Below is a selection of books that are "must-reads" for investment bankers and also people interested in investments. Most of those are recommended by top business school and finance professionals alike - you can read the recommendations and comments on the Amazon links. These books vary in difficulty, so we're rated them: (*) means that this book is for everyone, (**) has some more advanced finance topics in it, and (***) means that the book is more technical.
Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle*
John Rolfe, Peter Troob: A very entertaining story about two fresh graduates of Wharton and Harvard that start their investment career at the hottest investment bank at the time, DLJ (it was bought by Credit Suisse later on). Overall, it is a gross exaggeration of the life of an investment banker (and very very NY-centric, can be vulgar at times), but it will give you a very good idea of how tough the job of an investment banker can be, and it will worth reading. Most investment bankers will have read this book, and it is a fun read before you embark on your investment banking career, highly recommended!
Barbarians At The Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco**
Bryan Burrough, John Helyar: A very long book, but also a mandatory read for future investment bankers, especially for those interested in hostile takeovers and private equity. This book relates the true story of a bidding war for RJR Nabisco (one of the largest consumer goods comapny in the US at the time), who was ultimately acquired by KKR. We recommend this book because first it is well written and relates to a true, very important even of financial history, and it will give you a good idea of the political fights that occur during large takeovers. You will also get a good understanding of how private equity companies think and work.
The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs**
Charles D. Ellis: An excellent book about the history of Goldman Sachs - this is a good read for those going to work for Goldman or those that want to know about the firm. Its rather lengthy. but what makes this book a good read (compared to any other book on banking) is not so much that the author worked as a strategy consultant for Goldman Sachs but that Goldman Sachs agreed to give the author full access to everyone so that this book is a real inside story and not just a corporate history.
The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Freres & Co**
William D. Cohen: If investment banking and the history of big deals fascinate you, this compelling history of Lazard Frères & Co., from its humble beginnings through its astounding success, is really a fascinating read. It's well written and entertaining.
The Ascent of Money*
A quite entertaining, easy to read review of financial history, from the Inca empire and Napoleaon wars to the modern financial crisis. What is great about this book is that it explains complex financial topics in a very simple way and really helps you understand the origins of modern finance and why the financial world is what it is today. The book is strcutured in six sections dealing with Money, Credit/Bonds, Equities, Insurance, Real Estate and Globalization, which is quite fascinating because it helps you join the dots
Financial Markets Books
Michael Lewis: Semi-autobiographical book by Michael Lewis describing the author's experiences as a bond salesman on Wall Street during the late 1980s. The book captures an important period in the history of Wall Street, and will give you a good overview of the Wall Street culture in the 80s. Not as relevant nowadays (especially post-financial crisis), however it will give you a good understanding of how financial markets work and the sales & trading activities of investment banks.
Fooled by Randomness**
Nassim Taleb: A personal favourite, highly recommended read, very gripping book full of wisdom. The book is about how the finance community often mistakes luck for skill, and are thus "fooled by randomness". The author is a Wharton graduate, ex-trader, hedge fund manager and philosopher that denounces the ignorance of the financial community. The book shot to fame as Nassim Taleb had predicted the financial crisis in this book, which was published 3 months before the market crash. Some parts are highly technical, but most of the book is funny and understandable to students and non-financial people.
The Black Swan**
Nassim Taleb: The follow-on book to "Fooled by Randomness", which goes deeper into the concept of "Black Swans", which the author defined as very unlikely events that have disastrous consequences. Many fascinating stories within this book, which is a highly recommended read, although the style (and the arrogance of the author, sometimes) can be hard to follow at times.
Fortune's Formula: The Untold Story of the Scientific Betting System That Beat the Casinos and Wall Street***
William Poundstone Recommended reading by many financial gurus across the world. It is a somewhat advanced book on "information theory" and probabilities. This is a fascinating book, which is encyclopedic, exceptionally informative, and packed with great stories and characters. We enthusiastically recommend it to anyone seriously interested in investing, the sociology of ideas, or gambling. Indeed, read it twice: once for its theories and practical investment advice, and the other time to relish its personalities.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life**
Another must-read for those interested in investments. This is really the biography of Warren Buffet, the richest man in the world. The interesting parts are really about his investment philosophy ("value investing") and is also a good account of stock markets history
You can also read about the books we recommend for valuation; for the more experienced finance professionals.