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What Books Should You Read About Ben Graham?

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Geoff Gannon
Feb 15, 2012
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Someone who reads my articles sent me this email:


Hey Gannon,


…do you have any suggestions on books to read about Ben Graham, Warren Buffett early days, and Walter Schloss? I feel like I've read 90% of them (the only popular one I can think of that I haven't finished is Of Permanent Value, but I'm slowly making my way through it), but I'm always surprised to find quotes or stories about them in your articles that I've never seen before. Any suggestions (especially off the wall ones!) will be appreciated…


Hope all is well,


Andrew


Most books about Warren Buffett , Ben Graham, etc. are just rehashing info you can find elsewhere. You’re right that there are references in my articles that might be a little obscure.


I’ll be honest with you.


I have kind of a collection of – mostly hardcover, printed – books on the topic of Warren Buffett (and Ben Graham and others). So, usually what happens is I know the reference roughly in my head and then I have to go digging into the books to find it. Sometimes, I’m not even sure which book it’s from.


Sad but true.


Okay, on to Ben Graham book suggestions…


Many people don’t have all the editions of "The Intelligent Investor," etc. So they will only be quoting from things you can find in the Zweig edition. Some of the most interesting stuff Ben Graham wrote was taken out of later editions. There’s very interesting valuation stuff in the 1949 edition – I think it’s around chapter 10 – that isn’t in the 1970s edition. Partly, this is because the techniques had become more common place. This is one of the issues with "Security Analysis." Analysts now do many of the things Ben Graham suggested. So, some of that work isn’t really unique to Graham any more. And that stuff has been de-emphasized.


Anyway, here are the books on Ben Graham you need to own:


The Intelligent Investor (Look for the 1949 Edition if you can find it – I could’ve sworn they reprinted it with a Jack Bogle foreword. But I can’t find the link now.)


Security Analysis (1934, 1940, 1951, and the Recent One)


The Interpretation of Financial Statements


Benjamin Graham: The Memoirs of the Dean of Wall Street (Yes, I own it – and no, I won’t sell it).


Benjamin Graham On Investing: Enduring Lessons from the Father of Value Investing


Benjamin Graham, Building a Profession: The Early Writings of the Father of Security Analysis


Also, yes, you should read Of Permanent Value. And – yes – I buy it every time a new edition comes out. Expensive. And heavy. But worth it. It’s more of an information resource than pleasure reading material.


But what a resource it is.


The Buffett Partnership Letters are here.


The Graham-Newman Letters (From 1946-1958) are here.


All but one of those letters is just a list of Graham-Newman’s portfolio positions.


Sounds pretty useless, right?


Not exactly. Here’s what you do…


Use a newspaper archive to match Graham-Newman’s positions to contemporary articles. You can do this with Ben Graham’s memoirs too. There are tons of articles about stocks. Sometimes, you can even find earnings numbers from around the time Graham was buying. And rumors. Boy, did newspapers have different standards about printing market gossip in Ben Graham’s day.


Searching for Ben Graham’s name is less helpful. Instead, search for the name of the company whose stock Graham-Newman owned. Set the search criteria to between January 1 and December 31 of the year in which Graham-Newman first bought the stock. After that, widen the search one year in each direction. Start with the year before Graham bought his shares. Graham was often buying shares as part of a special situation (like an announced liquidation). So news stories pre-dating his purchase are often worth reading.


The New York Times Article Archives are here.


Obviously, you have to have all of the shareholder letters from Berkshire Hathaway (here). And Wesco (here).


You’ll also want to own "Poor Charlie’s Almanack"


And you need to read both "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" and "The Snowball."


There isn’t much academic writing about any of these guys. Although you can try searching JSTOR from somewhere with access. Ben Graham’s name appears a few times. But rarely for investment stuff. If I remember right I think it’s economics (his commodity reserve plan) and a calculus paper he wrote as a student.


I can’t think of other sources that weren’t from some other blog or something like that. I think several of the times I mentioned Walter Schloss would’ve been from things I found on various blogs – obviously including this one.


My other tips are just general research tips. If you find a person’s name, company name, date, anecdote, etc., write the identifying details down. An index card is perfect for this.


Then search for those people, companies, publications, dates, etc., online.


Especially in newspapers.


Newspaper archives are very helpful for researching investors since the companies they are investing in are public companies. And public companies get written about a lot in newspapers.


Also – always, always, always – read the footnotes, bibliography, works cited, etc., of anything Ben Graham-related you get your hands on. The author is usually getting their info from another written source. Usually, another fuller written source.


Biographies of Warren Buffett like Lowenstein and Schroeder wrote involved way more research than what ends up being printed in the book that hits shelves. Often the stories that are cut would be very, very interesting to investors. But less interesting to the general public.


Also, authors – and their editors – hate to present the same thing over and over again. So – for example – they’ll tell one story about Buffett’s coattail riding and then throw out the other episodes to avoid boring readers with a “been there, done that” feel.


That’s all I can think of right now. I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot.


But I’m also sure there’s a lot in there that folks haven’t read and would really enjoy.


So check out those links.


Talk to Geoff About Ben Graham Books [email protected]


Check Out the Ben Graham Net-Net Newsletter
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