Fool Blog: Investment Classics for Short Attention Spans

If you're a student of investing, as most of us here at the Fool are, certainly you've made a study of many of the great investing texts out there. But who among us has the time to dedicate to reading about investing all the time? I mean, we do, but thinking about investing is a core part of our jobs.

Here's the problem with most investing books, though. They tell you what they need to tell you in about five pages. The rest of the book is dedicated to providing enough words so it won't look ridiculous in hardback.

And who has time to read a 700-page book on accounting shenanigans? Fat chance. Read a five-page synopsis of it? Sorry, gotta get Courtney to soccer practice. Reviews of the greatest investing texts of all time in 50 words or less? Now you're talking.

So, without further ruminations, delays or obfuscations, we give you the Short Attention Span Investing Book Review.

Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham: Mr. Market is a manic-depressive idiot.

Buffett: Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein: Warren Buffett is so good at making money that if you asked him to break a twenty he'd give you two $10s and somehow have $13 million left over.

Warren Buffett Way by Robert Hagstrom: If investing were a card game, Warren Buffett's hand would have 37 aces in it.

Dhandho Investor by Mohnish Pabrai: I like to invest in situations where it's "Heads I win, tails I don't lose much."

Investment Fables by Aswath Damodaran: If you believe in stories over fundamental analysis, then the way you invest is most likely wrong. Yes, this includes you, Mr. Buy-Low-P/E-Stocks.

Poor Charlie's Almanack by Peter Kaufman: Charlie Munger is really smart and says lots of cranky things. He loves Ben Franklin, mental models, and efficient uses of capital. He hates demented people.

Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel: Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

You Can Be a Stock Market Genius by Joel Greenblatt: I wrote this book so my seventh-grader would understand what I do. Unfortunately, middle schools aren't teaching merger arbitrage like they did when I was young.

The Little Book that Beats the Market by Joel Greenblatt: This is the book I should have written to my kids in the first place, since this one involves magic.

Of Permanent Value by Andy Kilpatrick: Depending on what version you buy, either Chapter 176 or Chapter 233 has an amusing story about Warren Buffett having lunch with Louis Rukeyser. (Wow! Microsoft Word's spell-check accepts the word "Rukeyser," but redlines "Buffett.")

Security Analysis by Benjamin Graham: Wow, this book is long. Unlike most investment books, this one doesn't tell you what you need to know in the first five pages and then go another several hundred repeating what it just said. Keep a notebook. Don't ignore bonds or preferred shares. The first paragraph of the book approaches scripture:

Although, strictly speaking, security analysis may be carried on without reference to any definite program or standards of investment, such specialization of functions would be quite unrealistic. Critical examination of balance sheets and income accounts, comparisons of related or similar issues, studies of the terms and protective covenants behind bonds and preferred stocks -- these typical activities of the securities analyst are invariably carried on with some practical idea of purchase or sale in mind, and they must be viewed against a broader background of investment principles, or perhaps of speculative principles.

Fooling Some of the People All of the Time by David Einhorn: Allied Capital (NYSE: ALD  ) sucks.

One Up on Wall Street by Peter Lynch: Buy what your wife tells you to, but only after you verify that it's not completely stupid.

Harvesting Profits on Wall Street by Ron Muhlenkamp: Investing successfully is a lot like farming. There are good seasons and bad seasons and times to be patient and times to be active. Hence the clever title.

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America by Warren Buffett: Everything you do is futile, because I will always be smarter. Oh, and honesty is the best policy.

Dow 36,000 by James Glassman and Kevin Hassett: Stocks that generate cash will go up (a fair point) and the Dow will hit 36,000 (chortle).

Dow 40,000 by David Elias: The 21st century will be so awesome that the Dow will hit 40,000 by 2016 (double chortle).

Dow 100,000: Fact or Fiction? by Charles Kadlec: 36,000? 40,000?!? Wusses. Thanks to freedom, the Dow's gonna hit 100,000!!! What's up now?

Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits by Philip Fisher: 15 traits make for good investments, five make for stupid investments. Don't be stupid. For example, if you get the chance to buy Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) in 1950 (like I did), you might want to think about doing so (like I did).

Mad Money by Jim Cramer: WHARRGARBL

Your Money and Your Brain by Jason Zweig: You may think that your brain isn't lying to you, but that's just your brain lying to you. The trouble isn't just that your brain is lying to you, it's that you're doing stupid things as a result. So just buy the low-cost Vanguard 500 Index (FUND: VFINX  ) and forget about trying to be clever with your money.

Influence: How and Why People Agree to Things by Robert Cialdini: You might think about hanging out exclusively with ugly people, who are much less likely to try to sell you something.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap ... and Others Don't by Jim Collins: If you put the right people in place, confront reality, focus, execute, and take advantage of technology, you can make even the most boring of companies -- like Abbott Labs (NYSE: ABT  ) , Walgreen (NYSE: WAG  ) , and Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) -- a stock market success story.

The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig: Because of biased research methods, everything that Collins guy wrote is a bunch of hooey.

That concludes today's installment of Short Attention Span Investment Classics (if we made it longer, we'd just be embarrassingly ironic).

This article was originally written in April 2008 by Bill Mann and Tim Hanson. It was updated by Brian Richards, who owns shares of Microsoft and the Vanguard 500 Index Fund. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call on Microsoft. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2010, at 2:44 PM, SouthernGemini wrote:

    This is great! Our office especially liked this one: Buffett: Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein: Warren Buffett is so good at making money that if you asked him to break a twenty he'd give you two $10s and somehow have $13 million left over.

    I needed that laugh!

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