Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator - Paperback or hardcover?

My sister's boyfriend Brandon lives in St. Louis, so my sister is in town for his birthday party a couple of months ago. I'm there too, because we're all going out for drinks, and I noticed that he got a hard-back copy of Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Le'Fevre as a birthday present from his parents. Brandon was interested in the markets and had made some money late last year during the rally. I think he asked for the book as a gift because I had talked so highly of it. A hardback edition is definetely gift-worthy!

I picked it up and started reading the first paragraph and realized right away that it was different from the first paragraph of the paperback edition! I started flipping around trying to find where the paperback book picked up, but this only deepened my confusion because I found a lot more passages that weren't familiar throughout the entire book. So I'm frantically flipping through Brandon's book trying to find where the paperback edition starts while everybody's yelling at me and heading out the door. Blast off! Its party time. And I forgot all about it for a few weeks.

It wasn't long until I was at a bookstore and couldn't help picking up a copy of the hardback edition for myself to see what I was missing. All was soon made clear by the introduction to the hardback edition: it was a reprint of Le'Fevre's original articles that were published in the "Saturday Evening Post", including the original artwork. Also included in the hardcover edition was a foreward by William J. O'Neil and brief commentaries from a financial historian preceding each article.

Larry Livingston is narrating to the reader in the paperback edition, but the narrator of the first article in the hardcover edition is talking about Larry Livingston in 3rd person. In fact, the entire hard-cover edition is written this way. The reason is because in the original "Saturday Evening Post" articles, Le'Fevre is the narrator! As I read through the hardcover edition I could see how Larry Livingston's narration from the paperback was constructed almost word for word from all the quotes we get from Le'Fevre's interviews with Livingston.

In between interviews with Livingston, Le'Fevre describes encounters with all sorts of people, some of them well connected in the stock market, some who talked all about the articles without even knowing they were talking to the author himself, and others who were so inspired by Le'Fevre's tales of Larry Livingston that they had forsaken their careers to form a trading guild. Through all this, Le'Fevre keeps coming back to his central theme for the articles: the game gets everyone in the end, and that outsiders ought not to be speculating. He tries to warn all of these gentlemen that they don't know what they are getting into and are bound to fail.

But this central theme is delivered quite differently in the articles than it is in the paperback edition. The final article differs completely from the end of the paper back book. In the final article, Le'Fevre gives us a history of the greatest speculators of all time. He relates some of the famous exploits of these traders and their eventual demise (often at the hands of each other). However, in the paperback edition, Livingston gave descriptions of some of his own bull campaigns and stock manipulations, which, unfortunately were absent from the hardback edition.

Livingston's conclusion in the paperback seemed much more thought out by Le'Fevre than his conclusion in the final article featured in the hardback edition because he makes an attempt to identify some of the reasons why the vast majority of the public lose in their speculations. Inconsistencies in human condition, the apeals of greed and fear, conflicts of interest inherent to the stock market and its participants, and most emphatically, laziness manifested in the public's apetite for tips and explanations.

If I had to recommend one over the other, I would recommend the paperback edition. But if you are like me and you re-read the paperback edition every 3 or 4 months, then you should consider picking up a copy of the hardback edition because there is quite a bit of new content. In closing, my favorite new part of the hardback edition is the first article, where we haven't been introduced to Larry Livingston yet, but we get to witness one of his bear raids from a frantic brokerage office!


At 1:19 PM, Blogger Gordengekko said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Gordengekko said...


We gave your site a plug because you did a great job and we love this investment classic.



At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Stock Market Books said...

You can actually access the book online in html here:


It is part of the public domain now. It's a great inspiring story of a true stock trader.


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