PCA Publications recently released a second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger. Munger is Warren Buffett's partner at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRKa ) (NYSE: BRKb ) , and this edition updates his original 2005 publication, adding a new article by Munger and some further commentary. When I reviewed the original edition last year, I called it a "must-read for Berkshire fans." As for this year's model ...
The most important addition to the new version is Munger's 12-page article, "Praising Old Age," inspired by Cicero's On A Life Well Spent, which was recently given to Munger by friends. Munger had been a fan of Cicero since his high-school Latin classes, and finds in this work (as he had in Cicero's others) a kindred spirit. His discussion is entertaining, enlightening, and humorous, and there is pleasure for the reader -- for this reader, anyway -- in sharing Munger's enjoyment of the book's ideas and their relevance to his life. Munger writes, "As I continued through Cicero's pages, I found much more material celebrating my way of life ... Cicero's words also increased my personal satisfaction by supporting my long-standing rejection of a conventional point of view."
After each of Munger's ten talks transcribed in the book, all unchanged from the prior edition (save for formatting), two pages of new commentary have been added. These commentaries vary in interest, but are in general a welcome addition.
I found myself mildly puzzled by the commentary on Talk Four regarding the rise of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) . In the commentary, Munger says that "my 1996 talk failed to get through to almost all people hearing it. Then later, between 1996 and 2006, even when the talk's written version was slowly read twice by very intelligent people who admired me, its message likewise failed." The remainder of the commentary talks about why this "failure as a communicator" took place, but never addresses which issues were not communicated, and what Munger felt people were not getting from the talk. I found that somewhat frustrating, and was left wondering whether I "got it" or not.
The layout of the book is largely the same as the previous edition. A decent number of new illustrations replace old ones, either to better suit the accompanying text, or because they are of higher quality. For instance, the fuzzy image of the cover of Sam Walton's book that I noted in my previous review has been replaced by a serious, high-quality reproduction of an oil portrait of Sam behind his desk. There are also a number of new or rewritten sidebars. These seem to reflect a decent amount of additional content compared to the original version, which I find interesting.
The first few chapters of the book are almost entirely unchanged from the first edition, retaining both the breathless fanboy style that I found annoying, and the airy, illustration-heavy layout that makes the book fun to read.
Munger's fans look to him for reading suggestions, and in this the new edition of PCA does not disappoint, making several new recommendations within the text. (I won't steal the book's thunder by mentioning them here.) It's a tribute to the broad penetration of Munger's reading list that adding a book such as Deep Simplicity to one's online shopping cart summons up recommended books as F.I.A.S.C.O., Influence, How the Scots Invented the Modern World, Andrew Carnegie, and A Matter of Degrees, all Munger recommendations.
Should owners of the first edition purchase this new one? I did, but then, I'm a fairly avid follower of Buffett, Munger, and Berkshire Hathaway. I suspect most of my fellow devotees will do the same, and since we probably constitute the largest part of the audience for the original edition, the question is moot. Future readers of this new edition will benefit from the same wisdom contained in the first edition, as well as the new material. All in all, the second edition of Poor Charlie's Almanack is a worthy successor to the original.
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Fool contributor Matt Richards does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.