Books off the queue and lodge securely somewhere behind my eyes: “A Mathematician’s Apology” by G.H. Hardy and “A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation” by Richard Bookstaber

- A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H. Hardy (with a foreword by C.P. Snow)

I was really looking forward to reading this classic, since mathematicians certainly have a lot to apologize for. Sadly Hardy instead writes a fairly depressing defense of mathematics from a fairly dogmatic view of the subject. Of course, he has every right to this view (unlike me, who barely deserves to be writing this parenthesis) seeing as how he produced such a fine quantity of the pure stuff. Highlights of the book, for me, were C.P. Snow telling us that precocious boys do long division when they are young, and Hardy lamenting how certainly the “theory of numbers” is of no practical use. Since our modern public key cryptosystems are based solidly on the “theory of numbers” I found that this part of the book made me the happiest. Not because he was wrong, but because it seems that even someone as brilliant as Hardy, cannot see the future and predict the usefulness of today’s obscure mathematics in tomorrow’s world.

- A Demon of Our Own Design: Markets, Hedge Funds, and the Perils of Financial Innovation by Richard Bookstaber

Quantitative finance, risk, hedge funds, and lots and lots and lots of financial disaster as told from a front line witness. Bookstaber tells the story of many of the most famous financial crisis of our time (LTCM, 1987, etc.) and tries to bring some sense into why each of these events happened. Basically, Bookstaber argues that decreasing the complexity of financial instruments and breaking the coupling of transactions are key to decreasing the likelihood of future financial crisis. The book is an entertaining read, with a scattershot of stories centering around Bookstaber’s career, but also varying as far as feudal England property markets and Three Mile Island.