Great Investors are Great Readers

I was not surprised to hear of the coming demise of e-readers.  In a time when we're consolidating from needing many devices to needing only a few (I just used my iPhone to mute my Amazon Fire TV), I always felt e-readers were a temporary phenomenon.

It's interesting to note that sales of print books continue to increase, up 1.9% last year in the U.S.  Of course, this statistic includes things like adult coloring books, but I still take it as a positive data point.

Despite positive book sales, I was concerned to hear about the shrinking number of adults who consistently read books.  According to Tom's Guide: 

More than one-quarter of U.S. adults read no books in 2016; of the 74 percent who did, some read a single book "in part." The average U.S. reader finishes from four to 12 books per year, depending on whether you want to go with the median or the mean. The number of people who read, and the amount that they read, have both been steadily decreasing since the early '80s.

Now I suppose you could take this in one of two ways: 1) bad news for society because as I've told my ten-year-old daughter, reading helps you understand the diversity of our world and makes you a better person; or 2) great news for people that actually read because they are going to be even more ahead of the game!

I don't believe it's a coincidence that many prominent investors and successful entrepreneurs have been voracious readers.  Charlie Munger put it best when he said, "In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn't read all the time."

Some of my favorite blogs feature people who read often and openly share their insights.  Shane Parrish and Patrick O'Shaughnessy come to mind.  One thing I miss about working in a large office is seeing what books people keep on their bookshelves.

In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn’t read all the time.
— Charlie Munger

As investors, we have such a wealth of good writing to draw from.  But I feel that being a well-rounded professional means you need to look for wisdom in many places- from investing classics all the way to good fiction.  Even my current guilty pleasure fantasy novel tells you a great deal about the human condition and how to relate well to others.

I have spent a couple decades building up a home library of epic proportions.  I've spent the last year transitioning from the "gathering" phase to the "let's start learning from these books" phase and I hope to share insights with you in this blog.

 Two bookshelves full of potential opportunities for growth!

Two bookshelves full of potential opportunities for growth!

For now, here are two books I just finished, neither of which are directly related to the markets but both of which made me think.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

This fantastic book begins by defining creativity as "the relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration."  Ms. Gilbert provides a well-written treatise on embracing creativity, avoiding perfectionism, and celebrating abundance. 

For those that aren't in a creative line of work, her lessons will help you find the courage to be more creative both in the office and on your own time.  She finishes by quoting author Jack Gilbert, who said, "Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?  The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

Hillbilly Elegy, J. D. Vance

My parents actually lent me this amazing memoir/history lesson/cultural commentary, where the author describes his experiences from childhood in Appalachia to graduating from Yale Law School.  The author moves seamlessly between endearing personal stories and broader insights on how our society continues to evolve.  This book pairs beautifully with American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

Author J.D. Vance's intro sums it up well: "I want people to understand the American Dream as my family and I encountered it.  I want people to understand how upward mobility really feels.  And I want people to understand...that for those of us lucky enough to live the American Dream, the demons of the life we left behind continue to chase us."

Happy reading!


Disclaimer: This blog is for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice.  Please see the Disclaimer page for full details.