What is on Charlie Munger’s bookshelf?6 min read

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Stunning books Charlie Munger recommends everyone to read

“Influence: The Psychologyof Persuasion” by Robert B. Cialdini

– Charlie Munger

Also recommended by Whitney Tilson, mentioned in Warren Buffett: Best Business Books, Guy Kawasaki On Books Every Businessmen Should Read

A book that’s earned its spot on the New York Times bestseller book list, Cialdini has concentrated over 30 years of research into how and why people respond with a “yes” instead of a no. Forbes magazine hailed Cialdini’s work on their favorite “75 Smartest” business books list, with its explanation of how people feel obligated to return favors (reciprocity) and why commitment is so powerful. Charlie Munger, the co-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and leader of Wesco Financial, also has a copy on his favorite reading list as one of the top three business books necessary for negotiation success.

“Benjamin Franklin”by Carl Van Doren

Franklin is as well-known for his romantic and diplomatic exploits in France, as his work in the fledgling American Congress and many inventions. Van Doren goes beyond the standard stories about Franklin’s truly dangerous experiment with electricity (harnessing lightning via a flying kite), to describing what happened between his exciting early career in journalism and financial difficulties at retirement age. Listed as one of Charlie Munger’s favorite books on Gurufocus.com, history fans of both the stock genius and the creative printer of the 1800’s will be intrigued by this Pulitzer prize-winning 800-page biography.

“Titan: The Life of JohnD. Rockefeller, Sr.” by Ron Chernow

Those interested in rags-to-riches stories can’t do better than Chernow’s tribute to the grandaddy of all oil tycoons: John D. Rockefeller. While other business moguls have gotten an early start in enterprise (Rockefeller profited from selling candy to family members at a young age), not all of them have had bigamist fathers, or gone on to become iconic billionaires. The strange mixture of Rockefeller’s religious devotion to money and God, capitalism and Communist-like monopolization of the markets, is woven alongside the story of a devoted family man with significant personal quirks – and cash. The Street calls this book a necessary addition to the book list of ambitious stock traders.

“Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive” by Noah Goldstein

Goldstein’s book almost reads like a marketing manual, fromits laws of scarcity and reciprocity, to its focus on the influence of positiverather than negative values. The power of persuasion has been intriguing tostudents since the ancient Greeks, and perfected by business devotees atToastmasters, but Goldstein adds science to sophism for an extra kick. Thiswork on how to harness shifts in social psychology is touted as a good additionto book lists, from business professors at Stanford and the University ofSouthern California, to an editor of the London Times.

“Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson

Einstein is always a fascinating character, not only because of his hairstyle, but also because of the mixture of devotion to scientific processes and the power of creativity. As Isaacson points out, the great physicist was not as devoted to personal relationships (the book includes a true anecdote about Einstein’s written requirement for a lack of required intimacy with his first wife) as to a theoretical adherence to tolerance and destruction of tyranny. Descriptions of Einstein’s balance between romantic poetry and enthusiasm for theories on light make him quite a human character, which makes it a good addition to any thinker’s reading list.

“Outliers: The Story ofSuccess” by Malcolm Gladwell

Also recommended by Jay-Z

A lifelong fan of the fascinating story of failure,Gladwell, turned his eye to unlikely success stories. Though the Tipping Pointmay have moved the author on to personal fame and fortune, this book about thehard workers who scrambled their way to the top certainly contributed toGladwell’s inclusion in Time’s list of influential people. Beatles fans will beglad that their brilliance is recognized, and those who favor reading lists ofGreenwich Village authors should note that it’s Gladwell’s residence. His ownfascinating background, as the child of a math teacher and thegreat-granddaughter of Jamaican plantation owners, no doubt contributed to thebook’s assertion that society and environment play a strong role in success.

“Fiasco: The Inside Story of a Wall Street Trader ” by Frank Partnoy

– Charlie Munger at his UCSB talk

Especially in light of the last few years of Wall Street’s issues, Portnoy’s scathing polemic against a murky industry are even more relevant today. The author details his vast amount of personal knowledge, as a former attorney and Morgan Stanley investment banker, on the manipulative nature of the derivatives market. It is recommended on reading lists from theoretical colleges of business (such as Warrington) to corporate giants (such as Goldman Sachs), and should prove a valuable addition to the book lists of any business leader or hopeful rising star.

 “Living within Limits:Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos ” by Garrett Hardin

From local examples to global implications, biologist and population philosopher Hardin details why it’s necessary to put limits on the growth of the human family. Hardin argues that our world is a closed system, and so needs hard-and-fast rules to curb explosive population growth and its effect on the global economy, adding quotes from Malthus to Charles Darwin to make his point. Hardin’s enthused readership recommends this addition to serious educators’ reading lists, including Charles Minns (an ecologist at the Bayfield Institute) and businessman Charlie Munger.

  “The Language Instinct:How the Mind Creates Language” by Steven Pinker

Also recommended by Bill Gates

Language is a matter that cannot be neglected in everyday life. It is made to communicate. But few people question themselves: what is a language? How is it structurized, who made it, how come we can understand each other? Steven Pinker can answer all those questions. Using multiple examples that are easy to understand, he guides us through the mysterious world of language.

“Barbarians at the Gate” by Bryan Burrough

In a similar vein to Fiasco, Frank Partnoy’s warning on Wall Street greed and corruption, John Helyar’s and Bryan Burrough’s work outlines a Mafia-like corporate takeover of RJR Nabisco – the company who created the Oreo. While the book didn’t get immediate fame and acclaim for the Wall Street journalists, it is now featured on recommended reading lists from Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times, to London-based financial corporation Colobus. This multi-faceted story of a $25 billion leveraged buyout is as interesting as the checkered post-buyout careers of the principal movers.

“Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story” by Kurt Eichenwald

Conspiracy theories are great fodder for fictional novels, but a true story is even better. Written by a New York Times journalist, this major addition to conspiracy theorists’ book lists details the stunning rise and crashing fall of energy giant Enron. It details the years of stock fiddling and cover-up that led to the leaders’ prison sentences – and the dual fall of accounting firm Arthur Andersen. CEOs such as Michael Ruettgers of EMC and Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway have put this story at the top of their recommended reading lists, along with consulting firm Cambridge Associates.

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