The best books on real estate and wealth-building

William J. Poorvu Author Of The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decisionmaking and Investment
By William J. Poorvu

Who am I?

Bill Poorvu is a successful real estate investor and developer who for 35 years headed the real estate program at Harvard Business School, where he taught several generations of students, many of whom went on to become industry leaders. He is also one of the founders of the Baupost Group, a Boston-based investment firm that is considered one of the savviest hedge funds in the world, with some $30 billion in assets under management.

I wrote...

The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decisionmaking and Investment

By William J. Poorvu, Jeffrey L. Cruikshank,

Book cover of The Real Estate Game: The Intelligent Guide to Decisionmaking and Investment

What is my book about?

My book offers an insider’s perspective on how to make smart decisions about real estate. The “game” involves interactions among four variables: players, properties, capital markets, and the external environment. How does a real estate professional participate in this game and win? I walk the reader through the key “periods of play” in the real estate game—concept, commitment, development, operation, reward, and reinvestment.

Let me surprise you by saying this book is not for everybody. It focuses on commercial real estate, and on deals above a certain threshold scale, so small-scale residential developers and house flippers may be disappointed. I offer real-world war stories and some very practical advice to the thoughtful investor, including a powerful “back of the envelope” technique for analyzing the financial implications of a potential deal. 
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order: Why Nations Succeed and Fail

Why did I love this book?

Successful real estate investment and development is in part the result of understanding an economic context and taking the long view. Toward those ends, there’s no better jumping-off point than Ray Dalio's historical review of the economic “Big Cycle” that has determined the success and failure of nations and economic systems over the past several centuries. And by the way, Ray knows what he’s talking about: his Bridgewater Associates is the world’s largest hedge fund.

By Ray Dalio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


“A provocative read...There are few tomes that coherently map such broad economic histories as well as Mr. Dalio’s. Perhaps more unusually, Mr. Dalio has managed to identify metrics from that history that can be applied to understand today.” —Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times

From legendary investor Ray Dalio, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Principles, who has spent half a century studying global economies and markets, Principles for Dealing with the Changing World Order examines history’s most turbulent economic and political periods to reveal why the times ahead will likely be radically…

Book cover of The Smartest Places on Earth: Why Rustbelts Are the Emerging Hotspots of Global Innovation

Why did I love this book?

So where are you going to invest and develop? Antoine Von Agtmael offers a very interesting analysis, in this regard. He points to the advantages of investing in certain kinds of smaller cities, including those with good community colleges, ample affordable housing, a welcoming political environment, and no shortage of abandoned factory buildings that can be easily converted for high-tech uses. This isn’t the only great contemporary context for investment, of course, but it’s a good one to study and understand.

By Antoine van Agtmael, Fred Bakker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Smartest Places on Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Antoine van Agtmael coined the term "emerging markets" and built a career and a multibillion-dollar investing firm centered on these surging economies that would, over time, supplant the West as engines of wealth and prosperity. The trend held for decades, but a few years ago van Agtmael and Alfred Bakker, a renowned European journalist, began seeing signs that the tide might be turning. For example, during a visit to an enormously successful chip company in Taiwan, the company's leaders told them that their American competitors were now eating their lunch. And Taiwan was not the only place giving them this…

Book cover of Professional Real Estate Development: The Uli Guide to the Business

Why did I love this book?

This is an Urban Land Institute publication by lead author Rick Peiser—a longtime Harvard University Graduate School of Design faculty member—and a large group of additional contributors. PRED is especially useful for those taking management or developmental roles in the commercial real estate industry. It’s systematic, comprehensive, and logically organized. It’s also expensive, but then again, it’s 400 pages long. Spring for the hardcover edition—easier to work with, and well worth the investment. 

By Richard B. Peiser, David Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Professional Real Estate Development as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This basic primer covers the nuts and bolts of developing all types of real estate, including multifamily, office, retail, and industrial projects. Thoroughly updated, this new edition includes numerous case studies of actual projects as well as small-scale examples that are ideal for anyone new to real estate development.

Book cover of Margin of Safety: Risk-Averse Value Investing Strategies for the Thoughtful Investor

Why did I love this book?

If you are now in a position to invest your money broadly. Margin of Safety presents legendary investor Seth's Klarman's views on risk-adjusted investments in several asset classes, including real estate. He focuses on understanding the underlying values of a specific opportunity, and his consistent emphasis on taking the longer-term view is especially relevant to the property world. Now I will frustrate you by reporting that MOS is long out of print, and the used copies that are available online are...very, very expensive. If you can’t find it or afford it, look for Seth’s interviews on YouTube, and a short but interesting New Yorker interview.

By Seth A. Klarman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Margin of Safety as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Investors are all too often lured by the prospect of instant millions and fall prey to the many fads of Wall Street. The myriad approaches they adopt offer little or no real prospect for long-term success and invariably run the risk of considerable economic loss - they resemble speculation or outright gambling, not a coherent investment program. But value investing - the strategy of investing in securities trading at an appreciable discount from underlying value - has a long history - has a long history of delivering excellent investment results with limited downside risk. Taking its title from Benjamin Graham's…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in real estate, value investing, and economic development?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about real estate, value investing, and economic development.

Real Estate Explore 19 books about real estate
Value Investing Explore 9 books about value investing
Economic Development Explore 54 books about economic development

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Science of Influence, Killer Transaction, and The Millionaire Real Estate Investor if you like this list.