We've spent some time in recent posts going over many of the similarities that exist between the methodology and practices of the great Investors. Most of these people have been enshrined in our minds because of their outstanding track records, and their exemplary approach to creating innovative investment ideas.
One of the things that holds them apart from others is how they can pull all that disparate information together and corral it into a new idea.
But where do they get the information from? From whence comes those brilliant insights? It has to be said the details come from many sources, like talking and watching and listening, but one of the most common is also one of the most humble. A book.
I love to read and you've no doubt seen how many of the great Investors do the same. And the benefits are many with very little downside. If we read widely, our Vocabulary, Comprehension, Awareness, Intuitive Capabilities, Intelligence and Wisdom all end up on the right side of the ledger - basically the more we read the more we grow and develop. But the biggest benefit lies in the growth of our knowledge base.
Every Investment Master has learnt from a book, or more than one. They all talk about the the little gems they uncovered in this book or that, or how another person's writing challenged their perceptions on an important business or investment paradigm. In almost every case, the authors are invariably providing their knowledge and in many cases the secrets to their success. This is invaluable to us all.
"I have been accused of telling all my secrets. I have written a number of books, and I reveal them all in these books." Benjamin Graham
I also find it fascinating that so many of the great Investors find similar value in much the same authors, such as Benjamin Graham and his brilliant book, The Intelligent Investor.
"By far the best book on investing ever written." Warren Buffett
"I read The Intelligent Investor. Right away, I Said, "Voila!, this is the investment concept I've been looking for." Jean-Marie Eveillard
"Chapters 8 and Chapters 20 [of the Intelligent Investor] are really all you need to do to get rich in this world." Warren Buffett
"Since 1993, the cornerstone of our investment philosophy is based on Benjamin Graham’s book 'The Intelligent Investor', first published in 1949." Francois Rochon
"I can’t remember what I paid for that first copy of The Intelligent Investor. Whatever the cost, it would underscore the truth of Ben’s adage: Price is what you pay, value is what you get. Of all the investments I ever made, buying Ben’s book was the best (except for my purchase of two marriage licenses)." Warren Buffett
Beyond knowing the value they place on books written by other people, one of the biggest upsides for us is that many of the Investment Masters have also put those same ideas into one of more of their own books. Warren Buffett has long been recognised for his annual letters.
"I actually think by reading Berkshire’s reports, you should be able to get more — I would think you’d get more of our philosophy than in any other manner." Warren Buffett
Many investors, including me, wait hungrily for his latest instalment. And he never disappoints.
"I have read everything I could on Buffett. He is our business/investment role model." Frank Martin
“I think I have read almost everything Warren Buffett has written and I agree with more than 95% of his thinking.” Lee Ainslee
“You should read the Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders’ which are on the Berkshire website so they are free. That will be a great start.” Mohnish Pabrai
"By far, the best investor of all time is Warren Buffett. I have read everything I could find (past and present) about him." Francois Rochon
"Going back and reading Berkshire Hathaway annual reports is worth the time." Arnold Van Den Berg.
"In my opinion, Warren Buffett’s group of annual letters is the best teaching anyone could find in the history of business." Francois Rochon
"I started reading [Buffett’s shareholder letters etc.] and I’ve read over the years, just about everything, I think, Warren’s put out there." Ted Weschler
Every single Investment Master reads widely. Biographies, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Investment and Business Journals; all are examples of the breadth of genres that are consumed almost daily by these people. I've mentioned how they are able to pull disparate bits of information together - finding the information in the first place would not always be possible without their reading such a wide variety of books.
"Personal biographies, the histories, are the most interesting. I have Benjamin Graham’s personal biography, also the biography of Leon Levy, The Mind of Wall Street. These are all great. It’s not that they’re uncovering something that no one knows about, but these are personal stories about things that they actually experienced in the investment world. How did they deal with the 1973 to 1974 bear market? What did they invest in that worked? What did they invest in that didn’t work? What were the mistakes they made? What did they learn? You’re basically absorbing all of this knowledge that’s out there and you can learn from it and apply it to your own experiences." Chris Mittleman
Beyond Benjamin Graham's treatise which many seem to favour, other books appear frequently in the recommended lists from each Investment Master. Here are some of the more commonly recommended treatises on Investing...
MARGIN OF SAFETY, By Seth Klarman.
“I had very few actual mentors in this business because I didn’t really know anyone. I bought Seth Klarman’s book Margin of Safety which was published my first year of business school.” Bill Ackman
"Seth Klarman's 'Margin of Safety' is a good book about risk." Arnold Van Den Berg
ONE UP ON WALL STREET, By Peter Lynch.
"Peter Lynch's books have some great insights [and] would be great for anyone to read." Julian Robertson
"I came across a book titled 'One up on Wall Street' by Peter Lynch. I found it so exciting I read it straight into the night. I have found the the book to be, along with Benjamin Graham's 'The Intelligent Investor', the best ever written on investment. The book helped me discover a passion for the stock market that has never left me." Francois Rochon
"I still remember when the book came out in 1989, and I read a review in BusinessWeek. I went out and bought it, and it changed my life forever." Francisco Garcia Parames
THE DAVIS DYNASTY, By Shelby Davis.
"One of the great investors I've tried to learn from is Shelby Davis." Thomas Gayner
“When John Rothchild combines history and biography with investing in one package, history illuminates the biography and investing, biography illuminates the history and investing, and investing illuminates the history and biography. This is a sparkling book on each level, but even more so as an adroitly mixed cocktail of all three.” Peter Bernstein
YOU CAN BE A STOCK MARKET GENIUS, By Joel Greenblatt.
“Joel Greenblatt wrote probably the best book ever, ‘You can be a Stock Market Genius’.” Dan Loeb
"Joel Greenblatt's 'You Can be a Stock Market Genius' is tactical and includes some very specific and interesting strategies." Seth Klarman
"Joel Greenblatt’s ‘You to be a Stock Market Genius’ is required reading for all new Third Point employees. On the topic of spin-offs, Greenblatt writes: ‘When a business and its management are freed from a large corporate parent, pent-up entrepreneurial forces are unleashed. The combination of accountability, responsibility and more direct incentives take their natural course’.” Dan Loeb
POOR CHARLIE'S ALMANAC, By Peter D. Kaufman.
"I think if you assimilate everything in that simple book [Poor Charlie's Almanac] you will know a lot more than about 95 percent of your compatriots. And it’s not that hard to do." Charlie Munger
"[Poor Charlie's Almanac], it’s a sensational book. And anybody that reads it is going to learn a whole, whole lot about life. And you’ll learn even — to get you to read it, I’ll tell you you’ll even learn something about making money." Warren Buffett
"Poor Charlie’s Almanac - I rate that as the best book I’ve ever read. If your looking for one book, Poor Charlie’s Almanac is loaded with a lot of wisdom. If you spend some time on that book, it’s pretty much all the wisdom picked up in 82 years of living, so there’s a lot of it digested and condensed in that book.” Mohnish Pabrai
"Another book that should be in the hall of fame is Poor Charlie’s Almanac by Peter D. Kaufman. This book is about Charlie Munger, the long-term business partner of Warren Buffett. This great book goes well beyond the field of finance and into philosophy and life values. It highlights the extraordinary mind of Charlie Munger, and I can guarantee hours of fun." Francois Rochon
“Poor Charlie’s Almanack is by far the most comprehensive publication that captures the essence of Charlie’s philosophy. When the first edition was published in 2005, I treated the book as a treasure and read it cover to cover multiple times. Each time I read it, I learned something new.” Li Lu
ALCHEMY OF FINANCE, By George Soros.
“And then I read The Alchemy of Finance because I’d heard about this guy Soros. And when I read The Alchemy of Finance, I understood very quickly that he was already employing an advanced version of the philosophy I was developing in my fund.” Stanley Druckenmiller
"There are a few books - really not that many which I believe are indispensable reading for every serious investor in whatever facet of investment practice they may favour - The Alchemy of Finance." Peter Cundill
"The Alchemy joins Reminiscences of a Stock Operator as a timeless instructional guide to the marketplace." Paul Tudor Jones
COMMON STOCKS AND UNCOMMON PROFITS, By Phil Fisher.
"I am an eager reader of whatever Phil [Fisher] has to say, and I recommend him to you." Warren Buffett
"I owe a lot to Mr Fisher. He wrote books out of pure altruism (he was already wealthy at that time) to simply share his experience with us. I thanked him then and I thank him again. Giverny Capital owes a part of its existence to him." Francois Rochon
"I sought out Phil Fisher after reading his 'Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits'. When I met him, I was impressed by the man and his ideas. A thorough understanding of a business, by using Phil's techniques … enables one to make intelligent investment commitments." Warren Buffett
“If I had to narrow it down to my favourite book it would be Phil Fisher’s ‘Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits’.” Kurt Winrich
"I always like it when someone attractive to me agrees with me, so I have fond memories of Phil Fisher." Charlie Munger
"I was very influenced by Phil Fisher when I first read his two books, back around 1960 or thereabouts. And I think that they’re terrific books, and I think Phil is a terrific guy." Warren Buffett
“Philip Fisher’s book Common Stocks & Uncommon Profits is obviously great.” Bill Stewart
"The late Philip Fisher wrote several books that are very good [including] Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits." A Van Den Berg
"A book that ranks behind only 'The Intelligent Investor' and 'Security Analysis' in the all-time best list for the serious investor." Warren Buffett
SO FAR, SO GOOD: THE FIRST 94 YEARS, By Roy Neuberger.
"Roy [Neuberger] never fails to amuse and enlighten. Over the years, he's taught me many things I didn't know I didn't know." Jim Rogers
"I sometimes re-read older books like “So Far, So Good - the First 94 Years,” written by Roy Neuberger in 1997. It always fascinates me how things are basically the same on Wall Street. Sound principles do not change. And so is human nature towards money and markets." Francois Rochon
FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS, By Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
"Fooled by Randomness - I consider it one of the most important books an investor can read." Howard Marks
"Fooled by Randomness is a serious, intellectually sophisticated book, well worth reading carefully. At times, the book is condescending as though the author had discovered the holy grail of investing. There ain't no holy grail, and the cosmopolitan tone can be somewhat off-putting. Nevertheless, there are some great insights." Barton Biggs
INFLUENCE, By Robert Cialdini.
"Academic psychology has some very important merits alongside its defects. I learnt this eventually, in the course of general reading, from a book, 'Influence', aimed at a popular audience, by a distinguished psychology professor, Robert Cialdini… I immediately sent copies of Cialdini's book to all my children. I also gave a share of Berkshire stock [A share] to thank him for what he had done for me and the public." Charlie Munger
"Fairly late in life I stumbled into this book, Influence, by a psychologist named Bob Cialdini.. Well, it’s an academic book aimed at a popular audience that filled in a lot of holes in my crude system. In those holes it filled in, I thought I had a system that was a good-working tool." Charlie Munger
"There are a couple of valuable resources when it comes to behavioral biases: Cialdini's work on the influence of psychology in human decisions and Charlie Munger’s speech on the “Psychology of Human Misjudgment.” Christopher Begg
SPECULATIVE CONTAGION, By Frank Martin.
"For many years I've enjoyed reading Frank Martin's letters. This collection contains much investment wisdom and, just as important, sets a standard for advisor-client relationship." Warren Buffett
"What a unique opportunity to traverse the Bubble and post-Bubble years with Frank Martin, exactly as he described them to his clients in real time. Here is market history from the disciplined perspective of a value investor, as he wrestles with the financial beast. Speculative Contagion is sure to enlighten aspiring value investors for years to come." Seth Klarman
THINKING FAST AND SLOW, By Daniel Kahneman
“Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his work that challenged a rational model of judgement and decision-making, recently published a remarkable account of his intellectual journey; Thinking Fast and Slow.” Seth Klarman
“I just read Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, and I think that he and the late Amos Tversky are some of the great behavioural scientists. Since nobody in our industry thinks about this very much, I think about it a lot.” Frank Martin
"Daniel Kahneman’s books should be read." Charles de Vaulx
REMINISCENCES OF A STOCK OPERATOR, By Edwin LeFevre.
"It is a textbook for trading. I hand a copy to every new trader we have." Paul Tudor Jones
“When I was 17 I was backpacking across Europe. I was in Rome and had run out of books to reads. I went to a local open market where there was a book vendor, and literally, the only book they had in English was Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. It was an old tattered copy. I still have it. It’s the only possession in the world I care about. The book is amazing. It brought everything in my life together.” Colm O’Shea
“As the book states very early on, there is nothing new under the sun in the art of speculation, and everything that was said then completely applies to the markets of today. My guess is that the same will hold true for time eternal as long as man’s basic emotions remain intact.” Paul Tudor Jones
“The finest trading book ever written is Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin LeFevre. This book is not a “how I made a billion in the stock market” nauseating ego trip or self-serving fiction. Instead it is colloquial reminiscences by a legendary speculator of the mistakes and lessons he learned over a trading lifetime.” Barton Biggs.
“Reminiscence of a Stock Operator is a book that up until a couple of years ago I read every year because it is such a great lesson in psychology, how psychology works through the markets and how markets behave.” Bill Miller
“Everyone had to read, because its such great history, Edwin Lefevre’s Reminiscences of a Stock Operator.” Dan Loeb
"My favourite book on investing is Reminiscences of a Stock Operator. It was first published in 1923, and is filled with the jargon of the day, so you have to learn the language. But once you do, it is a fascinating book about trading and speculation. You realize that nothing has changed. Everything is the same. Even though the markets are global today, and there is so much more regulation, it is still just speculation and human nature." Jeffrey Gundlach
THE OUTSIDERS, By William Thorndike.
"An outstanding book about CEO's who excelled at capital allocation." Warren Buffett
“A book like the Outsiders is a good example of what I like to read. It uses eight case studies to illustrate how unconventional managers can make a huge difference in creating per share value for shareholders." Wally Weitz
"The Outsiders is a terrific book by William Thorndike that profiles eight cases of terrific CEOs and their “radically rational blueprint for success." The book highlights the importance of capital allocation and should be a benefit to both investors and executives." Francois Rochon
THE MONEY GAME, By Adam Smith.
“For a magnificent account of the current financial scene, you should hurry out and get a copy of ‘The Money Game’ by Adam Smith. It is loaded with insights and supreme wit.” Warren Buffett
"One of the great books about investing is Adam Smith's 'The Money Game' which was published in 1967." Barton Biggs
These are merely some of the recommended books from the Investment Masters. Thousands of books exist out there, each with their own piece of wisdom. So let's get reading! Which books are on your recommended list for 2018?
Further Reading: The Top 12 Investment Books