It's often said that very successful people don't waste time watching TV. Instead, they read voraciously.
Which begs the question, 'What should you read?' Will sappy romances and airport thrillers do the trick? Self-help guides, maybe? It depends, ultimately, on how you define success.
If you want to learn something about money, investing, and accumulating wealth, then the trick is to find some books on the topic that won't bore you silly. Here are some new ones as well as a few that have stood the test of time.
Let's start with something hot off the press: The Devil's Financial Dictionary by Jason Zweig, a veteran financial journalist and former colleague of mine at the Dow Jones division of Newscorp (NWS) - Get News Corporation Class B Report .
Zweig combines snark and insight to give you a book of Wall Street definitions that you'll want to keep handy. Some of it is hilarious e.g.
- APOLOGY, [...] on Wall Street, a declaration that other people did something wrong [...]
- INVESTIGATE, [...] What investors always should, but seldom will, do before they invest.
- IRRATIONAL, [...] A word you use to describe any investor other than yourself.
That said, there is a serious side to the book. It's definitely worth a read. Check out some others:
- Economist, actor and author Ben Stein isn't everyone's cup of tea. Nevertheless, his book, How to Really Ruin Your Financial Life And Portfolio, presents a way to look at finances through the opposite end of the telescope. If you do the things he says, then you'll quickly be ruined. One example is the failure to reinvest stock dividends. It's a short and funny book and definitely one to keep coming back to, year after year.
- If more people had read Michael Lewis' classic about the 1980s bond market, Liar's Poker, then perhaps the mortgage crisis would never have happened. But if it hadn't. we wouldn't have been blessed with The Big Short, his 2010 book about how some enterprising Wall Street Investors made huge profits from the collapse of the housing market. Lewis worked on Wall Street and knows how to explain the way things really work in an accessible/entertaining way. The Big Short has since been made into a movie.
- The thing I love about The Seven Laws of Money by Michael Phillips, is that it takes a philosophical approach to finances. For instance, you can't really give money away, he says and then explains why. "There are logical fallacies in all the Seven Laws," Phillips writes. However, "illogical" doesn't mean irrelevant or useless. I've always found my well-thumbed copy to be as fresh and poignant as the first time I read it.
- The Instant Millionaire by Mark Fisher is a fable worth reading. It's about a young man's quest for success and, yes, money. It starts with the line, "There was once a bright young man who wanted to get rich." The story's hero proceeds to get the education he needs from a old man. The tale's simplicity means that anyone who reads it with the intention of learning about money will come away with some valuable lessons. No spoilers here. It's too good to ruin.
- In some ways The Undercover Economist by Tim Harford, a London-based economist and columnist, is similar to Freakonomics, in that it presents real world examples of how economics really impact your life. It's a far cry from all those line charts that economics professors used to draw showing the profits of monopolists. Harford answers questions like, 'Who pays for your coffee,' 'When does crime pay?' and 'Why are poor countries poor?' If you are new to economics, this might be a book to whet your appetite for more.
- Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill, isn't exactly new. It was first published in 1937, yet it remains relevant today for those wishing to prosper. The man behind U.S. Steel, Andrew Carnegie, inspired Hill interview hundreds of successful businesspeople about how they made money. Hill then distilled what he'd learned into a splendid book. He puts the onus on the reader to learn and apply the book's techniques. As the title suggests, it's all about how you think, and what you think. That said, there is no magic bullet. Everything he discusses requires hard work and dedication.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.