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Book Review: Street Freak: A Memoir of Money and Madness by Jared Dillian

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Street Freak: A Memoir of Money and Madness is a book from Jared Dillian that recounts his seven years as a trader on Wall Street for Lehman Brothers. From his earliest days with the firm on 9/11, where he witnessed the attacks from a vantage point across the street from the World Trade Center, to the eventual collapse of the financial markets and his firm in 2008, Dillian provides a unique, inside account of events that touched every American.

Along the way, he discusses the highs and lows that all of how this affected his own life. He takes the reader through his suicide attempt in the winter of 2006, his time in a mental ward, his eventual return to Wall Street, as well as his eventual departure from Lehman Brothers.

His work is well-written; discussing complex financial strategies in a way that walks a fine line. The average person doesn’t get lost amongst the jargon yet investment professionals, many of who have followed his writing in his daily newsletter The Daily Dirtnap don’t feel bored either.

Street Freak was originally released as hardcover book last year. Bloomberg News promptly declared it the “best business book of 2011.” Several reviewers compared it to Michael Lewis’s classic Wall Street memoir Liar’s Poker.

Personally, I think Street Freak is even better than Liar’s Poker. Dillian, as a former military officer with a working class background who was constantly surrounded by those with an Ivy League background he lacked, captures Wall Street from the perspective of an outsider on the inside. Lewis tried to do that in his book, but wasn’t able to capture it to the degree that Dillian did.

There were, however, a couple of areas where I think Street Freak could have been better. He references his wife a few times during the book, for example, but never gives the reader much of a clue as to how all of the challenges that he was going through impacted her or the rest of his family. I suspect there was a bit of compelling human drama there that would been interesting to learn more about, but we don’t know because he didn’t discuss it at all.

I would have also been interested in knowing a bit more about what Dillian’s life is like now that he has left his life as trader behind. He briefly touchesd on that with his one page epilogue (well, okay, one full page plus four lines on a second page). Still, I feel this book would have been better if he had expanded on that as well.

Regardless of those two shortcomings, Street Freak is still one of the best business books, as well as one of the best memoirs, to come along in years.

For those in the New York area, I also want to mention that Jared Dillian will give a talk, followed by a Q&A and book signing, on Thursday, September 20 at 6 p.m. This will happen at the Barnes & Noble at 105 5th Avenue in New York.

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About Frank Nemecek

Freelance writing, indie filmmaker, and all around pain in the...