"Read 500 pages like this every day," the Berkshire Hathaway CEO told a group of MBA students at Columbia Business School in 2000. "That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not very many of you will do it."
So as we wrap up the decade, there's no better time to get your 2020 reading list in order. While Buffett has called out many titles on various occasions — at talks, meetings and annual conferences — he has also recommended a handful in several of his annual shareholder letters over the past 10 years.
Here's a full list of all the books that the prolific reader has mentioned in his annual letters from this decade:
This book offers a treasure trove of financial wisdom in the form of speeches and essays written by Charlie Munger, Buffett's longtime business partner and vice president of Berkshire.
If you enjoy Buffett's unique sense of humor, wit and insights, you'll certainly get a kick out of "Poor Charlie Almanack." One favorite among many Munger fans is "The Psychology of Human Misjudgment," an essay in which he writes about the cognitive traps that investors often fall into.
"Just buy a copy and carry it around; it will make you look urbane and erudite," Buffett joked in his 2010 shareholder letter.
Buffett has praised "The Intelligent Investor" on several occasions.
"In my early days, I, too, rejoiced when the market rose. Then I read chapter eight of Ben Graham's 'The Intelligent Investor,' the chapter dealing with how investors should view fluctuations in stock prices," he wrote in his 2011 letter. "Immediately, the scales fell from my eyes, and low prices became my friend. Picking up that book was one of the luckiest moments in my life."
The billionaire investor mentioned it again in 2013: "Of all the investments I ever made, buying Ben's book was the best (except for my purchase of two marriage licenses). In contrast, Ben's ideas were explained logically in elegant, easy-to-understand prose (without Greek letters or complicated formulas)."
MiTek Industries Inc., a supplier of engineered products for construction, is known as one of Berkshire's very successful subsidiaries. This book tells the story of how MiTek, which started out as a small Midwestern firm in 1955, went from being on the verge of financial collapse to becoming a dominant supplier in its industry.
"You'll learn how my interest in the company was originally piqued by my receiving in the mail a hunk of ugly metal whose purpose I couldn't fathom. Since we bought MiTek in 2001, it has made 33 'tuck-in' acquisitions, almost all successful," Buffett wrote in 2011.
This is a short (roughly 81 pages) and easy must-read for managers and investors looking to soak up timeless wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha.
In his own words, Buffett explains how to think about important topics such as business valuation, traits of good and bad businesses, acquisitions and their traps, how to reduce risk, corporate governance and the importance of trust.
It essentially "sums up what Charlie and I have been saying over the years in annual reports and at annual meetings," he wrote 2011.
In his 2012 letter, Buffett gave a shout-out to Carol Loomis, a former editor-at-large at Fortune magazine and author of "Tap Dancing to Work." She "has been invaluable to me in editing this letter since 1977," he wrote.
Loomis' offers readers insights into Buffett's investment strategies, along with his wisdom on management, philanthropy, public policy and even parenting. (In case you're curious: the billionaire plans to leave his kids "enough money so they would feel they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.").
Also included in one of the chapters is a 1996 essay from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates,' describing his early impressions of Buffett as they struck up their close friendship.
In "The Outsiders," William N. Thorndike, a graduate of Harvard College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, details the extraordinary success of eight successful CEOs who took a radically different approach to corporate management.
You might not recognize all their names, but you've probably heard of their companies: General Cinema, Ralston Purina, Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics and Capital Cities Broadcasting, to name just a few.
″['The Outsiders'] is an outstanding book about CEOs who excelled at capital allocation," Buffett wrote in 2012. "It has an insightful chapter on our director, Tom Murphy, overall the best business manager I've ever met."
This is another book from Buffett's 2012 letter.
In "Clash of the Cultures," John C. Bogle, founder of The Vanguard Group (who has been credited as the creator of the first index fund), writes about the changing culture in the mutual fund industry, how speculation has invaded our national retirement system and the need for a federal standard of fiduciary duty.
For investors, the most valuable takeaway is his list of 10 simple rules of "Common Senses Investing." According to Bogle, it "may not be the best strategy ever devised. But the number of strategies that are worse is infinite."
One of my favorite lines from the book: "Where returns are concerned, time is your friend. But where costs are concerned, time is your enemy." (Why? Because it can pretty much apply to all aspects of your life, not just investing.)
Buffett also recommended this title in his 2012 shareholder letter.
Drawing from more than 10 years' worth of research, L.J. Rittenhouse, a trust and valuation expert, outlines a system to measure organizational trustworthiness as a predictor of investment potential.
"So many books have been written on how to analyze a company, but so few have been written on how to analyze the person in control of a company," according to one Amazon reviewer, who gave Investing Between the Lines a five-star rating. "This book solves that problem."
This is one of Max Olson's many compilations of Berkshire Hathaway letters, going back to 1965.
It "includes an index that I find particularly useful, specifying page numbers for individuals, companies and subject matter," Buffett wrote in 2013.
It might be rare for you to want to read several decades' worth of annual letters, but I imagine it'd be nice just keep on your bookshelf.
In 2006, when Buffett announced he would begin to give away a bulk of his fortune to philanthropy, he challenged his son, Howard G. Buffett, to do something great in the world.
So Howard decided to give himself 40 years to put more than $3 billion to work on this challenge. This book, which Buffett said readers "will enjoy," captures that journey.
Some standout principles from "40 Chances":
- Roots: "Every goal without a plan is just a wish. Start planning your goals at the root level."
- Bravery: "Growth comes from taking calculated, smart risks — always with your plan in mind."
- Lessons: "Many of the things worth doing in life are accomplished because we make mistakes; they're accomplished because we learn from those mistakes and take those lessons with us into the next chance."
11. 'The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns'
This second book from Bogle that Buffett recommended is perhaps the most important one one this list for entry-level investors.
"There are a few investment managers, of course, who are very good — though in the short run, it's difficult to determine whether a great record is due to luck or talent," Buffett wrote in 2014.
He continued: "Rather than listening to their siren songs, investors — large and small — should instead read 'The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.'"
Buffett recommended this "wonderful" book in his 2014 letter, but it wasn't the first time he gave it significant praise. "This is the funniest book ever written about investing," he proclaimed back in 2006. "It lightly delivers many truly important messages on the subject."
In "Where Are the Customer Yachts?," Fred Schwed exposes the hypocrisy of Wall Street through the story of a visitor to New York who admires the yachts of bankers and brokers. He then wonders where all the customers' yachts have gone. (Hint: They didn't have any because ... well, they couldn't afford them — despite the fact that they all followed the advice of their bankers and brokers.)
Michael Lewis, best-selling author of "Liar's Poker," also approves of the book: "Once I picked it up, I did not put it down until I finished."
In "Limping on Water," Phil Beuth chronicles his broadcasting career at Capital Cities/ABC-TV, which operates in several areas of the media business.
The book "tells you a lot about its leaders, Tom Murphy and Dan Burke. These two were the best managerial duo — both in what they accomplished and how they did it — that Charlie and I ever witnessed," Buffett wrote in 2015. "Much of what you become in life depends on whom you choose to admire and copy."
14. 'Warren Buffett's Ground Rules: Words of Wisdom from the Partnership Letters of the World's Greatest Investor'
Pulling from letters Buffett wrote to his partners between 1956 and 1970, veteran financial advisor Jeremy Miller dissects the billionaire's "ground rules" for investing.
"Mr. Miller has done a superb job of researching and dissecting the operation of Buffett Partnership Ltd. and of explaining how Berkshire's culture has evolved from its BPL origin," Buffett wrote in 2015. "If you are fascinated by investment theory and practice, you will enjoy this book."
In his 2016 letter, Buffett called "Shoe Dog" the "best book I read last year." Author Phil Night, co-founder and current chairman emeritus of Nike, Inc., "is a very wise, intelligent and competitive fellow who is also a gifted storyteller," he added.
Knight's memoir gives readers a glimpse into what life was like behind the scenes of a small, intrepid startup that quickly rose to become one of the world's most recognizable brands.
Tom Popomaronis is a leadership researcher, commerce expert, cross-industry innovation leader and VP of Innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc. and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal.
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