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You can’t sit down with Bill Gates for more than 10 minutes before he starts telling you about a recent book he read. If you’re not lucky enough to chew the fat with Bill you can get an update on his reading recommendations anytime you want on his blog: Gates Notes.
Ryan Holiday actually has a free subscription service to inform his followers monthly of great books he has read and recommends. Over the years I have found many inspiring and mentally stimulating books from Holiday’s list.
Books are the foundation of knowledge. I read a lot because you will be hard pressed to find a successful individual who doesn’t read on a regular basis and because it is fun. Books have a special feel. Some people enjoy Kindle versions; I still prefer holding a book in my hands. I might get my news digitally, but when I dive deep into a subject I want paper in my hands even if I have to lug it through an airport. It’s just me.
Outside family, books have provided my greatest pleasures in life. I have traveled the world and through time; I have seen great societies and dined with the greatest minds of history. I did it all through the eyes of those who were there. Books have given me all that and more. You are free as long as you can crack a book and disappear into another realm.
It’s time again for me to share some of my enlightened reading. I prefer massive books. I also enjoy books that delve deep into business, science, taxes, accounting, history and math. I am not sure there is a genre I don’t enjoy.
When I was younger I read thousands of novels. Not so much anymore. Most of my time is spent with my nose stuck in a heavily researched book. Take away my reading time and I get cranky. For me, reading books is as important as sleep and breathing and more important than food. I can go longer without food than a book.
I find new books to read in various places. The above mentioned Gates and Holiday have been a reliable source. Sometimes The Economist has a good recommendation. The news gives me books to add to my reading list, too. And now I want you to help grow my list.
Below I will share my reading recommendations for the summer. In return I want you to share some of your favorite reads. It doesn’t matter if you read it ages ago. A good book sticks with you and if it sticks, you should share.
I have starred (*) books I recommend for purchase. The remainder should be borrowed from the library. Starred books I feel most readers will return to again and again so it should be part of your personal library.
The time required to read the seven books on the list is 70 hours (assuming 10 hours per volume) or 10 weeks at an hour per day. You can buy all the starred books used at Amazon (or Kindle) for under $35 with Amazon Prime. A local used bookstore may bring an even greater bargain.
I read two magazines regularly. In the past I read many more periodicals, but most newspaper and magazine stories are online where I read them now.
National Geographic: I travel more than I care to. Most travel is business related and increasing due to this blog. However, I keep pace with the world at large by reading NG. The articles are not long, but contain powerful information. Written different than a news piece, NG writes from the perspective of a traveler on the ground. This allows me a glimpse into the lives of people from all corners of the world. Science and culture related articles interest me most, but I read NG cover to cover every issue.
The Economist: Most news reporting agencies leave me flat. The Economist is packed with news from around the world each week with numerous stories from the business world and the study of economics. You can read The Economist online, have the magazine delivered to your door, or both.
*The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder: The news media has plenty to say about Warren Buffett. You can watch interview after interview of him on YouTube and at the end of the day you are left wondering how he does it. Alice Schroeder (no relation to the author) spent years digging deep into the life of Buffett to give us an unblemished look at what makes Buffett Buffett. A short news piece is no match for 832 pages of journalism. Schroeder spent countless hours on the phone and in personal interviews with Buffett, his family and acquaintances. I warm you, this book is addicting; it is hard to turn out the lights when engaged in such a mesmerizing story. By the end you have a much better idea of how Buffett does it. There is no doubt in my mind your investing skills will improve by the time you turn the last page. These skills can be applied to your investment properties, business or side gig and equity investing.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: Our first of two fiction entries is rollicking fun. Dunces introduces us to Ignatius J. Riley, a most intoxicating character if there ever was one. Riley is always scheming. His antics with ways to earn money in jobs and side gigs will have you rolling on the floor. But I warn you, Riley is an idiot extraordinaire. His relationship with family and employers will have your eyes glued to the page. Readers of this blog know the value of a side gig. Dunces teaches us how not to do it.
Business Adventures by John Brooks: When Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both say a book is the best business book ever written it might be worth the time to read it. Adventures is a collection of articles written by Brooks over his career investigating significant issues challenging businesses. Before the 1987 crash or 2008 financial crisis was stock crash of 1962. Brooks gives us a detailed look at what went wrong and what was done to prevent 1962 from becoming a 1987. Chapter 3 took a look at the federal tax code and its history. For some reason your favorite accountant couldn’t put the book down during that chapter. I also found the chapter on Xerox riveting. What sacrifices are made by a group of people to bring a company to life is inspiring. Note: These business stories are from the 1960s and therefore are dated. However, each story is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis: Before the current events caused Americans to doubt their government’s ability to lead there was the fear Nazi theology would usurp the White House. Lewis wrote his dystopian novel in 1935 as fear heightened over Hitler in Europe. The story follows Doremus Jessup, a small town newspaper editor, as Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip captures the imagination of the country. Windrip’s promises sound all too familiar today. Of course Windrip wins the presidency causing the country to spin down in violent authoritarianism. The novel does not offer a happy ending. Jessup and his ragtag compatriots build a movement to take the country back by using an underground network to publish the truth. People begin to fight back, but the cost is dear and the road back may never provide a full return. Perhaps Americans should also read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire too. Or a brief review on how the Roman Republic ended.
*The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and Some so Poor by David S. Landes: In The Wealth of Nations, published by Adam Smith in 1776, we learn about the division of labor and its effects on productivity and quality. (You can read The Wealth of Nations online for free here.) Smith also gave us a look at how money really works. Fast forward to 1998 and Landes picks up where Smith left off. No longer are we merely interested in how money works, but why some countries are rich and some poor. Several factors determine the wealth of a society. I’ll let you enjoy the process of learning as you read the book.
*The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins: There is a reason I am recommending this book again. Jim Collins has produced what I consider one of the best books on investing ever written. Taken from the pages of his blog, Wealth is pulled straight from his stock series. Before you jump ship on me, understand this book is not about pouring over stock sheets and financials searching for the next good investment. Instead, Collins’ approach is simple: simple to read, simple to follow. The writing is crisp, clean and to the point. This is the perfect book for the restroom (sorry Jim) or ride to work. Each chapter is self contained, yet part of the whole. I am certain you will read this book again and again as I have. I keep finding myself re-reading chapters as a reminder to keep it simple and safe if I want to grow and maintain my wealth. (If you want to read about how the author and Collins nearly took over the world, read here.)
* The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel: Before we start I want to point out I recommend this book for purchase. Unless you plan on using the book for additional research you may wish to borrow the book from the library instead. The Great Leveler takes Piketty’s work a step further by looking back in history to determine where income inequality began, how it ended and reappeared in societies for millennia. This book is a surprising recount of income inequality in all societies since humans decided to leave the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. What I found most interesting was how similar the issues of income inequality are today with the same issue thousands of years ago. Hint: you are not going to like the four possible solutions history provided.
There it is, kind readers; my reading list to round out your summer. Pick and choose as your interests dictate.
Now it is your turn. I am always looking for good books to read. Share some of your favorites in the comments section below. Don’t leave a wayward accountant, a book lover, in the dark.