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Book Review: Know the City

Book Review: Know the City

The rewritten up-to-date version, Know the City 2013/14, is heralded a must-read for students considering a career in professional services. Author Chris Stoakes, a lawyer himself, is renowned for making complex concepts understandable and enjoyable, and has received much credit for his other titles including ‘Commercial Awareness 2013/14’ and ‘Is Law for You?’ The book presents an overview of, and insight into, finance and the financial markets. In doing so, Know the City endeavours to answer all of the necessary questions so as to ensure readers are not left asking ‘uninformed’ questions when they start their career.

Students may be put off as, at first glance, a vast amount of information is provided and finance is perhaps not one of the most accessible topics. However, the chatty style ensures the reader remains engaged throughout and the well-defined structure provides guidance to the reader. Short chapters also ease the transition between distinguished topics and build on knowledge along the way.

Of merit is the international perspective the book provides; an insight into finance and financial markets around the world is given, not simply London. In placing the workings of the City in an international context, drawing comparisons to Tokyo, New York and China for example, the book provides a well rounded overview. After all, markets are increasingly international and any student seeking a professional services career is at an advantage if they can set their understanding of their field against an international backdrop.

The book is not only informative but interesting, particularly in discussing less common areas of finance that many are more likely to be unaware of, namely Islamic Banking and Microfinance. Stoakes forcefully argues that these areas are the future of the financing world and even the most basic understanding could set readers apart. Also valuable is the ‘How to Read the Financial Times’ section, which provides a practical guide to encourage readers to get the most from the time they invest in reading the financial press.

Regarding the adequacy of documentation, all bases one would expect from an introductory book are covered, and more. However, providing such a vast array of information whilst also being concise can sometimes come at a cost. The first half of the book, in being more far more technical but considerably less descriptive than the last, is significantly more taxing. It is no easy task to explain complex concepts, such as derivatives, short selling and gearing, in a simple manner. However, an insufficient level of definition and context does not aid the cause. Perhaps the reader ought to be advised to have Google at hand so as to fill in the missing blanks themselves whilst battling with complex terminology.

Nevertheless, whilst appropriate for anyone with an interest in finance and the financial markets, Know the City is ideal for potential lawyers who need at least a basic understanding of the City and the commercial world. It is insightful and relevant, and despite being challenging in places, the fundamental understanding readers will gain forms an invaluable basis on which to build future knowledge. So, get reading!

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