All these books are potentially life changing, but they only work if you read them and then take action to put their lessons into effect in your own life.
You may think that many of these books have nothing to do with money…it may look that way at first glance, but don’t be fooled: the secrets to money and freedom are contained within. The books cover a wide variety of subjects. The one thing they have in common is that they all helped me to reframe challenges, think independently and solve life’s practical problems. Together they provide an operating system for seeing the world and its opportunities in a rational and effective way.
Don’t be put off by any anti self-help prejudice you may have based on the titles. There is no get rich quick bullshit here. I regularly re-read these books; they contain so much wisdom that I get something new every time.
This book revealed that there are actually lots of rich / FI people around us. Its just that we don’t notice because they are not showing off like needy children. Forget trying to keep up with the Jones’ – those suckers on your street with the SUV and the big mortgage deserve your sympathy not your envy. This is the classic book on the reality of how most millionaires make it. A wonderful combination of hard factual data combined with insight into the mindset of those that accumulate wealth.
Step one is to realise when you have allowed yourself to become trapped in your own Prison Camp. If you are a guy, this book might be the slap in the face you need. Biddulph pulls no punches and is not intimidated by conventional wisdom. Its interesting that despite (or because?) of having Asperger’s syndrome he can read people better than just about anyone on the planet. I met him in person and he is truly unique. Female readers that want an equivalent should try On becoming Fearless by Arianna Huffington.
OK, so these are actually 2 different books: Raising Boys and Raising Girls. Having kids prompted me to rethink my priorities. And it was Raising Boys that made me realise that being a father means more than just showing up at conception and then paying the bills – I needed to be there more. Whether we realise it or not, we provide a role model to our children that helps shape who they become. Biddulph explains how this works and offers practical advice that is priceless.
Warren Buffet calls this “By far the best book on investing ever written”. This book provided a framework for all my subsequent active investing – both asset allocation and stock selection. Dont let the slightly old world style put you off, this is as relevant today as it was when it was first written in 1949. If value investing were a religion, this would be The Bible.
The ultimate exposition of simple, low cost equity index investing written by a successful patrician investor who does not need your money. This is the antidote to the bullshit of high fee financial salesman. Ellis is like the rich and successful uncle you wish you’d had. This is the most calm and soothingly written investment book there is. The book prompted me to use index trackers for a significant proportion of my portfolio and to up my equity asset allocation.
After you have read this, there is no need to be overweight. This is not another faddy diet book. The benefits may vary between people but, boy, did this work for me. As well as food, the book covers lifestyle, exercise and how to live a more natural life. Originally published as The New Evolution Diet, it was retitled The de Vany diet in the UK. Not only does it work, the book explains why it works with reference to evolution. Most importantly, it showed me that conventional wisdom can sometimes be 100% wrong.
Don’t be put off by the slightly high brow feel to this book. De Botton is erudite and litters the book with classical and literary references. But the content is powerful and high class common sense. This will make you realise that the money concerns that you have in your head are more relative than absolute. In other words, they are about worries about comparison to others. These feelings are universal and timeless rather than specific to your situation. It suggests strategies by which you can cut yourself some slack here.
Once you have realised that you are living in the Prison Camp, its time to read this book. This is a collection of true stories about real people who asked the question and then made big, brave changes in their life. Most of them did this with little or no financial security. The Escape Artist was not brave enough to do this and so waited to get to FI before pulling the trigger. But I admire those with more courage than me. Inspiring.
This book provides a guiding framework for how to think and act effectively in every aspect of your life – its as applicable to relationships as to work. It teaches you to put your principles first and align your actions with these. The title may sound a bit cheesy but this is the real deal. I wish I’d read this book in my early 20’s. Better late than never though.
If The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides the logic framework, this book provides the motivational turbo charger. It has a recognisable tinge of the US in the 1950s about it and, probably as a result, is a little bit too consumerist in places but the motivational pyschology is timeless. This book will challenge you to raise your sights and utilise optimism, but is always grounded in reality.
Don’t let the writing style put you off., this is a work of genius. Yes, the author can seem cocky at times…but that’s mainly because he is smarter than you or I… and he’s Right. The book is best known for explaining the role that randomness plays in investing…but it covers office politics, financial independence, why the media is mostly rubbish and much more. Essential reading for investors but not an investing book per se. This book introduced me to the phrase “fuck you” money.
A book about the impact of large, unexpected events. You should ignore most forward looking statements by bureaucrats, economists, brokers, bloggers and politicians because they do not know what is going to happen. Which makes it all the more impressive that Taleb predicted the 2008/9 credit crisis in this book. Yes, the book is a bit longer than it needed to be but there’s a lot of value in here.
In Anti-fragile, Taleb develops the ideas from Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan. But this is a more useful book in some ways. FBR and TBS are all about how to recognise and protect yourself from hidden risks. In Anti-fragile, Taleb sets out how we can actually benefit from volatility and there are more practical applications. Taleb explains why self-employed cabbies are more robust to recessions than middle income cubicle slaves, why you should be sceptical of doctors and how what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.
Not an easy read, this book summarises a life’s work by the guy that co-invented behavioural psychology and won the Nobel prize for doing so. Kahneman proposes that we have 2 decision making systems. 1) an ancient hardwired reptile brain system for dealing rapidly and instinctively with threats and opportunities…this is how we feel fear and greed. 2) a more recently evolved human capacity for logical thought. To get to FI, we need to use this second system a little more.
Easier to read and more practically focussed than Kahneman’s magnum opus Thinking Fast and Slow (above). This is like a simple guide how to apply the insights from the work of behavioural pyschologists such as Kahneman, Tversky in our everyday lives. For example, this is where I got the idea of purging news and other media shit from my life. Dobelli identifies 99 cognitive errors that you will kick yourself for not having seen before.
You can not really understand the human species, modern society or markets without first understanding evolution. Everything we do has its basis in evolution, yet most people have no idea about it – they just think its something they covered in GCSE Biology to be ignored thereafter. But evolution explains our feelings and actions towards money, sex, security, hope, fear, ambition, happiness, altruism and so on…..all the important stuff.
This book may persuade you that maybe, just maybe, we are not all doomed. Ridley reminds us of human progress over the millennia with reference to the value created by trade, technology and the free exchange of ideas. Its an upbeat, optimistic companion to Jared Diamond’s excellent Guns, Germs and Steel. Ridley has a big picture perspective and a background in evolutionary biology and psychology (he’s an academic who also wrote The Red Queen, a leading book on evolution).
An easy introduction to the ancient philosophy of stoicism. This is philosophy at its most practical. We all know that shit happens in everyone’s life. What defines us is how we think about challenges and how we react to them. Stoicism offers an operating system to ensure that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Holiday illustrates with reference to figures from throughout history including Marcus Aurelius – possibly the only actual Roman emperor that wrote a self help book (Meditations), that you can (and should) read today.
This is the only book about politics on the list. It helped me stop looking at politics as a left vs. right Punch & Judy show. It is possible to combine freedom and capitalism with ethics, community spirit and environmentalism. Having the right framework matters. Because they got a clean slate on which to write their constitution, Americans were able to embed more checks and balances into the system. Freedland argues that the American system, whilst not perfect, encourages a more vibrant democracy than the UK and we should not be scared to evolve closer to that model.
100 simple tips and tricks on how to re-orientate your thinking towards happiness, calm and optimism. Yes, it looks a bit self-helpy and a bit West Coast American but sometimes those dudes are Right and we need to pay attention. If you read it, you’ll probably think something like “this is all common sense, I could have written this and sold the 10 million+ copies“. But you didn’t.
Do you remember the Monty Python Yorkshiremen sketch with the men boasting about how hard their childhoods were? They should read this and realise they had it easy. This is a life affirming true story about a working class childhood in a Lancashire mill town…and an ultimate escape to freedom and prosperity….continued in Beyond Nab End. Compared to doing what this guy did, I can assure you that getting to FI is a piece of cake.
Despite the title, this is not some poncey philosophy book; its raw, powerful and uplifting. Frankl was a Jewish psychologist imprisoned for three years in Auschwitz and 3 other Nazi concentration camps and this short book summarises what he learnt there. Everyone has choices and the power to exercise them with dignity, however grim the circumstances. The secret is finding what is meaningful to you (a cause, a vocation, a passion). Like freedom and the path to financial independence perhaps?
At first glance this book may look like another hokey American self help book (it’s written in that style). But what sets it apart is the quality of the content. Eker understands the psychology of wealth building better than just about anyone else. Eker introduced me to the concept of the money blueprint that we develop in childhood. He then explains how to control and eventually rewire our brains to build wealth.
One of the most useful books in understanding the underlying differences between complainers on one hand and people who get stuff done on the other. The reason its interesting is that the concept underlying the book – that wherever you start from, you can always get better – is incredibly powerful and yet ridiculously simple. So simple that my first thought was: why have I never thought of all this myself before? See my fuller review here.
The reality of how people go from the bottom to the top of their field. Not so much in investing or business (where luck often means its hard to tell what the real causes are) but in fields like music, sport where there is greater objectivity in determining who is the best and what methods work. The (main) answer is deliberate practice – whereby motivation is applied in the relentless and focussed pursuit of gradual improvement using the aggregation of marginal gains.
After you get to financial independence, you may need something to do. So how about starting a side hustle / lifestyle business? This is the goto book in Silicon Valley on the correct way to start a new business. You can forget long business plans, having an MBA, 5 year forecasts, borrowing money from a bank and taking lots of risk…that’s all horseshit. This book will show you a better way. Using The Principles of Lifehacking you can start a business (either before or after financial independence) with minimal risk and minimal capital.
OMG this book is hilarious in an under-stated sort of way. Written by one of the world’s leading academics in the field of evolutionary psychology, it delivers a killer hatchet job on consumerism. The basic idea is that we’re wasting tons of money on showing off because we’re programmed by evolution to chase status in our tribe to improve our chances of reproductive success…even if we don’t consciously realise it. Miller suggests this is an inefficient strategy for getting laid. For a better way, see his next book Mate (below).
This is the book on attraction, sex and love that men will wish they’d read aged 16. Recommended for getting other halves on board with the escape plan, its just as valuable if you are in a long term relationship or single. Grounded in evolutionary psychology, this book helped me understand my wife’s point of view on all sorts of things: cleaning, spending and what the neighbours might think about financial independence. The accompanying podcasts are free and are even better than the book (the Q&A is hilarious) .
The title is a reference to Dick Turpin style highway robbers that used to give people the choice of giving up their possessions vs giving up their life. At gunpoint, most people prioritise their life over possessions. So why can’t people see that by getting trapped in consumer spending, they are choosing money over their life? Written back in the day, this is the original bible of financial independence. Other than the section on investing, it’s as relevant as ever.
Your help needed! If you read any of these books, please leave a comment below to let your fellow FI-seekers have feedback on whether they helped you. Thanks!