Earlier today, Hugh McLeod tweeted:


“Reading business books. About as much fun as drinking tepid sea water.”

To which I responded:

wrong ones

“You are reading the wrong ones.”


Hugh’s complaint sets up an interesting question: What are your favorite business books that are also fun reads? They can’t be boring, must be Business or Investing related. They also should be informative and/or educational as well.

Here are my 10 random business books that I think are especially readable:

Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed:  “It covers a 50-year period from before World War I and leading up to World War II. Even if you’re not interested in finance, it’s a great read”

The Big Short by Michael Lewis: “Michael Lewis, to me, is the preeminent narrator [of the financial crisis]. He is the guy who constructs the story better than anybody else.” (Lewis also wrote the wonderful Moneyball, which covers the business of Sports — kinda)

Manias, Panics, and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises by Charles P. Kindleberger “The long history of Human financial mania will surprise anyone who is not a sttdent of markets or human psychology. The simple truth is this is what humans do . . .”

When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management by Roger Lowenstein:  The story of hubris and arrogance underlying the collapse of one of the world’s biggest hedge funds. Its reads like a fast-paced crime novel, full of enigmatic characters engaged in incredible risk-taking. The book presciently foreshadows the financial crisis a decade later.

The Myth of the Rational Market by Justin Fox: “Fox does a wonderful job of telling the story of how the concept of the efficient market got completely out of whack”

• Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner: A look into human behavior from the perspective of an economist. Makes statistics surprisingly interesting.

The Quants by Scott Patterson: “It’s about the mathematicians and rocket scientists who came up with a series of concepts as to how to use math to try to game the market”

Griftopia by Matt Taibbi: “Taibbi is the poet laureate of vitriol. There is no one better to capture the country’s fury that these banks blew themselves up, and then twisted Congress’s arm to give them billions of dollars.”

•  The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing:  by Michael J. Mauboussin: A fascinating. exploration into the relationship between skill and luck. It is both logical and often counter-intuitive, and very informative.

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre “First published in 1923, it tells the story of a speculators rise and fall (repeat again and again) in vivid prose. Called “one of the most entertaining books ever written about stock trading, it has become a classic.”


What are your favorite, most interesting business reads?


Category: Books

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

60 Responses to “What Are Your Favorite “Non-Boring” Business Books?”

  1. budhak0n says:

    “The Shining”. An executive’s guide to boutique hotel management.

  2. seth1066 says:

    The Money Game” and “Super Money” by ‘Adam Smith’

  3. rd says:

    Most of the listed books are about finance, which is only a small subset of the overall business picture. Some of my go-to books are:

    Only the Paranoid Survive” – Andy Grove
    Execution” – Larry Bossidy
    The Goal” – Elihayu Godratt
    “Decision Traps” updated as “Winning Decisions” – Russo & Schoemaker
    The Deming Management Method” – Mary Walton

  4. richartruddie says:

    You nailed it. All of those are on my bookshelf. I would add in Naseem Taleb’s Black Swan and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

  5. constantnormal says:

    Black Monday” by Tim Metz

    Bailout Nation” by Barry Ritholtz

    Liar’s Poker” by Michael Lewis

    Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics” by P. J. O’Rourke … alternatively, “Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World” by Michael Lewis — both are excellent comparative analyses of economies and societies

    I had difficulty putting any of these down, reading them straight through … and I’m sure there are other excellent books of a financial nature that I have yet to read (like nearly all of the ones BR has listed, although several in his list were already on my to-be-read-someday list) …

    … but as with everything else, Sturgeon’s Law applies … these represent the magnificent few …

    A real challenge would be to list the 10 worst financial books ever written …

  6. chartist says:

    Managing Brand Equity” by David A. Aaker…..The only real thing I developed getting an MBA was an appreciation for the power of marketing….I also did a stint working for Bernie Schaeffer in the options business and one x-mas he gave everyone a copy of “Trade your way to Financial Freedom” by Van K. Tharp. By far, Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is my favorite read.

  7. theexpertisin says:

    Devil Take The Hindmost” by Edward Chancellor

    A highly readable review of speculation and other financial skulduggery.

  8. awealthofcommonsense says:

    Boomerang and Liar’s Poker by Lewis are also very readable.

  9. Irwin Fletcher says:

    Good to Great
    Blue Ocean Strategy

  10. I found Blue Ocean Strategy to be one of the most dull books I have ever read

    Against the Gods
    Market Wizards
    Predictably Irrational
    Made to Stick
    Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz

  11. Robert M says:

    The definition of business books is too open. I’d argue most of what has been proposed is the the history of business/finance as opposed to a business book. I’d argue for Options as a Strategic Investment fits the definition of business books. Nor is it boring. It helped bring the excite of the floor into focus.

  12. intlacct says:

    Mine tend to be investment oriented –

    Against the Gods: Strange History of Risk,

    Gold History of An Obsession

    anything from the home study course at http://www.efficientfrontier.com,

    anything by Bill Bernstein or Peter L. Bernstein,

    A Random Walk Down Wall Street

    Global Investing by Ibbotson and Brinson

  13. Casual_Observer says:

    Not sure if they qualify as business books but “Barbarians at the Gate” and “The Smartest Guys in the Room” are excellent books that remind us of the danger of hubris and reading our own press clippings.

  14. alexeck says:

    I loved the old J. Paul Getty business books as a teenager (I read lots of business books as a teenager, call me weird). They are still quite relevant.

    How about all the Jim Rogers books (Street Smarts, Adventure Capitalist, etc.)? They are all great reads!

  15. mikeinconyers says:

    Fooled by Randomness (Nassim Taleb ) – opened the door to all of the rest for me.

    Jonathan Clements The Little Book of Main Street Money - a good reinforcer for all of his WSJ articles I loved so much. A beginners book, but hits many of the high points.

  16. scottinnj says:

    Barbarians at the Gate‘ – the story of the RJR takeover in the late 1980′s. Still surprisingly relevant and fresh today.

    The Smartest Guys in the Room” – the story of the rise and fall of Enron

    And while it is not, exactly, a business book a case can be made for Machievelli’s “The Prince

  17. mdanda says:

    I went through a “phase” in my 20s and 30s in which I devoured business books. Now, in my 40s, I have had enough of reading how other people view life and productivity and character building-experiences that I’d rather focus on building my own life. So now I read everything BUT business books. Call it an evolution of my character. Just sayin’

  18. ukarlewitz says:

    Den of Thieves should be on the list.

    Outside of finance, The Reckoning by David Halberstam is a terrific history of business in the post-war period, especially if you are interested in the fall of Detroit.

  19. [...] often get asked for book recommendations and I usually point people the Market Wizards series but The Big Picture blog has a nice list of alternatives. I’ve read everyone one on the list and they’re all solid except Reminiscences of a [...]

  20. jaymaster says:

    Boring is in the eye of the beholder.

    I’ve been riveted by everything that Peter Drucker ever wrote.

    I’m currently reading this book on REITs, and I can barely put it down.

    Investing in REITs: Real Estate Investment Trusts (Bloomberg)

    Here’s a little tip from experience: If this kind of stuff bores you, you might want to consider a different career…

  21. jaymaster says:

    OK, so now, I’m thinking I might have misinterpreted the point of your post

    My previous comment was better suited to the tweet you linked too. I should have posted it there.

    Here are some business books I’ve enjoyed and would recommend. All biographies, unintentionally.

    Empire: The Life, Legend, and Madness of Howard Hughes

    He was so crazy, but he still knew how to get stuff done, and make money hand over fist.

    Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams

    Not the best written book, but he’s a local hero, and I fancy myself a somewhat progressive capitalist.

    A bad ass Italian who figured out America.

  22. Crocodile Chuck says:

    The Innovator’s Dilemma‘, Clayton Christiansen. Explains more about the waxing and waning of firms and the impact of technology than any other book.

  23. [...] often get asked for book recommendations and I usually point people the Market Wizards series but The Big Picture blog has a nice list of alternatives. I’ve read everyone one on the list and they’re all solid except Reminiscences of a [...]

  24. [...] often get asked for book recommendations and I usually point people the Market Wizards series but The Big Picture blog has a nice list of alternatives. I’ve read everyone one on the list and they’re all solid except Reminiscences of a [...]

  25. [...] often get asked for book recommendations and I usually point people the Market Wizards series but The Big Picture blog has a nice list of alternatives. I’ve read everyone one on the list and they’re all solid except Reminiscences of a Stock [...]

  26. A Farmer says:

    This is an obscure book I found in my small town used book store. It played to my fascination with the steel industry, but gives a very valuable history of the wage-price spiral in the ’70s; the poisoned relations between labor and management from the ’50s to the ’80s; the challenges the auto industry and steel industry faced with strike-related costs, and why management was happy to make big concessions to avoid shutdowns; how the steel industry failed to invest in and adapt to new technology, and how US banks financed steel mills in developing countries which were lower cost, higher efficiency mills competing with an already over-sized domestic integrated steel industry.

    And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline and Fall of the American Steel Industry

  27. PeterR says:

    Not exactly a book, but one of the best hours I ever spent — a talk by Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia — from UCSB in 1995. Maybe you had this link before, Barry, but it is worth another post IMO.

  28. Yacht Rocker says:

    A bit of an oldie, but worth a first read and an occasional thumb-through whenever temptation to start playing with a portfolio strikes: The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing

    True Bogleheads won’t buy it online, but will find it at the local library!

  29. [...] Ten business books that don’t suck including Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed.  (Big Picture) [...]

  30. codepoet says:

    A Piece of the Action: How the Middle Class Joined the Money Class by Joseph Nocera (NYT)

    (well…maybe not so much anymore, huh?!)

    The stories especially on Bank of America/VISA, the business rationale to get/sell retailers on the use of the BankAmericard (subsequently VISA) in Fresno, then LA…and the problems BofA had in establishing a generic credit card are fascinating…especially when you realize that this was the age of the mainframe and all those transactions were essentially treated (at least functionally) no differently than paper bank drafts at the time. It was BofA’s network of branches thru-out CA and its in-house courier system that enabled it to happen. Other chapters on Fidelity & Schwab are also fascinating. Nocera makes it all a very interesting read.

  31. rpseawright says:

    I’m a big fan of books that aren’t about business or finance per se but that offer tremendous applications there. Examples of books in that category that were particularly engaging (not boring) follow.

    Ubiquity (Buchanan)
    Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman)
    Expert Political Judgment (Tetlock)
    Fooled By Randomness (Taleb)
    On Being Certain (Burton)
    Moneyball (Lewis)
    The Signal and the Noise (Silver)
    Baseball Between the Numbers (Keri)
    Against the Gods (Bernstein)
    Being Wrong (Schultz)
    How Nature Works (Bak)

  32. PlanoJim says:

    The Money Game‘ by Adam Smith. This book is a classic, written in 1972. I read it every year, and am amazed at how much has not changed with regard to Wall Street or the players of the game.

  33. biotrekker says:

    agree with many of the above, including ‘Liar’s Poker‘, ‘The Big Short‘, ‘Moneyball‘ (my personal favorite), ‘Against The Gods‘ and ‘Den of Thieves‘. Would also add ‘Barbarians At The Gate‘.

  34. hue says:

    The New New Thing, and just about every book from Michael Lewis.

    I remember reading somewhere that Jim Clark, once he left Silicon Valley, was investing in Florida real estate. That was around 2001.

    In 2005, I emailed Lewis, at Bloomberg column email address, asking him what Clark was doing now, since Clark seemed to be able to look around corners. “he’s built an empire of condos in miami, i think, but haven’t followed it very closely. will be seeing him soon, though, and i’ll ask. best,m” Lewis replied.

  35. rashley314 says:

    Someone mentioned “The Inner Game of Tennis” which is great…. Along those lines “Golf if not a Game of Perfect” by Bob Rotella is an excellent read. I’d classify it in Leadership, Motivation type of books.
    Anything by Michael Lewis as well, particularly “Moneyball” & “The Big Short
    Also like Frank Partnoy… “Infectious Greed
    Sorkin’s Too Big To Fail is good from a soap opera, drama perspective.

  36. Doug of North Texas says:

    All the Devils are Here (McLean and Nocera) – well-written sweep of the Crisis that is readable.

  37. hpinRaleigh says:

    Non-boring? This is the best: “A Fool and His Money: The Odyssey of an Average Investor“, by John Rothchild (co-author of all Peter Lynch’s books…)

  38. CapnHal says:

    Moneyball is a baseball book on the surface, but it’s really about finding the metrics that work for your business.

  39. scottinnj says:

    Oh, also one of the greatest business advice books of all time was featured on Saturday Night Live.

    The book was only one page and was called “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford”.


  40. Diane Garnick says:

    Hands down…. Nudge, by Dick Thaler

  41. Doug Kass says:

    Here is my current list:

    The Most Important Thing (Howard Marks)
    Getting Back to Even (Jim Cramer)
    Stay Mad for Life: Get Rich (Jim Cramer)
    Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich, Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World (Jim Cramer)
    Confessions of a Street Addict (Jim Cramer)
    You Got Screwed!: Why Wall Street Tanked and How You Can Prosper (Jim Cramer)
    Bailout Nation (Barry Ritholtz)
    The Big Short (Michael Lewis)
    Too Big To Fail (Andrew Ross Sorkin)
    Navigate the Noise (Richard Bernstein)
    The Death of Capital (Michael Lewitt)
    The Greatest Trade Ever (Gregory Zukerman)
    Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Charles Mackay)
    Reminiscences of a Stock Operator (Edwin Lefevre)
    Pilgrimage to Omaha (Jeff Matthews)
    Super Boom (Jeff Hirsch)
    Deemer on Technical Analysis (2012) (Walt Deemer)
    Market Wizards (all versions) (Jack Schwager)
    The Money Game (Adam Smith)
    The Alchemy of Finance (George Soros)
    The Mind of Wall Street (Leon Levy)
    The Uses and Methods of Gaming (Martin Shubik)
    Security Analysis (Graham and Dodd)
    Do You Sincerely Want to Be Rich? (Charles Raw)
    Minding Mr. Market (James Grant)
    It’s Earnings That Count (Hewitt Heiserman Jr.)
    The Fed (Martin Mayer)
    Trade Like a Hedge Fund (James Altucher)
    Pit Bull (Marty Schwartz)
    Irrational Exuberance (Robert Shiller)

    Position: None

  42. toddsattersten says:

    Hugh’s complaint is common, but I am not sure it is any different from pop music or zombie movies – there is good and there is bad.

    The recommendation here are naturally skewing toward finance and economics, so let me offer a set of titles for the practice of business.

    I would start with recommending the Essential Drucker and Essential Deming. Drucker still owns modern management and Deming put the responsibility for organizational success back on those managers.

    After that:

    Financial Intelligence – for all of your friends who you wish could understand accounting and the shenanigans that can be cooked up.

    Influence – Cialdini still has the best book on the methods of good and evil one can use to get people to do things.

    Leadership Challenge – best aggregate of what it means to be a leader.

    Innovator’s Dilemma – a little dense but required reading because it is impossible that Christensen’s thesis is not affecting your industry right now.

    The First 90 Days – as we change jobs more and more, we need to learn to reach proficiency faster. Watkins has best thoughts on the subject (and a new revision just came out).

    [I also wrote a book on the 100 best business books if you are looking for a wider selection of books and topics]

  43. [...] Hugh’s tweet from Barry Ritholz. This exchange is highlighted on Barry Ritholz’s blog in a recent post about favorite business books that are also fun to read. Here are his 10 random picks that are [...]