When I was younger, I had a book called “They Went That Away…” that researched what happened to famous figures after their moments in the spotlight. It’s a book I still have (somewhere) and it makes for some interesting trivia information. 100 Minds That Made The Market, written by Ken Fisher, the CEO of Fisher Investments and a name you might recognize on Forbes; is a similar book but focused on people in the financial industry and their impacts. I am by no means an investing guru, I know very little about the history of the markets and its influential participants; so I learned a tremendous amount from this book.
The thing I like the most about this book is that the little biographies are usually only a few pages. I’d say you can get through a biography in approximately ten to fifteen minutes and you can flip to any one of them in any order. While it might be valuable to read through the categories in order, only to get a sense of how these personalities may have interacted, it’s certainly not required. This made it possible for me to read it when I wanted, have frequent break-away points, and skip past biographies of individuals I wasn’t particularly interested in.
One of my favorite stories was about Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin (starts on page 116, the first bio in The Innovators category). Essentially what happened was that Lucky tried to get into the California Stock and Exchange Board floor to check on his mining stocks, which were particular hot and speculative at the time, but was denied entry because he forgot his membership card. At the time, there was some new ore discovery and a bunch of non-members were trying to get in to buy up some mining shares so they started checking IDs. When Lucky forgot his card, one that he never needed, and was denied entry, he was furious. So what did he do? He started his own exchange, the Pacific Stock Exchange, and got twenty local members away from the California Stock and Exchange Board. That’s right, when they wouldn’t let him in, he decided to start his own stock market! (Eventually the California Stock and Exchange Board acquired Lucky’s Exchange in 1904, five years before his death) To think, he just up and decided to start his own stock market, steal twenty members, and actually succeeded. Pretty ballsy!
So, is this book worked buying? I think so, but I’m a sucker for trivia and learning about history. I don’t think this book is really for someone who wants to learn how to invest or find the latest stock tip, this is for someone who enjoys history, enjoys reading about the stock markets and why it is the way it is today (even if there are stories about guys with Wild Wild West names like Lucky), or enjoys little vignettes about interesting characters from the past. If you’re a fan of crunching numbers and random walks, this isn’t going to be a good book for you.