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Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers Hardcover – Sep 13 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (Sept. 13 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439181268
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439181263
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.6 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 558 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #402,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“[A] disturbingly candid memoir . . . the highly personal journal of a poor kid who quit the U.S. Coast Guard to chase his dream of becoming a trader. . . . His narrative crackles with authenticity . . . the dominant tone is unsparingly confessional and even modest. Dillian’s snail’s-eye view is what makes his book a valuable companion to previous volumes on Lehman. . . . From hair-trigger decisions to trashy banter, Dillian captures how the market feels from inside the belly of a trading room. . . . [A] blunt and sometimes hilarious account.” —Bloomberg

“This revealing, personal memoir of a volatile period in the dual lives of a big-time trader and the fallen American giant Lehman Brothers is depicted in the fueled words of Dillian, a major figure at the company. . . .Writ[ing] in a style that veers from gonzo lucidity to precise trader chatter . . . Dillian offers a candid look at the demise of a corporate behemoth.” Publishers Weekly

“Thank God for the 3rd element, because if it wasn’t for lithium Jared Dillian might still be in the psych ward looking for his shoelaces. Instead, we get Street Freak, the best Wall Street memoir in a bunch of years. This guy can really f***ing write. Street Freak is more than just a great read, though. For anybody who’s ever gone off the rails, or thought they might, it’s a comforting reminder that there’s always a way back.” John Rolfe, coauthor of Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle

“Always vivid, by turns hilarious and sad, this is an electrifying memoir about not only money and madness, but the madness of money. It left me wondering yet again about the shifting boundaries between sanity and insanity.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Summer Without Men

“A scathing critique of selfish, scrambling men so driven to earn a buck that they lose all sight of the world beyond the tickers. . . . Dillian hardly fit the mold of the rich, Northeastern prep-schooler, and his outsider status served as a great attribute, offering him a clearer view of an industry both morally and economically bankrupt.” Kirkus Reviews

"A bipolar math whiz [and] amusingly caustic writer whose new memoir pulls no punches about a financial career that nearly cost him both his sanity and his life." —

About the Author

Jared Dillian is the founder of the subscription-based daily financial market report The Daily Dirtnap. He was a trader for Lehman Brothers from 2001 to 2008. He lives in South Carolina. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 102 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The first honest Wall st memoir Sept. 15 2011
By JGLOW - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a gloves off, brutally honest account of what life is like working on Wall St. Dillian nails it by not hiding a thing about his experience and being brave enough to tell the world his perspective from the "dark side." Anyone who has worked in a sales or trading function, buy or sell side, will appreciate reading this piece. In addition, if you have no connection with Wall St other than the picture that politicians have painted by berating the group, I think this book will help shape your opinion. There is a lot of baggage that comes along with working on the Street that most people are not fully aware of and Street Freak gets to the heart of many of these conflicts.

I like to think of Dillian as the next Michael Lewis with a sprinkle of Bret Easton Ellis: Liar's Poker meets American Psycho.

Hats off to him for having the balls to say how he really feels!
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The best account in fiction or non-fiction of the mind of a trader Oct. 2 2011
By Aaron C. Brown - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but we have here the most shameful example of ballot-stuffing I've ever seen on Amazon. Of the first 32 reviews, 28 are five-star low-content raves from people who have never reviewed a book before (many with names like "A Customer" and few verified purchases), 3 reviewed one other book (and 2 of those mentioned that they know the author); only 1 is from a real reviewer. Moreover, all the five-star reviews get loaded with "helpful" votes to bring them to the top, the one negative review is slammed with "unhelpful" votes. I understand the temptation to have a few friends prime the pump with favorable reviews, but get some people who actually review books on Amazon to post reviews with some information; and limit it to two or three; and forget the rigged voting.

This is an extraordinary account of what it feels like to trade--and a book with the literary merit to electrify readers with no interest in Wall Street. Most books by traders, such as Victor Niederhoffer, Nassim Taleb or George Soros, filter the raw mental processes through a layer of rationalization. The authors want to impress you with their intelligence, not let you see their inner demons. Dillian is unfilted. Readers should be warned that means lots of farts, snot, bruises, vomit and other impolite things, and this in a book without a trace of grit. We never feel or smell these things, they are like crude graffiti neatly written on the wall of an antiseptic bathroom. Virtually every character (definitely including the author) is insulted and demeaned in ways that are highly incorrect politically. His customers are dirty, douchebags, hicks, slow or dozens of other bad things, never anything good. His coworkers are 95 percent bad things, 5 percent good (but only briefly).

Women, in particular, incite a constant obsessive objectification--and this in a book with absolutely zero sex. The only two women in the book who do anything other than provide a show for junior high school level crude lewdness, are his two psychiatrists who are described only as the "Russian model" and "startlingly attractive". Two words each for the medical professionals who saved his sanity, and only about appearance. His wife is barely in the story, except for a very crude sexual slur by another trader. The electric fan story is sufficient grounds for a sexual harassment suit. But it's not only women. Race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, weight, taste in music or clothes and anything else is grist for unpleasant smears.

However, this is not a crude rant, it is a Tourette Syndrome release of tension that is very common among traders. I have never seen it captured on paper like this. Polite authors pretend it doesn't exist, superficial ones treat it as a humorous foible. No one else, as far as I know, has had the honesty, writing talent and courage to expose it in himself. You don't understand traders if you don't understand their need to short-circuit the part of the brain that censors inappropriate behavior.

This book is not an insightful account of mental illness. For most of the book, the author acts like a "seami alki," that is an alcoholic with self-esteem and anger management issues, a combination sufficiently common among traders to require a slang term. His struggles with bipolar and obsessive-compulsive issues are treated matter-of-factly, accurate without being revealing. In fact, Dillian's clinical issues may mislead readers into treating his account as an unusual one. You don't need to be crazy to act like a trader.

The book is also not a useful account of how Wall Street works or why Lehman Brothers failed. The author's understanding of these things is about the level of fulminating editorials by people with no experience in finance. By tradition, it takes thriving through three complete market cycles to acquire trading wisdom. The author made it only though half of one cycle, and the upswing half which is less educational than the downswing. He is like a race car driver who knows little about automotive engineering, physics or how NASCAR makes money. He doesn't have to know those things to drive, he needs only practical intuition, and his ignorance makes his descriptions of the thrills of racing more honest because it's not filtered through what he learned from books.

Unfortunately, the book could perpetuate some false beliefs. There is no positive mention of risk management in this book. The author seems to trade whatever he likes, for whatever reasons he like, in whatever size he likes, without oversight or coaching. Now Lehman had some risk management issues, but letting junior traders run wild was not one of them. Lehman actually had very good trading floor risk management, better than many other firms. Dillian implies that if you made money you were a hero, however many rules you broke. This is definitely not true. Making money was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of success. The firm required consistent, explainable profits from risk-controlled strategies (on the trading floor, but unfortunately not in every department).

Both the firm and the economic environment conspired to disguise any capital or funding constraint on trading, and the author dealt only in liquid, exchange-traded securities. Lehman's middle and back offices took care of much of the plumbing. This makes his experience somewhat narrow. It's not inaccurate, but it's only part of the story.

So read this book to understand what a trader does, and how he does it, and how he feels about doing it. Do not read it for deep understanding of either finance or mental illness. Read it for the pleasure of an exceptional writer tackling an important profession with breathtaking skill, courage and honesty. But don't believe any of it, except the feel.
27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
A blow-your-brains take on what it's really like to trade Sept. 7 2011
By M. Park - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Street Freak doesn't just put you in the Aeron chair of a single trader making markets in every ETF under the sun. It goes beyond the cologne, the order-in sandwiches and flatulence of the Lehman trading floor and puts you deep inside the brain of Jared Dillian--a "poor, smart and determined" Wall Street outsider with an undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

The characters are real and the trades are real. A department head is "a walking molecule of testosterone... who patrolled the aisles, rotating his shoulders and practically his entire torso just to tell people to go f--- themselves." And Jared recounts some of his biggest winning and losing trades with play-by-play accuracy.

While has-been traders like this reviewer will jaw-drop at how Jared literally moved markets on the "Street," it's the dark and deeply personal episodes of the "Freak" that make this a special read. Jared was a great trader, but luckily for us he's an even better writer.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Great read even if you don't work on Wall Street! Sept. 22 2011
By Elevator Club - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I picked up "Street Freak" and was immediately hooked. I couldn't put it down. The amazing thing is that I've never worked on Wall Street. Dillian does a terrific job of pulling the reader into the chaos, the adrenaline, and the stress of a trading desk -- and he does it with a punchy sense of humor. I found myself alternately laughing out loud and sweating with nervous tension. As a bonus, Dillian provides juicy details on how much Wall Street guys actually make.

And, thankfully, this is more than just a book about Wall Street. Dillian is refreshingly honest about what was going on in his head through all of this. He leads us through the ups and the downs of both his personal and professional life, culminating in his eventual diagnosis with bipolar disorder.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get wrapped up in a great story.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Entertaining and hard to put down. Sept. 18 2011
By Markus Schmidt - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read a bunch of wall street books recently and I find Street Freak (I had pre-ordered it because I knew the authors daily-dirtnap newsletter and liked his style) being one of the better ones, because it doesn't try to explain what happened in the financial crisis and doesn't get entangled in who did what and when.

It reminds me of the book about Jesse Livermoore: it is a first person view of a guy's way into and through Wall Street. The writing is entertaining and sometimes even funny and I found it found it hard to put down.