I have a library. And you should have one, too.
I’m proud of the collection of books I’ve collected over the years. A good chunk of my library is dedicated to investing, economics, and other money-related topics. It is my job, after all.
But I also have an entire shelf of literature dedicated twentieth century Spain, and another dedicated to the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. I own just about every book Hemingway wrote. And I have a fantastic translation of Don Quixote. The particular edition I own is one that I’ve not found elsewhere since.
Why? You may ask…
Why not! The book is particularly interesting in its own right, and even more so since it’s something of a one-of-a-kind find. It was too good to pass up.
I have fiction, nonfiction, which includes biographies, how-to books, essays on various topics… And that’s just to skim the surface. When it comes to my books, I have it all. And I’ve actually read 95% of them. The remaining 5% I’ll get to soon enough.
In Good Company
I’m not the only voracious reader on the team.
Harry Dent has a formidable book collection spanning an impressive breadth of information.
Back when we were office mates, I remember watching Rodney Johnson get through three newspapers every morning before even touching his first cup of coffee… and then following that coffee with more reading.
I don’t know how many annual reports John Del Vecchio has read over the years. If I had to guess, I’d say that number is in the tens of thousands. It’s what makes him great at his job as a forensic accountant.
In short, we’re a bunch of nerds.
But we’re in good company.
Becoming the Best Version of Yourself
Warren Buffett is arguably the best investor of all time. I say “arguably” because he has his share of competition for the crown.
Much like professional basketball players, fans will always debate who the all-time great is.
Is Lebron James really as good as Michael Jordan in his day? It’s hard to say.
Likewise, it’s hard to say whether Buffett is greater that Jesse Livermore, Julian Robertson, or even a quant pioneer like Jim Simons.
But what is beyond debate is that all of these giants of finance reached the heights they did by continuously learning.
Todd Combs, one of Buffett’s lieutenants at Berkshire Hathaway, said that the best advice he ever got from his boss was to “read 500 pages per day.” Buffett apparently made that offhand comment while teaching a class at Columbia University, which Combs was attending at the time.
Combs took that lesson to heart and reportedly reads 500 to 1,000 pages every single day of his working life.
And Buffett practices what he preaches, too.
The Oracle of Omaha claims, even at his age today, to spend five or six hours every day reading.
What Should You Read?
The easy, one-word answer: everything. Read everything you can get your hands on.
Of course, that’s not possible. So, let’s be a bit more practical.
I suggest taking a cue from Rodney and start with a couple good financial newspapers. I prefer the Financial Times because it gives the best international coverage, but the Wall Street Journal and Investor’s Business Daily are both solid options as well.
It goes without saying that you’re not going to learn how to invest by reading a newspaper.
In fact, I know traders that make a living betting against mainstream media. But reading a good financial paper at least gets you that baseline of knowledge that you need in order for the additional research to make sense.
Read plenty of books, too. And not just the ones on investing. You can find tidbits of knowledge in history books or biographies, even novels. These books can spark an idea or help you to make a connection.
Every time I go to London, I make a pit stop by the bookstore of my old alma mater, the London School of Economics, and fill up a bag with books that I can’t find anywhere else. You don’t have to get that crazy, but make an effort to read books on a variety of different subjects. It’s training for your brain.
For a deeper education, read the quarterly or annual letters of large, influential investors like Buffett. He often goes into the nitty gritty details of why he bought or sold something. You’ll learn more about investing from reading 15 minutes of one of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway letters than you would from two years in an elite business school.
He’s something of a controversial figure, but I also get a lot of value out of reading Bill Ackman’s letters. For a fantastic understanding of the bond market, read everything that Jeff Gundlach has to say.
And, naturally, keep reading Sizemore Insights!
It’s my job to get you fresh content that you’re not likely to find anywhere else.