise, law and finance professor Desai (International Finance: A Casebook) proposes that humanity, rather than the hot-button issue of income inequality, lies at the center of finance. To do this, he calls upon none other than Jane Austen and John Milton, among others. Desai gives humanists explanations of basic financial principles, such as value creation and leverage, with nary a numeral. For number crunchers, Desai provides a fresh way of viewing basic ideas. A scene from Dashiell Hammett’s novel The Maltese Falcon is used to explain randomness and chance. The contemporary artist Jeff Koons is invoked to illustrate the power of financial leverage. Other analogies work less well: the description of the Time Warner–AOL merger as a May-December romance seems both strained and precious. Nonetheless, this book does valuable work toward demystifying finance for laypeople and deepening the art for practitioners. Desai’s approach will broaden and enrich any perspective. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (June)
Reviewed on: 02/27/2017
Release date: 05/30/2017
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