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The Simple Genius Behind My Favorite Investing Quotation of 2013

By Brian Richards - Jan 18, 2014 at 6:29AM

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One of the best investors around doesn't read investing books. He prefers to read books about business. Here's why that makes sense.

RIGHT AROUND THIS TIME LAST YEAR, I sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the co-founder and co-chairman of The Motley Fool, David Gardner.

As I was recently thinking about my 2014 new year's resolutions, something David said in our interview stood out -- something I'm aiming to incorporate in my investment approach in the coming years.

"I don't really enjoy investment books"
At one point during our hour-long chat, I asked David about his favorite investment thinkers.

I figured he'd name a few of the giants -- Graham, Fisher, Lynch, Buffett -- with one or two surprises mixed in. But David -- who, it's important to note, has one of the most impressive public investment track records I've seen -- threw me a curveball:

I think I've only read two or three investment books in my life. I don't really enjoy investment books that much. I read a lot of business books and I think a lot about business -- because that's what I'm buying. [Note: You can watch the video of our conversation here.]

The more I thought about that, the more I liked it. As investors, we are part-owners of a company. We own a "share" of that company's future earnings stream. And too often, we fixate on quantitative metrics at the expense of thinking about the underlying business. (That's why one of my favorite exercises is to literally illustrate the business model of my holdings.)

In fact, that most famous of Lynchisms, "Buy what you know," resonates for me precisely because if you know a business, you're more likely to want to read about it (the company itself, competitors, technologies, the overall industry) on a long-term basis.

For me, that's why I'm less likely to be successful in, say, biotech investing than in other industries.

As a self-described business-focused investor, I resolve to think more about businesses than about "the stock market" in the year ahead. I could use your help. Have you read any great "business" books? I'd appreciate recommendations in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

David Gardner's favorite stock for 2014
Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner is really excited about one un-hyped stock that could soar higher than Twitter in the years to come. To learn more about David's favorite stock, click here.


Brian Richards has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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