People will be writing postmortems on the creative excesses of the 1980s for many years, but Louis Lowenstein, a professor of finance and law at Columbia University, has already given us an informed account of where clever financial minds short-circuited.

Sense and Nonsense in Corporate Finance (Addison-Wesley, 1991, $24.95) takes readers into some of the more bizarre financial episodes in recent times. Lowenstein's discussion of leveraged buyouts and zero-coupon bonds is refreshingly nonacademic and sensible. Financial cleverness should not be a company's focus, he notes. "Research, marketing, and manufacturing are what win ball games." While the book is aimed at readers involved with publicly traded companies, others can gain insights into how to build value.

-- Bruce G. Posner