Billionaire Ray Dalio says these 3 books have 'had the biggest impact' on his life

Ray Dalio
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Billionaire hedge fund magnate Ray Dalio has been fascinated with finance since he was 12, when he bought his first stock.

He graduated from Harvard Business School and launched Bridgewater Associates from his two-bedroom New York apartment, a hedge fund that grew to be the world's largest, managing about $160 billion.

But in a recent "Ask Me Anything" session on Reddit, when asked, "What book or books have had the biggest impact on your life and world view and why?" none of his suggestions had anything to do with business.

Instead, Dalio responded with three books which emphasize broad thinking, history and evolution. They're books Dalio recommends over and over again.

1. "The Lessons of History" by Will and Ariel Durant

Historians Will and Ariel Durant spent decades working on 11 volumes of "The Story of Civilization," covering vast spans of information.

Then when they were done, they shrunk down their findings and focused on lessons, publishing one short book called, "The Lessons of History." It's Dalio's top book recommendation, he said on Reddit.

"These fabulous historians who wrote thousands of pages of history distilled it down into these 104 pages," Dalio told CNBC Make It about the book in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

For the billionaire, recognizing that events, themes and ideas tend to repeat themselves is key for success.

"Most everything happens over and over again, in slightly different ways," Dalio says in his "Principles for Success" video series. "People are biased by recent history and overlook events that haven't happened in a long time, perhaps not even in their lifetime, but they will happen again."

2. "River Out of Eden" by Richard Dawkins

Zooming out further, Dalio also recommends Redditors read "River Out Of Eden," which explores evolution.

"We, the human race, are one of only 10 million species," Dalio told CNBC Make It about the book in January. "Our brains have programming that is older than mankind. Man is 200,000 years old. So to understand the laws of nature, which we're all subject to, I'd recommend this book."

Author Richard Dawkins explores why species evolve, where they came from and where they could go next.

3. "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joseph Campbell

Published in 1949, "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" author Joseph Campbell delves into mythology and psychology, looking at how different cultures have created narratives for heroes.

"It's a book about a certain path in life where people have ups and downs, but it's real," Dalio told CNBC Make It in January. "They looked at all different people who were on a mission, and then it got to the point where those who they were working for were even more important than themselves."

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