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Product: Book - Paperback
Title: QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Authors: Richard Phillips Feynman
Rating: 5/5
Customer opinion - 5 stars out of 5
Simply Great!

I had this book for a while now, and finally got around to reading it.
It is truly amazing because of the way Feynman breaks down complicated things into their abstract main ideas (e.g. the three steps involved in all of the theory of light). And yes, like a previous reviewer mentioned, this is a short book and if you read it like some literature book you will quickly find yourself confused and lost, thus it requires from time to time a careful study of the material.

I would also recommend Six Easy Pieces (and I think it would be beneficial to anyone to read Six Easy Pieces first then QED).

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: ABAP/4, Second Edition: Programming the SAP(R) R/3(R) System (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional
Authors: Bernd Matzke
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
This book is VERY good, but only for the experience pgmmer.

This book is very good, but only for experience programmer who have access to SAP 3.0C (or later) and with six month of ABAP/4 experience (or better). This book will be a waste of time and money for everybody else. It is not a reference or concept type of book but HOW-TO w/ screen example. 90% of the NOVICE and SAP Functional people will not get anything out of this book. This is the type of book I needed 3 years ago when I first started programming with SAP ABAP/4. Get, read and understand the 'Developing SAP R/3 Applications' by Kretschmer before buying this one.

Product: Book - Hardcover
Title: Financial Modeling - 2nd Edition
Publisher: The MIT Press
Authors: Simon Benninga
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
The Best Choice for Fundamental Financial Modeling

I have used Simon Benninga's "Financial Modeling with Excel" for four years to teach undergraduate computational finance (http://www.ac.aup.fr/a30791/site/BA420site/coursesite.html). My thinking remains that my students have been well served by this textbook.

The inadequacies that limit my assessment to four stars and need to be addressed in the third edition are: 1) frustrating errors in the text and models, for which the errata sheet and corrected models (available at: http://finance.wharton.upenn.edu/~benninga/) only improve, but do not heal. My students find new, undocumented, errors each semester. 2) the data sets and examples are getting, frankly, a little old. It is the year 2005 as I write this, but the data sets and examples end in 1999, a year in which my current students were in high school. 3) the models, while excellent as introductions to the field, are now at the point of being fundamental, rather than exemplary. This is not Prof. Benninga's fault, but as the other reviews from professionals here attest, Excel modeling has advanced in all fields (option pricing, financial statements, portfolio optimization, bond metrics, etc). When this volume was introduced, it was adequate for helping MBA and Master of Science in Finance students build essential modeling skills. Sadly, it now is only appropriate for raw beginners or undergraduates. A new text with a larger scope that addresses advances in the fields is called for. 4) While it is a subject in itself, the book is seriously hindered by not introducing basic Monte Carlo simulation in Excel. 5) No information on downloading data from BLOOMBERG, REUTERS, and other historical and market data providers. It would add to the scope of the text, but 6) fitting DCF models to yield curves also would be welcome.

Even with these criticisms, Benninga's Financial Modeling remains the best book in the field for what it seeks to accomplish. It covers the major topics of finance that are appropriately addressed with models: financial statement, firm valuation and credit metrics, portfolio construction, fixed income metrics, option pricing, etc. Benninga's FM also compares favorably with his two nearest competitors.

Powel and Baker's "The Art of Spreadsheet Modeling" is a two pronged monster: it seeks to be a meta-level theoretical work on spreadsheet modeling, and then introduces modeling Monte Carlo simulation as a fundamental component of Excel (a student edition of CrystalBall is included in the text, and is the only reason to buy this book). The gap between the two is a Grand Canyon's worth of knowledge space that this text does not fill in and nearly ignores. The student who uses only Powel and Baker is ill served; whereas if he uses Benninga, he knows how, why, when and what to model. Consider Powel & Baker as sketches of a concept car with simulated wind tunnel runs, whereas Benninga shows how to build your own kit car and drive it around. Powel and Baker's concept car is beautiful, advanced, gracious, but doesn't exist and doesn't run; Benninga's kit car is like a Lotus Super Seven: simple, runs, is a blast to drive, but is dangerous in heavy traffic and you would not want to go on a 1,000 mile journey with it (i.e. or build a DCF model for the Goldman Sachs LBO team with only Benninga).

Chandan Sengupta's "Financial Modeling Using Excel and VBA" is the only book that comes close to Benninga, and I recommend it as another perspective for my students who want to continue with financial modeling. However, Sengupta's work is flawed on two counts: 1) it is clear throughout that he had read Benninga, and 2) he dropped much of Benninga's content in favor of adding wordy explanatory paragraphs to soften the blow of the fact that modeling is mathematically and technically both boring and intense work. With those criticisms in mind, his work still has neater, leaner, more compressed models with updated contemporary detail.

There are three other books, Scott Proctor's "Building Financial Models with Microsoft Excel: A Guide for Business Professionals," which focuses on building vanilla financial statements, as does John Tjia "Building Financial Models." Mary Jackson & Mike Staunton's "Advanced Modeling in Finance using Excel and VBA" is also now dated and seriously flawed and limited in scope), however it is the next step following Benninga.

For those working in top-tier banks, the internal training and modeling documents, and examples built by colleagues, will likely surpass by light years what is offered in these books. And so for beginners, Benninga remains the the best choice and first step, until something better comes along, or Benninga himself produces a new edition.

Product: Book - Paperback
Title: Programming Perl (3rd Edition)
Publisher: O'Reilly
Authors: Larry Wall, Tom Christiansen, Jon Orwant
Rating: 4/5
Customer opinion - 4 stars out of 5
Fine book, but with some major flaws

It's a fine book. Obviously the one to get if you're serious about Perl.
I have two complaints about it:
1. It's overproduced, with too many footnotes. This style of writing is all too common in computer books, and one that makes them very hard to read. Nearly all of the footnotes in this book should either be in the main text, because they are relevant, or omitted because they are irrelevant and just clutter up the discourse.
2. The index is terrible. Many keywords and other important Perl concepts aren't indexed at all. For one who doesn't have the language memorized, this is very inconvenient.
But, even with these irritating flaws, the book is extremely valuable, and I couldn't imagine using Perl without it.