I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.— Ralph Waldo Emerson
It would be great if we could pinpoint the inputs responsible for what we know and believe.
At best, we forget most of what influences us. However, some influences are like babies: you know exactly where they come from.
When I was 18, I read that Warren Buffett read The Intelligent Investor when he was 18. I figured if I wanted to become a billionaire, then I better do that, too. #twins
Buffett led me to Charlie Munger and Munger led me to everything else. I have learned a lot since then, but I feel like I know less now than I did at 18, when I knew everything. I am still at least a few rate cuts away from a billion dollars, but I have been enjoying the journey.
The curated lists below are designed to save you time and serve as an easy reference for me. I like reading other people’s lists and have procrastinated creating a favorites page because I wanted it to be perfect. Like all creators, I realized that as long as that remains the goal, it would never be finished. Thanks to the digital age, I can have my cake and eat it, too. I will periodically update this page.
These are non-exhaustive lists for several reasons:
- I may have already written about it (see 10 Books & 5 Essays to Read Before 30).
- Some recommendations are on enough lists already (hopefully you have already read them).
- If you are interested in something specific, like value investing, then you can find hundreds of book lists and resources for that specifically.
Samir Patel is my friend, founder of Askeladden Capital, and the smartest person I know. No one has influenced my thinking and the books I own more than he has (we have similar tastes, with notable exceptions like Taleb and Pirsig). I avoid writing something when someone has already said it better than I could. Samir has done that, so instead of recreating the wheel, I will often reference his Latticework of Mental Models (I recommend bookmarking it).
One thing I look for in content is the ratio of time it took to create it to the amount of time it takes to consume it. In the recommendations below, that ratio is remarkable. Most of these took the author a majority of his life to create.
- Charlie Munger: The Complete Investor In case you refuse to make the investment in Poor Charlie’s Almanack
- The Power Broker Is there anything more important than power?
I can’t remember how I thought about the topic before discovering Robert Caro. However, since reading this and The Years of Lyndon Johnson (still working my way through these), I feel naive talking about any situation without understanding who or what has the power.
- Freedom from the Known Buckle. Up.
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion Required reading for anyone who has seen an advertisement or has heard of peer pressure.
- The Score Takes Care of Itself Venture capitalist Keith Rabois makes the founder of every company he invests in read this book.
- Why We Sleep One-third of your life affects the other two-thirds.
- Case in Point Written for management consulting interview prep, with application far beyond its intended purpose.
- The Design of Everyday Things This book is responsible for where I put my toothpaste, where I live, and how I spend my time.
- Creation: Life and How to Make It Inspired the creation of Amazon Web Services.
- The Elements of Style This should have been too obvious to include, but after eight years of reading emails in Corporate America, I am compelled to recommend it here.
- The Food Lab An unconventional entry point (a cookbook) to scientific thinking.
- Fooled by Randomness Look past the arrogance to the important thoughts on risk.
- Alexander Hamilton Many Hamilton vs. Jefferson battles are still playing out today. Secret: They are both right, and wrong.
- Zero to One Peter Thiel is either one of the most important thinkers of our time, or a robot.
- The Gene Far outside my circle of competence, but so well-written I felt like it wasn’t. I am curious to see how this story plays out and what our designer babies will look like.
- Letters from a Self Made Merchant to His Son If you have even heard of this book, we likely have common interests.
- Understanding Michael Porter Magretta concisely summarizes Porter’s fundamental texts on competition and strategy.
- Farnam Street Required reading and resource.
- Paul Graham Communicates as clearly as Richard Feynman, which is one of the highest compliments I can give someone.
- 25iq Tren Griffin’s business, tech, and investing blog “A Dozen Things I Learned from…”
- Slate Star Codex Hard to classify, but Scott Alexander is an exceptional writer and thinker. I discovered his work by stumbling across his book review of Seeing Like a State, which is better than the book. Start with the book review or Beware The Man Of One Study and The Categories Were Made For Man, Not Man For The Categories.
- Ribbonfarm Venkatesh Rao does not fit into a box. At times, he can be too cerebral and abstract, but his essays on money, Whole Foods, and Premium Mediocre (links below) put him in the hall of fame.
- Epicurean Dealmaker So much more than a pseudonymous investment banker. I wish he would return to writing. He is still active on Twitter.
- Stratechery Ben Thompson — Business & Tech Strategy. Few people give away such thoughtful analysis for free.
- Patrick Collison CEO & Co-Founder of Stripe. A thoughtful practitioner.
- Marc Andreesen (Archive of best articles)
Essays, Speeches, Articles & Interviews
- Naval Ravikant Interview (Farnam Street) (2017)
- Conan O’Brien Dartmouth Commencement Speech (2011)
- John Mayer Interview (Playboy) (2010)
- Epsilon Theory: Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose (Ben Hunt, 2018)
- Profile of Vaclav Smil (Science, 2018)
- Twenty Years Later, Everything is the Truman Show (Vanity Fair, 2018)
- The Premium Mediocre Life of Maya Millennial (Venkatesh Rao, 2017)
- The American Cloud (Venkatesh Rao, 2013)
- So You Wanna Be a Chef (Anthony Bourdain, 2010)
- Post-Truth Essay (Yuval Harari, 2018)
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail (Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963)
- Anything John Lanchester Writes: New Yorker, LRB, etc.
- Thirty Years: Reflections on the Ten Attributes of Great Investors (Michael Mauboussin)
- Improving Ourselves to Death (New Yorker, 2018)
- Ray Bradbury’s Greatest Writing Advice (2018)
- Jordan Peterson’s 10-Step Guide to Clearer Thinking (2017)
- Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor (New Yorker, 2018)
- A Clear Explanation of Money Creation and Inflation (Lyn Alden2020)
- What is Code? (Businessweek, June 2015)
- The North Star David Perell is younger than me, so I admire the ambition. He is doing interesting things and his interviews are particularly good (e.g. the one with James Clear).
- Conversations with Tyler [Cowen]
- The Knowledge Project (Farnam Street’s podcast)
- Making Sense with Sam Harris I have found this less actionable over time, but Harris is a brilliant communicator.
- How to Speak (Patrick Winston, MIT)
- This is Water (David Foster Wallace, 2005)
- Patrick Collison’s Manifesto on Reading (2022)
- John Malone
- Dan Ariely on Relationships
- Jamie Dimon (Harvard, 2012)
- How Electricity Works
- Lt. General Todd Semonite on Covid-19 Response (One of the Best Examples of Leadership) (3/20/20)
Finance & Investing
- Unit Economics and the Pursuit of Scale Invariance (Tribe Capital)
- Multilevel Marketing Schemes vs. Other Income Options (Federal Trade Commission)
- Calculating the Return on Incremental Capital Investments (Saber Capital)
Undervalued resource. Where else can you get access to the thoughts of the smartest people in the world? The people below create original content and also link to great content.
- Venkatesh Rao (@vgr)
- Farooq Butt (@fmbutt)
- D. Muthukrishnan (@dmuthuk)
- Ben Hunt (@episolontheory)
- The Epicurean Dealmaker (@epicureandeal)
- Morgan Housel (@morganhousel)
- Naval Ravikant (@naval)
- David Merkel (@alephblog)
- Ramp Capital (@RampCapitalLLC)