When Warren Buffett started his investing career, he would read 600, 750, or 1,000 pages a day.
Even now, he still spends about 80% of his day reading.
“Look, my job is essentially just corralling more and more and more facts and information, and occasionally seeing whether that leads to some action,” he once said in an interview.
“We don’t read other people’s opinions,” he says. “We want to get the facts, and then think.”
To help you get into the mind of the billionaire investor, we’ve rounded up his book recommendations over 20 years of interviews and shareholder letters.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
When Buffett was 19 years old, he picked up a copy of legendary Wall Streeter Benjamin Graham’s Intelligent Investor.
It was the one of the luckiest moments of his life, he said, because it gave him the intellectual framework for investing.
“To invest successfully over a lifetime does not require a stratospheric IQ, unusual business insights, or inside information,” Buffett said. “What’s needed is a sound intellectual framework for making decisions and the ability to keep emotions from corroding that framework. This book precisely and clearly prescribes the proper framework. You must provide the emotional discipline.”
Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham
Buffett said that Security Analysis, another groundbreaking work of Graham’s, had given him “a road map for investing that I have now been following for 57 years.”
The book’s core insight: If your analysis is thorough enough, you can figure out the value of a company — and if the market knows the same.
Buffett has said that Graham was the second-most influential figure in his life, after only his father.
“Ben was this incredible teacher; I mean he was a natural,” he said.
Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher
While investor Philip Fisher — who specialized in investing in innovative companies — didn’t shape Buffett in quite the same way as Graham did, he still holds him in the highest regard.
“I am an eager reader of whatever Phil has to say, and I recommend him to you,” Buffett said.
In “Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits,” Fisher emphasizes that fixating on financial statements isn’t enough — you also need to evaluate a company’s management.
Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises by Tim Geithner
Buffett says that the former Secretary of the Treasury’s book about the financial crisis is a must-read for any manager.
Lots of books have been written about how to manage an organization through tough times. Almost none are firsthand accounts of steering a wing of government through economic catastrophe.
“This wasn’t just a little problem on the fringes of the U.S. mortgage market,” Geithner writes. “I had a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew what financial crises felt like, and they felt like this.”
The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett
If you want to get to know the way Buffett thinks, go straight to the Sage himself.
In this collection, he keeps it very real — in his signature folksy-intellectual fashion.
“What could be more advantageous in an intellectual contest — whether it be chess, bridge, or stock selection — than to have opponents who have been taught that thinking is a waste of energy?” he asks.
Jack: Straight From The Gut by Jack Welch
In his 2001 shareholder letter, Buffett gleefully endorses Jack: Straight From The Gut, a business memoir of longtime GE exec Jack Welch, whom Buffett describes as “smart, energetic, hands-on.”
In commenting on the book, Bloomberg Businessweek wrote that “Welch has had such an impact on modern business that a tour of his personal history offers all managers valuable lessons.”
Buffett’s advice: “Get a copy!”
The Outsiders by William Thorndike, Jr.
In his 2012 shareholder letter Buffett praises Outsiders as “an outstanding book about CEOs who excelled at capital allocation.”
Berkshire Hathaway plays a major role in the book. One chapter is on director Tom Murphy, who Buffett says is “overall the best business manager I’ve ever met.”
The book — which finds patterns of success from execs at The Washington Post, Ralston Purina, and others — has been praised as “one of the most important business books in America” by Forbes.
The Clash of the Cultures by John Bogle
Bogle’s “The Clash of the Cultures” is another recommendation from the 2012 shareholder letter.
In it, Bogle — creator of the index fund and founder of the Vanguard Group, now managing $2 trillion in assets — argues that long-term investing has been crowded out by short-term speculation.
But the book isn’t all argument. It finishes with practical tips, like:
- Remember reversion to the mean. What’s hot today isn’t likely to be hot tomorrow. The stock market reverts to fundamental returns over the long run. Don’t follow the herd.
- Time is your friend, impulse is your enemy. Take advantage of compound interest and don’t be captivated by the siren song of the market. That only seduces you into buying after stocks have soared and selling after they plunge.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks
Back in 1991, Bill Gates asked Buffett what his favorite book was.
To reply, Buffett sent the Microsoft founder his personal copy of Business Adventures, a collection of New Yorker stories by John Brooks.
Gates says that the book serves as a reminder that the principles for building a winning business stay constant. He writes:
The book has become a media darling as of late; Slate wrote that it’s “catnip for billionaires.”
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