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The Wisdom of Finance


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Putting the humanity back into finance by looking at the profession's core principles through the prism of art, literature and film.

About the Author

Mihir Desai was born in India and raised in Hong Kong and New Jersey. As a professor and award-winning teacher at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, Desai teaches finance, tax law, entrepreneurship and has recently developed an online finance course for the HBX platform. His scholarship on corporate finance, international finance and tax policy has prompted several invitations to testify before the U.S. Congress and serves as the basis of his advisory role to leading global companies and organizations. Find him on Twitter @desaimihir | www.mihirdesai.org


A charming, provocative and readable book. * Financial Times *
Those familiar with the world of finance will have their perspective shifted, and for the rest of us, Desai provides a welcome entry. * The Boston Globe *
A fascinating new perspective on modern finance -- Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Economics
Lucid, witty and delightfully erudite...From the French revolution to film noir, from the history of probability to Jane Austen and The Simpsons, this is an astonishing intellectual feast. -- Sebastian Mallaby, author of The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan
This book is startling, a stunning, erudite, fascinating look at the world as we think we know it, but it's a world where all roads lead to finance, and in particular, insurance. Highly recommended. -- Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow
A fascinating romp through history and Desai is to be commended for finding fresh examples away from the obvious reference points ... highly original. * Money Week *
Desai skilfully makes his subject accessible without dumbing it down. * Director magazine *
Desai's approach will broaden and enrich any perspective. * Publishers Weekly *
For those of us who have long believed that the field of finance was more than a way to make a good living, Mihir Desai has written a liberating book. He shows us how an understanding of the humanities can increase our effectiveness as financial practitioners and add a dimension of joy to process. -- Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman, Multi-Asset Investments, Blackstone Group
The Wisdom of Finance offers a thoughtful explanation of how money works that recognises how perverted the industry can be, but which also argues that "there is great value - and there are great values - in finance" ... This is a charming, provocative and readable book. For non-financiers, it can be a great teaching tool; for financiers, it is a badly needed rap on the knuckles, and perhaps an inspiration. * Financial Times *
Mihir Desai is a fortunate person: he is an expert economist who is also well-read. In this book he uses his skills to provide a fascinating new perspective on modern finance, showing how the main concepts have parallels in literature and the arts. Students of finance will learn literature, students of literature will learn finance, and everybody will learn something. -- Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel Laureate in Economics
The Wisdom of Finance is fascinating and delightful throughout. Desai explains the world of economics to those who love literature and the world of literature to those who are passionate about economics. And if you enjoy both - well, then you are in for an extra-special treat. I kept shouting aloud: "I get it, I finally get it!" Here is a book that will make you richer in spirit - and maybe in money, too. -- Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club and Books for Living
The Wisdom of Finance is required reading for anyone interested in finance or in pursuing a career in the industry. Mihir eloquently traces the products, practices, and services of our modern financial system to their roots while providing literary context and illustration. It's a refreshing approach to what can be a turgid topic, and it can provide practitioners with a new appreciation (and understanding) of their role in their companies, the industry, and in the broader economy. -- Vikram Pandit, Chairman and CEO of The Orogen Group and former CEO of Citigroup.
In The Wisdom of Finance, Mihir Desai masterfully achieves two goals - bringing great clarity to how finance works and why it is important, and shining a bright light on how the humanities helps us to better understand our lives and world. -- Clayton Rose, president of Bowdoin College
Mihir Desai brilliantly applies original lessons drawn from the world of finance to enable all of us to lead more secure, fulfilling and happier lives. Using myriad examples from historical sources and current experiences, Desai takes essential financial theories and translates them into easily understood ways to enrich and improve our lives. -- Bill George, former chairman and CEO of Medtronic and author of Discover Your True North
The Wisdom of Finance does for the global economy what Alain de Botton's How Proust Can Change Your Life did for French literature: it expands our idea of an obscure topic and illuminates its centrality to your everyday. This is a work of true philosophy and passion, incorporating thinkers and artists from E. O. Wilson to Jeff Koons elegantly into our understanding of how we make choices. In a chaotic world, everyone should read Mihir Desai's extraordinary debut. -- Lea Carpenter, author of Eleven Days
The Wisdom of Finance is that rare book that manages to be both illuminating and truly fun to read. It puts in deeply human terms ideas that have so often become caricatured and one-dimensional. You will be glad you spent time with Mihir Desai, and you will think of several people to whom you will send this book once you've finished. -- Gayle Lemmon, author of Ashley's War
Mihir Desai has written a thoughtful and remarkable book. It takes us not only on a functional journey about the role of finance in society, but also an ethical and social one. -- Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College
A scholar who is equally at home with art, literature, contemporary culture and financial theory, Mihir Desai improbably brings these worlds together in an absorbing, personal narrative that has much to teach us about how they are deeply connected. -- Will Goetzmann, author of Money Changes Everything; Edwin J. Beinecke Professor of Finance and Management Studies; Director, International Center for Finance, Yale School of Management
This slender but erudite treatise...does valuable work toward demystifying finance for laypeople and deepening the art for practitioners. Desai's approach will broaden and enrich any perspective. * Publishers Weekly *
Mihir has written a remarkable book - he uses the humanities to demystify and humanize finance. It is a remarkable intellectual accomplishment that those within finance - and those curious about it - will enjoy deeply. -- Deepak S Parekh, Chairman, HDFC Ltd
Desai takes a real step towards creating a dialogue of disciplines ... if only more people - whether financiers or academics - could combine with such finesse economic knowledge and an appreciation of the human condition. * Times Higher Education Supplement *
A beautiful book for everyone. -- Sarah Kauss * Drapers *
By linking to literature, history and philosophy, [Desai] tries to build deeper resonance. It is a daring, intriguing work, offbeat and fascinating, something both practitioners of finance and the general public can learn from. * The Globe and Mail *
Fascinating ... [Desai] regrets the chasm between finance and the rest of society, and he sets out to bridge it with a warm-hearted and engaging set of stories -- John Lanchester * New Yorker *

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