Since the Way of the Mustache involves reading a lot of books to constantly further your education, I thought it would be handy to keep track of books I’ve read, as well as reader recommendations, all in one place. They aren’t all personal finance titles, but the goal of this reading list is to build a rounded portfolio of knowledge for living a balanced and interesting life.
If you want to read any of these books, don’t just run out and buy them on Amazon. First have a look in your Library, and if that doesn’t work, see if you can find a nice used copy of the same book at a drastic discount at Better World Books.
Books I’ve read and Liked:
Investing and Finance
The Economist: For almost 20 years I’ve tuned into this advanced little magazine, because it has an intelligent, concise style of writing and a worldwide perspective. Instead of 30 days of casual browsing of the news, you can spend 1-2 hours per week enjoying Economist articles and end up light years ahead in financial and world knowledge. I especially like how they sneak lessons on classic economic principles into stories about current world markets. With the (affiliate) link below, you can get their normally pricey annual subscription for quite a bit cheaper than I’ve seen it before (hint – a recurring quarterly subscription is way cheaper than the default option of an annual one).
Economics Explained – see book review
Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science (Fully Revised and Updated) by Charles J. Wheelan
Similar to Economics Explained, but with a more modern (and perhaps fiscally conservative) slant. This book’s claim to fame is that it uses absolutely no graphs or numbers when explaining economics. It’s also moderately funny at times. Charles Wheelan is a regular writer for The Economist magazine, which I really like.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel – a great explanation of why index investing rules, written by a very wise professor/investor guy who has personally researched and debunked most of the common “wisdom” that exists about stock trading today.
The Intelligent Asset Allocator – by William J Bernstein – examines the effects of mixing stocks, bonds, and other assets into your portfolio in different proportions. Explains that with very little effort, you can drastically reduce the volatility of your investments, even while maintaining the same level of overall returns.
Towards Rational Exuberance by B. Mark Smith – a well written history of the stock market dating back to the 1800s, which describes the old corrupt capitalists and mustachian heroes of old, the forming of the Federal reserve to stabilize the financial system, the conditions that led up to the great crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression, the New Deal and securities act of 1932, and everything since then.
Crash Proof 2.0 by Peter Schiff – an explanation of what caused the US financial and housing sector crash in 2008, which caused the Great Recession, the unemployment from which we are still stamping out here in 2012. The author also believes “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”, and predicts a total collapse of the US dollar in the future, followed by hyperinflation in our country. I understand the points he makes, but I think he misses some fundamental counterpoints, so I don’t share in his predictions of quite as much doom and gloom.
The Little Book that Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt – describes a method of stock picking which has historically performed much better than the stock market as a whole. It’s really just a complicated form of value investing.
Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Fisker – see book review
I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi – see book review
Your Money or Your Life – Joe Dominguez and others – one of the Founding Documents of Mustachianism – explains that money is not for buying shit, it is for the purpose of attaining freedom.
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley/William Danko – see book review
The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner by David Bach – a book about investing in single family rental properties with an emphasis on setting things up to run automatically, keeping you free to expand the empire. Not entirely Mustachian in nature, but a good intro nonetheless.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – a spunky rich guy explains his upbringing with two ‘Dads’, one a middle-class big spender who never became financially independent, and the other a businessman/investor who thought of his money as investment capital rather than just something to spend. (note: this recommendation was shot down by several readers due to later fraudulent activities by the author, and how it seems to hint at “Multilevel Marketing”, something I consider to be universally bullshit. I didn’t recall the MLM references, but just be warned in case you read it and see some.
Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth by Juliet B. Schor
Juliet Schor is a pretty clever economist. In this book, she combines sound economic theory and explanations, with a model for shifting the world to a sustainable level of natural resource consumption. The idea of Plenitude is that we can all end up happier and with more free time, while maintaining a fully functioning and efficient economy.
If I had to offer a criticism for the book, I’d say that Plenitude sounds an awful lot like Mustachianism, except with much more academic language and fewer bossy but useful directives for improving your own life. But it is a very nice book for understanding the market forces that can allow us to fix the ecological bind we’re in, without crashing the whole capitalist system that allows us to get things done so efficiently.
Borrow: The American Way of Debt by Louis Hyman
A historical perspective on how the use of debt has changed over the centuries and decades, most recently becoming a fast-moving tradable commodity. I expected this book to be just a values-based smackdown of how sucky we’ve all become, but luckily it was not, and instead it taught me some new things about the debt and financial industry. It brings both advantages and disadvantages to society, and it’s useful to know the difference.
The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley – a bit of a mind-blowing summary of the evolution of trade and human prosperity, from primates to iPhones. It argues compellingly that everything is not only going to be OK in the future, it is surely going to be Fucking Great. That much, I agree with.
But the brilliant author is also pretty gung-ho on factory farming and fossil fuels, and while I fully agree with his reasoning, I think he understates the downside of cheerful fossil fuel reliance and overstates the cost (and the trade-boosting benefits of developing) more renewable energy.
It’s a nuanced point to debate, but let’s put it this way: Ridley is perfectly happy to have us all buying whatever we want – trucks for personal transportation, 1000 gallons of gas per person per year, etc. Because trade is good! Each transaction benefits both sides! Unexpected side effects occur which enrich the poorest countries rapidly, the ones with the worst environmental standards!
But yet why not apply the same logic to using our great productivity to develop renewable energy – by creating voluntary consumer demand for renewable energy as a desirable luxury product? Lots of trade, technology transfer, and poor-country enrichment could be had – with few of the downsides of the Chevrolet Tahoe. Think voluntary changes in consumer behavior can’t be done? Mr. Money Mustache is proving otherwise.
The Post American World by Fareed Zakaria – a nice financial and political trot around the globe that explains the changes going on in the world as countries like China, Brazil and India collectively become larger economies than the US/Europe/Japan which have collectively dominated the world with their homogeneous way of doing things for the last century or so. Hint: while the US won’t be the only game in town anymore, it isn’t going anywhere or getting poorer. Instead, he uses the term “the rise of the rest”.
Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – see sorta book review
The Magic of Thinking Big: a 1950s classic by David J Schwartz – the book that made me permanently happy – see book review
Beyond Wealth by Alexander Green
Not really a money book specifically, but an interesting exploration of living a rich life from a bunch of angles: philosophy, travel, wine, music, non-consumerism, etc. Significant because it was written by an ultra-rich investment manager. A bit bland because he doesn’t advocate any form of effort or badassity (how can you talk about a good life without even mentioning bikes once?!). But packed with useful life-enhancing wisdom nonetheless.
The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer
The book that finalized my desire to give away most of the money I earn over my lifetime to help eliminate third world poverty. see article.
Psychology (and its simpler cousin Pop Psych)
Nudge – on decision making
The Power of Habit
The Snowball by Alice Schroeder – this is the complete story of Warren Buffett’s life. (He’s old, so there are over 700 pages).
Tap Dancing to Work by Carol Loomis – the latest Giant Warren Buffett book. Rather than a story of his life, this one is more a collection of Fortune magazine stories about him and things he has written. While this book is less personal, it packs in a lot more financial wisdom instead.
Dreams from my Father and The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama – books from the current Big Man, the first one from before he knew he would be a big politician, and the second one from when he was gunning for the presidency. Since he wrote them with his own hands, you get a much better idea of who he is as a person, and can then judge more accurately what the media on both sides is saying about him, as well as more accurately predicting the direction of the country if he gets re-elected in 2012.
Struck by Lightning ..The curious world of probabilties, by Jeffrey Rosenthal – This book sums up my decision making process whenever anything is unknown. The basic idea is: understand how fun and useful probabilities and statistics are. Then USE them to avoid making unwise and expensive decisions out of fear, such as buying Rolex Watch insurance or driving an SUV instead of riding a bike for “safety” reasons while allowing an overweight physique to persist for decades.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins – an explanation of evolution since the beginning of life that explains things from the perspective of individual genes. It makes so much sense and is so brilliantly written, that it pretty much obliterates any mysteries as to why any living thing on Earth is the way it is – including humans with all of our fussy little needs and moods.
Health and Fitness:
Arnold’s Bodybuilding for Men – by Arnold, of course. Being a fairly stereotypical man, I enjoyed the manly perspective on fitness and strength training in this book. Arnold lays it out in a simple and inspirational way, and after reading this you will know how to work out properly, as well as having a nice lifelong motivation to do so. Why? Because the book points out that barbell exercise is by far the best and most efficient way to maintain ultimate health for a lifetime. The benefits gained for each minute you spend lifting weights are so huge, that they make every other exercise method irrelevant until you’ve taken care of the weight training first.
The Four Hour Body – by Tim Ferriss. A nutrition and exercise combo-pack that focuses on scientifically researched shortcuts to get more benefit out of less exercise. I have successfully applied some stuff from this book with great results: eliminating most grains and eating a lower-carb/high-fat diet allowed me to effortlessly become leaner than I’ve ever been. And focusing on the downward portion of every barbell movement, stretching it out and making it insanely intense, instead of worrying about doing more reps, has allowed me to gain or maintain muscle with only two short workouts per week.
Starting Strength – By Mark Rippetoe – a meat’n’potatoes summary of what everyone should do to make the biggest improvements in fitness and strength in minimal time. Squats, deadlifts, bench presses, clean and presses, and pullups – that’s it. Put your best effort into them whether you are a pre-teen lad or a great grandmother , and watch all your yoga/pilates/fancy health club friends get blown away by your far-superior results!
Similarly, Mrs. M. enjoyed the way a similar body of knowledge was presented in this book. It’s all about tailoring the message to the audience.
For Aspiring Writers and Bloggers:
The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing (giant free PDF book from author J. A. Konrath)
Still to Read, as recommended by readers:
Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss – a harrowing tale of the nasty tricks the food industry does to make junk food addictive in order to ensure a steady supply of profits.
The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need
by Andrew Tobias (Paperback)
Guide to Economic Indicators: Making Sense of Economics (The Economist)
by Economist Staff (Hardcover)
The Four Pillars of Investing by William Bernstein
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
The Black Swan by the same author
How the Economy Works: Confidence, Crashes and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
by Roger E.A. Farmer (Hardcover)
Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes And How To Correct Them: Lessons From The New Science Of Behavioral Economics by Gary Belsky
Subliminal: How your unconscious mind rules your behavior by Leonard Mlodinow
The Two Income Trap by Elizabeth Warren
Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream
by Adam Shepard (Paperback)
What Technology Wants
by Kevin Kelly (Paperback)
Against Thrift: Why Consumer Culture is Good for the Economy, the Environment, and Your Soul by James Livingston (Hardcover) <— need to read this one just because the title sounds so evil!!
More recent reader recommendations from the “Book List” article comments:
The Investment Answer by Gordon Murray and Dan Oldie. A very short and direct primer that can be read in one sitting. Mr. Murray started the book with Mr. Oldie six months before he died, and was one of the researchers behind Dimensional Fund Advisors. More information at http://www.theinvestmentanswerbook.com/index.html.
7 Laws of Money by Mike Phillips
The Richest Man in Babylon – available for free here. The keys to wealth, laid out in an an old-time parable. Could use a contemporary rewriting, though, as the ancient prose can be thick and gluey at times.
How to Grow More Vegetables: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons [Currently reading, recommended by Jacob]
All new square foot gardening: grow more in less space! by Mel Bartholemew [a contrasting strategy to the first book, good intro to gardening for beginners]
Return of the Great Depression by Vox Day are both great for getting a grasp on what [may] be happening in the world of finance and economics over the next few years. One foresees inflationary outcomes, and the other deflationary.
the art and science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman
Practical Electronics for Inventors by Paul Scherz – this + an Arduino = fun, mind-expanding hardware projects!
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius – Stoic philosophy at its best…. Available for free via Project Gutenberg.
The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. From 1990 to 1998 she wrote a newsletter showing people how to save money by doing many small things (like washing baggies out and re-using them). This is all the newsletters in one place. Some of the info is outdated, but most is timeless. It is especially good for people spendthrifts who did not grow up with a culture of saving (like our grandparents from the depression).
Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders belong on the list: http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/letters.html I’d recommend reading them all starting with the first. Very eye-opening.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – philosophy
Fail Safe Investing by Harry Browne. This little book will introduce you to his permanent portfolio concept, which by the way is 25% stocks, 25% bonds, 25% gold and 25% cash and his 17 golden rules of financial safety. I’m also reading his book “How to Live Free in an Unfree World”. He’s written numerous books on investing and libertarian views.
Crucial Conversations: Tools For Talking When The Stakes Are High It has great advice for business and personal conversations.
Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes (http://radicalhomemakers.com/)
Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots: Gardening Together with Children by Sharon Lovejoy
The Case for the Only Child by Susan Newman (I haven’t read this one yet, but have read her previous book “Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only”. I’m assuming this is an updated version of that book)
How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor by Ernie J. Zelinski (easy, fun read for those who need inspiration)
Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning, from Gilgamesh to Wall Street by Tomas Sedlacek
How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle Charles Long. It was the book that started my financial journey, and my first eye opener that you have other options in life besides the standard path of school-career-retire-die
The Other Path by Hernando De Soto. The book chronicles the informal economy in Peru in the 1980s. It sounds incredibly boring. It’s not. It is hands down, the best book I’ve ever read on how free markets and capitalism can begin to develop.
…has some excellent stuff for free, but viewer beware, it’s full of conspiracy theories and propaganda. It’s up to the intelligent viewer to assess;. But we know the readers of MMM are intelligent. There are some good ones.
My other favorite “Listen-to’s” is NPR’s “Planet Money” and “Freakonomics’
PBS is great too, For example is Nova; “Mind over money”
The Myth of the Rational Market a fun read that gives a history of economics thinking about markets especially the efficient market hypothesis.