Enough good books are written about money, investing, and the economy to keep an avid reader busy for a lifetime, but among them, there are some true standouts. Here are 10 instant classics that should be on your reading list.
The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism by John C. Bogle (2005)
John Bogle, the founder of The Vanguard Group and a long-time advocate for the small investor, here takes a hard-hitting look at everything that ails the financial system. From overcompensated CEOs and overpriced mutual funds to the focus on short-term results over long-term gains, Bogle lays bare the fault lines running beneath modern capitalism. He also explains the impact that mutual funds and their directors have on the policies of the companies whose shares they own. Finally, he explains how stockholders can exercise their will, reclaim the companies they own and put the financial system back on track.
Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald (2005)
Written by a senior investigative reporter for The New York Times, this entertaining look at the Enron meltdown introduces readers to the rogues' gallery behind the biggest failure in corporate history. From influencing the nation's energy policy to misleading investors and analysts, the audacity, arrogance, and greed of these characters are presented in a novelistic style that will keep you reading from the first page to the last.
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (2005)
A self-proclaimed rogue economist "explores the hidden side of everything." Along the way, Levitt illuminates a galaxy of real-world topics from violent crime and the hierarchy of drug dealers' networks to backyard swimming pools and baby-naming patterns. Freakonomics and its 2009 sequel SuperFreakonomics are entertaining departures from the financial services genre's usual fare.
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Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2004)
Taleb draws on his experiences as a trader and as a math professor to consider the role of luck in achieving financial success. He provides plenty of food for thought for anyone curious about the role of skill in stock picking and the value of psychology in decision making. Whether you believe that great fortunes are made through hard work and persistence or the fickle hand of fate, this book will give you a new perspective. Fortune declared it one of "the smartest books of all time."
Bull's Eye Investing by John Mauldin (2005)
Citing factors such as new accounting standards and rising pension costs, Mauldin paints a bleak vision of the future and makes a compelling argument for a different outlook and investment approach. Mauldin doesn't see the traditional buy-and-hold method as a viable stock market strategy. Instead, he touts the virtues of absolute return investment vehicles, such as hedge funds, and old standbys like gold.
A Mathematician Plays the Stock Market by John Allen Paulos (2003)
If you like mathematics, you will love this book. Most people know that numbers play a huge role in stock market analysis, and they may assume that mathematical genius provides some hidden insight that mere mortals cannot hope to match. Using personal insight from his own efforts to beat The Street, Paulos provides a humorous and entertaining look at the mathematical theories and technical analysis methods that all too often fail.
Value Investing Today by Charles H. Brandes (2003)
Benjamin Graham, Warren Buffett, and Charles Brandes are all giants in the field of value investing. Their stock screening, portfolio construction and insight into the markets made them all rich and famous. Here, Brandes introduces the strategies behind the success of the value approach. The third edition of this book, originally published in 1989, updates the supporting data and adds several new chapters, including strategies to capitalize on international markets.
The Millionaire Mind by Thomas J. Stanley (2000)
In his earlier book, The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas J. Stanley collaborated with William D. Danko to create a profile of the "average" millionaire. In The Millionaire Mind, he provides a detailed look at the kind of thinking that helped these millionaires amass their wealth. Everyone who aspires to millionaire status shouldn't just read this book, they should study it.
John Neff on Investing by John Neff (1999)
The legendary manager of Vanguard's Windsor Fund built his reputation as a bargain hunter extraordinaire. With a contrarian approach to picking stocks, Neff bought low and sold high. For investors who count themselves among Neff's many fans, this account of how he got the job done is well worth the read. Anyone reading this book in hopes of finding a shortcut to making a few bucks will likely be disappointed. No quick fixes are offered here.
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis (2018)
The prolific author takes an inside look at the Trump administration and, by extension, the way the U.S. government works no matter who holds the top job. This book offers insight into the inner workings, strengths, and failures of the federal government. For investors, it may also provide a new perspective into the state of the economy and how the public sector is influencing the nation’s economic and investing climate.