Book Reviews, Value Investing

Nineteen More Book Recommendations from Charlie Munger

In Book Recommendations from Billionaire Charlie Munger That will Make you Smarter, It is not 100% clear what the source is but Shane knows his stuff. Here are 19 others Charlie Munger has recommended via Farnam Street with a bit about them from

Also see Charlie Munger’s Books: Recommended Reading List

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: No Two Alike

No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality by Judith Rich Harris

The author of the controversial book The Nurture Assumption tackles the biggest mystery in all of psychology: What makes people differ so much in personality and behavior? It can’t just be “nature and nurture,” because even identical twins who grow up together—same genes, same parents—have different personalities. And if psychologists can’t explain why identical twins are different, they also can’t explain why each of us differs from everyone else. Why no two people are alike.

Harris turns out to be well suited for the role of detective—it isn’t easy to pull the wool over her eyes. She rounds up the usual suspects and shows why none of the currently popular explanations for human differences—birth order effects, for example, or interactions between genes and environment—can be the perpetrator she is looking for. None of these theories can solve the mystery of human individuality.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Darwin’s Blind Spot

Darwin’s Blind Spot: Evolution Beyond Natural Selection by Frank Ryan

While Charles Darwin’s vision of evolution was brilliant, natural selection ignores a crucial force that helps to explain the diversity and wonder of life: symbiosis. In Darwin’s Blind Spot, Frank Ryan shows how the blending of life forms through symbiosis has resulted in gigantic leaps in evolution. The dependence of many flowering plants on insects and birds for pollination is an important instance of symbiosis. More surprising may be the fact that our cells have incorporated bacteria that allow us to breathe oxygen. And the equivalent of symbiosis within a species — cooperation — has been a vital, although largely ignored, force in human evolution. In Ryan’s view, cooperation, not competition, lies at the heart of human society.

Ryan mixes stories of the many strange and beautiful results of symbiosis with accounts of the dramatic historic rivalries over the expansion of Darwin’s theory. He also examines controversial research being done today, including studies suggesting that symbiosis among viruses led to the evolution of mammals and thus of humans. Too often Darwin’s interpreters have put excessive emphasis on competition and struggle as the only forces in evolution. But the idea of “survival of the fittest” does not always reign. Symbiosis is critically important to the richness of Earth’s life forms.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Man’s Search For Meaning

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of others he treated later in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl’s theory-known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos (“meaning”)-holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.

At the time of Frankl’s death in 1997, Man’s Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey for the Library of Congress that asked readers to name a “book that made a difference in your life” found Man’s Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: The Blind Watchmaker

The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design by Richard Dawkins

Twenty years after its original publication, The Blind Watchmaker, framed with a new introduction by the author, is as prescient and timely a book as ever. The watchmaker belongs to the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley, who argued that just as a watch is too complicated and functional to have sprung into existence by accident, so too must all living things, with their far greater complexity, be purposefully designed. Charles Darwin’s brilliant discovery challenged the creationist arguments; but only Richard Dawkins could have written this elegant riposte. Natural selection—the unconscious, automatic, blind, yet essentially nonrandom process Darwin discovered—has no purpose in mind. If it can be said to play the role of a watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker in nature.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Judgment in Managerial Decision Making

Judgment in Managerial Decision Making by Max H. Bazerman

In situations requiring careful judgment, every individual is influenced by their own biases to some extent. With Bazerman’s new seventh edition, readers can quickly learn how to overcome those biases to make better managerial decisions. The book examines judgment in a variety of organizational contexts, and provides practical strategies for changing and improving decision-making processes so that they become part of one’s permanent behavior.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: The Language Instinct

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

In this classic, the world’s expert on language and mind lucidly explains everything you always wanted to know about language: how it works, how children learn it, how it changes, how the brain computes it, and how it evolved. With deft use of examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution. The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association and the Public Interest Award from the Linguistics Society of America. This edition includes an update on advances in the science of language since The Language Instinct was first published.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Master of the Game

Master of the Game: Steve Ross and the Creation of Time Warner by Connie Bruck

In a career that began in Brooklyn and spanned Wall Street, Hollywood, and the Mafia, Ross built his father-in-law’s funeral business and a parking lot company into Time Warner, the largest media and entertainment company in the world. Hard-hitting and compulsive reading, this book takes you into the heart of what made this arrogant yet irresistible man tick.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: In The Plex

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy

Written with full cooperation from top management, including cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, this is the inside story behind Google, the most successful and most admired technology company of our time, told by one of our best technology writers.

Few companies in history have ever been as successful and as admired as Google, the company that has transformed the Internet and become an indispensable part of our lives. How has Google done it? Veteran technology reporter Steven Levy was granted unprecedented access to the company, and in this revelatory book he takes readers inside Google headquarters—the Googleplex—to show how Google works.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: A Universe out of Nothing

A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss

Bestselling author and acclaimed physicist Lawrence Krauss offers a paradigm-shifting view of how everything that exists came to be in the first place.

“Where did the universe come from? What was there before it? What will the future bring? And finally, why is there something rather than nothing?”

One of the few prominent scientists today to have crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss describes the staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories that demonstrate not only can something arise from nothing, something will always arise from nothing. With a new preface about the significance of the discovery of the Higgs particle, A Universe from Nothing uses Krauss’s characteristic wry humor and wonderfully clear explanations to take us back to the beginning of the beginning, presenting the most recent evidence for how our universe evolved—and the implications for how it’s going to end.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Barbarians at the Gate

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco by Bryan Burrough

A #1 New York Times bestseller and arguably the best business narrative ever written, Barbarians at the Gate is the classic account of the fall of RJR Nabisco. An enduring masterpiece of investigative journalism by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar, it includes a new afterword by the authors that brings this remarkable story of greed and double-dealings up to date twenty years after the famed deal. The Los Angeles Times calls Barbarians at the Gate, “Superlative.” The Chicago Tribune raves, “It’s hard to imagine a better story…and it’s hard to imagine a better account.” And in an era of spectacular business crashes and federal bailouts, it still stands as a valuable cautionary tale that must be heeded.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: The Outsiders

The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike

What makes a successful CEO? Most people call to mind a familiar definition: “a seasoned manager with deep industry expertise.” Others might point to the qualities of today’s so-called celebrity CEOs—charisma, virtuoso communication skills, and a confident management style. But what really matters when you run an organization? What is the hallmark of exceptional CEO performance? Quite simply, it is the returns for the shareholders of that company over the long term.

In this refreshing, counterintuitive book, author Will Thorndike brings to bear the analytical wisdom of a successful career in investing, closely evaluating the performance of companies and their leaders. You will meet eight individualistic CEOs whose firms’ average returns outperformed the S&P 500 by a factor of twenty—in other words, an investment of $10,000 with each of these CEOs, on average, would have been worth over $1.5 million twenty-five years later. You may not know all their names, but you will recognize their companies: General Cinema, Ralston Purina, The Washington Post Company, Berkshire Hathaway, General Dynamics, Capital Cities Broadcasting, TCI, and Teledyne. In The Outsiders, you’ll learn the traits and methods—striking for their consistency and relentless rationality—that helped these unique leaders achieve such exceptional performance.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Distant Force

Distant Force: A Memoir of the Teledyne Corporation and the Man Who Created It by George A. Roberts

Dr. Roberts searched his archive of corporate documents – shareholder financieal reports, records of management and board meetings, letters, drafts of speeches, the copious notes that he personally kept during his tenure as president and later CEO, as well as his own memory – to construct this memoir. He describes the first decade of aggressive acquisitions and diversification; Henry’s reasons for adding financial institutions to his highly technical mix; his controversial program of aggressive stock buy-backs; the spin-off to shareholders of certain entities which greatly broadened their flexibility in handling their investments (many of which still provide income today); and finally the difficult days of whistle blower suits, hostile takeover atttempts, and the finally friendly merger with Allegheny Steel Company.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Hard Drive

Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire by James Wallace

The true story behind the rise of a tyrannical genius, how he transformed an industry, and why everyone is out to get him.In this fascinating exposé, two investigative reporters trace the hugely successful career of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Part entrepreneur, part enfant terrible, Gates has become the most powerful — and feared — player in the computer industry, and arguably the richest man in America. In Hard Drive, investigative reporters Wallace and Erickson follow Gates from his days as an unkempt thirteen-year-old computer hacker to his present-day status as a ruthless billionaire CEO. More than simply a “revenge of the nerds” story though, this is a balanced analysis of a business triumph, and a stunningly driven personality. The authors have spoken to everyone who knows anything about Bill Gates and Microsoft — from childhood friends to employees and business rivals who reveal the heights, and limits, of his wizardry. From Gates’s singular accomplishments to his equally extraordinary brattiness, arrogance, and hostility (the atmosphere is so intense at Microsoft that stressed-out programmers have been known to ease the tension of their eighty-hour workweeks by exploding homemade bombs), this is a uniquely revealing glimpse of the person who has emerged as the undisputed king of a notoriously brutal industry.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Fortune’s Formula

Fortune’s Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street by William Poundstone

In 1956 two Bell Labs scientists discovered the scientific formula for getting rich. One was mathematician Claude Shannon, neurotic father of our digital age, whose genius is ranked with Einstein’s. The other was John L. Kelly Jr., a Texas-born, gun-toting physicist. Together they applied the science of information theory–the basis of computers and the Internet–to the problem of making as much money as possible, as fast as possible.

Shannon and MIT mathematician Edward O. Thorp took the “Kelly formula” to Las Vegas. It worked. They realized that there was even more money to be made in the stock market. Thorp used the Kelly system with his phenomenonally successful hedge fund, Princeton-Newport Partners. Shannon became a successful investor, too, topping even Warren Buffett’s rate of return. Fortune’s Formula traces how the Kelly formula sparked controversy even as it made fortunes at racetracks, casinos, and trading desks. It reveals the dark side of this alluring scheme, which is founded on exploiting an insider’s edge.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Conspiracy of Fools

Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald

From an award-winning New York Times reporter comes the full, mind-boggling story of the lies, crimes, and ineptitude behind the spectacular scandal that imperiled a presidency, destroyed a marketplace, and changed Washington and Wall Street forever . . .

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: The Martians of Science

Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century by Istvan Hargittai

If science has the equivalent of a Bloomsbury group, it is the five men born at the turn of the twentieth century in Budapest: Theodore von Kármán, Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, John von Neumann, and Edward Teller. From Hungary to Germany to the United States, they remained friends and continued to work together and influence each other throughout their lives. As a result, their work was integral to some of the most important scientific and political developments of the twentieth century.

István Hargittai tells the story of this remarkable group: Wigner won a Nobel Prize in theoretical physics; Szilard was the first to see that a chain reaction based on neutrons was possible, initiated the Manhattan Project, but left physics to try to restrict nuclear arms; von Neumann could solve difficult problems in his head and developed the modern computer for more complex problems; von Kármán became the first director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, providing the scientific basis for the U.S. Air Force; and Teller was the father of the hydrogen bomb, whose name is now synonymous with the controversial “Star Wars” initiative of the 1980s. Each was fiercely opinionated, politically active, and fought against all forms of totalitarianism.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Einstein

Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson

How did his mind work? What made him a genius? Isaacson’s biography shows how his scientific imagination sprang from the rebellious nature of his personality. His fascinating story is a testament to the connection between creativity and freedom.

Based on newly released personal letters of Einstein, this book explores how an imaginative, impertinent patent clerk—a struggling father in a difficult marriage who couldn’t get a teaching job or a doctorate—became the mind reader of the creator of the cosmos, the locksmith of the mysteries of the atom, and the universe. His success came from questioning conventional wisdom and marveling at mysteries that struck others as mundane. This led him to embrace a morality and politics based on respect for free minds, free spirits, and free individuals.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: Getting It Done

Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge by Roger Fisher

Let’s face it. In this chaotic world of teams, matrix management, and horizontal organizations, it’s tougher than ever to get things done. How do you lead when you’re not the one in charge? How can you be effective when joint action is needed? You need an edge in order to reach solutions and effectively work with others.

Charlie Munger’s book recommendation: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (Dover Thrift Editions) by Benjamin Franklin

Blessed with enormous talents and the energy and ambition to go with them, Franklin was a statesman, author, inventor, printer, and scientist. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and later was involved in negotiating the peace treaty with Britain that ended the Revolutionary War. He also invented bifocals, a stove that is still manufactured, a water-harmonica, and the lightning rod.

Franklin’s extraordinary range of interests and accomplishments are brilliantly recorded in his Autobiography, considered one of the classics of the genre. Covering his life up to his prewar stay in London as representative of the Pennsylvania Assembly, this charming self-portrait recalls Franklin’s boyhood, his determination to achieve high moral standards, his work as a printer, experiments with electricity, political career, experiences during the French and Indian War, and more. Related in an honest, open, unaffected style, this highly readable account offers a wonderfully intimate glimpse of the Founding Father sometimes called “the wisest American.”

Nineteen More Book Recommendations from Charlie Munger