The best books about capitalists

7 authors have picked their favorite books about capitalists and why they recommend each book.

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By William Gaddis,

Book cover of J R

I read J R the first time in college, and it was the ideal combination of challenging, cynical, illuminating – and hilarious. The novel is a cult classic among well-read Wall Street types, but be warned: it’s 726 pages of almost entirely dialogue, with not much to guide you about who is speaking or where. Once you figure out what Gaddis is up to, the writing becomes immersive and you join a wild ride with the eponymous sixth-grader, who uses the school’s payphone between classes to trade surplus picnic forks, free catalog samples, and eventually controlling stakes in major companies. J R is one of those books you’ll be proud to finish, and never forget.

Who am I?

Frank Partnoy is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where he co-runs an annual conference on financial fraud and teaches business law. He has written four trade press books (WAITThe Match KingInfectious Greed, and F.I.A.S.C.O.), dozens of scholarly publications, and multiple articles each for The AtlanticThe New York Review of BooksHarvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as more than fifty opinion pieces for The New York Times and the Financial Times. Partnoy has appeared on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and has testified as an expert before both houses of Congress. He is a member of the Financial Economists Roundtable and has been an international research fellow at Oxford University since 2010.

I wrote...

The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

By Frank Partnoy,

Book cover of The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

What is my book about?

At the height of the roaring '20s, Swedish emigre Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products-- many of them precursors to instruments wreaking havoc in today's markets. In this gripping financial biography, Frank Partnoy recasts the life story of a remarkable yet forgotten genius in ways that force us to re-think our ideas about the wisdom of crowds, the invisible hand, and the free and unfettered market.

Money Masters of Our Time

By John Train,

Book cover of Money Masters of Our Time

The book features the ideas of some of the most successful investors of all time, including Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham, and John Bogle. What was it that made these investors so successful, and why are there so few of them?  Money Masters was one of the first in a series of books about the success of some of Wall Street’s greatest investors and it is still relevant today. These books are especially useful in preserving the thinking of great investors after they pass on. The book adds fuel to the fire of the “Efficient Market Theory” which holds that the market is highly efficient and the only way you can beat it is through luck! Try telling that to some of these great investors!

Who am I?

I’ve been a professional investment advisor for over 50 years and it took me that long to figure out the best way for individuals to retire with a decent size multi-million dollar fortune. The books I recommend speak to this topic from some fascinating and different points of view. But why did it take so long? I don’t know. I suppose the obvious answers aren’t so obvious at first, especially in a business as complex as the securities industry. But I think I finally figured it out and the solution is so elegantly simple. My professional life’s work!

I wrote...

The Pure Equity Plus Plan: Your Path to a Multi-Million Dollar Retirement

By Peter J. Tanous,

Book cover of The Pure Equity Plus Plan: Your Path to a Multi-Million Dollar Retirement

What is my book about?

After working on Wall Street and in the stock market for over 50 years, I finally found the closest thing to a surefire, history-tested way to retire with a fortune in the stock market. And the formula I explain in the book is blessedly simple! I’m not the only one. Warren Buffett has been advocating a similar approach for even more than 50 years, but is anybody listening? Now is the time!

The Snowball

By Alice Schroeder,

Book cover of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

This is an authorized biography of Warren Buffett. I am not sure this is the best book to read if you want to learn to invest like Mr. Buffett, but it gives a fascinating view of his life. There are many great lessons we can learn from Mr. Buffett that go far beyond investing, for example about honesty and treasuring one’s reputation. But I thought this book was important for a very different reason: it shows that Warren Buffett is not a perfect human being and that we can also learn from the maestro by not repeating his mistakes. He achieved his unparalleled success in his business life at the expense of his personal life.

I find myself wanting to work 24/7. I bring my laptop home, or start reading The Wall Street Journal on my iPad at the dinner table – and my work life starts pushing out my…

Who am I?

I am an investor who happens to love writing, music, and simply life in general. I was born in Murmansk, Russia, where I spent my first 18 years. My family moved to Denver in 1991, and I have lived there since. I’m CEO of IMA, a value investing firm where I have creative freedom to focus on things I love. I was so fortunate to stumble into writing; it has completely rewired my mind by providing a daily two-hour refuge for focused thinking. I am constantly on the lookout for new stories and fresh insights. Writing is what keeps me in student-of-life mode, and there is so much to learn!

I wrote...

Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life

By Vitaliy Katsenelson,

Book cover of Soul in the Game: The Art of a Meaningful Life

What is my book about?

Soul in the Game is a book of inspiring stories and hard-won lessons on how to live a meaningful life. Drawing from the lives of classical composers, ancient Stoics, and contemporary thinkers, it is my exploration of practical wisdom that has helped me overcome my greatest challenges: in work, family, identity, health – and in dealing with both success and failure.

Part autobiography, part philosophy, part creativity manual, Soul in the Game is a unique and vulnerable exploration of what works, and what doesn’t, in the attempt to shape a fulfilling and happy life.

Tap Dancing to Work

By Carol J. Loomis,

Book cover of Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2013

Carol Loomis has edited Buffett’s widely read Letter to Shareholders for many decades. She is also an outstanding journalist who was a writer and editor at Fortune for 60 years. Her book is a compilation of many of her interviews with Buffett over the years, with some additional commentary. As the book subtitle indicates, the book covers “practically everything” in a conversational format so it is sort of a quasi-biography of Buffett.

Who am I?

I’m an investor from three perspectives or dimensions. First, I manage money for individuals and institutions as Chief Investment Officer of Beacon Trust, a $4 billion registered investment advisor based in NY/NJ. Second, I teach MBA classes in investing at Rutgers Business School, Columbia Business School, London Business School, and Hong Kong University (HKU) Business School. Third, I write articles and books on investing, including The Art of Investing: Lesson’s from History’s Greatest Traders and Buffett’s Tips: A Guide to Financial Literacy and Life. I’ve personally met Warren Buffett on four separate occasions and think he is an excellent role model from both investing and personal perspectives.  

I wrote...

Buffett's Tips: A Guide to Financial Literacy and Life

By John M. Longo, Tyler J. Longo,

Book cover of Buffett's Tips: A Guide to Financial Literacy and Life

What is my book about?

Finance is a language like any other: the more fluently you speak it, the further you travel. If you want to improve your financial literacy, what better teacher could you have than Warren Buffett? Often described as the greatest investor of all time, Warren Buffett started his investment firm with $100 in the 1950s and went on to become the centibillionaire we know today. Along the way he’s reaped huge profits for fellow investors in Berkshire Hathaway and remains one of the most sought-after and closely watched figures in the business world.

In Buffett’s Tips, award-winning professor and professional investor, John M. Longo, working with his son, demonstrates just how by translating decades of Buffett’s writings and media appearances into a 100 straightforward tips and strategies for enhanced financial literacy and independence.

The Warren Buffett Way

By Robert G. Hagstrom,

Book cover of The Warren Buffett Way

While Graham is the pioneer of value investing, there’s no question that his student, employee, and, ultimately, close friend Warren Buffett is its most successful practitioner. Although the essence of their respective approaches is similar, there are some important differences to understand. As the best book about Buffett’s investing style that I’ve encountered thus far, Hagstrom’s The Warren Buffett Way highlights some of Buffett’s most astonishing investment coups and the logic behind them. Upon reading both of those books, the reader will have gained a nuanced understanding of how Buffett took the Graham approach to business valuation/security selection and improved upon it. 

Who am I?

As an investor and a professional business valuation specialist, I have a passion for understanding the true intrinsic value of both publicly-traded and closely-held (private) companies. There’s no denying that Warren Buffett, emulating the example of his mentor Benjamin Graham, applied a private company valuation approach to the selection of publicly-traded stocks and the results speak for themselves. Furthermore, given my somewhat technical educational and vocational background, I am more comfortable than most valuators with highly technical and IP-weighted businesses. That is why I consider IP valuation to be an integral element of business valuation. 

I wrote...

The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

By Joe Carlen,

Book cover of The Einstein Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham

What is my book about?

Warren Buffett – widely considered the most successful investor of all time – has repeatedly acknowledged Benjamin Graham as the primary influence on his investment approach. Indeed, there is a direct line between the record-shattering investing performance of Buffett (and other value investors) and Graham's life. In six books and dozens of papers, Graham-known as the "Dean of Wall Street," left an extensive account of an investing system that, as Buffett can attest, actually works!

This biography of Benjamin Graham, the first written with access to his posthumously published memoirs, explains Graham's most essential wealth-creation concepts while telling the colorful story of his amazing business career and his multifaceted, unconventional personal life. The author distills the best from Graham's extensive published works and draws from personal interviews.

Tuxedo Park

By Jennet Conant,

Book cover of Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II

Perhaps an inspiration for Batman’s Bruce Wayne and Wayne Manner, Alfred Loomis’ Tuxedo Park mansion in a New York suburb was a hive of scientific innovation in the early days of radio. Inventor of EEG and ultrasound, Alfred Loomis would play a critical role in establishing the United States’ largest research laboratories: MIT Rad Lab (later Lincoln Lab), Los Alamos National Lab, and more which have conducted pioneering scientific innovation for generations. This biography by one of Loomis’ kin provides a unique insight into the development of modern “Big Science” in the United States.

Who am I?

Dr. Jeremy Kepner is head and founder of the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Supercomputing Center (LLSC), and also a Founder of the MIT-Air Force AI Accelerator. Lincoln Laboratory is a 4000-person National Laboratory whose mission is to create defensive technologies to protect our Nation and the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. Dr. Kepner is one of five Lincoln Laboratory Fellows, a position that "recognizes the Laboratory's strongest technical talent for outstanding contributions to Laboratory programs over many years." Dr. Kepner is recognized as one of nine MIT Fellows of the Society of Industrial Applied Mathematics (SIAM), for "contributions to interactive parallel computing, matrix-based graph algorithms, green supercomputing, and big data." 

I wrote...

Mathematics of Big Data: Spreadsheets, Databases, Matrices, and Graphs

By Jeremy Kepner, Hayden Jananthan,

Book cover of Mathematics of Big Data: Spreadsheets, Databases, Matrices, and Graphs

What is my book about?

Today, the volume, velocity, and variety of data are increasing rapidly across a range of fields, including Internet search, healthcare, finance, social media, wireless devices, and cybersecurity. Indeed, these data are growing at a rate beyond our capacity to analyze them. The tools—including spreadsheets, databases, matrices, and graphs—developed to address this challenge all reflect the need to store and operate on data as whole sets rather than as individual elements. This book presents the common mathematical foundations of these data sets that apply across many applications and technologies. Associative arrays unify and simplify data, allowing readers to look past the differences among the various tools and leverage their mathematical similarities in order to solve the hardest big data challenges.

Lords of Finance

By Liaquat Ahamed,

Book cover of Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World

I have always been fascinated by World War I history. But as a financial historian, I was especially enthralled by this dramatic story of the four central bankers who ruled that era. With great insight and humanity, Ahamed shows how the bankers’ well-intended struggle to restore the world to “how it was before the war” tragically doomed the world to another war – and taught a generation of future leaders to make smarter decisions after World War II. An essential prelude to the Roaring Twenties! 

Who am I?

When I first started covering Wall Street as a reporter, I faced a steep learning curve. I had always loved history, but I knew almost nothing about the history of Wall Street itself. I started educating myself -- and what began as a utilitarian effort to do my job better became a life-changing passion. Too often, financial history gets written for analysts and academics; it was a rare joy to find writers who told these wonderful Wall Street tales in an engaging, accessible way. That became my goal as an author: to write financial history in a way that could fascinate the general reader.

I wrote...

A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History

By Diana B. Henriques,

Book cover of A First-Class Catastrophe: The Road to Black Monday, the Worst Day in Wall Street History

What is my book about?

Black Monday – October 19, 1987 – was a crash that nearly broke the machinery of the American market. But Black Monday didn’t come out of nowhere. It was the result of years of extraordinary but little-noticed changes on Wall Street and in Washington that set the stage for the crash – and that continue to shape our financial life today. Understanding how Black Monday happened is essential to understanding how it could happen again. 


By Roger Lowenstein,

Book cover of Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist

There have been newer books on Warren Buffett since this 1995 gem, but this one goes the deepest into the mechanisms that have brought Buffett a $124 billion fortune. Plus it’s the best on Buffett’s quirky personality. I’ve known Roger from our days at The Wall Street Journal together, and it was exciting seeing him research this project over a three-year span – even if Buffett never officially helped him. The finished book made me feel I “knew” Buffett as if he were a long-time neighbor. 

Who am I?

My first job after college was at The Wall Street Journal, working evenings as a copyreader. It was thrilling to enter a big-league newsroom, but torture to be confined to putting tiny headlines on even tinier stories. Then at age 23, after a whirlwind staff shuffle, I started writing the paper’s premier stock-market column, “Heard on the Street.” Daylight had arrived. For the next 11 years, I covered finance. I met billionaires and people en route to prison. It wasn’t always easy to tell them apart! My writing career has widened since then but sizing up markets – and the people who rule them – remains an endless fascination. 

I wrote...

Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business

By George Anders,

Book cover of Merchants of Debt: KKR and the Mortgaging of American Business

What is my book about?

What’s the key to making it big on Wall Street? Yes, being really smart, really well-connected, or incredibly driven does help – but it’s not the only path. Instead, subtler factors let a few people climb faster and higher than all the rest. This book, Merchants of Debt, delivers the ultimate how-they-did-it biography of KKR and its founders. It captures the allure and the alarm of the whole private equity movement, as seen in the rise of legendary takeover financiers George Robert and Henry Kravis. You’ll enjoy the drama, and you’ll learn a new set of skills (“How to talk to banks,” etc.) that can transform your own career.

Godfather of the Kremlin

By Paul Klennikov,

Book cover of Godfather of the Kremlin: The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism

This biography by Paul Klebnikov, who was assassinated in Moscow in 2004, describes the criminality that accompanied Russia's transition from communism to capitalism as reflected in the life and activities of the most successful new capitalist, Boris Berezovsky. Through the prism of Berezovsky's career, he shows how the wealth created by the combined efforts of an entire people was successfully siphoned off by corrupt insiders to create the fortunes of the members of Russia's new oligarchic ruling class.

Who am I?

David Satter is a leading commentator on Russia and the former Soviet Union. He is the author of five books on Russia and the creator of a documentary film on the fall of the U.S.S.R. He is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. He has been a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a senior fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, and an associate of the Henry Jackson Society in London.

I wrote...

The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

By David Satter,

Book cover of The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin

What is my book about?

In December 2013, David Satter became the first American journalist to be expelled from Russia since the Cold War. The Moscow Times said it was not surprising he was expelled, "it was surprising it took so long." Satter is known in Russia for having written that the apartment bombings in 1999, which were blamed on Chechens and brought Putin to power, were actually carried out by the Russian FSB security police.

In this book, Satter tells the story of the apartment bombings and how Boris Yeltsin presided over the criminalization of Russia, why Vladimir Putin was chosen as his successor, and how Putin has suppressed all opposition while retaining the appearance of a pluralist state. As the threat represented by Russia becomes increasingly clear, Satter's description of where Russia is and how it got there will be of vital interest to anyone concerned about the dangers facing the world today.

The Millionaire Mind

By Thomas J. Stanley,

Book cover of The Millionaire Mind

Millionaires are good at spotting opportunities that others do not see, finding a profitable niche, specializing, and thoroughly enjoying their careers or businesses. Curiously, they also have a knack for investing, be it investing in the equities of public corporations, making wise investments, and being willing to take financial risks given the right return. Perhaps most vital: they are willing to live below their means.

On the pathway to success, most millionaires regard becoming wealthy as the product of key elements. One is social skills: getting along with people, having strong leadership qualities, benefitting from good mentors, and having an ability to sell ideas and products. Also, being honest with all people, having a supportive spouse, and for many, maintaining a strong religious faith.

Other key elements are ignoring the criticism of detractors while maintaining a competitive spirit or personality, wanting to be well-respected, possessing extraordinary energy, and even being…

Who am I?

I am the recognized expert on work-life balance, harmony, and integrative issues, and since 2009, hold the registered trademark from the USPTO as the “Work-Life Balance Expert®." My books have been featured in 68 of the top 75 American newspapers and, in two instances, advertised in Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. In all, 16 of my books are published in Chinese, among them Simpler Living, appearing as a 3-volume set, Everyday Project Management, The 60 Second Innovator, The 60 Second Organizer, The 60 Second Self-Starter, Ten Minute Guide to Time Management, and Ten Minute Guide to Project Management. I also have 13 books published in Arabic.

I wrote...

The 60 Second Innovator

By Jeff Davidson,

Book cover of The 60 Second Innovator

What is my book about?

The 60 Second Innovator asserts that nearly everyone would want to be an innovator if they could. Only a fraction of professionals within an organization, however, prove to be innovators. Unfortunately, most people in the working world head into their jobs the same as they always have; they approach their tasks much the same, attempt to stay within their comfort zones all day long, depart, and return the next day to repeat the process.  

If you work for a company that encourages innovation, lucky you!  If not, that doesn't mean you're up the creek in the day-to-day execution of your job. You can adopt the mindset of an innovator right where you are, with what you have and The 60 Second Innovator will serve as your handy guide.

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