Book Bits | 12.7.13

Going Viral
By Karine Nahon and Jeff Hemsley
Summary via publisher, Polity
We live in a world where a tweet can be instantly retweeted and read by millions around the world in minutes, where a video forwarded to friends can destroy a political career in hours, and where an unknown man or woman can become an international celebrity overnight. Virality: individuals create it, governments fear it, companies would die for it. So what is virality and how does it work? Why does one particular video get millions of views while hundreds of thousands of others get only a handful? In Going Viral, Nahon and Hemsley uncover the factors that make things go viral online. They analyze the characteristics of networks that shape virality, including the crucial role of gatekeepers who control the flow of information and connect networks to one another. They also explore the role of human attention, showing how phenomena like word of mouth, bandwagon effects, homophily and interest networks help to explain the patterns of individual behavior that make viral events.

The Mortgage Wars: Inside Fannie Mae, Big-Money Politics, and the Collapse of the American Dream
By Timothy Howard
Review via Publishers Weekly
Former Fannie Mae CFO Howard, who was fired in 2004 following allegations of accounting fraud, and acquitted of all civil charges in 2012, overwhelms the lay reader with this jargon-filled response to his legal ordeal. Backed by the government to bundle mortgage loans into bonds that allowed more banks to issue home loans, Fannie Mae was squashed by a deregulated banking industry in the 1990’s on grounds “of ideology, market power and money.” With great attention to detail, Howard charts business decisions over a five-decade span and leading up to the company’s downfall. The book reads more like a record of his court deposition, often obscuring the company’s true problem: “Small[er]…banks did not like [Fannie’s] portfolio business because it competed with theirs” and very large, deregulated banks viewed their dominance of the secondary mortgage market as “a major impediment.”
The Man in the Arena: Vanguard Founder John C. Bogle and His Lifelong Battle to Serve Investors First
By Knut A. Rostad
Summary via publisher, Wiley
The Man in the Arena offers the essence of John C. Bogle’s thinking and the meaning of his life’s work, which transformed individual investing to benefit tens of millions of investors. Through Bogle’s own words—as well as the voices of others whose hearts and minds he touched—the book touches on topics he cares about most deeply: Vanguard, indexing, corporate governance, and a fiduciary society. From Vanguard shareholders to true giants in finance, one cannot read their words without being struck by their sheer intensity. Bogle’s parade of admirers is passionate. It is led by, arguably, the two most acclaimed leaders of our day—in the world of investing and the public life of the world—Warren Buffett and President Bill Clinton. The book is a first take at putting Bogle’s life work into a broader context. It includes some of Bogle’s classic essays and leads to an agenda of reform Bogle feels is essential to preserve our democratic republic.
Handbook of Market Risk
By Christian Szylar
Summary via publisher, Wiley
A one-stop guide for the theories, applications, and statistical methodologies of market risk. Understanding and investigating the impacts of market risk on the financial landscape is crucial in preventing crises. Written by a hedge fund specialist, the Handbook of Market Risk is the comprehensive guide to the subject of market risk. Featuring a format that is accessible and convenient, the handbook employs numerous examples to underscore the application of the material in a real-world setting. The book starts by introducing the various methods to measure market risk while continuing to emphasize stress testing, liquidity, and interest rate implications.
Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal
By Matthew Hart
Interview with author via NPR
Gold is assumed to have eternal, inherent value, but what makes it valuable? And what determines its value now that it’s no longer the basis of our currency? In the book Gold: The Race for the World’s Most Seductive Metal, journalist Matthew Hart examines the new gold rush driven by investors. He travels to gold mines — including the Mponeng mine in South Africa, where he descended into the deepest man-made hole on Earth — and investigates why gold and crime sometimes go hand in hand.
Short-Term Forecasting for Empirical Economists: A Survey of the Recently Proposed Algorithms
by Maximo Camacho, et al.
Summary via publisher, Now Publishers
Short-term Forecasting for Empirical Economists seeks to close the gap between research and applied short-term forecasting. The authors review some of the key theoretical results and empirical findings in the recent literature on short-term forecasting, and translate these findings into economically meaningful techniques to facilitate their widespread application to compute short-term forecasts in economics, and to monitor the ongoing business cycle developments in real time.
The Great Mirror of Folly: Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720
Edited by William N. Goetzmann, et al.
Summary via publisher, Yale University Press
The world’s first global stock market bubble suddenly burst in 1720, destroying the dreams and fortunes of speculators in London, Paris, and Amsterdam virtually overnight. Their folly and misfortune inspired the publication of an extraordinary Dutch collection of satirical prints, plays, poetry, commentary, and financial prospectuses entitled Het groote Tafereel de Dwaasheid (The Great Mirror of Folly), a unique and lavish record of the financial crisis and its cultural dimensions. The current book adopts the title. It is a book about the book, a wide-ranging interdisciplinary collaboration that uncovers the meaning and influence of the Tafereel and the profound, lasting, and multifaceted impact of the crash of 1720 on European cultures and financial markets.