About the time they told me I'd need a team of security guards to escort me to the men's room, I knew I'd done it.

By it, I mean ticked off a roomful of folks so pompous that you couldn't tell where their silver spoons ended and their perma-scowls began. Even worse, I committed this crime on the holiest of grounds ...

Brace yourself for the horror!
That's right. I wore seersucker shorts, a red Ralph Lauren polo shirt, and flip-flops to a local country club, where I was supposed to interview a "wealth manager" who was reading passages from his newest book to all of his appropriately dressed clients.

Granted, I probably looked like I'd just escaped from some sort of white-collar Supermax where they only play pedestrian lawn games like bocce and badminton. But in my defense, I didn't know I was going until about an hour beforehand.

Not to mention, my boss assured me that I wouldn't be openly -- and quite loudly -- called out as "(expletive deleted) disrespectful" by the club's chief of security.

Amusingly ironic -- and tactful, to boot
For now, I'll shelve my disdain for this eloquent ogre, the acres of neatly manicured grass he protects, and all the Judge Smails wannabes I encountered there. Heck, I won't even mention this establishment by name. (I will say that it wasn't the Bushwood Country Club, where Smails and the other Caddyshack goofballs hung out.)

But I will tell you that the whole experience has me bound and (expletive deleted) determined to become the best investor I can be, so that one day I can join any golf club I please, and treat disgustingly underdressed people like ... well, people.

Here's how I'm going to do it ...
First, I'm going to follow my old man's lead and read everything I can get my hands on. After all, he belongs to several clubs every bit as prestigious as this one -- and he doesn't even play golf.

I've already started by reading the 25 books that Motley Fool co-founder Tom Gardner thinks every investor should read.

Now, in my ongoing quest to become a master investor, I'm moving on to these ...

Fundamental analysis:

  • The Five Rules for Successful Stock Investing, by Pat Dorsey and Joe Mansueto
  • Security Analysis, 6th Edition, by Benjamin Graham and David Dodd

Behavioral finance:

  • Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes and How to Correct Them, by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich
  • Your Money and Your Brain, by Jason Zweig

General investment wisdom:

  • The Aggressive Conservative Investor, by Martin Whitman
  • Poor Charlie's Almanack, by Charles T. Munger

Economics and markets:

  • The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan
  • A Short History of Financial Euphoria, by John Kenneth Galbraith

Case studies:

  • The Smartest Guys in the Room, by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
  • In an Uncertain World: Tough Choices from Wall Street to Washington, by Robert Rubin and Jacob Weisberg

These are just 10 of the 31 books on the Motley Fool Hidden Gems reading list. And though it might take you a few months to plow through all of them, I'm positive it will be worth your while.

What I'm doing in the meantime ...
I, for one, am putting that reading to work, and taking full advantage of the discounts the recent market collapse has handed us.

Because I'm confident that the world economy will continue to recover and drive commodity prices higher, I've been taking a serious look at everything from Alcoa (NYSE:AA) to Petrobras (NYSE:PBR) to Valero (NYSE:VLO).

I've also been researching solid dividend payers like Kraft (NYSE:KFT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Nokia (NYSE:NOK).

Yet, while I'm confident in the long-term potential of all of these stocks, I'm also aware that none of them will be the market's next big movers, nor will they experience the kind of explosive, life-changing growth that has characterized the top 10 best-performing stocks of the past decade.

How can I be so sure?
Well, for one thing, they've all got huge market caps, and tens of billions of dollars would have to flow into them just for their shares to double. Meanwhile, shares of tiny companies like Diedrich Coffee have soared more than 9,000% -- over just the past 52 weeks.

Never heard of Diedrich? That's no surprise. After all, just like the top-performing stocks of the past year, it’s small, obscure, and completely ignored by Wall Street.

The secret to country club riches ...
You see, despite the fact that shares of huge, well-known companies like Ford (NYSE:F) have soared over the past year, Wall Street is already all over these companies -- and there's little chance that the market is drastically misjudging their true value.

That's why Motley Fool Hidden Gems co-advisors Seth Jayson and Andy Cross are actively investing $250,000 of The Motley Fool's own money in small high-growth, low-debt companies that are overlooked by Wall Street.

What are they buying now?
Recent investments include Atheros Communications and Dynamic Materials -- a little-known leader in the explosive metalworking industry that has risen 83% since the Hidden Gems team purchased shares in late March.

And because each of these has the potential to be the next home run stock, I make a point to check out the Hidden Gems real-money portfolio every morning, so I can get the latest updates on the stocks they own (so far, 10 of 16 positions are in the green, and five are up more than 30%) and be the first to know about new stocks they've uncovered.

If you'd like to follow along with me, I invite you to take a free 30-day trial of Hidden Gems, giving you full access to the real-money portfolio and the exclusive, members-only website featuring an interactive portfolio scorecard, full write-ups on every recommendation, and the entire 31-book reading list.

I also invite you to use the comment box below to chime in on what stocks you're buying, what stocks you're selling, what books you're reading, and, of course, what kind of egregious country-club crimes you're committing.

If you'd like to learn more about this 30-day free trial, simply click here. There's no obligation to subscribe.

This article was originally published on July 23, 2009. It has been updated.

Austin Edwards rarely replaces his divots -- because he's usually knee-deep in the rough. Currently, he does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. Atheros Communications and Dynamic Materials are Hidden Gems recommendations, and the Fool owns shares of both. Ford is a Stock Advisor pick. Petroleo Brasileiro and Johnson & Johnson are Income Investor selections. Nokia is an Inside Value pick. The Fool is investors writing for investors and has a disclosure policy.