Nonfiction roundup

Lipstick on a Pig, by Torie Clarke

Subtitled “Winning in the No-Spin Era by Someone Who Knows the Game”, this book is one woman’s perspective on playing the PR and communications game in the panopticon era. I thought it was pretty decent for providing some good overall principles for a communications strategy, with advice like “Deliver the bad news yourself, and when you screw up, say so – fast!” and “Flood the Zone – Transparency makes good things shine and bad ones go away.” She points out the importance of having a message – “Generating positive media coverage is not an objective” and “Getting a positive article in the New York Times is not a strategy”. Figure out what your message or objective is first, and then develop a strategy that will achieve that objective. For instance, she told a record company executive that he probably wasn’t going to reach the teen audience with a message against music piracy by writing an op-ed in the newspaper. I like her perspective on communications and can therefore overlook the fact that she worked for Rumsfeld and her tendency to over-use cute anecdotes. Well worth the library read, but I probably won’t get a copy for myself.

My Life as a Quant, by Emanuel Derman

I happened to see this in the library, and was intrigued after reading the back cover, as Derman was a former theoretical particle physicist who made the jump to Wall Street, working at Goldman Sachs. Emanuel Derman is now a professor in financial engineering at Columbia University, and wrote this book describing his experiences throughout his life, from physics to Bell Labs to Wall Street. He also takes the time to explain at a layman’s level how the black box of options pricing works, from the Black-Scholes model to the Black-Derman-Toy model that he helped to develop. I thought it was interesting how he managed to draw on his background in particle physics, possibly the most idealistic and esoteric branch of science, in a career on Wall Street, which is about as practical as it gets. It’s a well-written fast read – I read it on the plane out to San Francisco a few weeks ago. I’d recommend it if you’re interested in moving to Wall Street, or in how to apply a physics degree.

P.S. Blogging is going to take a hit probably. Classes started in my program this week, so that’s three-hour classes two nights a week plus a ton of homework (approximately 6-8 hours per class per week). Plus working full-time. So I basically have no free time or brain power for the next two years. I’m sure I will have thoughts I want to share, but it’s going to be hard to find time to write them up.

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