Book Review: The Most Important Thing Illuminated

Book Review: The Most Important Thing Illuminated

Book Review: The Most Important Thing Illuminated

I previously reviewed The Most Important Thing.  Great book, but can a great book be made better?  Yes, but only by a little bit.

The illumination of this book comes from comments from Christopher Davis, Joel Greenblatt, Paul Johnson and Seth Klarman, an estimable bunch of investors and investment thinkers.  Howard Marks offers a few more comments as well.

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None of the comments are bad, but also, none of them disagree with Howard Marks.  Then again, I didn’t find anything to disagree with in the original book, so maybe that’s not a negative.

Many of the comments are brief, and most of them serve to intensify what Howard Marks wrote, e.g:

  • This is a really important point.
  • This is an excellent summary of the idea.

Relatively few of the comments really expand the discussion, so here is my advice for you: if you already own The Most Important Thing, you don’t need this.  Borrow it at your library if you must.  If you don’t own it, you will get a slightly richer experience with this book than the original.

I recommend this book to all who aspire after value investing.


Again none.

Who would benefit from this book: All value investors, and those who want to be value investors can benefit from this book.  Those that want to understand how the economy really works will benefit as well.  If you want to, you can buy it here: The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing).

Full disclosure: The publisher asked if I wanted to read the book electronically.  I said “yes” and I downloaded it and read it.

If you enter Amazon through my site, and you buy anything, I get a small commission.  This is my main source of blog revenue.  I prefer this to a “tip jar” because I want you to get something you want, rather than merely giving me a tip.  Book reviews take time, particularly with the reading, which most book reviewers don’t do in full, and I typically do. (When I don’t, I mention that I scanned the book.  Also, I never use the data that the PR flacks send out.)

Most people buying at Amazon do not enter via a referring website.  Thus Amazon builds an extra 1-3% into the prices to all buyers to compensate for the commissions given to the minority that come through referring sites.  Whether you buy at Amazon directly or enter via my site, your prices don’t change.


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David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.
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