Books about investing (by experience level)

Knowledge levels for ordinary investors.

Knowledge levels for ordinary investors. Nearly everybody should strive to master the beginner or intermediate level—even if they plan to hire professional help.

There is no shortage of investing books, but here are some investing books worth reading. Warning! Many investing books appeal to our worst instincts with a speculative strategy. The problem is that most investors don’t know how to recognize this as a losing strategy until they’ve learned the common sense principles about saving and investing—that should be taught to everyone in school, but they aren’t. It falls to us to learn this ourselves from selected good books and websites like this one.

My opinion is that everyone should strive to achieve an advanced-beginner or intermediate level of understanding. Here are some book recommendations and other resources to keep you moving forward. Some of these authors have written several books. You’re in good hands with any books by any of these authors!

Alternatively, read this article if you’d like me to make suggestions to you based on the lessons you need to learn next.

Level I. Just Starting

These are quick easy reads if you only have an inkling of interest in saving and investing, but know you should. Saving comes before investing, so most of these focus on starting with a sound financial lifestyle.

Steal This Book! If You Can: How Millennials Can Get Rich Slowly by one of the best investment authors of our time: William Bernstein. In 2014 he wrote a gem to guide both the young—and not so young—investor through the five hurdles that threaten to spoil their dreams. If available for free as a PDF that you can read in an hour or two. Or, buy from Amazon if you prefer paperback, or to give it as a wedding, birthday, or graduation gift.

Book: Your Money Or Your Life, Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, 2008. This book is about transforming your relationship with money and achieving financial independence. Vicki Robin has since become a wonderful spokesperson for frugal, sustainable lifestyles and taught me important, liberating concepts that I have incorporated into my life and for this reason I highly recommend this book! On the other hand, this book is about extreme budgeting which you might skip over if it’s not for you. But if you’re not saving 15% of your gross earnings, then maybe it is for you!

Book: On My Own Two Feet, Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar, 2007. All of America needs to master the basics of personal finance and investing, and these authors aim particularly at young women. But, no young man should hesitate to read this book and master the same concepts! It’s a short easy read.

Book: The Wealthy Barber: Everyone’s Commonsense Guide to Becoming Financially Independent, David Chilton. A fun book with a fictional barber shows how to take control of your finances, and slowly, steadily achieve financial independence on nothing more than an average salary.

Book: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, Stanley and Danko, Most of the truly wealthy are not conspicuous consumers, but are most likely your neighbors who live below their means, allocate funds to build wealth, choose their occupation wisely, etc. Again the message that almost everyone can accumulate wealth, if they are disciplined enough.

Book: The Only Investment Guide You’ll Ever Need, Andrew Tobias. This is the book that first grabbed me. It’s been updated many times. I’m particularly fond of the chapter titled: A Penny Saved Is Two Pennies Earned.

Book: The New Coffeehouse Investor, Bill Schulteis. This easy to read in one sitting. It drives home the necessity of investing and the importance of index funds. It’s wonderfully simple in plain English.

Book: Smart and Simple Strategies for Busy People, Jane Bryant Quinn. The best ideas are simple, low in cost, and easy to use. In this case, they are also sophisticated and smart but most of us don’t want to get bogged down with all that. Also check out her classic bestseller, Making the Most of Your Money.

Book: 30-Minute Money Solutions, Christine Benz. Here’s a nice guidebook to help you get on track. This is a well-written practical book that will hep you get organized piece by piece, a little at a time, and before you know it—you’ll have control of your finances!

Level II. Beginner Investors

Basic financial literacy is rarely taught in schools, but it’s stuff everyone should know. All of these recommendations use simple, easy-to-understand plain-English. Everyone should master this level—even if you intend to hire investing help.

Book: Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School, Andrew Hallam, (2011). This is a terrific guide for all new investors!

Book: How A Second Grader Beats Wall Street, Allan Roth. Author uses conversations with his son as the device to debunk myths and teach common sense investing principles in a way that we can all understand. This book is for ages 20 to 50 by an author who is a very respected financial planner.

Book: Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett, Larry Swedroe, 2012. Newer and better than the following book. Here’s my short video book review.

Book: The Only Guide to a Winning Investment Strategy You’ll Ever Need, Larry Swedroe. Another one of my favorites! Will be most appreciated by those that already have already begun to build an investment portfolio, because there are some outstanding chapters that deal with mutual fund choices.

Book: The Random Walk Guide To Investing, Burton Malkiel. This Princeton professor became famous from a bestseller book that I’ve listed intermediate level. This one is a wonderful place to start because he distills this time-tested wisdom into ten rules that are easy to understand and remember.

Book: The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, John C. Bogle. I had an opportunity to ask Jack (author) to sign any of his books (I have them all) and I chose this one. It’s compelling. It’s simple. It’s short.

Book: Common Sense Investing: Ten Simple Rules To Finance Your Dreams, Rick Van Ness. This is my book. You can also find the content as videos on this website, but people buy the book to learn at their own pace, for a quick reference, as a gift for others, or even just to support this non-profit educational website (thanks!).

Web/Blog: Road Map for Investing Success This is Paul Crafter’s free online investing primer. It’s excellent.

Web/Blog: I’ve been following Mike Piper‘s blog, Oblivious Investor, for over a year. He’s got a knack for taking the complexity out of investing and the wisdom to help his readers understand the alternatives and implications of common investment decisions.

Level III. Intermediate

If you know some basic concepts, these authors will really help you see hear and understand the simple truths amongst all the noise. This level is aimed squarely at do-it-yourselfers, which in my opinion can and should be almost everyone.

Book: A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful Investing, Burton Malkiel. This is his best-seller. It’s brilliant, and very readable. He updates this frequently and I recently bought the tenth edition. Highly recommended!

Book: The Four Pillars of Investing, Dr. William J. Bernstein. This best-selling author approaches the topic in this book from four perspectives of investing: theory, history, psychology, and the business of investing—then discusses how to combine this into an investment strategy. I was ready for the first edition of this book when it came out in 2002 and it motivated me to get my finances in better order.

Book: The Investor’s Manifesto: Preparing for Prosperity, Armageddon, and Everything in Between, William J. Bernstein. Another brilliant book by a bestselling author, well known for understandable insights about how to manage wealth wisely. An alternative to The Four Pillars of Investing.

Book: All About Asset Allocation, Rick Ferri. Rick appeals to the nerd in me, the part of me that needs to understand before I can accept and believe. You can read this at that level, or glean the key concepts with a quicker read. Either way, this book is about how to implement an asset allocation strategy—your most important decision.

Book: Common Sense on Mutual Funds, John C. Bogle. This is a fully updated tenth anniversary edition with much commentary about what has changed in the past decade, but still its core is the timeless fundamentals of investing that apply in any type of market.

Book: The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing, Larimore, Lindauer, LeBoeuf, and Bogle. Friends of John Bogle put together a guide simply to support Bogle’s mission by teaching others how to get the best long-term return on their investment dollars. It’s also a good introduction to this amazing site:

Book: All About Index Funds, Rick Ferri, 2007. Author Richard Ferri provides detailed information on all aspects of index funds as well as how to put together a rationale portfolio of index funds depending on your risk parameters. I recommend this well-organized, easy-to-ready book because these are the cornerstone of common sense investing.

Book: Intelligent Investor, Benjamin Graham, 2003. This is a classic investment book, updated for today’s investors.

Boglehead Wiki/Forum: Two of the gems of the web for quality investment advice are the wiki and discussion forum maintained by the Bogleheads. Find common answers by topic in the wiki and quality discussions that include both beginners and experts in the forum. Tip: search prior discussions for your answers. You’ll learn a ton!

Web/Blog: While The White Coat Investor blog is investing and personal finance information for physicians, dentists, residents, students and other highly-educated busy professionals. Yet, most of the content is valuable for all of us. Check it out!

Web/Blog: Rick Ferri is a very highly regarded author that contributes actively on the Boglehead discussion forum. Follow his blog here.

Web/Blog: Allan Roth is another very highly regarded author that contributes actively on the Boglehead discussion forum, and contributes articles to CBSNEWS here.

Web/Blog: Harry Sit at The Finance Buff is another generous Boglehead participant and hosts another blog worth reading!

Level IV. Advanced

There is always more to learn. This category gets into more advance topics as tax-efficient investing, correlations of asset risks, and cost basis methods.

Book: Intelligent Asset Allocator, William Bernstein, 2000. Bernstein has become a hero to many. In this early book of his, he builds the case and explanation behind asset diversification. He writes to an intelligent audience but does not assume a mathematical or financial background.

Book: Wise Investing Made Simple, Larry E. Swedroe. This one is a collection of stories, with a moral to each tale. That’s nice. Makes it very readable.

Book: Rational Investing in Irrational Times: How to Avoid the Costly Mistakes Even Smart People Make Today, Larry E. Swedroe. Assembled as over fifty common mistakes. I like the book, but it is now out-of-print. I’m listing it so you can check your library or buy a used copy.

Book: The ETF Book: All You Need to Know About Exchange-Traded Funds, Rick Ferri. Most investors are best served by ordinary mutual funds, but if you reach the point of wanting to know more about ETFs—this is the book and author to go to.

Book: Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life, John C. Bogle. That John Bogle, who has so impressed me as a man of high integrity and as the champion for ordinary investors, would recognize that there is a concept of Enough and care enough to write a book about it, elevates him to the highest esteem. In truth, it is about much more of Bogle’s thinking than just this and very worth reading!

Book: The Only Guide To A Winning Bond Strategy You’ll Ever Need, Larry Swedroe. Larry is widely respected for his guidance about TIPS and nominal Treasury Bonds. When I reached the point of wanting to learn more, I found this book exceptionally well-written, with a rational coherent strategy of using Treasuries for the bond part of your portfolio, and taking your risk where you get a better for the investment risk you do take on the stock side of your portfolio. Highly recommended.

Book: The Clash of The Cultures: Investment vs. Speculation, John C. Bogle. This covers some familiar territory but is interesting for the arguments distinguishing speculation from investing. Also interesting are Bogle’s proposals for a better income tax system. Everything this wise man writes is worth reading.

Book: The Only Guide To Alternative Investments You’ll Ever Need, Larry Swedroe and Jared Kizer. Of most interest are the warnings about the dangers of truly ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’ alternatives. I like the way Swedroe doesn’t mince words. He tells you what he thinks. And I listen!

Web/Blog: Larry Swedroe is another very highly regarded author that contributes actively on the Boglehead discussion forum. He is an outspoken proponent of passive investing and highly regarded for his advices on bonds. Larry posts on CBS Money Watch here: Wise Investing.

V. Experts

If you are tempted to replace your bond index fund with discrete bonds, partake in tax-loss harvesting, or “Back door Roths”—these are some books I suspect you’d enjoy, if you haven’t already read.

Book: The Bond Book, Annette Thau. This is the third edition of a highly regarded book that describes everything investors need to know about Treasuries, Municipals, GNMAs, Corporates, Zeros, Bond Funds, Money Market Funds, and More.

Book: Security Analysis, Benjamin Graham, Sixth Edition, 2009. First published in 1934, Security Analysis is one of the most influential financial books ever written. Selling more than one million copies through five editions, it has provided generations of investors with the timeless value investing philosophy and techniques of Benjamin Graham and David L. Dodd.

Book: Your Money and Your Brain: How the New Science of Neuroeconomics Can Help Make You Rich, Jason Zweig. This is the first of two books that I have not read yet. But I want to read this one because it is highly acclaimed and deals specifically with why smart people make stupid financial decisions — and what they can do to avoid these mistakes.

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman. I haven’t read this yet but it is selected by the New York Times Book Review as one of the best books of 2011. (I’m hoping to get it for Christmas.) I understand it to me more about the analysis of rationality and reason, the understanding of risk, and the study of happiness… than about the great difficulties we have with investing behavior, per se. I look forward to reading this.