The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return by MIHIR A. DESAI

About the book

This book is the lucid exploration of Desai’s ideas on finance and through the lens of humanities. In this book, the author uses the narrative style to convey a perspective of finance that even those who are not acquainted with the financial world can understand. Furthermore, this allows professionals themselves working on finance to go back to the core of the industry.

Finance and humanities may be two distinctly separate and contradictory concepts. However, in Desai’s vision, he shows us a perspective in which the two are correlated, and each corresponds to the other. The author shows that the principles of finance can be used to answer the critical questions we have in our lives. Among these teachings include: reacting to failure in the form of financial bankruptcy, and the core of marriage is similar to company mergers.


The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return takes the reader in an amazing journey of Desai’s mind and his perception of the correlation of finance and humanities. This book encourages readers to always look at the core of humanity in whatever profession they are in. It has exciting insights and presents an understandable view of finance with the use of novels, movies, music, philosophy, and even history. 

It introduces the reader to many technical and financial concepts such as insurance, asset pricing, corporate finance, principal-agent problems, and bankruptcy using a humanities lens to be more understandable to all readers coming from different professions. 

About the author

Mihir A. Desai was born in India and raised in Hong Kong and New Jersey. He is a professor at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, where he teaches finance, tax law, and entrepreneurship. Recently, he became the developer of an online finance course for the HBX platform. His work on corporate finance, international finance, and tax policy has resulted in invitations to testify before the US Congress.

Table of Contents

Author’s Note … xi

Introduction: Finance and the Good Life … 1

Ch. 1 The Wheel of Fortune … 11

Ch. 2 Risky Business … 35

Ch. 3 On Value … 58

Ch. 4 Becoming a Producer … 75

Ch. 5 No Romance Without Finance … 97

Ch. 6 Living the Dream … 120

Ch. 7 Failing Forward … 142

Ch. 8 Why Everyone Hates Finance … 161

Afterword … 175

Acknowledgments … 179

Notes … 182

Illustration Credits … 215Index … 216

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