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An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk
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An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  459 ratings  ·  63 reviews
A Financial Times Book of the Month pick for April!

Is it worth swimming in shark-infested waters to surf a 50-foot, career-record wave?

Is it riskier to make an action movie or a horror movie?

Should sex workers forfeit 50 percent of their income for added security or take a chance and keep the extra money?

Most people wouldn't expect an economist to have an answer to the
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 2nd 2019 by Portfolio
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3.63  · 
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 ·  459 ratings  ·  63 reviews

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I took a risk on purchasing this book. I hedged against this purchase by using a discount coupon to offset the price. Based on my reading of the book and what I got out of it, I may have broken even on my investment of time and money. Some good anecdotes and basic advice but I was expecting a bit more...
Tim Jin
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was listening to the Indicator on NPR and they were interviewing Allison Schrager who is an economist and who wrote this book, "An Economist Walks into a Brothel". I have many interests and economics is one of them. Unfortunately, this book won't make it to the best seller and I won't be surprised if I'm the only reviewer.

The information presented in the book is basic and logical to understand. Anyone who grabs this book should understand clearly the basic on economics. Instead of having to b
Ronald J.
We need to take risks to make our lives better. In the 16th century, people started to think about risk as something controllable, not left to fate. Once risk is measured it can bought or sold. No institution spends more time and energy on risk planning than the military. Risk, a Greek seafaring term, rhizikón, a dangerous hazard. The Middle High German word rysigo means, “to dare, to undertake, enterprise, hope for economic success.” Financial economics assumes risk is a critical component of v ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Quite simply this book is bad. The writing is unclear, the examples poorly explained, definitions sparse, and call backs poorly integrated. It feels like the author found three or four examples they wished to use and kind of relied on them for everything. When an example was used to explain a phenomenon, the tie wasn't obvious. Some of this could have been improved by clearer writing and some of this could have been improved by spending more time to talk through the logic. For instance, the firs ...more
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
An entertaining read on risk assessment as it pertains to all areas of life. It required my full concentration, but it was interesting to see the applications and lessons drawn from big-wave surfers, war generals, paparazzi, and magicians.
Magdalene Choong
Jun 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
Author tries too hard to reconcile supposed risks found in brothel, military, movie, surfing etc with financial risk concepts. Interesting snippets but otherwise does nothing to increase understanding/management of risks.
Marc Gerstein
May 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very engaging presentation of an important, complex, and under-taught concept.

The book seems targeted at those who are not financial professionals and I think it hits the mark nicely, by avoiding dry formulations and presenting things in very human relatable ways. We get a bit of financial risk management, but a lot on risk management in other walks of life, such as sex work, race horse breeding, being a paparazzi, etc.

As a financial professional though I think it’s also valuable on this leve
Joao Carlos
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
More advanced readers may find find a bit too simplistic. However, I found it quite a good book for the general non-financialy educated public. Alison has the capacity to simplify the financial aspects of risk, hedge and security into a more everyday life sort of situations.
Above all, the lessons of the book should be well known by the broader public, however they aren't. This book works well as a first step towards it.
More experienced readers might also enjoy some of the topics covered due to A
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
It's an okay economic book. Some of the stories/analogies are interesting, but not as good as similar books.

If your a hardcore economics/business junky check it out, otherwise I would recommend one of the Freakonomics books if you haven't read them.
Alison Jones
I bought this entirely on the strength of the title, and overall it delivered. A quirky and refreshing look at the science of risk through a range of unexpected illustrations, including legal brothels, but taking in also the paparazzi, surfing, horse-breeding, magic and poker, it does a good job of bringing the dry topic of financial economics to life.

However some of the illustrations are a little strained: is it really a form of insurance when a magician builds trust with her audience? And in
Mary Pat
Engaging intro to risk concepts

This book is intended for people new to concepts of risk management, using some colorful real-life examples, such as big wave surfing, racehorse breeding, and the titular brothels. Alas, some of the connections between real-life risk-takers and the specified concepts are very thin. In addition, there was a dimension to risk that I found not explored quite as well, which is the human element.

For example, in the section about paparazzi, the person profiled set up a
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This little book is actually about risk and not the economics of brothels, and I wish it’s title could have been clearer.

1. Legal brothel workers pay a lot (half their earnings) to the owner for protection against potentially dangerous customers (beating, murder), and they are escorted home.
2. Diversification (buying many different stocks) reduces idiosyncratic risk but not systemic risk. It also reduces the potential upside.
3. Hedging (buying things that move in different directions) reduces
Marilyn Shea
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
This book introduces the reader to risk in many diverse professions including sex work, surfing, making films in Hollywood and planning military campaigns in war. In short, risk is unavoidable in all aspects of life, so considering the psychology of risk can help us take smart risks that feel comfortable to us. We learn that the legalization of sex work, for example, reduces risk both for the sex worker and the client and may be worth the increase in price for services as a kind of insurance for ...more
Tim Plett
Aug 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Risk--every aspect of our lives involves risk. In buying and reading this book I took the risk it wouldn't be good and the risk that I could missing other, better, books. The risk in buying this book was well worth.

Schrager--an economist specializing in retirement--looks at risk from a variety of out of the box perspectives. Most interesting to me was a chapter on big wave surfing and risk management. To me it provides great insight into surviving the waves of the economy. While wanting to ride
Michael Higgins
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finance
In An Economist Walks Into A Brothel, Allison Schrager reflects on risk management, an important and difficult topic. Rather than resort to theories or equations, she muses over some unique risks faced by a charming cast of characters: Shelby Starr at the Mustang Ranch, paparazzi Santiago Baez, professional poker player Phil Hellmuth, Crazy Eddie, Gun Runner, big wave surfer Greg Long, and General McMaster. The risk-takers are candid about their choices and Schrager conveys their passion and par ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
An Economist Walks Into a Brothel: And Other Unexpected Places to Understand Risk (Hardcover)
by Allison Schrager

ordered from the library

heard author

audio about 32----34
I am not interested in risk, I am interested in the history about how men didn't use to work for another man that wasn't family because that was too emasculating. in the Industrial rev with the beginning of factories they hired women and children because they were more compliant.A Culture
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book provides a good refresher (or introduction) on risk, risk management, and the myriad ways we plan for or ignore risk as we pursue our goals. Schrager covers both financial risk and the less obvious risk, through a wide variety of portraits of individuals. From surfers to hedge fund managers to army generals, she sketches the types of risk, the scientific ways to evaluate it, and the promise of uncertainty.

While in my job I am required to document risk and even occasionally try to assi
Anthony Locke
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
The book has good anecdotes that allows readers (or listeners) to get a varied perspective on risk mitigation in different professions. She talks about how people deal with risk in interesting professions and hobbies such as legal brothels, paparazzi, horse racing, extreme surfing, and in war. The author has a PhD in risk management as it relates to retirement, but her insights are broader – she discusses the value of diversifying risk, contingency planning, risk mitigation strategies, and how n ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fast read, enjoyable, and generally interesting. The real-world stories were interesting and provided a look into different industries - race horse breeding, big wave surfing, military decision making. Interspersed throughout were lessons on risk management, applicable in those industries and in a normal person’s real life.

Other reviewers seem to have thought this book would be a textbook on high-level risk analysis. It’s not; it’s a book for anyone who has an interest in how economi
May 19, 2019 rated it liked it
The author takes a somewhat breezy approach to risk management, and largely succeeds in covering the basics without getting too heavy duty. The brothel example is a come on (which I guess is appropriate), since it's just one setting among many that are examined, from big wave surfing to war. Curiously, she spends considerable time in the neighborhood of sperm, since aside from brothels, the topic of thoroughbred horse breeding is described in some detail.
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A good read, Allison quickly takes you through an excellent overview of risk as it applies to every day life and the financial markets. Probably of even more use if you aren't already familiar with the financial concept of risk management. I was, but this book still make a few connections that I hadn't been aware of before. Recommended for the interesting stories as well, my only complaint is that there wasn't more of them!
Mark Schwartzman
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting anecdotes that point out the outsized role that risk management plays in our lives. As an Econ major and MBA grad, I was hoping for a little more depth. Not sure I got much new out of it, although it was a quick read and I enjoyed it overall. I’d recommend it to my non-econ, non-business friends as a good initial primer on managing risk in your daily life. I will forever have the indelible well-described image of horse mating stuck in my mind too, so there’s that.
Michael Rothfuss
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Very fast read on the meaning of risks and how risks are in our everyday lives, and in different fields. It doesn't give an overall answer to any one thing, but it is a good book to put things into perspective in your daily life. Learned many good things, not only about risks, but different industries I wouldn't imagine learning about including horses, surfing, and war. There are no formulas, and the cases make sense. Would recommend for a short read for anyone.
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I don’t think that people who understand probability and risk already will find this terribly informative— but they are sure to find it entertaining. I definitely learned a few bits about the subject, but equally valuable, I learned how some unusual populations and professionals manage and account for risk. Surfers, Hollywood, and more. Read it for entertainment but you will definitely learn too.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good intro to basic risk management, but if you’ve read Taleb...

You can skip this book. I appreciated the parallels to daily life, as well as the descriptions of how options can be used for good or ill. To reiterate, start here, then move on to Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Incerto if you’re new to risk management.
Christopher Ried
Aug 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Great overall thoughts on risk-taking and how it is used outside the finance work without having a explicit science around it in other markets and dangerous tasks. It a great intro to risk management and how it is evaluated in various sectors.

Of course a risque selection of a title but not vulgar or explicit in any way.
Lani M
Aug 01, 2019 rated it liked it
We're all risk takers whether we realize it or not. One thing that makes a difference is we have to take calculated risk in order to maximize the chance of success.
"we often lionize risk takers, but the difference between who succeeds and who fails isn't who takes the boldest risks - it is who take smart risks, or risks with a clear objective."
Brandon Frandsen
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title is a little dramatic. The author is an economist and the book is about risk in various different settings and the different strategies for assessing and managing risk to maximize the probability of achievement of a desired outcome. The book is well written and well rounded and the author is witty and able to explain complex concepts into a way a lay person can easily understand
Jun 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book started in a very attention grabbing way with talk of a brothel. Then gradually moved to other areas of business to make points about risk. I had thought of myself as risk adverse-but after reading the book, I realized I do risk. There are some nice words of wisdom in the book that I will keep handy.
May 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Was able to extract some pretty good data on what types of risks that certain professions take. Funny how we view people like big wave surfers as crazy, "throw caution to the wind" types. Not really, actually. Just like in finance (or retirement planning), they hedge their risks and setup failsafes in case things go wrong.
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“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. —T. S. ELIOT” 0 likes
“Unusual markets often provide the clearest insight into how risk is assessed, bought, and sold. Because nothing is hidden in markets like sex work, the subtleties that exist in all markets are made obvious. This is why we can learn the most by studying how business is conducted at the edges of the economy and apply that knowledge to more typical economic transactions.” 0 likes
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