Dear Dagen: Financial Firms' Reading Lists Heavy on Boss' Books, Backswings

A light-hearted look at Amazon.com's lists of best-selling books at financial services companies.
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You might've thought the folks at your mutual fund company or brokerage were sitting around reading

Graham

and

Dodd

.

Try

Grisham

and

Clancy

.

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

has started publishing lists of best-selling books by company. These "Purchase Circles," as Amazon.com calls them, are based on the domain name (i.e., thestreet.com, for example) of customers as well as zip codes that books are shipped to. With a few clicks of the mouse, you can browse the top-10 books at

Merrill Lynch

(MER)

or

Vanguard

-- or many other companies, for that matter. (Sorry, Amazon.com hasn't compiled a Purchase Circle list for

TheStreet.com

.)

Of course, lots of people buy recreational items at work. Perhaps these financial services employees are reading their copies of

Hannibal

while sitting on the beach -- not while advising you on how to roll over your 401(k).

In any case, these lists offer a glimpse into the private lives of companies that often like to cover up their human imperfections. There are no serious conclusions you can draw from reading these lists. But it will be hard to think of

Fidelity

as impervious now that you know everybody's pouring through

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood

(No. 6 on the fund company's bestseller list).

So just for fun, let's take a look:

Goldman on My Mind

For people working 18-hour days, you'd think the employees at

Goldman Sachs

(GS) - Get Report

would want to indulge in some lighter fare in their spare time. But they seem to like nothing more than reading about Goldman Sachs.

The top two books purchased by Goldman employees are:

Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success

by Lisa Endlich and

Long Term Greedy: The Triumph of Goldman Sachs

by Nils Lindskoog.

That's either loyalty or self-indulgence.

The Boss Man

Either the folks at Fidelity believe in Robert Pozen's wisdom or it's just good politics to keep his book on your desk.

The No. 1 book purchased by Amazon.com customers at Fidelity is the textbook

The Mutual Fund Business

by Pozen, who is the company's president. Employees of

Charles Schwab

(SCH)

are not quite as enamored of the boss' prose.

Charles Schwab's Guide to Financial Independence: Simple Solutions for Busy People

ranks just ninth for that firm.

Vanguard Softies

Vanguard's already got a hefty public relations problem thanks to Jack Bogle's forced retirement from the fund company's board. But the firm might have an even bigger problem on its hands.

Its employees are reading

Suze Orman

.

Her books discuss the spiritual and psychological power of money and how investors should face these feelings and fears as part of investing. Orman's

The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom

is ranked ninth among books purchased by Vanguard employees.

This work seems to be a little out of place at a firm known for its practicality and pragmatism. Maybe the firm's employees are ripe for a spiritual awakening ... or a diet. Vanguard staffers do seem to be interested in shedding a few pounds. Two high-protein diet books appear on the Amazon.com list:

Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution

by Robert Atkins, No. 6, and

Protein Power: The High-Protein/Low Carbohydrate Way to Lose Weight, Feel Fit, and Boost Your Health -- in Just Weeks!

by Michael Eades and Mary Dan Eades, No. 8.

I wonder if the number of hamburgers being consumed in the Vanguard galley is on the rise.

Valley of the Traders

People love to read about money, scandal and greed.

And, not surprisingly, interest in

Liar's Poker

hasn't waned. Michael Lewis' book about

Salomon Brothers

is the quintessential kiss-and-tell tome about Wall Street, a

Valley of the Dolls

for the trading set. The book is at the top of the list for

Lehman Brothers

(LEH)

and is also No. 5 on Goldman's list of frequently purchased books.

The former Salomon Brothers is now part of

Salomon Smith Barney

, a piece the global powerhouse

Citigroup

(C) - Get Report

. Ironically, the book does not make an abbreviated top-six list for Salomon Smith Barney.

Merger Play

When the former

Montgomery Securities

was bought by

NationsBank

(now

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

, some critics carped that the newly rich partners wouldn't spend much time working.

The merger seems to be going OK, but some employees seem to be spending some hours working on their swing.

Employees at the firm, which Amazon.com still tracks under Montgomery Securities, are buying

The Majors: In Pursuit of Golf's Holy Grail

by John Feinstein, ranked No. 9, and

Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible: Master the Finesse Swing and Lower Your Score

, ranked No. 10.

At least these professionals aren't reading books on how to start your own Internet company.

Send your questions and comments, along with your full name, to

deardagen@thestreet.com.

Dear Dagen aims to provide general fund information. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell funds or other securities.