Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Ten Anecdotal/Historical Book Ideas for Investors

About a month or so ago, I finally got around to reading Marty Schwartz’s classic, Pit Bull, which I can best describe as a colorful autobiography that uses the 1980s options world as a palette for many amusing anecdotes that are expertly conveyed. The book was such a fun read that I went through the whole thing in no more than 2-3 days, cobbling together bits and pieces of ‘free time’ in order to do so.

Schwartz’s book is pure entertainment and touches only briefly on methodologies and techniques, yet I was able to pull quite a few investment-related nuggets from it in a short period of time, with the added benefit that the learning process was all fun and no pain. The process got me thinking that perhaps the fastest way to effortlessly bombard the brain with useful investment ideas are those easy reads that provide a personal historical window into the markets.

I am contrasting this process with the process I went through in trying to read and digest the ideas in Alan Farley’s The Master Swing Trader, which, despite the many interesting ideas, is about as fun to trudge through as Hegel.

With this in mind, I offer the following ten books as relatively effortless ways to cross-pollinate your investment thinking with that of some of the better minds in the field, both past and present.

Roughly in order of how quick and easy they are to read:

  • How I Made $2,000,000 in the Stock Market (Nicolas Darvas) – You can probably read this book in a little over an hour. There are only a few salient ideas, but these are destined to stick with you long after you have read the book. I also found that the path Darvas took along the way to developing his system bears a strong resemblance to my own.
  • Pit Bull (Marty Schwartz) – A fast-moving and superbly written account of a champion options trader. A great companion for a cross-country plane trip.
  • Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Edwin Lefevre) – This is on almost everyone’s reading list, so I will say little about it, other than to point out that it is chock full of insight, yet still reads like a novel.
  • A Journey Through Economic Time (John Kenneth Galbraith) – A very different book from the others on this list, this is certainly one of the easiest economics reads out there, yet the survey of the economic landscape from WWI to after the fall of the Berlin Wall will give the reader a lot to think about.
  • My Life as a Quant (Emanuel Derman) – Another physicist who writes extremely well, Derman provides a thoughtful accounting of his personal journey through the (then) unlikely intersection of theoretical physics, finance and risk.
  • Investment Biker (Jim Rogers) and Adventure Capitalist (Jim Rogers) – These two books are probably best read back to back, in chronological order, starting with the Investment Biker’s 1990-1992 world tour, then using the 1999-2001 Adventure Capitalist jaunt to see how the world had changed over the course of a decade. This is first-person global macro analysis at its best, though you may not have the stamina to do your own world tour in one sitting…
  • Market Wizards (Jack Schwager), The New Market Wizards (Jack Schwager), and Stock Market Wizards (Jack Schwager) – I never thought I’d willingly place the Schwager wizards trilogy at the bottom of any list, but they end up here because they are more densely packed than the other books. Like the Jim Rogers duo, these are best consumed in small bites, on an empty stomach, leaving ample time for proper chewing and digestion. Schwager’s interview style and editing is such that he is able to deliver an astonishing amount of information in an easy to read fashion. The best news of all is that while the books are a great place for beginners to start, they somehow manage to improve with repeated reading.


dk said...

Very nice bibliography, Bill. I'm an avid reader and have enjoyed Lefevre (at least) twice and the three Schwagers, which I read as a young investor as they were published. The first is my sentimental favorite, with its many stories about the 1987 crash. Yes, they all took a while to work through, and were and best consumed tapas-style.

If you're interested and don't know these already, three others that complement your excellent list are: When Genius Failed about the fall of LTCM, Liar's Poker about bond trading at Saloman Bros., and Den of Thieves about the rise and fall of Milken, Boesky and Drexel Burnham. None disappoint.

Bill Luby said...

Three good choices and excellent complements, dk. I must admit I have yet to read Den of Thieves, but it comes highly recommended by quite a few people.

Liar's Poker was an absolute hoot.

MissTrade said...

Don't forget "When Supertraders meet Kryptonite" what trader shouldn't read about other traders blowing up. Its more real than anything else and Buzzy's book is still my favorite!!

The new Black Swan is right up there also!!

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