Top 25 Wall Street Books
This complete guide to the top 25 Wall Street books is more than just entertainment; it’s an education.
Harvard isn't worth the money. "The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." – Dr. Seuss. The corporate world, Wall Street, and the complex weave of today's global corporate culture require an education far beyond what the great business schools and universities presently offer. Perhaps the best way to prepare yourself for the future of industry and business is to study its past intrigue and sometime tragedy. The following 25 Wall Street books are hand-picked from Frommer's personal collection of favorites. Save the tuition, read the books.
DiCaprio's performance in The Wolf of Wall Street wasn't quite good enough to take home an Oscar. This film rendition of the novel was virtually shut out of the Academy Awards, earning 5 nominations–including Best Actor for Leo–and walking away with none. Matthew McConaughey, who also starred in the film, won Best Actor for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. Leo has been nominated twice before in the Best Actor category for The Aviator in 2005 and Blood Diamond in 2007. In those years he lost out to Jamie Foxx in Ray and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland-two towering and career-defining performances, much like Tommy Lee Jones’ in The Fugitive which denied him earlier in his career when he was nominated for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The 40-year old is not losing any sleep over the elusive award, however. After the Oscars he was spotted partying poolside. He's set to star as a rugged frontiersman on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling in The Revenant later this year.
James C. Collins' incredible narrative lays down the foundations for all companies to follow in order to become exceptional. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't is a management book that aims to describe how companies transition from being average companies to great companies and how companies can fail to make the transition. The book was published on October 16, 2001 by William Collins. "Greatness" is defined as financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period. Collins finds the main factor for achieving the transition to be a narrow focusing of the company’s resources on their field of competence. The book was a massive bestseller, selling four million copies and going far beyond the traditional audience of business books. Collins used a large team of researchers who studied "6,000 articles, generated more than 2,000 pages of interview transcripts and created 384 megabytes of computer data in a five-year project." The book was "cited by several members of The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council as the best management book they've read." Publishers Weekly called it "worthwhile", although "many of Collins's perspectives on running a business are amazingly simple and commonsense". Similarly, Holt and Cameron state the book provides a "generic business recipe" that ignores "particular strategic opportunities and challenges." Steven D. Levitt notes that some of the companies selected as "great" have since got into serious trouble, such as Circuit City, while only Nucor had "dramatically outperformed the stock market" and that "Abbott Labs and Wells Fargo have done okay". He further states that investing in the portfolio of the 11 companies covered by the book, in the year of 2001, would actually result in underperforming the S&P 500 Levitt concludes that books like this are "mostly backward-looking" and can't offer a guide for the future."
Get ready to bring down the house in Ben Mezrich's awesome book about the MIT Blackjack team. Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions is a book by Ben Mezrich about a group of MIT card counters commonly known as the MIT Blackjack Team. Though the book is classified as non-fiction, the Boston Globe alleges that the book contains significant fictional elements, that many of the key events propelling the drama did not occur in real life and that others were exaggerated greatly. The book's main character is Kevin Lewis, an MIT graduate who was invited to join the MIT Blackjack Team in 1993. Lewis was recruited by two of the team's top players, Jason Fisher and Andre Martinez. The team was financed by a colorful character named Micky Rosa, who had organized at least one other team to play the Vegas strip. This new team was the most profitable yet. Personality conflicts and card counting deterrent efforts at the casinos eventually ended this incarnation of the MIT Blackjack Team. A film adaptation of the book, titled 21 (so as not to cause confusion with the unrelated 2003 Queen Latifah vehicle Bringing Down the House), was released in theaters on March 28, 2008.
Wall Street professionals must add Liar's Poker their list. Liar's Poker is a non-fiction, semi-autobiographical book by Michael Lewis describing the author's experiences as a bond salesman on Wall Street during the late 1980s. First published in 1989, it is considered one of the books that defined Wall Street during the 1980s, along with Bryan Burrough and John Helyar's Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, and Tom Wolfe’s fictional The Bonfire of the Vanities. The book captures an important period in the history of Wall Street. Two important figures in that history feature prominently in the text: the head of Salomon Brothers' mortgage department Lewis Ranieri and the firm's CEO John Gutfreund. The book's title references the eponymous high-stakes gambling game popular with the bond traders in Lewis’s account. Liar's Poker follows two different story threads, though not necessarily in chronological order. The first thread is autobiographical, and follows Lewis through his college education and his hiring by Salomon Brothers in 1984. This part of the book gives a first-person account of how bond traders and salesmen truly work, their personalities, and their culture. The book captures well an important period in the history of Wall Street. Important figures in that history feature prominently in the text: John Meriwether, mortgage department head Lewis Ranieri, and firm CEO John Gutfreund. The second thread is a history of Salomon Brothers and an overview of Wall Street in general, especially how the firm single-handedly created a market for mortgage bonds that made the firm wealthy, only to be outdone by Michael Milken and his junk bonds. This thread is less dependent on Lewis' personal experience than the first and features quotes ostensibly drawn from interviews with various relevant figures.
Raymond Kurzweil discusses the future of technology and the inevitable technological singularity. Raymond "Ray" Kurzweil (born February 12, 1948) is an American author, computer scientist, inventor, futurist, and is a director of engineering at Google. Aside from futurology, he is involved in fields such as optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis, speech recognition technology, and electronic keyboard instruments. He has written books on health, artificial intelligence (AI), transhumanism, the technological singularity, and futurism. Kurzweil is a public advocate for the futurist and transhumanist movements, as has been displayed in his vast collection of public talks, wherein he has shared his primarily optimistic outlooks on life extension technologies and the future of nanotechnology, robotics, and biotechnology. Kurzweil was the principal inventor of the first Charge-coupled device flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first commercial text-to-speech synthesizer, the Kurzweil K250 music synthesizer capable of simulating the sound of the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition.
Dante's Inferno is a must-read for those seeking to venture through the hell of Wall Street. Inferno is the first part of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul toward God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin.
For some of the best lessons on managing corporate politics, all aspiring CEOs must read The Prince, a 16th-century political treatise by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli. From correspondence a version appears to have been distributed in 1513, using a Latin title, De Principatibus (About Principalities). However, the printed version was not published until 1532, five years after Machiavelli's death. This was done with the permission of the Medici pope Clement VII, but "long before then, in fact since the first appearance of the Prince in manuscript, controversy had swirled about his writings". Although it was written as if it were a traditional work in the mirrors for princes style, it is generally agreed that it was especially innovative. This is only partly because it was written in the vernacular Italian rather than Latin, a practice which had become increasingly popular since the publication of Dante's Divine Comedy and other works of Renaissance literature. The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It was also in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time concerning how to consider politics and ethics. Although it is relatively short, the treatise is the most remembered of Machiavelli's works and the one most responsible for bringing the word "Machiavellian" into usage as a pejorative. It also helped make "Old Nick" an English term for the devil, and even contributed to the modern negative connotations of the words "politics" and "politician" in western countries. In terms of subject matter it overlaps with the much longer Discourses on Livy, which was written a few years later. In its use of near-contemporary Italians as examples of people who perpetrated criminal deeds for politics, another lesser-known work by Machiavelli which The Prince has been compared to is the Life of Castruccio Castracani. The descriptions within The Prince have the general theme of accepting that the aims of princes—such as glory and survival—can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends.
The greedy dog is only one of Aesop's many fables that is a relevant lesson that all executives should keep in mind. Aesop's Fables or the Aesopica is a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. Of diverse origins, the stories associated with Aesop's name have descended to modern times through a number of sources. They continue to be reinterpreted in different verbal registers and in popular as well as artistic mediums. The Greek historian Herodotus mentioned in passing that "Aesop the fable writer" was a slave who lived in Ancient Greece during the 5th century BCE. Among references in other writers, Aristophanes, in his comedy The Wasps, represented the protagonist Philocleon as having learnt the "absurdities" of Aesop from conversation at banquets; Plato wrote in Phaedo that Socrates whiled away his jail time turning some of Aesop's fables "which he knew" into verses. Nonetheless, for two main reasons – because numerous morals within Aesop's attributed fables contradict each other, and because ancient accounts of Aesop's life contradict each other – the modern view is that Aesop did not solely compose all those fables attributed to him, if he even existed at all. Instead, any fable tended to be ascribed to the name of Aesop if there was no known alternative literary source.Wall Street professionals must read Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist. The Alchemist is a novel by Paulo Coelho first published in the year 1988. Originally written in Portuguese by its Brazilian-born author, it has been translated into at least 67 languages as of October 2009. An allegorical novel, The Alchemist follows a young Andalusian shepherd named Santiago in his journey to Egypt, after having a recurring dream of finding treasure there. The book is an international bestseller. According to AFP, it has sold more than 65 million copies in 56 different languages, becoming one of the best-selling books in history and setting the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author. Coelho wrote The Alchemist in only two weeks in 1987. He explained he was able to write at this pace because the story was "already written in [his] soul." The basic story of The Alchemist appears in previous works. In 1935, the Argentine writer, Jorge Luis Borges, published a short story called Tale of Two Dreamers in which two men dream of the other's treasure. Another version appeared in E. W. Lane's translation of The Thousand and One Nights. The story also appeared in Rumi's story, "In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad". A similar parable can also be found in a Jewish Chassidic story. The book's main theme is about finding one's destiny. According to The New York Times, The Alchemist is "more self-help than literature". An old king tells Santiago, "when you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true". This is the core of the novel's philosophy and a motif that plays all throughout Coelho's writing in The Alchemist.
Glengarry Glen Ross is a play by David Mamet that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1984. The play shows parts of two days in the lives of four desperate Chicago real estate agents who are prepared to engage in any number of unethical, illegal acts—from lies and flattery to bribery, threats, intimidation and burglary—to sell undesirable real estate to unwitting prospective buyers. It is based on Mamet's experience having previously worked in a similar office. The title comes from two real estate properties mentioned in the play: Glengarry Highlands, which is currently the prime real estate everyone is attempting to sell, and Glen Ross Farms, which is mentioned by several characters as having been very lucrative for those selling it several years ago. The world premiere was at the National Theatre in London on September 21, 1983 where Bill Bryden's production in the Cottesloe Theatre was acclaimed as a triumph of ensemble acting.
The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders, by Wall Street Journal writer Connie Bruck, largely recounts the rise of Michael Milken, his firm Drexel Burnham Lambert, and the leveraged buyout boom they helped to fuel in the 1980s. As the book was published at the apex of the leveraged buyout boom, it was subsequently updated to also address the impending collapse of Drexel Burnham and Michael Milken's conviction on various securities and reporting violations. The title of the book is a reference to an event that Drexel Burnham hosted annually. Among the participants in the Predator's Ball were an array of private equity investors, corporate raiders such as Ron Perelman and Carl Icahn as well as institutional investors in high-yield bonds and management teams from companies that either had been or would be the targets of leveraged buyouts.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a 1978 book by Harold Kushner, a Conservative rabbi. Kushner addresses in the book one of the principal problems of theodicy, the conundrum of why, if the universe was created and is governed by a God who is of a good and loving nature, there is nonetheless so much suffering and pain in it - essentially, the evidential problem of evil. The book is dedicated to the memory of his young son, Aaron, who died at the age of 14 in 1977 of the incurable genetic disease progeria. Rabbi Kushner's book was a New York Times bestseller for many months in the "nonfiction" category. Kushner seeks to offer comfort to grieving people. His answer to the philosophical problem is that God does his best and is with people in their suffering, but is not fully able to prevent it.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life is a biography about Warren Buffett by Alice Schroeder. Before this book was written, Warren Buffett rejected numerous approaches by biographers, journalists, and publishers to cooperate on an account of his life. After spending six years as the only Wall Street analyst Buffett would speak to, Alice Schroeder was approached by Buffett to write his biography. In 2003, she left her job at Morgan Stanley and traveled to Omaha to work on the book full-time. Schroeder spent over 2,000 hours reading Buffett's personal files while interviewing Buffett, his wife, children, sisters, friends, and business associates. Before Schroeder began writing, Buffett told her he would not ask for any revisions once the book was finished and, where accounts of his life differed, to always use the "less flattering version."
Cable Cowboy follows the story of John Malone as he sat at the forefront of the rise of the cable industry. John C. Malone is a billionaire American business executive, landowner and philanthropist. He served as chief executive officer (CEO) of Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI), a cable and media giant, for twenty-four years from 1973 to 1996. Malone is now chairman of Liberty Media, Liberty Global, and Liberty Interactive. He was interim CEO of Liberty Media, until succeeded by former Oracle CFO Greg Maffei. John C. Malone was born on March 7, 1941 in Milford, Connecticut. His father was Daniel L. Malone, an engineer. John Malone is of Irish Heritage. In 1959, Malone graduated from Hopkins School in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1963, he graduated at Yale University with a BA in electrical engineering and economics, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa and National Merit scholar. In 1964, Malone graduated at Johns Hopkins University with a MS in industrial management. He also received a MS in electrical engineering at an NYU program at Bell Labs in 1965 before receiving his PhD in operations research at Johns Hopkins in 1967.
Steve Jobs is the authorized self-titled biography book of Steve Jobs. The book was written at the request of Jobs by Walter Isaacson, a former executive at CNN and Time who has written best-selling biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—in addition to interviews with more than one hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Isaacson was given "unprecedented" access to Jobs's life. Jobs is said to have encouraged the people interviewed to speak honestly. Although Jobs cooperated with the book, he asked for no control over its content other than the book's cover, and waived the right to read it before it was published. The book was released on October 24, 2011, by Simon & Schuster in the United States. A film adaptation written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle stars Michael Fassbender in the title role.
The Art of War is an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu, a high-ranking military general, strategist and tactician. The text is composed of 13 chapters, each of which is devoted to one aspect of warfare. It is commonly known to be the definitive work on military strategy and tactics of its time. It has been the most famous and influential of China's Seven Military Classics, and "for the last two thousand years it remained the most important military treatise in Asia, where even the common people knew it by name." It has had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond. The book was first translated into the French language in 1772 by French Jesuit Jean Joseph Marie Amiot and a partial translation into English was attempted by British officer Everard Ferguson Calthrop in 1905. The first annotated English language translation was completed and published by Lionel Giles in 1910. Leaders as diverse as Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, General Douglas MacArthur and leaders of Imperial Japan have drawn inspiration from the work.
How to Win Friends and Influence People is one of the first best-selling self-help books ever published. Written by Dale Carnegie and first published in 1936, it has sold 15 million copies world-wide. Leon Shimkin of the publishing firm Simon & Schuster took one of the 14-week courses given by Carnegie in 1934. Shimkin persuaded Carnegie to let a stenographer take notes from the course to be revised for publication. In 1981, a new revised edition containing updated language and anecdotes was released. The revised edition reduced the number of sections from 6 to 4, eliminating sections on effective business letters and improving marital satisfaction.
McCormack, who was an was an American lawyer, sports agent and writer, wrote several books, including The Terrible Truth About Lawyers and What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School, which spent 21 consecutive weeks at #1 on The New York Times bestseller list. His annual publication The World of Professional Golf, first published in 1967, included an (unofficial) world ranking system. In his book What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School, McCormack tells a fictionalized story of a Harvard study in which the three percent of graduates who had clear, written goals earned ten times as much as the 97 percent who didn't have clear, written goals. McCormack and numerous motivational speakers, including Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy, have used various versions of this story in their presentations.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell, first published by Little Brown in 2000. Gladwell defines a tipping point as "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point". The book seeks to explain and describe the "mysterious" sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do". The examples of such changes in his book include the rise in popularity and sales of Hush Puppies shoes in the mid-1990s and the steep drop in New York City's crime rate after 1990.
American Psycho is a novel by Bret Easton Ellis, published in 1991. The story is told in the first person by Patrick Bateman, a serial killer and Manhattan businessman. A film adaptation starring Christian Bale was released in 2000 to generally favorable reviews. The Observer notes that while "some countries [deem it] so potentially disturbing that it can only be sold shrink-wrapped", "critics rave about it" and "academics revel in its transgressive and postmodern qualities." In 2008, it was confirmed that producers David Johnson and Jesse Singer were developing a musical adaptation of the novel to appear on Broadway. In January 2013, it was announced that this musical would open in London in December 2013. According to Hunter, American Psycho is largely a critique of the "shallow and vicious aspects of capitalism." The characters are predominately concerned with material gain and superficial appearances, traits indicative of a postmodern world in which the 'surface' reigns supreme. This leads Patrick Bateman to act as if "everything is a commodity, including people,"an attitude that is further evident in the rampant objectification of women that occurs in the novel. This distancing allows Bateman to rationalize his actions, in one anthropophagic scene, Bateman remarks "though it does sporadically penetrate how unacceptable some of what I'm doing actually is, I just remind myself that this thing, this girl, this meat, is nothing..."
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco is a book about the leveraged buyout (LBO) of RJR Nabisco, written by investigative journalists Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. The book is based upon a series of articles written by the authors for The Wall Street Journal. The book was later made into a made-for-TV movie by HBO, also called Barbarians at the Gate. The book centers on F. Ross Johnson, the CEO of RJR Nabisco, who planned to buy out the rest of the Nabisco shareholders. Those opposed to Johnson's bid for the company, Henry Kravis and his cousin George R. Roberts, were among the pioneers of the leveraged buyout. Kravis was the first person Johnson talked to about doing the LBO, and feels betrayed after learning that Johnson wants to do the deal with another firm, American Express's former Shearson Lehman Hutton division. Ted Forstmann and his Forstmann Little buyout firm also played a prominent role.
The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1987 novel by Tom Wolfe. The story is a drama about ambition, racism, social class, politics, and greed in 1980s New York City and centers on three main characters: WASP bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish assistant district attorney Larry Kramer, and British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow. The novel was originally conceived as a serial in the style of Charles Dickens' writings; it ran in 27 installments in Rolling Stone starting in 1984. Wolfe heavily revised it before it was published in book form. The novel was a bestseller and a phenomenal success, even in comparison with Wolfe's other books. It has often been called the quintessential novel of the 1980s. The title is a reference to the historical Bonfire of the Vanities, which happened in 1497 in Florence, Italy, when the city was under the rule of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola. The book's title is evidently a reference to the vanities of New York society of the 1980s and appears to also be influenced by Ecclesiastes: the phrase 'vanity of vanities, all is vanity' is from Ecclesiastes, 1:2. Both Ecclesiastes and The Bonfire of the Vanities have similar themes involving the lack of control anyone has over their lives regardless of their wealth, wisdom, or success.
The Partnership chronicles the most important periods in Goldman Sachs' history and the individuals who built one of the world's largest investment banks. Charles D. Ellis, who worked as a strategy consultant to Goldman Sachs for more than thirty years, reveals the secrets behind the firm's continued success through many life-threatening changes. Disgraced and nearly destroyed in 1929, Goldman Sachs limped along as a break-even operation through the Depression and WWII. But with only one special service and one improbable banker, it began the stage-by-stage rise that took the firm to global leadership, even in the face of the world-wide credit crisis.
Memos from the Chairman is a compilation of memos Alan C. Greenberg issued to the associates of Bear Stearns during his tenure as CEO. Alan Courtney "Ace" Greenberg was a Chairman of the Executive Committee of The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc.. Greenberg was raised in Oklahoma City in an upper middle-class Jewish family. His father Theodore owned a woman's clothing store. He was part of an extended family that operated clothing stores in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Greenberg first attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship. Later injuring his back, he transferred to the University of Missouri receiving a B.A. in business in 1949. After graduating, Greenberg decided to pursue a career on Wall Street which was difficult given that he did not have an Ivy League degree. The only offer he received was from Bear Stearns. He accepted a position as a clerk receiving a salary of $32.50 per week.
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is a 1923 roman à clef by American author Edwin Lefèvre which is the thinly disguised biography of Jesse Lauriston Livermore. The Wall Street Journal described the book as a "classic", it was ranked #15 on 'Fortune's 75 The Smartest Books We Know', and Alan Greenspan said it is "a font of investing wisdom." The book tells the story of Livermore's progression from day trading in the then so-called "New England bucket shops," to market speculator, market maker, and market manipulator, and finally to Wall Street where he made and lost his fortune several times over. Along the way, Livermore learns many lessons, which he happily shares with the reader.