Finance Readings

John Pirrman ’19, my former student and star defensive end for Harvard football, asked for some finance book recommendations. More important than such recommendations, however, is what John should read every day to prepare himself for a career in finance: Matt Levine’s daily newsletter. Subscribe here. Any student interested in finance should spend 30 minutes a day reading Levine and some of the articles he links to. Find that boring? Then finance is not the career for you.

Book recommendations:

  1. Where the Money Grows (pdf) by Garet Garrett is the best finance book I have ever read. Written more than 100 years ago, it provides a timeless description of the characters you will meet on Wall Street. If you don’t like it, ignore all the rest of my suggestions.
  2. The Money Game by Adam Smith, although of more recent vintage (1966), is another beautifully written ode to high (and low) finance. Super Money is also good, but try the other authors on this list before you go with a repeat.
  3. The Go-Go Years by John Brooks is more recent, published in 1973. If you can’t see the parallels between the Nifty Fifty and FAANG, then you aren’t paying attention. Brooks wrote several excellent books, including Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street, 1920–1938, my favorite work of Wall Street history.
  4. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre is also good, although perhaps a bit overrated.
  5. Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis is the youngest book on this list, published just over 40 years ago. Read nothing written more recently until you have read it.

Other advice:

  1. Avoid anything written by George Soros. His prose is as impenetrable as his ideas are banal.
  2. Victor Niederhoffer in The Education of a Speculator recommends only reading books that are at least 100 years old. I have not followed that recommendation above, but I see its value.
  3. If you are interested in a career in quantitative finance, start with Quantitative Value and Quantitative Momentum.
  4. Nassim Taleb is a buffoon. You should read his first popular book, Fooled by Randomness (which is excellent) and nothing else. Much of what he has written since is correct, but much of it is total nonsense. Until you spend a decade in finance, it will be hard to tell the difference.