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6 books Wall Street is reading this summer

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It's that time of year again when many of Wall Street's finest head east to the Hamptons. They've got their transportation set, the bags are packed and the only thing left to do is find a great book. We checked in with traders, bankers, analysts and hedge funders to find out what they're reading this summer.

Compared to 2016's list, which had a lot of books about how to get a competitive edge such as "Grit," "Smarter Faster Better" and "Shoe Dog," this year seems to be a little lighter — more entertainment.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the 24/7 news cycle we're living in," a sales trader said. "We're just inundated with information all day long so when we can actually sit down and read something on our own, we're looking for an escape."

(You might call that the Trump factor.)

This year, it was an equal weight between entertainment, self-improvement and business. Here are the books that were most frequently mentioned on Wall Street's summer reading list:

1. The Spider Network: The Wild Story of a Math Genius, a Gang of Backstabbing Bankers, and One of the Greatest Scams in Financial History

By David Enrich

Wall Street loves gossiping about a good scam and that's why many in the finance community have already picked this one up. It's a true story about a network of finance professionals manipulating Libor (the London interbank offered rate). Libor is the benchmark rate at which member banks charge each other for short-term loans. And even for those in the business, Libor is mundane, but it has significant impact on pricing things like debt, mortgages and loans. So this book is meat and potatoes for Wall Street.

"I eat these kinds of stories up," a sales trader said. "It was wildly entertaining. And my favorite part is the insane cast of characters. But the story was a huge scandal that a lot of banks got caught up in so that's why I read it — to hear the real story."

"The Spider Network" is set in 2006 with a colorful cast of characters like a mad mathematician, a broker named "Abbo" who like to strip naked when drinking and a broker known as "Village," short for the village idiot. Along with some others they figure out that the daily rate can be easily be manipulated — and that rate determines the interest rate on trillions of loans worldwide. Just by moving it the slightest bit, they could reap the rewards. Many agreed that it's a terrific read, although I'm not sure it'll do anything to restore your trust in the integrity of the markets.

2. Black Edge — Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street

By Sheelah Kolhatkar

Everyone in the business knows of SAC Capital Advisors, and founder, Steve Cohen. Many on Wall Street think he's arguably the greatest trader of all time. While his reputation is — at best — mixed, almost everyone agrees he's a living legend. Cohen built a $15 billion hedge fund that then became the target of the largest insider trading investigation in history. "Black Edge" reads like a legal thriller, except, it's all true. It also captures and defines an era on Wall Street when the only thing that mattered was: Black Edge.

Eventually the firm was indicted and pleaded guilty to charges of securities and wire fraud in connection with a vast insider trading racket, but Cohen himself was never charged. The best the authorities could do was pin a failure to manage on him and require that he return all investors' money. He's been trading his own money ever since.

"I worked there," one hedge-fund trader said. "And I loved reading the book. It really gets into the nitty-gritty and perfectly describes the culture. I've told all of my friends and family who aren't in the business to read it. It's that good."

Maybe there will be a Black Edge 2? According to The Wall Street Journal, Steve Cohen wants to launch a $20 billion hedge fund as early as 2018.

3. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

By Neil deGrasse Tyson

"I was at a business dinner and three guys were discussing 'Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,'" a research salesman said. "They were talking about the big bang, dark matter and dark energy. I had no idea what they were talking about. That's why I bought it. And I'm glad I did. It was a perfect layman's version of the cosmos."

Everyone who read it said it was an enjoyable read for everyone. Neil deGrasse Tyson has been called America's most approachable astrophysicist. And he infuses humor into 12 essays which cover the past, present and future of cosmos into bite-sized pieces. Tyson says, "the cosmic perspective enables us to see beyond our circumstances, allowing us to transcend the primal search for food, shelter, and sex."

I'm pretty sure Wall Street traders would never give up their pursuit — or obsession with — those three but it's certainly cool to take it to a cosmic level!

4. Death Need Not be Fatal

By Malachy McCourt and Brian McDonald

For generations, Wall Street traders have been chasing the fountain of youth – whether it's injecting themselves with synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) or getting "young blood" transfusions. But others in the finance community are searching for it in more traditional ways —like reading a book.

"Death Need Not Be Fatal," a memoir, captures 80+ years of living, from growing up in poverty in Limerick, Ireland to escaping back to New York where he was born. McCourt has seen — and done — it all, except die of course. He owned a popular bar in the city, became a television actor and wrote some best-selling books. He even ran against Elliot Spitzer in 2006 for governor of New York. And as you can imagine with eight decades and counting under his belt, he's seen his share of tragedies, too. But despite it all he's able to reflect on what it means to live life.

"I read somewhere that it's about how to grow old without acting old," a prime broker manager said. "I figured give me some of that. And I was a fan of Angela's Ashes by McCourt's brother so I really liked hearing his side of the story about his mom. But I think the best parts of the book are the laugh-out-loud funny stories he tells. I loved it."

5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

By Mark Manson

Although this book came out in the fall, it's still on many finance professionals' radar.

"Any book that draws inspiration from Charles Bukowski is going to get my attention," a hedge-fund trader said who recently read it. "It's about understanding which f***s to give—the ones that really matter."

"The Subtle Art" is an antidote to the flood of self-improvement rhetoric we hear daily. It's the opposite of an inspirational meme, and yet, more inspiring. Manson, a blogger and entrepreneur, typically writes about topics like ethos, dating and relationships, and everyday choices. He also likes to say that he writes "personal development advice that doesn't suck." In the book, he uses anecdotal experiences to drive home his points about choosing what to care about, embracing negativity, not always striving for positivity because it isn't practical, and taking responsibility for one's own life.

It's a great read whether you have a lot of f***s to give, just a few or none at all. And, it's popularity with finance professionals is really saying something: Wall Street typically doesn't like to pick up the self-help books in the traditional sense— I mean if you've ever been on a trading floor, usually the guy who has the least f***s to give is sitting in the corner office.

6. Theft by Finding Diaries (1977-2002)

By David Sedaris

When job security is OK, a Wall Street career can been made and prolonged by simply having a sharp tongue. The funny guys on the desk or the phone usually do a lot of business. A witty one-liner can buy you a week grace period on a trading desk. And, since most people are feeling good about their job status and the markets — it's okay to laugh again.

David Sedaris is considered smart and funny — two things Wall Street loves. Almost everyone who told me they read "Theft by Finding Diaries" said it wasn't their first Sedaris book. He's built a livelihood based on amusing interpretations about everyday life, and his diaries are chock full of it. It's everything you can imagine including Christmas lists, other people's jokes, notes, hilarious memories and recipes.

"I wanted to laugh," a sales trader said. "That's why I bought the book. I'd recommend it to anyone, but if you're a fan of his work — it's a must read. I really love when he sits down at IHOPs and just writes down what people say."

Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side." He is a commentator on CNBC's "Filthy Rich Guide" and a consultant on the Showtime show, "Billions," starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.

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