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Book Review of: The Astute Investor

If you're an investor, you should read The Astute Investor.

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Review of The Astute Investor, by Eric L. Prentis, PhD.

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 5,000 articles. Also an engineer and MBA, as is the author.

Dr. Prentis has obviously done his research, and he has compiled an investing guide that addresses investing from a multi-faceted perspective.

Unlike many investment book authors, Prentis starts out by telling you he doesn't have a fool-proof method of flawlessly investing in the stock market. What he does offer is a distillation of the collective wisdom on the subject of investing. He brings this to the reader in twelve chapters, a conclusion, and an extensive glossary. The book contains many graphs, and it provides the addresses of relevant Websites.

Chapter One describes the seven principles of investing and delves into investment strategies. Chapter Two goes into theory and practice. The next two chapters discuss bonds, then stocks (respectively). Chapter Five talks about the psychology of trading. This chapter will help you understand the philosophy of technical traders (people who chart and predict stock prices, with no consideration of the company behind the stock). Prentis makes it clear that such trading is not long-term investing.

Chapters Six and Seven get very mathematical, as Prentis walks us through determining the value of an investment. If you don't know the difference between intrinsic, market, and bargain values, then you're not from the Warren Buffet school of investing. Chapter Eight explains the forces that drive the markets, and how unexpected news and expected news affect stock prices. Chapter Nine explains the viewpoint of the contrarian investor, who can succeed only through extraordinary courage of conviction.

All of the preceding chapters build up to Chapter Ten. It's here that Prentis gives his ten-step method for investing. He actually walks you through an example, so be prepared to do some work if you want to understand this method.

As an electrical engineer, I realize all systems are complex and consist of counterbalancing forces. Prentis, an industrial engineer, understands this also. Which is why he doesn't trot out a simple formula or say he's found the magic bullet. Instead, he lays out a methodology that will work if you work at it.

On the downside, The Astute Investor is badly in need of editing. The many grammar gaffes, spelling errors, syntax errors, and other deviations from Standard Written English (SWE) at times make the book hard to read. And the author's ultra-heavy use of passive voice sometimes makes reading the text feel like you're chewing gum that's still wrapped in aluminum foil. The chapter introductions and summaries are especially annoying in this regard.

Form is important, as it dictates readability. Fortunately, this book scored very well on substance, with one notable exception. The author used the Atkins Diet as an example of something good. That diet induces ketosis, creates nutrient deficiencies, greatly raises the risk of prostate and bowel cancer, destroys healthy tissue (such as bone and muscle), and poses a high risk of permanent damage to the kidneys and liver. What's to like? Further, the vast majority of people who abuse their bodies with this misguided, unsound, dangerous, and damaging diet are fatter a year later than if they'd never done it (see the Diets Exposed articles at

This book contains valuable information (except for the item just noted) in a logical structure. A second printing would be good for all concerned--but not until the author retains a copyeditor to correct the spelling, grammar, and punctuation--the quality of the text simply is not in synch with the quality of the information being conveyed. He also needs an editor to reword those intros and summaries to conform to any of the major style guides now in use. Presently, they detract from the book rather than add to it.

If you are a dedicated investor who wants to do well in the stock market, you should expend the effort to decipher the text. Is it worth the effort, when other investment books don't have the writing defects? That's like asking if delicious, nutritious walnuts are worth taking out of the shell.


About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or no substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably 20,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree and an MBA, among other "quant" degrees. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.

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