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Book Reviews

Here are the key texts that you should read if you want to develop a thorough understanding of the issues presented on this site:

  • A Random Walk Down Wall Street
    Burton Malkiel
    A great elucidation of the Efficient Market Hypothesis from the originator of the "Random Walk" hypothesis. Overall, a very readable book, but there are one or two chapters you may want to skip if you are not mathematically inclined. Includes a thorough review of all the research on fund performance, the ability of fund managers to (not) beat the market, and so on.

  • The Intelligent Asset Allocator
    William J. Bernstein
    A thorough overview of modern portfolio theory: How to construct a portfolio of assets such that the overall risk is minimized for the expected return. Not as mathematical as Burton Malkiel's book, and more focus on practical investment advice.

  • The Four Pillars of Investing
    William J. Bernstein
    A much lighter book than any of the other modern texts, and a thoroughly good read. The chapters on the history of investing are fascinating. Good basic chapters on asset allocation, history, investor psychology, and the nature of the beast (how the financial services industry aims to extract rents from you.) Highly recommended.

  • Where Are the Customers' Yachts
    Fred Schwed
    I've chosen the image of a yacht for this site after this 1930's investment classic! This is an utterly hilarious but also deadly serious book on the means by which the financial services industry separated investors from their money 70 years ago. Let's just say that really, not much has changed--most of what Fred wrote is just as true today as it was then. Every investor should read this book. Light reading.
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The Intelligent Asset Allocator

Contributed by: martingale

Reviews William Bernstein's Intelligent Asset Allocator: How to Build Your Portfolio to Maximize Returns and Minimize Risk is an excellent introduction to modern portfolio theory and other modern theories of investment: one that anyone can read. Bernstein has a deep understanding of the academic literature, and a skillfull way of explaining it all in terms that anybody can understand. You'll learn how to adjust a portfolio to compensate for risk and about the theory of asset allocation in light of real world market behavior.

The Birth of Plenty

Contributed by: martingale

Reviews Another excellent book by William Bernstein: The Birth of Plenty, How the Prosperity of the Modern World was Created.

I haven't included this one in the Book Reviews main list because it is not specifically about investing, it's more an economic history of the world. Explores the notion that the four factors which led to modern prosperty were property rights, scientific rationalism, efficient transportation/communication, and advanced capital markets. The fundamental question the book asks is, what happened around 1820, the year that modern economic growth appears to begin? It is not simply a matter of "the industrial revolution", but rather what caused that revolution, and what enabled first Holland, England, and America to translate their advances into sustained progress where previous civilizations failed.

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