Book Bits | 10 November 2018

Merger Masters: Tales of Arbitrage
By Kate Welling and Mario Gabelli
Summary via publisher (Columbia University Press)
Merger Masters presents revealing profiles of monumentally successful merger investors based on exclusive interviews with some of the greatest minds to practice the art of arbitrage. Michael Price, John Paulson, Paul Singer, and others offer practical perspectives on how their backgrounds in the risk-conscious world of merger arbitrage helped them make their biggest deals. They share their insights on the discipline that underlies their fortunes, whether they practice the “plain vanilla” strategy of announced deals, the aggressive strategy of activist investment, or any strategy in between on the risk spectrum. Merger Masters delves into the human side of risk arbitrage, exploring how top practitioners deal with the behavioral aspects of generating consistent profits from risk arbitrage.

Portfolio Rebalancing
By Edward E. Qian
Summary via publisher (Chapman and Hall/CRC)
The goal of Portfolio Rebalancing is to provide mathematical and empirical analysis of the effects of portfolio rebalancing on portfolio returns and risks. The mathematical analysis answers the question of when and why fixed-weight portfolios might outperform buy-and-hold portfolios based on volatilities and returns. The empirical analysis, aided by mathematical insights, will examine the effects of portfolio rebalancing in capital markets for asset allocation portfolios and portfolios of stocks, bonds, and commodities.

The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success
By Albert-László Barabási
Q&A with author via GeekWire
Q: There have been quite a few books about why certain people are successful and others are not. Can you explain how applying your data crunching helped bolster your case and find the patterns to “prove” who is likely to succeed — and who won’t?
A: There are many fantastic books on many accomplished individuals’ path to success. They all lack, however, the control cohort: by looking at only those who have achieved something remarkable, you do not really see what distinguishes them from those who failed to achieve the same level of recognition.
In our research, we avoided this methodological blind spot by exploring the career patterns of all scientists, not only those that received a Nobel Prize, and all artists, not only those who made it into the MOMA. In medicine, the FDA forces you to use a placebo to prove that a drug works. Similarly, to unveil the laws of success, we must pay as much attention to those who did not succeed, as to those who did.

Oil, Power, and War: A Dark History
By Matthieu Auzanneau (translated by John F. Reynolds)
Review via Kirkus Review
As French journalist Auzanneau writes, “at the heart of the political and geopolitical strategies” of the major Western powers in the postwar era was a calculus “overlooked by classic economic science”—namely, that the expansion of their economies was contingent upon the expansion of available supplies of oil and gas. Underlying the postwar boom, then, was a boom in energy sources, as the U.S. consolidated its hold on the Middle East while enjoying record production at home. The more-or-less stagnant economies since then correspond to a decline in energy availability, with jolts provided by the advent of sources like shale oil in the U.S. in the last decade. That production of what the author calls “conventional oil” is declining leads him to suppose that the much-feared “peak oil” period is finally upon us, an eventuality that will lead to severe economic dislocation as the world scrambles to retool. The problem, of course, is that the future is a moving target, and peak oil has been a thing since the days of the first oil embargo, even as the fossil-fuel economy keeps chugging on. Still, looking at economies addicted to cheap oil, it’s hard to disagree with Auzanneau that “any reasonable person can see that it’s time to detoxify.”

Automating Humanity
By Joe Toscano
Summary via publisher (powerHouse Books)
Automating Humanity is the shocking and eye-opening new manifesto from international award-winning designer Joe Toscano that unravels and lays bare the power agendas of the world’s greatest tech titans in plain language, and delivers a fair warning to policymakers, civilians, and industry professionals alike: We need a strategy for the future, and we need it now. Automating Humanity is an insider’s perspective on everything Big Tech doesn’t want the public to know — or think about: everything from the addictions installed on a global scale to the profits being driven by fake news and disinformation, to the way they’re manipulating the world for profit and using our data to train systems that will automate jobs at an explosive, unprecedented scale.

Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation
By Jeffry D. Wert
Review via The Wall Street Journal
The Civil War changed America like nothing before or since. As Jeffry D. Wert tells us in “Civil War Barons: The Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors, and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation,” on the eve of the fledgling Confederacy’s 1861 attack on Fort Sumter “barely more than thirty-six thousand civilian employees worked for the [federal] government.” Of those, “85 percent worked for the post office.”