Note: This is a reading list for candidates that are looking for an engaging read while enhancing their knowledge for the CFA exams and investment management. These books are not curriculum readings and are not intended act as preparation material for the CFA exams.
Looking for some new year reading? Why not read something entertaining and educational?
We have collated a simple CFA reading list to help solidify readers grasp on finance, but at the same time be a fun and engaging read. And you don’t have to take an exam at the end of it – win-win!
Whether you’re CFA Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3, the books in this list will help round out CFA candidates’ perspectives, recommended by CFA Institute staff members and the 300Hours editors.
Each carefully selected book will challenge your thinking and develop areas that typically only emerge after years of on the job.
2023 CFA Reading List: Top 20 Picks for Candidates
Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology (Chris Miller)
Power in the modern world is built on the foundations of computer chips.
2022’s FT business book of the year finalist, economic historian Chris Miller explains the history of the complicated semiconductor industry.
Well-written, entertaining yet insightful, this non-fiction thriller explains how the changes in semiconductor industry help shape technology, economics, and politics globally.
Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making (Tony Fadell)
Looking for an experienced career, life, startup or work mentor?
Tony Faddell, ‘the father of the iPod and iPhone’ and the creator of Nest, is here to help you with that.
He has enough stories and advice about leadership, design, startups, mentorship, decision making, devastating screwups, and unbelievable success to fill an encyclopedia.
And that’s what this book is about. It’s a highly personal guide and distilled wisdom to building your career, product, managing teams and creating great stuff.
Investment Banking: Valuation, Leveraged Buyouts and Mergers & Acquisitions (Pearl & Rosenbaum)
The textbook for you if you’re looking to break into investment banking.
Rosenbaum and Pearl once again have written the definitive book that they wish had existed when they were trying to break into Wall Street.
This book fills a noticeable gap in contemporary finance literature, which tends to focus on theory rather than practical application.
It focuses on the primary valuation methodologies currently used on Wall Street comparable companies, precedent transactions, DCF, and LBO analysis as well as M&A analysis.
The Cartoon Guide to Statistics (Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith)
A fun and graphical guide to financial math.
This may seem a silly choice coming from CFA Institute; however, The Cartoon Guide to Statistics, explains statistics in such a way that you can understand the philosophy behind the mathematics.
You become a better financial professional because you are able to better synthesize the elements of statistics: geometry, algebra, calculus, and probability theory.
The Handbook of Fixed Income Securities (Frank J. Fabozzzi)
The most trusted resource in the world for fixed income investing for decades.
Written by Frank Fabozzi, professor of finance at EDHEC Business School and a member of the EDHEC Risk Institute and on the board of BlackRock, this classic has been updated, revised and expanded to the latest major upheavals and new opportunities that have risen in the recent years.
The Intelligent Investor (Benjamin Graham)
The bible of investing, by the father of value investing.
‘The Dean of Wall Street’, as Benjamin Graham was called, was considered the first proponent of value investing, an investment approach he began teaching at Columbia Business School in 1928.
The Intelligent Investor, which Buffett calls “the greatest book on investing ever written”, introduced the Mr. Market analogy, perhaps the best investment analogy in history.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike (Phil Knight)
“You are remembered for the rules you break.”
Fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan.
Selling the shoes from the trunk of his car in 1963, Knight grossed eight thousand dollars that first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion.
In this age of start-ups, Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, and its swoosh is one of the few icons instantly recognized in every corner of the world.
Bill Gates named Shoe Dog one of his five favorite books of 2016 and called it “an amazing tale, a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.”
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (Michael Lewis)
In The Big Short, Michael Lewis chronicles the events leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.
His dark humor and narrative makes subprime mortgages and credit default swaps almost sexy.
His ragtag group of characters, the idiocy, madness and greed highlighted in the book makes it a really fun and educational read.
This book was made into a 2015 movie The Big Short, which is also recommended in our best finance movies list.
Strategic Value Investing: Practical Techniques of Leading Value Investors (Stephen M. Horan, CFA, CIPM; Robert R. Johnson, CFA; and Thomas R. Robinson, CFA)
Value investing for fun and profit.
This book places value investing in the context of investing generally, highlighting the size of the valuing investing opportunity and the behavioral challenges associated with capturing it.
The core of this book describes traditional methods used to estimate the value of a stock. It is brought to life in the last part of the book, though, where the authors match specific value styles to well-known investors like Buffet, Graham, Neff, etc.
Although the most receptive audience is likely to be “serious amateurs”, candidates in the CFA Program would find the book helpful supplemental reading and veteran CFA charterholders will find it a pleasant refresher with a tone, composition, and flare not found in the CFA curriculum.
The Bitcoin Standard: The Decentralized Alternative to Central Banking (Saifedean Ammous)
Written by economist and professor, Saifedean Ammuos, The Bitcoin Standard takes you on a journey starting from the introduction of money through its stages of evolution to present day.
It focuses on the economics of Bitcoin – rather than the technical details – to give you a big picture potential of Bitcoin, and how it can be the next global reserve currency.
A great, relevant read which complements your CFA studies as well.
Money of the Mind: Borrowing and Lending in America from the Civil War to Michael Milken (James Grant)
An engaging history of finance.
Credit makes the world go ‘round, and can just as easily make it stop, as we have learned all too recently.
It’s a shame so many people in finance are ignorant of its fascinating history, which contains lessons of potential relevance today.
If you are one of those people, James Grant’s Money of the Mind will go a long way towards curing you.
Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street (Peter L. Bernstein)
The evolution of modern investment theory.
Peter Bernstein’s many contributions to the financial canon are too numerous to explore in this post (although Against the Gods is also included in this list), but I must note that I consider it one of the great privileges of my career to have worked with Peter and his wife Barbara several times over his final years.
His book Capital Ideas traces, and puts human faces on, the evolution of financial theory, and in my opinion is indispensable background for anyone working in investment-related businesses.
Strengths Finder 2.0 (Tom Rath)
Play your strengths, and win.
You can’t be all things to all people (or all employers for that matter) so it makes sense to identify your relative strengths and build your personal brand and self-marketing around them.
Strengths Finder 2.0 is a tool for identifying the competencies that you are strongest in and provides you with a language for exploring and expressing those strengths.
If you happen to manage people or lead teams, you may also find that the way Roth frames the 34 strengths discussed in the book helps you in coaching others.
Liar’s Poker (Michael Lewis)
Entertaining, funny, and important lessons for the young investment banker.
A classic recommendation to anyone starting out in finance.
Liar’s Poker is an extended Aesop’s Fable for the modern financial age: Michael Lewis’ first-hand account as a bond salesman in Solomon Brothers, one of the most powerful and profitable merchant banks in their time.
Among the many entertaining and funny experiences, you’ll also clearly glean important life lessons for investors and investment banks alike.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Alice Schroeder)
The Warren Buffett must-read.
An inside look into the life and career of Warren Buffett – one of the most revered investment figures in the world.
Despite never having written a memoir, he has been persuaded to allow Alice Schroeder to spend time with him and those with whom he works to investigate his business triumphs, his opinions… and his mistakes.
A hefty book, but an engaging one.
Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk (Peter L. Bernstein)
An inspiring and readable history of risk, and its vital role in markets.
Probably the best author on financial history, Peter Bernstein (whose book Capital Ideas is also included in this reading list) details how risk management techniques and tools allowed us to emerge and modernize from the age of oracles and soothsayers.
It gives you not just an entertaining read into what is sometimes a pretty dry subject, but also inspires and imbues you with a sense of newfound appreciation for risk management.
Barbarians at the Gate (Bryan Burrough)
The largest and most dramatic corporate takeover in American history.
An insightful look into the frenetic world of corporate takeovers in the 80s, in particular, the battle for RJR Nabisco in the autumn of 1988.
An absolute pleasure to read and approachable even for those unfamiliar with finance, it’s both an engaging thriller and an instructive business book.
Core Concepts of Organizational Behavior (John R. Schermerhorn, James G. Hunt, and Richard N. Osborn)
Brush up on your people skills.
To succeed as a financial professional, you need to be more than a successful analyst.
Why? You have to work with other human beings in order to get your work done. You will be working with fellow analysts and a supervisor, such as a portfolio manager or chief investment officer, and you need to get along with these people.
The book’s famous “forming-storming-norming-performing” framework alone is worth the price.
When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long Term Capital Management (Roger Lowenstein)
The cautionary tale of Long-Term Capital Management.
A vivid, detailed and thrilling account of the rise and cataclysmic fall of Long-Term Capital Management, the supposed hedge fund to end all other hedge funds.
Alongside the dramatic tale, Lowenstein blends a post-mortem of how LCTM failed, and lessons in how models and investment theorems based on past experiences may be a lot less reliable than expected.
Only the Paranoid Survive (Andrew S. Grove)
Ask and you shall receive.
To combat groupthink, “yes-men”, and self-preservation instincts, Grove advocates that business leaders use a proactive approach of engaging with all those people in a position to know better.
Even though you may be expected to “know” all the answers, he says, you need to make yourself vulnerable and fight through any ignorance you may have by asking honest, open-ended questions.
In this way, you can improve your knowledge about what is happening. Without necessarily knowing Philip Fisher’s terminology, Grove illustrates how to put the scuttlebutt method into practice.
Special Mentions: also recommended if you’re thirsty for more
How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Dale Carnegie’s rock-solid, time-tested advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Yuval Noah Harari)
The Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)
In Michael Lewis’s game-changing bestseller, a small group of Wall Street iconoclasts realize that the U.S. stock market has been rigged for the benefit of insiders.
They band together―some of them walking away from seven-figure salaries―to investigate, expose, and reform the insidious new ways that Wall Street generates profits.
If you have any contact with the market, even a retirement account, this story is happening to you.
Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)
In the international bestseller, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, the renowned psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes us on a groundbreaking tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think.
System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
The impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation―each of these can be understood only by knowing how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions.
Influence: The Power of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini)
A New York Times bestseller, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini — the seminal expert in the field of influence and persuasion — explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically in business and everyday situations.
The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis)
Forty years ago, Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky wrote a series of breathtakingly original papers that invented the field of behavioral economics.
One of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, Kahneman and Tversky’s extraordinary friendship incited a revolution in Big Data studies, advanced evidence-based medicine, led to a new approach to government regulation, and made much of Michael Lewis’s own work possible.
In The Undoing Project, Lewis shows how their Nobel Prize-winning theory of the mind altered our perception of reality.
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable, than it was.
The astonishing success of Google was a black swan; so was 9/11.
For Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans underlie almost everything about our world, from the rise of religions to events in our own personal lives.
How to Lie with Statistics (Darrell Huff)
Darrell Huff runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way the results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to full rather than to inform.
Confessions of an Economic Hitman (John Perkins)
This now-classic book revealed the existence and subversive manipulations of economic hit men: ‘highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars.
Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex, and murder.’ In Perkins’s case the tool was debt — convincing strategically important countries to borrow huge amounts of money for enormous, ‘development’ projects that served the very rich while driving the country deeper into poverty and debt.
And once indebted, these countries could be controlled.
More Money than God (Sebastian Mallaby)
Wealthy, powerful, and potentially dangerous, hedge fund moguls have become the It Boys of twenty-first- century capitalism.
Beating the market was long thought to be impossible, but hedge funds cracked its mysteries and made fortunes in the process.
Drawing on his unprecedented access to the industry, esteemed financial writer Sebastian Mallaby tells the inside story of the hedge funds, from their origins in the 1960s to their role in the financial crisis of 2007 to 2009.
The Five Rules for Successful Investing (Pat Dorsey)
The book for those serious about learning how to invest.
Pat Dorsey’s methodology is sound, his examples clear, and his approach timeless.
Hope you enjoyed the recommended books for CFA candidates above. If you have any recommendations to add, let us know in the comments below!
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