Congratulations, you have just struck gold!
This is The Escape Artist’s reading list for anyone that wants to get rich. All these books are potentially life changing. You don’t need to buy them (you can get them free from your library) but you do need to read them and then take action to put their ideas into effect.
You may think that many of these books have nothing to do with money…and yes, the books do cover all aspects of life. But don’t be fooled, the secrets to money and freedom are contained within them. The one thing they have in common is that they all helped me to reframe challenges, think independently and solve life’s practical problems.
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.
Written back in the day (but recently updated), this is the original bible of financial independence. 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?
There are lots of rich people around. Its just that we don’t notice because they are not showing off. Forget trying to keep up with the Jones’ – those suckers on your street with the 4×4 and the big mortgage deserve your sympathy not your envy. As they say in Texas: Big Hat, No Cattle. This is the classic book on the reality of how most millionaires make it and keep it. A wonderful combination of facts, data and insight into the mindset of the rich.
Don’t be put off by the slightly high brow feel to this book. De Botton illustrates his ideas with classical references. But the content is powerful, high class common sense. This will make you realise that the money concerns that you have in your head are relative. In other words, they are about worries about status and comparison to others. These feelings are universal and timeless and not specific to you. It suggests alternatives to consumerism which can help you cut yourself some slack.
Arkad achieved financial independence over 6,000 years ago in the ancient city of Babylon. Arkad learned the ancient laws of money and, as a result, became The Richest Man in Babylon, the subject of the classic personal finance book of the same name. Now you may be wondering what relevance this might have today? But it turns out that money is still governed today by the same underlying principles which applied when prosperous men and women thronged the streets of Babylon, six thousand years ago.
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 wake up call you need. Biddulph explains how to think about mortgages, your mates, friendship and more. Biddulph introduces us to the idea of the Walking Wallet – a powerful concept even if not a very comfortable one for me. I was lucky enough to meet the author in person and he is ridiculously smart (as well as being a lovely guy).
You could think of this book as the female equivalent of Manhood (see above)…its a book written for women by a woman. The book covers a bunch of themes that touch on financial independence: balancing success at work with family, overcoming fear, why you should not be just a Nice Girl but rather a confident woman, how to deal with imperfection, divorce, failure etc.
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 offers practical advice for parents that is priceless.
This is the investing book that I give to beginners to get them started. And for most people, it’s the only investing book they ever need. Don’t worry about the fact that its American not British…if you swap VTSAX for VWRL then it applies pretty much 100%. Its written by Charles Ellis (champion of low cost index investing and non-executive director of Vanguard) and Burton Malkiel.
Not one for beginners. Warren Buffet calls this “By far the best book on investing ever written”. This book provided a framework for my active investing – both asset allocation and stock selection. Don’t 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 best argument for simple, low cost equity index investing that I’ve read. It’s written by an investing legend (who was also a director of Vanguard) who does not need your money and is not trying to sell you anything. Ellis is like the rich and successful uncle you wish you’d had: the style is elegant, calm and soothing. He explains why shares might be safer than you think and why cash might be more dangerous.
This book showed me that the conventional wisdom can sometimes be 100% wrong. Turns out its easy to be slim…and it costs less as well! 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 exercise and the benefits of living a natural life. Not only does it work, the book explains why it works with reference to evolution.
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 followed their heart and 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 financial independence before pulling the trigger. But I admire those with more courage than me. Inspiring.
This book provides a framework for how to think and act effectively in every aspect of your life – its as applicable to relationships as it is to work. It teaches you how to prioritise, focus on what you can control and be more effective at work. This book can help you hold down a stressful job and earn more. 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 aim higher and cheer the fuck up, 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 luck plays in investing…but it covers careers, 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.
This book will help investors avoid ending up like a turkey at Christmas. Its 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 that no news is good news. 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 happiness, money, security, hope, fear, ambition, sex, altruism and so on…..all the important stuff.
This book may persuade you that maybe, just maybe, we are not all doomed. Ridley explains human progress over through history into the modern day and 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 stoicism. This is philosophy at its most practical. We all know that shit happens in everyone’s life. What defines us is how we react to those challenges. Stoicism offers an operating system to ensure that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. Holiday illustrates with stories from throughout history and features Marcus Aurelius – the only actual Roman emperor that wrote a self help book (Meditations), that you can (and should) read today.
You can get rich whilst being a good person. And in politics, we can 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 their system. This book explains we can move on from the old British class system and how politics can leave behind the traditional left vs. right Punch & Judy show.
On Liberty is the classic defence of the freedom and liberal values that underpin western democracy. Written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill it sets out three basic liberties in order of importance: (1) The freedom of thought, emotion and speech (2) The freedom to pursue tastes (even those considered immoral) provided they do no harm to others (3) The freedom of association (again as long as no harm is done to others). This book is a precious part of our heritage and right now, its more important than ever.
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.
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?
How do you get better at tennis…or with money?…or any game? Answer: You get better both in your Outer Game and your Inner Game. Outer Game is what you do. In tennis, its the game you see played on the court. Outer game includes the racquet that you use, the shots you play, the kit you wear, the tournaments you enter etc. Inner Game is the invisible game that takes place in the mind of the player and its played against obstacles such as nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation.
This is the best book on the Inner Game of Money. Eker understands the psychology of wealth building better than just about anyone else. Whether you realise it or not, you’ve been conditioned (a polite phrase for brain-washed!) in how you think about money from childhood onwards. Eker explains this via the concept of your money blueprint. 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 and people who get stuff done. 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 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.
A book about how to overcome procrastination (what Pressfield calls “Resistance”) and become a productive person who gets shit done. If you think you never procrastinate then you’re probably
lying to yourself rationalising. There’s a lot of it about. Part of The War of Art is about dumping consumerism and its associated distractions. All good stuff but it’s not a book about FI per se. Its about being more productive: in your job, your side hustle, your gym programme…whatever.
This book is hilarious in an under-stated sort of way. Written by one of the world’s leading experts in evolutionary psychology, it delivers a killer hatchet job on consumerism. The basic idea is that we’re wasting tons of money showing off because we’re programmed by evolution (reinforced by advertising) to chase status in our tribe to improve our chances of reproductive success…even if we don’t 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: including spending and what the neighbours might think about us pursuing financial independence. The accompanying podcasts are free and are even better than the book (the Q&A is hilarious).
This book is ambitious and controversial. The author attempts to lay out a unified theory that explains inter-sexual dynamics (and, by extension, much of human society). The book does not contain the whole truth…but then how could any single book or approach provide the whole truth? What it does is provide an internally consistent framework for looking at gender dynamics that draws on evolutionary psychology. It’s not comfortable and its not politically correct but it is worth reading and making your own mind up about.
OK, so this book is not directly about financial independence. But its great on how to live in a world full of pressures to conform. It spells out in one easy read concepts that took me years to figure out (e.g. the importance of purpose, disappointment and struggle). Its very rare to find a book as honest, funny and grounded in realism as this. If you want a free taster, read this.
The best book on career development that I’ve found. This book is worth the price just for the title alone. Want to get a well paid job? Want a promotion? That ain’t gonna happen by chance and it ain’t gonna happen because you are nice. It will happen when you are so good that they can’t ignore you. In this world, its best to work on the assumption that no one is gonna bat for you if you won’t bat for yourself.
I found 2 huge insights in this book. Firstly the idea that systems are more important than goals. In other words, we should think less about being rich (a goal) and more about what we’re doing right now to get rich. You need a relentless focus on the process. Secondly, most of feeling good boils down to diet, sleep, and control over your diary. Don’t get me wrong…full financial independence is nice but the formula for happiness is as simple as daydreaming, controlling your schedule, napping, eating right, and being active every day.
This is not the best book in the world. Its not the best book on financial independence. Or investing. Or self-help. Or philosophy. But it IS the book that really got me started on The Path. You could say that its all just common sense. But common sense seems to be the scarcest commodity in The Prison Camp. Effectiveness is the measure of Truth and this book worked for me.