By MICHELLE LODGE
Aug. 15, 2022
There is no shortage of interest in finance books. Sales of business and economics print books reached a 10-year high, accounting for a quarter of all nonfiction unit volume and realized a 10% raise from 2021, according to the market research firm the NPD Group. Business is the second-highest category in print publishing after books about religion. This large, complex print category has 100 categories and 200 sub-categories.
To help you sort through these offerings, we’ve put together a list of the best—everything from a biography, how-to’s on managing money and investments, a lively reference book about cryptocurrency, policies that impact economics, scandals and personalities laid bare, and the thinking behind decision-making in the stock market and other areas, as well as the all-time best book on negotiating. These books, written by authors of diverse backgrounds, offer the most comprehensive picture and the freshest insights to provide a broad perspective on the economy in these complicated and high-risk times and will help you make better financial choices.
Best Overall: No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram
Sarah Frier's No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram. ranks as the best overall book on our list of fine finance books. The title doesn't do the book justice, because it's so much more than a book about two smart tech guys creating a novel app and then selling it to Facebook.
Through her well-written and -reported prose, Frier, the Bloomberg editor in charge of Big Tech coverage, tackles the significance of social media—how it can alter the outcomes of elections, impact the self-esteem and behavior of followers who don't have the seemingly perfect lives of celebrities and influencers, and, generally, hurt society, when it professes to do the opposite. She also takes us inside Facebook, especially profiling its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who Instagram's co-founder Kevin Systrom, called the most strategic thinker he's every met. A gripping read.
“If Facebook was about friendships, and Twitter was about opinions, then Instagram was about experiences—anyone could be interested in anyone’s visual experiences, anywhere in the world,” Frier writes in her tale of app envy among Silicon Valley leaders. In 2010, Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger and Systrom were coming to terms with the scope of their online creation, a social media app for photos and video that led Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to acquire it for $1 billion two years later.
Systrom stayed on after the sale and tried to preserve the app’s initial intent of a way station for beautiful images, but he clashed with Zuckerberg, who wanted to grow Instagram, while keeping it from overshadowing the parent. “Facebook was like the big sister that wants to dress you up for a party, but does not want you to be prettier than she is,” an unnamed former Instagram executive is quoted in the book. Instagram comes out poorly, too, as its images of “perfect-looking” women caused some its followers to seek out cosmetic surgery, and opioids were sold through its site for several years.
Silicon Valley’s workings are thoroughly reported, thanks to Frier’s extensive interviews with venture capitalists and tech executives and Instagram influencers and celebrities. Accolades poured in for No Filter: It was named the best business book in 2020 by the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book, and received equally effusive attention from Fortune, The Economist, Inc., and NPR.
Best on Personal Finance: Rich Dad Poor Dad
As any investor knows, it’s not how much money you make, but how much you keep—a main premise of Rich Dad Poor Dad, now published in a 20th anniversary edition. This conversational book—which considers being financially literate crucial to acquiring wealth—cites the lessons from a “rich dad,” a friend’s father who rises from humble beginnings to create a lucrative business and a capitalist, and a “poor dad,” Robert T. Kiyosaki's own father, who was a highly educated government employee his entire working life and a socialist.
Kiyosaki obviously took the “rich dad'' lessons to heart in co-writing what’s still considered, after 25 years, a top personal finance book. Chapter 2 questions the “American dream” of house ownership by spelling out Kiyosaki’s controversial argument that owning a house is a financial liability, not an asset, because paying for and maintaining it is a drain on finances, while Chapter 4 delves into the history of taxes and the power of corporations. He says that having financial literacy means a broad understanding of accounting and investing and knowing the markets and the law.
Each chapter ends with a “Study Session,” which reviews the material and poses questions. Rich Dad spent nearly seven years on the New York Times bestseller list, one of the first self-published books to land there. “It [offers] useful information for a generation on the brink of making important financial decisions,” says Eric Estevez, a member of Investopedia’s Financial Review Board and an independent insurance broker. “Robert has a track record of breaking down complex financial concepts into simple explanations.”
Best Cryptocurrency Reference: The Basics of Bitcoins and Blockchains
You can judge this book by its cover because it delivers on its title, resulting in a comprehensive, lively must-have reference book on cryptocurrencies. Antony Lewis, a former technologist at Credit Suisse in Singapore and London, left banking to join the startup iBit, where clients buy and sell Bitcoins, and has never looked back.
His nine-chapter book starts with defining money—followed by definitions of digital money, cryptography, cryptocurrencies, digital tokens, and blockchains—and illustrates points with pictures, graphs, tables, pie charts, and infographics. He suggests, for example, that Bitcoin be called an “electronic asset” because “the word currency often sidetracks people when they are trying to understand Bitcoin. They get caught up trying to understand aspects of conventional currencies which do not apply to Bitcoin, which backs it (nothing) and who sets the interest rates (there is none)."
Investopedia’s Vinamrata Chaturvedi, senior editor overseeing blockchain and cryptocurrency, says this about the book: “There are many questions we have when thinking about blockchain. This book answers all of them. It explains how blockchain technology works and why cryptocurrencies are the future of money.”
Lewis freely admits that he “loves the industry” of crypto assets, Bitcoins, and blockchains, yet he also cautions about the very real dangers to investors. In a section called “Scams,” he lays out the swindles of Ponzi schemes, exit and fake scams, Pump & Dumps, scam initial coin offerings (ICOs), spoof ICOs, scam mining schemes, and fake (digital) wallets. “People have made and lost fortunes trading cryptocurrencies and investing in ICOs, but there are many risks,” he writes. “If you do decide to get involved, be careful and do a lot of research before committing your money.”
Best for Investing: A Random Walk Down Wall Street
Burton G. Malkiel is an economics professor, a former director at Vanguard, and a former dean of the Yale School of Management, yet his most recognizable contribution to finance is his Random Walk book, originally published in 1973 and, as of 2019, in its twelfth edition. If you wait for Jan. 3, 2023, you can get the 50th anniversary edition in a green, not yellow, cover, the one pictured above.
“A random walk is one in which future steps or directions cannot be predicted on the basis of past history,” writes Malkiel. “When the term is applied to the stock market, it means that short-run changes in stock prices are unpredictable.” Sound familiar?
Amy Drury, a member of Investopedia’s Financial Review Board, and CEO and founder of the financial-training company OnPoint Learning, who recommended the book, had this to say, “I re-read this recently and found that it was a pretty comprehensive overview about finance and investing. It is very dense, so maybe not one to take to the beach, but it is great as a reference book to dip into on specific topics.”
Best Personal Finance Disaster Management: What to Do With Your Money When Crisis Hits
There are two ways to read Michelle Singletary’s personal finance book, and both are right: You can tackle it from start to finish or dive into the topics that are the most pressing first and then read the rest. In her Survival Guide—an outgrowth of her nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money,” for The Washington Post—Singletary covers how to manage money and deal with crises, using a question-and-answer format, which delivers authoritative, straightforward, and actionable answers.
When money is tight, Singletary advises triaging: assessing what must be paid for, such as having food on the table, and dealing with remaining creditors directly by working out payment plans. What’s especially impressive about her book is that it serves a wide range of readers—those who enjoy hefty incomes and live beyond their means, rank newcomers to financial self-care, and everyone in between.
Its “Resources” chapter lists organizations, companies, and government agencies that offer information and, as needed, possible relief for the consumer. “Very timely, relevant, practical and helpful” is how Marguerita M. Cheng, CEO of Blue Ocean Global Wealth, describes the book.
Best Global Perspective: The Silk Roads: A New History of the World
To the uninitiated, the words "silk roads" may conjure up the deep beauty of shimmering silk fabric in exotic locales. The reality is quite different. In his 2015 book, Oxford University global history professor Peter Frankopan weaves a complex tale across centuries about fearless merchants, middlemen, soldiers, and leaders—many of whom traveled on life-challenging passages across treacherous terrain throughout the Middle East, China, the Balkans, and South Asia with the added provocations of unpredictable weather and peoples, crime and life-threatening disease, and even the proselytizing by clergy of religions old and brand-new, which led to deadly power grabs and wars.
So valued was silk that it became an international currency, when others, such as grain, failed. Through the centuries, new cities sprouted and others faltered. The simple purpose, of course, was commerce.
“The Silk Roads refocuses our attention on a region that has always and will always play a critical (and defining) role in the global economy,” says David M. Roth, CEO of the Wakaya Group, a former director of FIJI Water in Fiji, and an entrepreneur-in-residence at INSEAD. “Frankopan also helps us contextualize and make sense of current events within the long arc of human history. To paraphrase [Democratic political operative] James Carville, it is and always has been about the economy.” A follow-up from Frankopan is The New Silk Roads: The New Asia and the Remaking of the World Order (Vintage, 2018).
Best on the Dangers of the Gender Data Gap: Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed by Men
In this absorbing book—named 2019’s Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year and a London Times bestseller, British journalist and activist Caroline Criado Perez spells out how the data gender gap accounts for disadvantages for women worldwide, costing companies and governments plenty in missed opportunities and productivity. It shows how this bias can yield an unhappy workforce and populace, and result in unnecessary illnesses, and even deaths, among women.
“The stories we tell ourselves are marked—disfigured—by a female-shaped ‘absent’ presence,” writes Criado Perez, who draws on numerous research studies. “This is the gender data gap.” Practically speaking, that means that medical studies—which often include miners and construction workers, mostly male, and leave out cleaning staff and nail-salon workers, mostly female—still largely focus on men as the default, leaving doctors to estimate drug dosages and treatments for women. In addition, car-safety systems are designed for the larger male body, causing additional injuries for female drivers in the event of an accident. The same is true of personal protective equipment, which leaves female police officers, for example, unprotected on duty as bulletproof vests often don’t fit them.
Even transportation systems are geared to the male breadwinner driving a car. Meanwhile, women, due to the care of children and the elderly and grocery shopping, are left to rely on a usually time-consuming and inefficient public transportation, and to walk. One success story was a change in the order of snow-clearing practices in the Swedish town Karlskoga. The governing body decided to clear snow from sidewalks before roadways. That’s because pedestrians, two-thirds of whom were women, sustained injuries, mostly through falls, three times more often in the winter. The estimated cost of all these falls in a single winter season was some $4 million.
Criado Perez maintains that using the male default isn’t intentional, but ingrained. However, the next time you see a female colleague wrapped in a blanket in the office, while male workers are simply wearing their regular clothes, know that the data gender gap is partly to blame.
Best Biography: The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life
Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, the so-called “Oracle of Omaha,” has had volumes in many languages written about him. Yet his personal life from the earliest days and beyond remained a mystery until Alice Schroeder penned this eloquent biography at Buffett’s invitation. “Whenever my version is different from somebody else’s, Alice, use the less flattering version,” Buffett advised Schroeder.
This New York Times bestseller traces Buffett’s French Huguenot and German heritage, whose family motto was likely “spend less than you make,” with the addendum of “don’t go into debt.” She goes from his birth 10 months after the 1929 Crash to his unconventional marriage and fatherhood, to his many deals and the circus-like atmosphere surrounding Berkshire Hathaway’s popular shareholders meetings. Buffett credits his success with “intelligent parents'' and having “luck.” Yet the numbers-loving Buffett had, by age 10, figured out that having money meant coveted independence, the basics of buying and selling stocks, and how equity’s volatility can impact an investor. His metaphor for compounding is a snowball in wet snow that gathers strength and heft as it rolls down the hill. Still working 81 years later, Buffett is one of the world’s richest men with an estimated net worth of $99.7 billion.
Best Origin Story: Trillions
“Over the past decade, 80 cents of every dollar that has gone into the U.S. investment industry has ended up at Vanguard, State Street, and BlackRock,” writes Robin Wigglesworth, editor of the Financial Times’ Alphaville, a news and commentary service for financial professionals. Wigglesworth’s compelling book tracks the beginning of index funds to the current day and ponders what their dominance means.
Wigglesworth begins by introducing a cast of 32 characters, among them, only two women— Jeanne Sinquefield, who designed derivatives, and former Barclays Global Investors CEO Pattie Dunn. Other key players: “early-twentieth-century French mathematician Louis Bachelier, whose work on the ‘random walk’ of stocks would make him the intellectual godfather of passive investing;” Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett, who won a 10-year-old bet with Ted Seides of Protege Partners in 2017 that the returns of index funds would outstrip those of a basket of hedge funds; and Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard, often called “Saint Jack” because his company offered index funds to the public en masse. At the end of his life, Bogle questioned the value of index funds, but defended them, too. “It’s hard to know how big we can get, and the consequences….,” he said. “But to solve this, we should not destroy the greatest invention in the history of finance.”
Best for Decision-Making Skills: Thinking, Fast and Slo
Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist by training. However, his work on prospect theory earned him a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, an award he acknowledges he would have shared with collaborator Amos Twersky, had Twersky lived, and with whom he also explored heuristics in judgment and decision-making. Prospect theory means that investors value gains and losses differently, placing more weight on perceived gains than perceived losses.
His research also led him to conclude that women make better investors than men because they hold on to their investments, whereas men panic and sell when the market dips, thereby missing out on upswings. Kahneman estimates that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day—the fast kind, such as when to get up, what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, and the slow kind, that involve deliberative thinking, such as whether and whom to marry, which career to pursue, or where to live.
This data-heavy book, thoughtful and cerebral, is also full of anecdotes about Kahneman’s life of research and experiences. In 2016, Michael Lewis published The Undoing Project: A Friendship That Changed Our Minds, on the close partnership of Kahneman and Twersky.
Best Read on Scoundrels and Saviors: The Predators' Ball
Today’s younger readers may only know Michael Milken as an advocate for prostate-cancer research and the founder of the Milken Institute, a think tank that promotes market-based principles and everything from financial innovations to social issues. When New Yorker writer Connie Bruck’s gripping book was published, life was very different for Milken. He was fighting off federal charges of securities and tax violations. He had been the junk bond king who underwrote some of the biggest corporate raiders, such as Ronald Perelman and Carl Icahn, during the height of junk bonds’ popularity and the leveraged buyout boom. So concerned was Milken about Bruck’s reporting, that he offered to pay her for all the book’s copies sold in exchange for not publishing it. He was right to be scared.
The book chronicles how Milken built the junk-bond market and supported the corporate-raider culture, while working 18-hour days from his Southern California office, as well as his precipitous fall leading to a plea deal in 1990. In addition to Milken, the characters include Apollo Management’s Leon Black, KKR & Co.’s Henry Kravis, Loews Corporation’s Laurence Tisch, stock trader Ivan Boesky, and Rudy Giuliani, then the crusading United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Former President Donald J. Trump granted Milken a full pardon in 2020. A meticulous retelling of the era that spawned the sentiment “greed is good.”
Best for Dealmakers: Getting to Yes
This classic book uses the words of poet Wallace Stevens to lay out its premise: “After the final no there comes a yes and on the yes the future of the world depends.” Getting to Yes, which debuted in 1981 and has been revised since, is the finest book on how to advocate for what you want with skill, integrity, and success.
It offers tips on developing a cordial relationship with the other side, that is, being a person not the entity you represent—while avoiding the trap of being “nice” and getting walked all over, and deflecting and moving beyond the aggressive tactics of unscrupulous negotiators. Most helpful are examples of simple dealings in which the parameters of what’s at stake are expanded, the pie gets bigger, so to speak, so that both parties end up with more than they first asked for.
Underneath these outcomes are four steps: separating people from the problem; focusing on interests, not positions; inventing multiple options representing multiple gains for both sides; and insisting that the results be based on an objective standard.
Why Trust Investopedia?
Michelle Lodge is steeped in the book and book-reviewing world. She has been published in Publishers Weekly and was an editor and writer for Library Journal, both of which cover books and the industry. While a book-review editor at LJ, which recommends books for public library collections, she selected a number of fine business books for review. She was also the editor of the On Wall Street Book Club, in which she reviewed books and interviewed authors on a podcast.
A burgeoning field of business and economics books needs many “heads” to cull out notable selections and pull it all together. Lodge marshaled the resources, in which she considered recommendations from Investopedia Financial Review Board members and Investopedia editors, business executives, bestseller lists from the Financial Times, The New York Times, The [London] Times, and others, as well as her own experience as a book-review editor. She also pulled three books from her own library—Getting to Yes, The Predators’ Ball, and Thinking, Fast and Slow. Her aim is to cover the bases in subject matter and expertise and tap into a diverse pool of writers, whose coverage reveals the impact on investing, while also ensuring that each selection is a good read.