Books That Have Changed Me

I love to read.  There are many, many books I have loved.  There are only a handful that have changed who I am as a person, the way I live my life or the way I think.  I’d like to share these books in the order I read them:

  • “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie – This is the best self help book ever written.  Dale Carnegie himself said that his book was not filled with original ideas.  It is filled with the every day common sense methods for dealing with people that are very uncommon in actual use.  It is not a book in manipulation.  It is a book that helps you appreciate people and bring out the best in them.  It also contains wonderful stories and is a delight to read.
  • “Let’s Get Results, Not Excuses:  A no-nonsense Approach to Increasing Productivity, Performance and Profit” by James M. Bleech and Dr. David G. Mutchler – This is a book that some people get immediately and some people will just laugh at.  It starts with the premise that you have success or excuses but you don’t have both.  If you are successful, you don’t need excuses.  One path to success is to figure out in advance that if you fail, what excuses might you have for your failure.  Then you proactively work to prevent the need for excuses.  A key aspect of this is that you stop making excuses.  When you are not successful, you take responsibility.  For example, I don’t say “I was late because of traffic.”  Instead, I say “I was late because I did not allow enough time to account for traffic problems.”
  • “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand –  I have for a long time believed that capitalism was the most effective economic system, but I felt that socialism was morally superior.  Rand convincingly (to me) argues that capitalism is not only the most effective system, it is also morally superior.  She uses her fiction, most notably “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” to argue her philosophy which she calls Objectivism.  She also wrote many non-fiction philosophical books.   Atlas Shrugged is a long, long book and can be intimidating.  If you are new to Ayn Rand, I would actually start with her short novella “Anthem” which can be read in just a few bathroom sittings.  If you like “Anthem”, you can proceed to “Atlas Shrugged”.
  • “Basic Economics” by Dr. Thomas Sowell – Dr. Sowell does an amazing job in defining economics for the layman.  Most political issues have an economic component.  Dr. Sowell teaches you how to analyze issues so you can understand and anticipate the actual effects of different policies, which are very often the exact opposite of what their proponents intended.

The last three books are from the world of investing and stock trading.  I took no interest in managing my own investments for the first 45 or so years of my life.  I therefore was oblivious to many amazing opportunities.  Now learning how to invest/trade has become a major focus in my life.  These are the best three books I have found on investing.

  • “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator” by Edwin Lefevre – This book is the autobiography of Jesse Livermore, generally considered to be the greatest trader of all time.  This is the book that first got me truly interested in the stock market. First, it is a wonderful read with amazing stories.  Second, it is a guidebook on how a great trader thinks.  Every time I re-read this book, I learn lessons that strike home that I was not able to appreciate in prior readings.
  • “How to Make Money in Stocks” by William O’Neil – O’Neill is one of the greatest traders of the modern era.  This book is basically the bible for growth investing.   Most new investors crash and burn early then give up on investing. The most important thing this  book will do for you is that if you follow its key principles, it will prevent you from wiping out.  It will keep you in the game, limiting losses as you make your initial mistakes until you have enough experience to be a profitable investor.
  • “Trade like a Stock Market Wizard” by Mark Minervini – Minervini is an O’Neil disciple and a former United States investing champion.  He spent his first eight years or so being unsuccessful.  Once he refined his techniques, he put together an amazing number of large win years without ever experiencing a large losing year.  My investing improved substantially once I began following Minervini’s principles.  

2 thoughts on “Books That Have Changed Me

  1. Ralph, We share one book in common, “Atlas Shrugged”. If I had to pick other books that influenced how I am as a person, they would include “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”, by Harold Kushner, “The Invisible Crash”, by James Dines (my investment “guru”), “Brave New World”, and, while trite, The Torah. See you later this week.

    • Michael,
      I read Brave New World when I was in High School. I found it and other dystopia books in the same genre as quite fascinating. My favorite was Ira Levin’s “This Perfect Day”, a book that I think never got the acclamation it deserved. Have you ever discussed this with Julie? She is also (or at least used to be) fascinated with dystopias. I had heard of Rabbi Kushner’s book but not read it. I will add it to my reading list. I saw that the James Dines book is out of print but can be found used on Amazon. Maybe you can tell me more about it when we meet. I think I’ve heard of the Torah too. Who was it that wrote that again? (just kidding)

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