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Books: Briefs



By Peter Lynch with John Rothchild

Simon & Schuster -- 318pp -- $23

Peter Lynch is a single-minded crusader: He wants to persuade people to buy stocks. Surely there's no one better qualified to take up this worthy cause. As manager of the Fidelity Magellan mutual fund, he was a legendary stockpicker. In a very worthwhile 1989 book, One Up On Wall Street, Lynch preached the gospel of investing, and here he is, back at it again.

The virtues of stock investing are numerous; they can hardly be repeated too often. Unfortunately, repetition is a failing in a book--and one that is all too common in sequels. Beating the Street offers mighty little of substance that wasn't covered in One Up.

But Beating does offer numerous anecdotes. They illustrate how Lynch picked this stock and why he didn't pick that stock--and why he shouldn't have picked another stock, with examples taken from his days at Magellan as well as from his more recent semiretirement. There is, for example, a lengthy love song to Lynch's longtime favorite, Fannie Mae. In One Up, the anecdotes illuminated the principles that were so cogently presented in the book. In Beating the Street, they essentially provide padding.

One interesting and original topic that Lynch might have taken on is an inside view of the mutual-fund business, Fidelity in particular. But we get no sense of what it's like to work for this giant. Fidelity CEO Ned Johnson is mentioned a few times, but we get no feeling for the man. Of course, with Lynch still employed as a Fidelity consultant, a probing examination of that company is probably too much to ask.

If nothing else, Beating is a good read. Lynch's co-author is again John Rothchild, a financial writer of clarity and wit. It's just unfortunate that there isn't much else. GARY WEISS

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