Money and Media - Communications, Connections, Comments

Timely title for a book about investment

If I’m ever asked to give a talk to financial journalists who are new to writing about investing, stock markets, et al, I usually refer to a couple of books which helped me get started back in the dim and distant past.

The first one is Michael Brett’s ‘How to Read the Financial Pages’ and the other is Bernard Gray’s ‘Beginners Guide to Investment’.

Book club: good reads for financial hacks

Both books were written upwards of 20 years ago so they need to be read with that chronology in mind. Happily, each one manages to be both informative and easy-to-understand (both the authors were journalists) – a combination which isn’t always guaranteed when it comes to tomes tackling finance.

The next time I’m asked for book recommendations, I’ll happily add a third volume to the list, namely, John Stepek’s ‘The Sceptical Investor’ which was only published a few months ago.

Given the current brouhaha over Neil Woodford and his eponymous equity income fund, the name of this title alone is worth the book’s the cover price and couldn’t be more apposite.

John is the executive editor of Money Week magazine. I’ve got to know him a little bit down the years when our paths have crossed at various financial media junctures. A good egg he is, too.

The reason I like this (almost jargon-free) book is because it explains how contrarians bet against the market and win. That strikes a chord with me, shaped by my career as a financial journalist.

Down the years, I’m sure John has listened to even more guff than me as spouted by the investment industry. This book, akin to a collection essays, challenges plenty of those ideas.

There are chapters on ‘how to spot bubbles and what to do with them’ and ‘finding the world’s cheapest markets’. John also explains why he thinks private investors have a big advantage over the professionals.

While I’m a big fan of the jargon-free nature of The Sceptical Investor, it’s perhaps a bit lacking when it comes to illustrations – inasmuch as there aren’t any charts and graphs.

That’s unusual for a volume on finance. I can’t help but think that some of the arguments being made would improve for the presence of some data representation.

Maybe the second edition, and I’m sure there will be one, could take account of this!

The Private Investor, £14.99, published by Harriman House.