Against the Gods

By Peter L. Bernstein,

Book cover of Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk

Book description

A Business Week, New York Times Business, and USA Today Bestseller "Ambitious and readable ...an engaging introduction to the oddsmakers, whom Bernstein regards as true humanists helping to release mankind from the choke holds of superstition and fatalism." -The New York Times "An extraordinarily entertaining and informative book." -The Wall…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Against the Gods as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This book taught me a great deal about how managing risk differed between modern and past times. This helped me to spot whether a “prediction” is likely to happen. (In investing, plenty of “experts” often like to predict a crash, a bull market, or a bubble).

Humanity used to rely on oracles and soothsayers to have a clearer vision of what the future would bring. Questions like: What jobs would be in demand in X years? What kind of risks should we prepare for in our lives and careers? Which companies would grow or go bust? With the right mindset…

This was a real eye-opener for me when it appeared, because instead of the usual strictly modern-day stories about risk, Bernstein’s story begins with ancient Greek traditions when “risk” was luck and restricted to gambling, and the rest of life was a matter of fate.

He weaves together the invention of Arabic numbering and the Hindu zero, the emergence of scientific experimental methods, and the invention of probability theory, in explaining the evolution of the notion of risk. 

As the story moves into the modern era, Bernstein tracks the major practical applications of risk in addition to its conceptual development.…

From Michael's list on ignorance, uncertainty, and risk.

Published in 1996 this book has rapidly become an essential read for anyone interested in risk and how over the centuries right up to modern times we have tried to measure and understand it.

Bernstein demonstrates a deep understanding of financial history, and the book has many important past examples. It really should be the first stop for anyone looking to get to grips with risk, and to understand the journey that has got us thus far.

Also importantly it’s a light read and not peppered with jargon or complex mathematics.

From Gerald's list on decisions bloody decisions.

This is a wonderful history of risk going back to 17th-century mathematicians through present day. Bernstein makes the point that understanding risk is at the heart of most all the decisions we make. As you’ll see from my book recommendations, I am obsessed with risk and its history and have discussed it at length in my own books. Bernstein’s book is one of the classics.

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