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valuestockplayers.com Book Reviews

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Wiley Investment Classics)
by Edwin Lefèvre

If I Knew THEN - What I Know NOW - I'd SLEEP with Lefevre's book!!!!, March 10, 2007

This is it folks, when all is said and done, the world of making money in the stock market comes down to a handful of books. Knowledge that you must absorb, NO, more than absorb, you have to take OWNERSHIP of this knowledge. More than any other book, this book is on the list. Oh yes, there are several others you desperately need to OWN also.

Certainly you should be reading all of Benjamin Graham's works including "Security Analysis", the 1940 Edition, and also Graham's "The Intelligent Investor". Philip Fisher's extraordinary "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits" is another fabulous work, but none of them, and no other book for that matter reads like a novel, a Hollywood thriller in fact - only Edwin Lefevre's "Reminiscences...." fulfills that role.

Very briefly, Jesse Livermore's life as a stock and commodities trader is portrayed in the book through the character of Larry Livingston. As you probably know, in a novel you can do and say things, and take literary license that you could never do in an actual biography.

The period covered is basically the beginning of the 20th century through the 1920's. Livermore made and lost several fortunes in his lifetime; ultimately he went belly up and emotionally could not deal with it. This led to his suicide in a hotel in New York City. With today's medical knowledge he would have been classified with severe bipolar disorder, and presumably drugs would have been able to reign in the personality extremes that he suffered from. Of course that is now, and we are dealing with then.


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What is noteworthy is that Livermore was astute enough to realize that he had these bouts of depression, and he did not trade during those periods when he suffered from them. He knew his thinking was not clear enough during those periods, and his judgment would suffer, and oh did this man have judgment. He was the ultimate professional trader.

This is not a book to be read once. In that it is like reading Shakespeare's plays. Each time you work your way through it, you will learn more and more. If you have trading experiences to fall back on, then this book becomes even more important to you. Read the book in conjunction with your trading. You will understand what you did wrong, and what you NEED TO CHANGE, to do it right.

There are some who will tell you that Jesse Livermore was such a force in the markets, that it is hinted that he was responsible for the market crash of 1929, the tsunami of all market crashes. John Kenneth Galbraith, the Harvard economist, and one of the most knowledgeable historians dealing with the depression, argues differently. What is important is that Livermore had to hire a bodyguard during this period, and also went into seclusion, which indicates that many people believed the story.

There was a point in his career where Livermore made as much as $[...] million in trading profits in a month. Imagine, at a time when a 6 course meal at Delmonico's on Wall Street was a dollar? Here are some of the extraordinary concepts you will pick up in reading this book:


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* "WHATEVER HAPPENS IN THE STOCK MARKET TODAY HAS HAPPENED BEFORE, AND WILL HAPPEN AGAIN."
I am personally 35 years into trading, and formally retired from Wall Street when I was 45. You have no idea how important Livermore's advice is. There is no substitute for years of experience living through the cycles. It gives you a tremendous grounding in historical truth that prevents you from getting suckered out at the bottom, or fooled at tops.

* "WEAPONS CHANGE, BUT STRATEGY REMAINS STRATEGY, ON THE NEW YORK STOCK EXCHANGE AS ON THE BATTLEFIELD..."
Yes, and this is why a great stock trader from the 1920's, would do just as well today as then. I knew Salim Cy Lewis the modern founder of Bear Stearns; some would argue he was as good a trader as Livermore. I worked for Alan "Ace" Greenberg, Chairman of Bear Stearns, who was the greatest trader of his generation. Livermore is right, learn the strategies, and you will be successful on any battlefield, at any point in history.

* "THOU SHALL NEVER FIGHT THE TREND"
Ignore this instruction at your peril, never catch a falling knife. Let it hit the floor, and then buy on the way up. Never buy on the way down, you never know where down is, where down stops. You only buy on the way up.

* "LET YOUR PROFITS RUN AND CUT YOUR LOSSES SHORT"
Who doesn't know this; just try executing on it consistently, every day, day in, day out. Try taking emotion out of the trade, try to be objective. Try selling, realizing you were wrong, and jump right back in, while your fellow traders think you are nuts.

* "NO STOCK IS TOO HIGH TO BUY OR TOO LOW TO SELL"
This is such common sense that a child would say, well of course that's what you should do. It takes a rare type of individual that can live by the code, and execute on its wisdom daily.

Jesse Livermore was everything you think he was, and more. His untimely death at his own hand is not what should be studied, and learned. We all have our pains that we must deal with. Read this book, and change your investing life forever, or don't read it, and pay a price with your portfolio, and forgone profits. Good luck


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