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Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  437 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
“Diary of a Very Bad Year is a rarity: a book on modern finance that’s both extraordinarily thoughtful and enormously entertaining.”

— James Surowiecki, author of The Wisdom of Crowds

“A great read. . . . HFM offers a brilliant financial professional’s view of the economic situation in real time, from September 2007, when problems in financial markets began to surface, until
ebook, 272 pages
Published June 22nd 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published April 20th 2010)
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Feb 07, 2014 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, nonfiction

Jan 3: forgot to go to the gym today, was really busy, will definitely go tomorrow though.

Mar 18: got promoted at work! too bad that other guy got fired, YOLO.

Apr 13: UGH NEED TO DO MY TAXES. Isn't there a robot or something to do this for me? I just want to watch SVU on Netflix.

Apr 14: Damn, I should have done my taxes in February.

May 6: So hungover... I should do a juice cleanse.


May 8: caved and ate a whole carton of ice cream, wil
Josh Friedlander
Surprisingly readable explanation of the economic forces that brought about the 2008 crisis: the wave of foreclosures, taxpayer-sponsored bailouts, and the return of almost all of the bankers involved to business as usual. The (obviously partisan) opinion of the eponymous HFM is that no-one was really to blame, and not much could have been done differently. And the way he explains it - so calmly, patiently and phlegmatically - you just might end up agreeing with him. It was weird to me, though, ...more
Aug 20, 2011 Luke rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
Excellent, readable introduction to the economic crisis of 2008-Present. While it is quite educational, this book is hampered by the fact many of the 'terms of art' of trading (credit default swaps, collateralized debt obligations, etc.) are not defined at the outset. Indeed, there is a minor flood of acronyms towards the beginning of the book. This trend abates markedly as the book progresses. This book is notable for three things:

1. It is prima facie evidence that the market cannot regulate it
Josh Paul
Jan 22, 2012 Josh Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
These interviews give a nice summary of the '08 financial crisis, along with its causes and consequences. Furthermore, they do so in a way that is approachable to people without much background in finance. That said, the book isn't just a "crisis for dummies.' The anonymous hedge fund manager being interviewed in the book is generally self-reflective and likable (except for some occasional bitching about his taxes), and has some interesting comments on the virtues that one successful in finance. ...more
Matthew Richman
May 04, 2014 Matthew Richman rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
Interesting concept: an expert on financial institutions and capital markets (an anonymous hedge fund manager or HFM in the book) and otherwise well-educated intellectual journal editor (n+1) who knows absolutely nothing about finance have several conversations throughout the financial crisis. This is the second time I read this book. The first was immediately after it was published to try to help me make sense of what had just happened in 2008-2009. This time reading was after most of an MBA in ...more
Dec 02, 2014 Justin rated it really liked it
Great introductory reader into the Financial crisis. I think it would be a much more enjoyable read than some of the gigantic memoirs of the self-interested players (Paulson, Geithner, etc.). The perspective from a practitioner investing through the crisis and his mostly impartial views make this book stand out. Also the dynamic of having a layperson with relatively little knowledge of finance helped keep the book clear to the average reader. The jargon is almost always explained and most of the ...more
Jun 04, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing
the best chapter of this diary was the "proletariat rage" chapter-or something like that-that outlines what money dudes actually saw when they were confronted by one of madoff's salesman. HFM is a clever reader of human nature, while the interviewer is amazingly blinded by his naivete. it's sad to think about the damage this type of person can do, especially around election time.
Athan Tolis
Jan 15, 2014 Athan Tolis rated it it was amazing
I don't think you can read this book and make sense of it if you don't work in Finance.

But if I'm wrong and you can, that would make it my favorite book on the crisis. For the sake of keeping score, I rank this anonymous hedge fund manager above Joseph Stiglitz, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Robert Schiller, Alan Blinder, Neil Barofsky, Anatole Kaletsky, Simon Johnson, the lot of them. To say nothing of Matt Taibi, Michael Lewis, Jeff Sachs, Hank Paulson, Paul Krugman and the various other guys who have a
Zachary Taylor
Apr 25, 2016 Zachary Taylor rated it really liked it
“It is not acceptable that the six largest financial institutions in this country have assets of almost ten trillion dollars, and issue half of the mortgages and two-thirds of the credit cards. That is too much wealth and power in the hands of a few. If Teddy Roosevelt were alive today he'd tell us to ‘break them up.’ And he'd be right. These huge banks must be broken up.”
-Sen. Bernie Sanders

“Our bank system has become unfortunately very concentrated. Deconcentrating the banking system is going
Jun 08, 2011 Kate rated it it was ok
This is a great concept for a book, and I started it hoping to have a better grasp of what goes on at Wall Street and the financial crisis of 2008. In the end it wasn't the book's fault, but finance markets and taking advantage of normal Americans do not make for pleasant reading.

I'd recommend this book to friends who majored in finance in college, maybe work in finance, or who find this stuff interesting as a hobby or for people considering studying the subject. But as someone who always found
Al Swanson
Sep 07, 2010 Al Swanson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent story excellently written. Basically a series of conversations between a financial reporter and (as evidenced by the title) an anonymous hedge fund manager. From late 2008 through early 2010, the two talked about the markets, the products and the financial system as a whole. They also discussed the talk surrounding those same subjects - which was almost as interesting.
I started reading about the financial markets for two reasons: 1) I was, in a past incarnation, a stock broker and s
Todd N
Jul 19, 2010 Todd N rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finance
Oh, baby. This is why the Kindle is so great: I read a review of this book in the New York Times, read more reviews, downloaded it, and then carried my Kindle with me as I did everything until I finished reading it.

This book is a series of interviews with an anonymous hedge fund manager, called HFM, during the financial crisis. The interviewer--who is not anonymous--founded a hoity-toity literary magazine and comes from the there-are-no-dumb-questions school of interviewing, which is a good thin
Apr 09, 2012 Micah rated it really liked it
Whew. This was a short but intense read. The amount of knowledge that spews forth effortlessly from the anonymous hedge fund manager interviewed here (HFM) is nothing short of astounding. I'm not sure I really understood half of it, but I did my best. I don't think Keith Gessen did, either, and he makes no effort to pretend, which is pretty humorous. HFM is dropping insane knowledge on how the sixty-day corporate bond market works and all Gessen can manage is a stuttering half-sentence--which is ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Amber rated it it was amazing
Extremely interesting book, both because the hedge-fund manager interviewed was so thoughtful about the big-picture implications of the financial crisis, and because the narrative structure was set up in real-time, tracking what the hedge-fund manager thought throughout the crisis rather than purely in retrospect. I found the HFM (as he is called in the book) to be extremely perceptive, especially with regard to the financial sector and its inefficiencies and issues. HFM's explanations of comple ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Chavi rated it liked it
Shelves: money
Engaging, interesting, even suspenseful.
It's a series of interviews between a journalist and a hedge fund manager over the year and a half, from March 2008 (Bear's collapse) to May 2009, when the world had stopped ending.
These interviews are not written in hindsight. They are written as these events are unfolding - Bear's collapse and save, Lehman's collapse, AIG's bailout, and then once the finance sector is out of the water, the real economy begins to feel the effects in unemployment, forecl
Mar 13, 2011 srdjan rated it really liked it
Great read, and the most consistent with my experience of that time period. Unlike other books on the topic, that overlay a narrative that simply was not there, this book captures the feel and reality of living through these events. Hfm is an informed, thoughtful and in my opinion likable guy. Also, his approach to understanding the world and way of thinking about it are a pretty good proxy for my own.

The interviewer was out of his depth as he admitted (though occasionally surprisingly astute),
Dec 28, 2011 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, business
I enjoyed the book as a fresh take on the financial crises. It was interesting to see the world from HFMs eyes, albeit with the attached blinkers.

I did find his habit of using complicated words in the wrong context both annoying and revealing. One example is HFM talks about being epistemologically arrogant in the context of thinking that ones particular time in history is different. So after looking up what that meant I can only conclude that HFM does not know the real meaning of the word, whic
Mar 19, 2011 Krista rated it liked it
This was a pretty quick read (though to be honest, there were parts that I skimmed). I was sort of checked out of the news during the financial crisis a few years back (was in the grad school bubble), so this was pretty interesting in explaining a lot of went on. It certainly made me glad I wasn't working in the financial sector at the time. I'm also curious (maybe will ask my brother) to know more about the bias of HFM (anonymous Hedge Fund Manager), whether what he says would be generally acce ...more
A series of transcribed interviews with a witty, intelligent, opinionated portfolio manager (how many financiers quote NKVD chief Beria?) that furnish a valuable primary source for the history of the global financial crisis. The book captures the feeling, familiar to many who experienced the financial panic, of "staring in awe instead of making money."
Jan 02, 2016 Doug rated it really liked it
I think I got a fair amount of insight from this book, also having seen "The Big Short" last week on the big screen. I always wonder where the future problems are. There's just something about human behavior.
A year after the fact, this book feels off, almost smug. I enjoyed it but knew most of what was said. The interviewer didn't press the hedge fund manager as much as I would have liked (and he admits that he was ill-informed about the subject). That let HFM get away with some things, most glaringly to me the lack of reflection about the role hedge funds play in our economy. He puts the 2007-9 blowup squarely on the shoulders of the banks, absolving funds of all responsibility.

If you're going to r
Sep 24, 2010 Christopher rated it it was amazing
I was very surprised how much I enjoyed this book. The interviewer (a writer for a literary 'zine) asks some very insightful questions and makes a point of getting the hedge fund manager he's interviewing to clarify a number of terms of art that would otherwise have muddied the waters pretty badly.

HFM has some really insightful observations to make on the financial crisis - exactly what happened, why, and what we should be doing to fix it.

I definitely felt like I have a better sense of how the i
Shiloh J Madsen
Jun 04, 2015 Shiloh J Madsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good insiders view of the financial meltdown.
Jan 31, 2011 Dan rated it really liked it
One of the better books I have read on the Subprime crisis and subsequent recession. It helps to have some familiarity of the subject as the basic descriptions of terms like CDO's and CDS's are somewhat lacking. However, I thought given the fact that the format is an interview, the book is exceptionally concise in its description of what happened and why things went so badly. The book loses a little steam at the end, but it may be that the original serial form of the interviews was a stronger fo ...more
Fernando Duarte
Jan 16, 2011 Fernando Duarte rated it really liked it
The hedge fund manager is an economist in the purest sense of the word. He speaks Econ and even though I am sure he has never read any of the papers I read in grad school, he knows them all -- he knows the main message and philosophy of them all. His clarity of thought is remarkable, except when he goes on vacation, you can see the wheels in his brain not turning quite as fast. Which is also a fascinating phenomenon. A quick read if you know the crisis, a but technical if you don't.
Kevin Afable
Aug 03, 2012 Kevin Afable rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just as the title says - the book offers a first hand perspective of an interview with a HF manager during the start, middle, and close to the end of the worst part of the 2008 financial crisis.

The greatest value of the book comes from the anecdotes embedded within the conversations between the HFM and interviewer, while it may not depict exact details and trading strategies (not much practical use to the average reader anyway), it certainly portrayed how these managers think.
May 22, 2012 Justin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Not only tedious but totally lacking an insight. This wasn't so much a confessional as it was a record of casual conversations between some pretentious lit mag writer and a hedge fund manager. Nothing but softball questions. I walked away from this book learning nothing new about the financial crisis. Nothing about how the system works, where it's flawed, or any dirty secrets, just the musings of some rich guy who walked away from this whole debacle relatively unscathed...
Brian Zheng
Jun 02, 2016 Brian Zheng rated it it was amazing
The book consists of a series of interviews conducted with an anonymous hedge fund manager during 2007-2009. It's an easy reading offering good insight of how the fund manager perceive the events as they unveil one by one during the crisis. The only drawback is that the interviewer is not an investment professional. On the other hand, because of this, the interview becomes story telling by the HF manager with good flows and no interruption.
Greg Brown
Nov 27, 2011 Greg Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic, wide-ranging look into the factors that led to the financial crisis, and why it developed the way it did. The interview format and omnivorous subject allows the discussion to snap from the automated "black box" trading to the effects of emotion on risk-taking. Highly recommended, especially if you're familiar with the general course of events but want to learn more about how it all fits together.
Sep 15, 2013 Ian rated it liked it
Interesting meandering series of interviews between a naïve author and an astute hedge fund manager. This would not be a good introduction to reading on the 08-09 financial crisis, but it does serve as a nice complement for readers with prior knowledge. For those of us who've been in the markets for awhile, it's a nice flashback to those crazy days when it felt like the world was about to end every time we woke up.
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“HFM: Well, what does it mean to have an enormous mound of cash sitting around? I mean, is it like in the executive suite, it’s like the pool that Scrooge McDuck has, with gold coins, and he swims around in that, and when money is needed he takes gold coins out of the pool and uses them to pay for things? I mean, what is a pile of money? A pile of money is, for example, a deposit at a bank. Okay, well, what is a deposit at a bank? The bank’s supposed to lend that out to somebody. So a cash balance is…one company’s cash balance eventually works its way to be credit, it’s credit to somebody else. The point is that, you say a company or a person has cash sitting around, what does that mean? It means that they have consuming power, that they’ve moved consuming power intertemporally. It means that they’ve produced more than they’ve consumed in the past, so they have a right to consume more than they’re producing at some point in the future. So that just means that some party has a claim on another party. It can’t be that all of us as an economy, that we all have lots of claims on future consumption and none of us have any debt. Otherwise you would have an economy that’s entirely demonetized, it would be entirely equity, you know, we would just have claims on capital goods or on ownership of companies. You know, if you want to have money that’s not just dead pieces of paper that will be worth nothing if everybody tries to spend it at once—really my money, through an extended chain of financial relationships, is somebody else’s debt, it’s a credit to somebody else.” 0 likes
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