Charlie Munger Book Recommendations
For many reasons, self-made billionaire Charlie Munger and books simply go hand in hand. He is a voracious reader, which probably has something to do with how he has been best friends with bibliophile Warren Buffett for 60 years and business partners with him since 1978. Munger serves as the Vice-Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett’s multinational conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none. Zero,” he says. “You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads – and how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
It goes without saying, since an early age, reading has played a profound role in shaping Charlie Munger as a person, and furthermore, this favorite educational activity of his must have had something to do with the spirited – and profitable for that matter – approach he takes to life.
Therefore, in order to get to the bottom of what inspired one of the world’s wealthiest men to the pinnacle of financial success, we’ve compiled a list of 20 books that Charlie Munger has read himself and would certainly recommend to others as well.
This guide to Charlie Munger’s favorite books was created with the help of interviews, articles, and really one book in particular called Poor Charlie’s Almanack. In the lengthy compilation of ideas, speeches, historical events, inspirations, and more, Munger shares numerous titles whose invaluable knowledge he’s leaned on over the years.
We give you, 20 inspirational books that Charlie Munger recommends reading.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini – New York Times bestselling author of Pre-Suasion and the seminal expert in the fields of influence and persuasion – explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these insights ethically in business and everyday settings. Using memorable stories and relatable examples, Cialdini makes this crucially important subject surprisingly easy.
You’ll learn Cialdini’s Universal Principles of Influence, including new research and new uses so you can become an even more skilled persuader – and just as importantly, you’ll learn how to defend yourself against unethical influence attempts. You may think you know these principles, but without understanding their intricacies, you may be ceding their power to someone else.
Understanding and applying the principles ethically is cost-free and deceptively easy. Backed by Dr. Cialdini’s 35 years of evidence-based, peer-reviewed scientific research – including a three-year field study on what leads people to change – Influence is a comprehensive guide to using these principles to move others in your direction.
Source: This is one of those special books Charlie Munger highly recommends in Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
The Greatest Trade Ever by Gregory Zuckerman
In the summer of 2007, the markets began to implode, bringing John Paulson early profits, but also sparking efforts to rescue real estate and derail him. By year’s end, though, Paulson had pulled off the greatest trade in financial history, earning more than $15 billion for his firm – a figure that dwarfed George Soros’s billion-dollar currency trade in 1992. Paulson made billions more in 2008 by transforming his gutsy move. Some of the underdog investors who attempted the daring trade also reaped fortunes. But others who got the timing wrong met devastating failure, discovering that being early and right wasn’t nearly enough.
Written by the prizewinning reporter who broke the story in The Wall Street Journal, The Greatest Trade Ever is a superbly written, fast-paced, behind-the-scenes narrative of how a contrarian foresaw an escalating financial crisis – that outwitted Chuck Prince, Stanley O’Neal, Richard Fuld, and Wall Street’s titans – to make financial history.
Source: “He made a lot of money from entirely legal ways but may have created a lot of trouble for himself in the process,” Munger says.
Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher
Since its original publication nearly thirty years ago, Getting to Yes has helped millions of people learn a better way to negotiate. One of the primary business texts of the modern era, it is based on the work of the Harvard Negotiation Project, a group that deals with all levels of negotiation and conflict resolution.
Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry or getting taken.
Source: This is one of those special books Charlie Munger highly recommends in Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
Titan by Ron Chernow
From the acclaimed, award-winning author of Alexander Hamilton: here is the essential, endlessly engrossing biography of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. – the Jekyll-and-Hyde of American capitalism. In the course of his nearly 98 years, Rockefeller was known as both a rapacious robber baron, whose Standard Oil Company rode roughshod over an industry, and a philanthropist who donated money lavishly to universities and medical centers. He was the terror of his competitors, the bogeyman of reformers, the delight of caricaturists – and an utter enigma.
Drawing on unprecedented access to Rockefeller’s private papers, Chernow reconstructs his subjects’ troubled origins (his father was a swindler and a bigamist) and his single-minded pursuit of wealth. But he also uncovers the profound religiosity that drove him “to give all I could;” his devotion to his father; and the wry sense of humor that made him the country’s most colorful codger. Titan is a magnificent biography – balanced, revelatory, elegantly written.
Source: Charlie Munger calls this book, “one of the best business biographies I have ever read.”
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Having been called “one of the outstanding contributions to psychological thought” by Carl Rogers and “one of the great books of our time” by Harold Kushner, this seminal book has been translated into more than fifty languages and sold over sixteen million copies.
“An enduring work of survival literature,” according to the New York Times, Viktor Frankl’s riveting account of his time in the Nazi concentration camps, and his insightful exploration of the human will to find meaning in spite of the worst adversity, has offered solace and guidance to generations of readers since it was first published in 1946.
At the heart of Frankl’s theory of logotherapy (from the Greek word for “meaning”) is a conviction that the primary human drive is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but rather the discovery and pursuit of what the individual finds meaningful. Today, as new generations face new challenges and an ever more complex and uncertain world, Frankl’s classic work continues to inspire us all to find significance in the very act of living, in spite of all obstacles.
Source: According to Farnam Street Media, this is a title Charlie Munger recommends reading.
Only The Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove
Under Andy Grove’s leadership, Intel became the world’s largest chip maker and one of the most admired companies in the world. In Only the Paranoid Survive, Grove reveals his strategy for measuring the nightmare moment every leader dreads – when massive change occurs and a company must, virtually overnight, adapt or fall by the wayside – in a new way.
Grove calls such a moment a Strategic Inflection Point, which can be set off by almost anything: mega-competition, a change in regulations, or a seemingly modest change in technology. When a Strategic Inflection Point hits, the ordinary rules of business go out the window. Yet, managed right, a Strategic Inflection Point can be an opportunity to win in the marketplace and emerge stronger than ever.
Grove underscores his message by examining his own record of success and failure, including how he navigated the events of the Pentium flaw, which threatened Intel’s reputation in 1994, and how he has dealt with the explosions in growth of the Internet. The work of a lifetime, Only the Paranoid Survive is a classic of managerial and leadership skills.
Source: This is one of those special books Charlie Munger highly recommends in Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
The Outsiders by William N. Thorndike, Jr.
In this refreshing, counterintuitive book, author Will Thorndike brings to bear the analytical wisdom of a successful career in investing, closely evaluating the performance of companies and their leaders. You will meet eight individualistic CEOs whose firms’ average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of twenty – in other words, an investment of $10,000 with each of these CEOs, on average, would have been worth over $1.5 million twenty-five years later.
You may not know all their names, but you will recognize their companies: General Cinema, Ralston Purina, The Washington Post Company, Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics, Capital Cities Broadcasting, TCI, and Teledyne. In The Outsiders, you’ll learn the traits and methods – striking for their consistency and relentless rationality – that helped these unique leaders achieve such exceptional performance.
Humble, unassuming, and often frugal, these “outsiders” shunned Wall Street and the press, and shied away from the hottest new management trends. Instead, they shared specific traits that put them and the companies they led on winning trajectories: a laser-sharp focus on per share value as opposed to earnings or sales growth; an exceptional talent for allocating capital and human resources; and the belief that cash flow, not reported earnings, determines a company’s long-term value.
Source: In an editorial review, Munger says that The Outsiders “details the extraordinary success of CEOs who took a radically different approach to corporate management.”
Blessed with enormous talents and the energy and ambition to go with them, Franklin was a statesman, author, inventor, printer, and scientist. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later was involved in negotiating the peace treaty with Britain that ended the Revolutionary War. He also invented bifocals, a stove that is still manufactured, a water-harmonica, and the lightning rod.
Franklin’s extraordinary range of interests and accomplishments are brilliantly recorded in his Autobiography, considered one of the classics of the genre. Covering his life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, this charming self-portrait recalls Franklin’s boyhood, his determination to achieve high moral standards, his work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, experiences during the French and Indian War, and more.
Related in an honest, open, unaffected style, this highly readable account offers a wonderfully intimate glimpse of the Founding Father sometimes called “the wisest American.”
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
In this artful, informative, and delightful book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion – as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war – and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures.
A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
As influential today as when it was first published, The Selfish Gene has become a classic exposition of evolutionary thought. Professor Dawkins articulates a gene’s eye view of evolution – a view giving centre stage to these persistent units of information, and in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for their replication.
This imaginative, powerful, and stylistically brilliant work not only brought the insights of Neo-Darwinism to a wide audience, but galvanized the biology community, generating much debate and stimulating whole new areas of research.
Source: “I had to read [this book] twice before I fully understood it,” Munger reveals.
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson
How did Albert Einstein’s mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.
Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk – a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate – became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.
These traits are just as vital for this new century of globalization, in which our success will depend on our creativity, as they were for the beginning of the last century, when Einstein helped usher in the modern age.
Source: Charlie Munger recommended this book at the 2007 Wesco Annual Meeting.
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes
The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is David S. Landes’s acclaimed, best-selling exploration of one of the most contentious and hotly debated questions of our time: Why do some nations achieve economic success while others remain mired in poverty? The answer, as Landes definitively illustrates, is a complex interplay of cultural mores and historical circumstance.
Rich with anecdotal evidence, piercing analysis, and a truly astonishing range of erudition, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations is a “picture of enormous sweep and brilliant insight” (Kenneth Arrow) as well as one of the most audaciously ambitious works of history in decades.
Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field by Nancy Forbes
Two of the boldest and most creative scientists of all time were Michael Faraday (1791-1867) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879). This is the story of how these two men – separated in age by forty years – discovered the existence of the electromagnetic field and devised a radically new theory that overturned the strictly mechanical view of the world that had prevailed since Newton’s time.
The authors, veteran science writers with special expertise in physics and engineering, have created a lively narrative that interweaves rich biographical detail from each man’s life with clear explanations of their scientific accomplishments.
Source: “I just hugely enjoyed it. Couldn’t put it down,” said Munger.
Fiasco by Frank Partnoy
FIASCO is the shocking story of one man’s education in the jungles of Wall Street. As a young derivatives salesman at Morgan Stanley, Frank Partnoy learned to buy and sell billions of dollars worth of securities that were so complex many traders themselves didn’t understand them. In his behind-the-scenes look at the trading floor and the offices of one of the world’s top investment firms, Partnoy recounts the macho attitudes and fiercely competitive ploys of his office mates. And he takes us to the annual drunken skeet-shooting competition, FIASCO, where he and his colleagues sharpen the killer instincts they are encouraged to use against their competitors, their clients, and each other.
FIASCO is the first book to take on the derivatives trading industry, the most highly charged and risky sector of the stock market. More importantly, it is a blistering indictment of the largely unregulated market in derivatives and serves as a warning to unwary investors about real fiascos, which have cost billions of dollars.
Deep Simplicity by John Gribbin
The world around us can be a complex, confusing place. Earthquakes happen without warning, stock markets fluctuate, weather forecasters seldom seem to get it right – even other people continue to baffle us. How do we make sense of it all?
In fact, John Gribbin reveals, our seemingly random universe is actually built on simple laws of cause and effect that can explain why, for example, just one vehicle braking can cause a traffic jam; why wild storms result from a slight atmospheric change; even how we evolved from the most basic materials.
Like a zen painting, a fractal image or the pattern on a butterfly’s wings, simple elements form the bedrock of a sophisticated whole. Synthesizing chaos and complexity theory for the perplexed, Deep Simplicity brilliantly illuminates the harmony underlying our existence.
Source: “It’s pretty hard to understand everything, but if you can’t understand it, you can always give it to a more intelligent friend,” Munger says.
Genome by Matt Ridley
Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.
Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine.
From Huntington’s disease to cancer, from the applications of gene therapy to the horrors of eugenics, Ridley probes the scientific, philosophical, and moral issues arising as a result of the mapping of the genome. It will help you understand what this scientific milestone means for you, for your children, and for humankind.
Models of My Life by Herbert Simon
In this candid and witty autobiography, Nobel laureate Herbert A. Simon looks at his distinguished and varied career, continually asking himself whether (and how) what he learned as a scientist helps to explain other aspects of his life.
A brilliant polymath in an age of increasing specialization, Simon is one of those rare scholars whose work defines fields of inquiry. Crossing disciplinary lines in half a dozen fields, Simon’s story encompasses an explosion in the information sciences, the transformation of psychology by the information-processing paradigm, and the use of computer simulation for modeling the behavior of highly complex systems.
Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw
From his first job as a bobbin boy at age thirteen to his status as the richest man in the world upon retirement, Carnegie was the embodiment of the American dream and the prototype of today’s billionaire.
Drawing on a trove of new material, David Nasaw brilliantly plumbs the core of this fascinating and complex man, at last fixing him in his rightful place as one of the most compelling, elusive, and multifaceted personalities of the twentieth century.
How The Scots Invented The Modern World by Arthur Herman
Arthur Herman has charted a fascinating journey across the centuries of Scottish history. Here is the untold story of how John Knox and the Church of Scotland laid the foundation for our modern idea of democracy; how the Scottish Enlightenment helped to inspire both the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution; and how thousands of Scottish immigrants left their homes to create the American frontier, the Australian outback, and the British Empire in India and Hong Kong.
How the Scots Invented the Modern World reveals how Scottish genius for creating the basic ideas and institutions of modern life stamped the lives of a series of remarkable historical figures, from James Watt and Adam Smith to Andrew Carnegie and Arthur Conan Doyle, and how Scottish heroes continue to inspire our contemporary culture, from William “Braveheart” Wallace to James Bond.
A Matter of Degrees by Gino Segre
In a wonderful synthesis of science, history, and imagination, Gino Segre, an internationally renowned theoretical physicist, embarks on a wide-ranging exploration of how the fundamental scientific concept of temperature is bound up with the very essence of both life and matter. Why is the internal temperature of most mammals fixed near 98.6°? How do geologists use temperature to track the history of our planet?
Why is the quest for absolute zero and its quantum mechanical significance the key to understanding superconductivity? And what can we learn from neutrinos, the subatomic “messages from the sun” that may hold the key to understanding the birth-and death-of our solar system? In answering these and hundreds of other temperature-sensitive questions, Segre presents an uncanny view of the world around us.
If you enjoyed this guide to books Charlie Munger recommends reading, be sure to check out our list of the 20 Inspirational Books Warren Buffett Recommends!