Book Bits: 26 February 2022

The Next Age of Uncertainty: How the World Can Adapt to a Riskier Future
Stephen Poloz
Interview with author via Financial Post
Stephen Poloz, who spent seven years as the Bank of Canada governor before stepping down in July 2020… identifies five “tectonic” forces — an aging population, technological progress, rising inequality, rising debt and climate change — that are going to interact under the surface and create new crises for at least a decade.
We talked about how this will work, the energy transition, inflation, rising interest rates, why he thinks employees will gain an edge over employers and much more.

The Money Minders: The Parables, Trade-offs and Lags of Central Banking
Jagjit S. Chadha
Summary via publisher (Cambridge U. Press)
In the crises of the past fifteen years, central bankers have become big public players in a drama that affects all our lives, involving financial market crashes, public health threats and devastating economic downturns. Having played a lead role in the global financial crisis and the coronavirus crisis, they are now being asked to broaden their appeal. But the key aim has always been one of simply ensuring monetary and financial stability. In this book, NIESR director Jagjit Chadha unpacks the world of central banking, explaining in accessible language the analytical techniques, policy toolkits or simple story-telling that they use to understand the economy, to implement monetary policy and to communicate their decisions to key decision-makers and the wider public.

The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann
Ananyo Bhattacharya
Review via The Wall Street Journal
During his 53 years on Planet Earth—he died of metastatic prostate cancer in 1957—von Neumann, beginning at age 19, pioneered new areas of pure mathematics that today bear his name; revolutionized the foundations of quantum mechanics in the 1920s (among other things by demonstrating the deep mathematical equivalence of Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics and Schrödinger’s wave mechanics that had mystified everyone else); solved the crucial problem of employing high explosives to precisely and symmetrically compress a sphere of plutonium in the first atomic bomb; co-authored the bestselling book that launched the field of game theory; developed key concepts of nuclear deterrence and (before the first stored-program digital computer even existed) conceived the fundamental architecture used in every computer since.

The Unlucky Investor’s Guide to Options Trading: A Strategist’s Guide to Options Trading
Julia Spina
Summary via publisher (Wiley)
Traders who are successful long-term do not rely on luck, but rather their ability to adapt, strategize, and utilize available tools and information. Modern markets are becoming increasingly accessible to the average consumer, and the emergence of retail options trading is opening a world of opportunities for the individual investor. Options are highly versatile and complex financial instruments that were exclusive to industry professionals until recently. So where should beginners start? The Unlucky Investor’s Guide to Options Trading breaks down the science of options trading to suit interested traders from any background. Using statistics and historical options data, readers will develop an intuitive understanding of the potential risks and rewards of options contracts. From the basics of options trading to strategy construction and portfolio management

The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze
Laura Shin
Summary via publisher (Public Affairs)
In their short history, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have gone through booms, busts, and internecine wars, recently reaching a market valuation of more than $2 trillion. The central promise of crypto endures—vast fortunes made from decentralized networks not controlled by any single entity and not yet regulated by many governments. The recent growth of crypto would have been all but impossible if not for a brilliant young man named Vitalik Buterin and his creation: Ethereum. In this book, Laura Shin takes readers inside the founding of this novel cryptocurrency network, which enabled users to launch their own new coins, thus creating a new crypto fever.

Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World
Scott Reynolds Nelson
Review via Civil Eats
In the vein of other groundbreaking historical revisionist books, Oceans of Grain runs a fine-toothed comb through history to tell an unexpected tale of what caused some empires to crumble while others survived and thrived: grain. Within its 368 print pages, historian Scott Reynolds Nelson analyzes the power of wheat on a global scale to tell the story of how it—and, eventually, the American variety in particular—influenced some of the most significant events of the 19th century, from wars and revolutions to the century’s signature industrialization.

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