At the beginning of this year I wanted to make a list of things to read this year, but I also wanted to make sure I read the best topics. Over the years I’ve come to realize that after having started to read a book, somewhere midway I stop enjoying it. Then I force myself to complete it just because I don’t want to leave it unfinished. But again while reading I also keep wondering if I’ve picked the right book to read at this point in time.
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Inspired by Charlie’s quote above, just like the opportunity cost of investing in a stock A instead of B, I also thought of the opportunity cost of reading book A instead of book B.
Since time is the most valuable commodity and it is in limited quantity, I wanted to make sure I picked the right book to read.
If I idolize Warren Buffett then I should learn from him. So here is what I thought I would do.
- Each day read one shareholder letter written by Buffett. I’ve started to read one each day and feel this is the best exercise for any investor. In a true sense it is the goldmine for wisdom seekers.
- Start to read and re-read all books written about Buffett: "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life," "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist," "The Warren Buffett Way," and so on.
- Then read all the books Buffett has read and recommended in his shareholder letters.
So I made a list of all the books mentioned in the shareholder letters from the year 1977 till 2012.
I believe this is a great starting point to read. I've read few of the books mentioned below and over time plan to read all.
"Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts. Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day. At the end of the day - if you live long enough - most people get what they deserve." - Charlie Munger (Trades, Portfolio)
The following information is sourced from Berkshire shareholder letters available at www.berkshirehathaway.com.
|Count||Year||Book||Author||Mention of the book In the Letter|
|1||1984||Intelligent Investor||Benjamin Graham||"(In what I think is by far the best book on investing ever written - “The Intelligent Investor”, by Ben Graham - the last section of the last chapter begins with, “Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike.” This section is called “A Final Word”, and it is appropriately titled.)"|
|2||1988||Secuirty Analysis||Benjamin Graham, David Dodd||"Dave spent a lifetime teaching at Columbia University, and he co-authored Security Analysis with Ben Graham. From the moment I arrived at Columbia, Dave personally encouraged and
educated me; one influence was as important as the other.
Everything he taught me, directly or through his book, made sense. Later, through dozens of letters, he continued my education right up until his death."
|3||1994||My Turn at Bat: The Story of My Life||Ted Williams||"Nevertheless, we will stick with the approach that got us here and try not to relax our standards. Ted Williams, in The Story of My Life, explains why: "My argument is, to be a good hitter, you've got to get a good ball to hit. It's the first rule in the book. If I have to bite at stuff that is out of my happy zone, I'm not a .344 hitter. I might only be a .250 hitter." Charlie and I agree and will try to wait for opportunities that are well within our own "happy zone."|
|4||1997||The Science of Hitting||Ted Williams||"In his book The Science of Hitting, Ted explains that he carved the strike zone into 77 cells, each the size of a baseball. Swinging only at balls in his "best" cell, he knew, would allow him to bat .400; reaching for balls in his "worst" spot, the low outside corner of the strike zone, would reduce him to .230. In other words, waiting for the fat pitch would mean a trip to the Hall of Fame; swinging indiscriminately would mean a ticket to the minors. "|
|5||2000||The Farmer from Merna: A Biography of George J. Mecherle and a History of the State Farm Insurance Companies of Bloomington, Illinois||Karl Schriftgeisser||"In the end, however, State Farm eclipsed all its competitors. In fact, by 1999 the company had amassed a tangible net worth exceeding that of all but four American businesses. If you want to read how this happened, get a copy of The Farmer from Merna"|
|6||2001||The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers||Robert P. Miles||"On the positive side, we have as fine an array of operating managers as exists at any company. (You can read about many of them in a new book by Robert P. Miles: The Warren Buffett CEO.)"|
|7||2001||Jack: Straight from the Gut||Jack Welch , John A. Byrne||"Joe Brandon was appointed General Res CEO in September and, along with Tad Montross, its new president, is committed to producing underwriting profits. Last fall, Charlie and I read Jack Welchs terrific book, Jack, Straight from the Gut (get a copy!). In discussing it, we agreed that Joe has many of Jacks characteristics: He is smart, energetic, hands-on, and expects much of both himself and his organization."|
|8||2002||Take on the Street: What Wall St. and Corporate America Don't Want You to Know / What You Can Do to Fight Back||Arthur Levitt||"Arthur Levitt, Jr., then Chairman of the SEC – and generally a vigilant champion of shareholders – has since described his reluctant 21 bowing to Congressional and corporate pressures as the act of his chairmanship that he most regrets. (Thedetails of this sordid affair are related in Levitt’s excellent book, Take on the Street.)"|
|9||2003||First A Dream||Jim Clayton,Bill Retherford||"This past February, the group opted for a book – which, luckily for me, was the recently-published
autobiography of Jim Clayton, founder of Clayton Homes. I already knew the company to be the class act of the manufactured housing industry, knowledge I acquired after earlier making the mistake of buying some distressed junk debt of Oakwood Homes, one of the industry’s largest companies. At the time of that purchase, I did not understand how atrocious consumer-financing practices had become throughout most of the manufactured housing industry. But I learned: Oakwood rather promptly went bankrupt. In October, we had a surprise “graduation” ceremony in Knoxville for the 40 who sparked my interest in Clayton. I donned a mortarboard and presented each student with both a PhD (for phenomenal, hard-working dealmaker) from Berkshire and a B share. Al got an A share. If you meet some of the new Tennessee shareholders at our annual meeting, give them your thanks. And ask them if they’ve read any good books lately"
|10||2003||Bull: A History of the Boom and Bust, 1982-2004||Maggie Mahar||"A 2003 book that investors can learn much from is Bull! by Maggie Mahar. Two other books I’d
recommend are The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, and In an Uncertain World by Bob Rubin. All three are well-reported and well-written. Additionally, Jason Zweig last year did a first-class job in revising The Intelligent Investor, my favorite book on investing."
|11||2003||The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron||Bethany McLean,Peter Elkind|
|12||2003||In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington||Bob Rubin,Jacob Weisberg|
|13||2004||Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe||Graham Allison||"This year I’ve asked The Bookworm to add Graham Allison’s Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, a must-read for those concerned with the safety of our country. In addition, the shop will premiere Poor Charlie’s Almanack, a book compiled by Peter Kaufman. Scholars have for too long debated whether Charlie is the reincarnation of Ben Franklin. This book should settle the question"|
|14||2004||Poor Charlie’s Almanack||Peter Kaufman|
|15||2005||Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger||Peter Bevelin||"In the Bookworm’s corner of our bazaar, there will be about 25 books and DVDs – all discounted
– led again by Poor Charlie’s Almanack. (One hapless soul last year asked Charlie what he should do if he didn’t enjoy the book. Back came a Mungerism: “No problem – just give it to someone more intelligent.”) We’ve added a few titles this year. Among them are Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin, a long-time Swedish shareholder of Berkshire, and Fred Schwed’s classic, Where are the Customers’ Yachts? This book was first published in 1940 and is now in its 4th edition. The funniest book ever written about investing, it lightly delivers many truly important messages on the subject"
|16||2005||Where are the Customers’ Yachts?||Fred Schwed|
|17||2009||Fragile : The Human Condition||Howard G. Buffett||"Be sure to visit the Bookworm. Among the more than 30 books and DVDs it will offer are two new
books by my sons: Howard’s Fragile, a volume filled with photos and commentary about lives of struggle around the globe and Peter’s Life Is What You Make It.Completing the family trilogy will be the debut of my sister Doris’s biography, a story focusing on her remarkable philanthropic activities. Also available will be Poor Charlie’s Almanack, the story of my partner. This book is something of a publishing miracle – never advertised, yet year after year selling many thousands of copies from its Internet site. (Should you need to ship your book purchases, a nearby shipping service will be available.)"
|18||2009||Life Is What You Make It: Find Your Own Path to Fulfillment||Peter Buffett|
|19||2009||Giving it All Away: The Doris Buffett Story||Michael Zitz|
|20||2011||MiTek: A Global Success Story, 1981-2011||Jim Healey||"Be sure to visit the Bookworm. It will carry more than 35 books and DVDs, including a couple of new
ones. I recommend MiTek, an informative history of one of our very successful subsidiaries. You’ll learn how my interest in the company was originally piqued by my receiving in the mail a hunk of ugly metal whose purpose I couldn’t fathom. Since we bought MiTek in 2001, it has made 33 “tuck-in” acquisitions, almost all successful. I think you’ll also like a short book that Peter Bevelin has put together explaining Berkshire’s investment and operating principles. It sums up what Charlie and I have been saying over the years in annual reports and at annual meetings. Should you need to ship your book purchases, a shipping service will be available nearby."
|21||2011||A Few Lessons for Investors and Managers From Warren Buffett||Peter Bevelin|
|22||2012||Common Stocks and Uncommon ProfitsCommon Stocks and Uncommon Profits||Philip Fisher||"Above all, dividend policy should always be clear, consistent and rational. A capricious policy will
confuse owners and drive away would-be investors. Phil Fisher put it wonderfully 54 years ago in Chapter 7 of his Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, a book that ranks behind only The Intelligent Investor and the 1940 edition of Security Analysis in the all-time-best list for the serious investor. Phil explained that you can successfully run a restaurant that serves hamburgers or, alternatively, one that features Chinese food. But you can’t switch capriciously between the two and retain the fans of either"
|23||2012||Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2013||Carol Loomis||"Be sure to visit the Bookworm. It will carry about 35 books and DVDs, including a couple of new ones.
Carol Loomis, who has been invaluable to me in editing this letter since 1977, has recently authored Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything. She and I have cosigned 500 copies, available exclusively at the meeting. The Outsiders, by William Thorndike, Jr., is an outstanding book about CEOs who excelled at capital allocation. It has an insightful chapter on our director, Tom Murphy, overall the best business manager I’ve ever met. I also recommend The Clash of the Cultures by Jack Bogle and Laura Rittenhouse’s Investing Between the Lines. Should you need to ship your book purchases, a shipping service will be available nearby. The Omaha World-Herald will again have a booth, offering a few books it has recently published. Redblooded Husker fans – is there any Nebraskan who isn’t one? – will surely want to purchase Unbeatable. It tells the story of Nebraska football during 1993-97, a golden era in which Tom Osborne’s teams went 60-3. "
|24||2012||The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success||William N. Thorndike|
|25||2012||The Clash of the Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation||John C Bogle|
|26||2012||Investing Between the Lines: How to Make Smarter Decisions By Decoding CEO Communications||L J Rittenhouse|
|27||2012||Unbeatable Tom Osborne and the Greatest Era of Nebraska Football||Henry J. Cordes|