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The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor
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The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  5,163 Ratings  ·  234 Reviews
"This is that rarity, a useful book."--Warren Buffett

Howard Marks, the chairman and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, is renowned for his insightful assessments of market opportunity and risk. After four decades spent ascending to the top of the investment management profession, he is today sought out by the world's leading value investors, and his client memos brim
Hardcover, 180 pages
Published May 1st 2011 by Columbia University Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Marcelo Bahia
Dec 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: investing
Although not a totally useless book, it’s a disappointing read. Disappointing due to my high expectations given Howard Marks' track record and his very interesting memos to Oaktree clients. To be honest, depending on your case, this can be a 2-star or a 5-star book - I’m rating it a “3” to try to be fair on the whole universe of people reading this.

If you're a beginner in the investing camp and still doesn't have much knowledge on the subject, this is a 5-star primer on how a good experienced in
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The version I read is actually titled 'The Most Important Thing Illuminated' but I don't see it here on Goodreads. It is actually a reissue of the earlier book, this time with annotated comments from Christopher Davis, Joel Greenblatt, Paul Johnson and Seth Klarman. Greenblatt and Klarman are contemporary value investing legends familiar to many people. I can't say that the comments really add much to the original text though. If you pay enough attention to what Marks himself says, you could pro ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More of 3.5 stars, which was disappointing given how insightful his memos are and his outstanding investment performance over a long time frame. I follow Oaktree on Twitter so I never miss one of his memos again.

A review by "Max" in May 2015 sums it up extremely well and is quoted below.

One outstanding illustration he shows is in the Understanding Risk chapter (fig 5.2). Risk / reward is not merely a positive sloping line, you must include the greater uncertainty that comes from higher risk - i
Max Stone
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm giving it 4 stars because I think that is probably objectively what it deserves, but really I was disappointed in this book, since I love Howard Marks' investment letters and had high expectations for a 5 star read.

This book is based on his investment memos. That's a good thing, since that is where he has collected his (very significant) investment wisdom over the years. And there are some good aspects of that, mostly that he can try to organize the many thoughtful things he has written int
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: waiting
This book is based on 20 notes Howard Marks left for his team in Oaktree Capital -global asset management firm. All of them started with "the most important thing...." and every chapter is short and informative.
I really liked it for the different point of view on the same mantras like "buy low sell high" etc.

Would read again for sure :)
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lovely book full of wisdom about investments and the decision making. not much about financial calculations but more the psychology , economical cycles, estimates, behavior of the market, risk management, how best investors think, about the difference between loser's game and winner's game, difference between offense and defense. Made highlights on almost every page.
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
This was really a fantastic book on investing, but I don't thinking listening to it as an audiobook was the correct approach. ;)

Luckily, I did listen to the book right after the finance class for my MBA program, so I understood much more of it. I think you don't need a finance background to understand his 18 "most important things," but a finance course would make it much more understandable. ;)

My first takeaway is that I agree with him on his take on the Efficient Market Hypothesis - that the m
John Ross
Sep 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best two or three books on investing I've ever read. If I was a younger person (I'm retired) just starting out (or under 50 years old), I'd read this investment advice book, and probably first. It gives an overview of how to look at investments, how to consider the market, and let's the reader know what it really takes to "beat the market." It isn't the best written book I've ever read -- it's drier than it needs to be -- but from a real professional like Mr. Marks, it is easy ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I only expect to find one thing in books like these that I can positively apply to my life or business. As a Registered Investment Advisor, my expectations for this book were high. The author has a long history of success in investing other people's money. The problem with this book is that it betrays all of his insecurities with endless references to Warren Buffet, Wharton and risk aversion. He does not understand the practical use of technical analysis, derides it but ends up using it in to se ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: investing
If you know most of these concepts and principles, in the context of investing:

-market efficiency;
-value investments (as opposed to growth investments);
-good investments are those whose price is below their intrinsic value;
-risk, to most investors, has more to do with risk of losing money than with price volatility;
-participating in the market when prices are high and rising is the main source of risk;
-risk can't be eliminated, but it should be controlled;
-it's difficult, if not possible,
Steve Bradshaw
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: investment
A disappointing read given Howard Marks' reputation and thoughtful investing style.  The book is a clumsy cut-and-paste job performed on the Oaktree shareholder letters (freely available on their website).  After a promising first few chapters, the book fails to launch into any real meat.  Clearly we need to use "second level thinking" to take into account the expectations of the rest of the market - but how does one put that into practice?  Some nitty-gritty real world advice would not have gon ...more
Brian Ooi
Aug 08, 2015 rated it really liked it

A lucid argument for value investing, and a reminder to always ask where your views are different from the market.
Douglas O'laughlin
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that really helped define me as an investor. Beyond prolific.

Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is a very good read especially when you have some practical experience investing.

It describes time tested concepts that we can adopt to become successful investors.

Price and valuation is something that has been deeply hammered into me from this book although it takes a lot of courage to buy low when sentiment is bad.
Patrick Voigt
Feb 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Must read for beginning investors (really ALL investors) who wish to have long-term success investing.
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not a how-to book that provides step-by-step investment guides but rather Howard's investment philosophy that he adheres to in his decades of investing. Overall, there are a whole lot of discussions on risks and by that it should convince why investors should invest defensively by requiring enough margin of safety because the future developments may unfold in unexpected and unfavorable ways.

There are a few concepts being repeatedly told within and among chapters. That being said
Kyle Bale
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When times are good, it’s easy to crown financial winners and think of their formulas as impeccable. Marks often quotes Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s “The Black Swan” and “Fooled By Randomness” when speaking to the idea that heroes are often made when it is not merit but often luck that make them so. In the world of investing, we are always seeking alpha, or some semblance of “investor skill” or insight to be gleaned in order to “beat the market.” In this book Marks admits that this skill does exist, ...more
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: finance
First - I'm proud of me for finishing this book. It was a little more technical than I'd expected. I had to take notes to help me think through the details Howard Marks included.

Did I benefit from the read? Yes.

I found it repetitive, though. It is evident the author had difficulty working the categories for the papers he included here. But, repetition also provides permanence so it probably added to my personal benefit.
Andrei Savu
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read only one book about investing then go for this one. It covers a lot of ground.
Tadas Talaikis
Sep 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: besttrading
Advice although pretty basic and introductory, but good, despite problems, like for example, you dont experience averages (e.g., of probabilities or success rates) and you usually don't know where it is that "extreme". It may be (and usually it is) just local extreme. And lots of other things, we can only be certain of only one thing - there is no certainty, especially when it is created by trillions dollars of debt.

For long term traders/ investors, as it has almost nothing about alpha. I can't
Briar's Reviews
I never read books that are non-fiction and explain things to you (unless it is for school), but I found this book charmed me in a way that is hard to express.

This book explains to you thoughtful ways to invest, and how not to make mistakes when investing. While I found most of them to be quite obvious, when you put them all together it makes a lot of sense. It is very useful to use when you need help with money, and has made me think over my investments and where I spend my money during my sch
Oliver Schnusenberg
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding! Howard Marks has a way of explaining complex financial issues in very simple terms that make sense. He also discussed the Global Financial Crisis at length and delved into its causes.

The risk chapters were fantastic! Although I have taught finance for over 20 years, I have not thought about risk in the many different ways Howard Marks describes it. I especially enjoyed his discussion of the CML in chapters 5 and 9.

I read the "illuminated" version, with commentary from Paul Johnson
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Manages to capture the essence of value investing quite well and contains some good ideas about risk. For beginners it's a good book to understand value investing and for existing investors it's a good cognitive recap of key ideas. Overall the 225 pages or so have sufficient depth and contains a lot of good ideas. This is not a "how to" book but more of a how to think book and it does this quite well.

I've taken off a star, due to it being somewhat repetitive (unnecessarily so) especially around
Bibhu Ashish
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you are thinking of getting into equity investment or for that matter if you are thinking of acquiring any asset class, you can not miss this book. I got hold of the audio book and what an impact it had on my perspective about investments. The eighteen most important things the author has mentioned are timeless principles which a serious investor needs to learn by heart. Truly a gem which needs to be read again and again. Highly recommended.
Sep 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Howard has always been generous with his ideas through his Memos. This is effectively a roll up of those.

Biggest take always: risk is qualitative, not quantative; results (especially short-term) are not always indicative of the risks taken (and even of the skill); market cycle (always); to tame one's own human psychology is the hardest skill of all.
Arash Khamsezad
Aug 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was my 4th time reading an investment book and I have got to say that this book was simply amazing. Thee book was simple yet very detailed with a lot of examples and one of the best books I have read in a long time. The book was so interesting that I finished it in a matter of very a few days.
Truely and awesome, simple and yet informative book.
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: investing
Picked this up to become a wiser investor after scouring for a book to give the basic principles of sound investing. And the book delivers. Advice for newcomers and old sages alike, Marks seems to cover all the principles you need to become thoughtful in our investing choices. From now on this is THE book on investing to recommend.

Almost a spoiler: There are 18 most important things ;)
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read a good number of investment books and this is definitely among the best. I would highly recommend it for someone who is just starting to learn about investing. Between this, Ben Graham's The Intelligent Investor (or Security Analysis for the serious) and Philip Fischer's Common Stocks, Uncommon Profits you would have a great foundation to build on.
Nov 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an outstanding book that is critical to understanding investment markets and risk. However, my personal preference is actually for the author's (Howard Marks') "Memos from the Chairman". In the memos Mr. Marks has greater freedom to drill down into certain topics and apply them to the current events. The memos can be viewed here:
Michael Thompson
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business-books
Great book with lots of great insight on investing. Nothing terribly groundbreaking here, but the way Marks thinks about the markets is a great guide for people who are just starting out in investing.
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine 3 15 Dec 15, 2015 09:47AM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. If adding books to this author, please use Howard^^Marks.

Howard Stanley Marks is an American investor and writer. He holds a B.S.Ec. degree cum laude from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a major in finance and an M.B.A. in accounting and marketing from the Booth School of Business of t
“I like to say, “Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” 13 likes
“Prices are too high” is far from synonymous with “the next move will be downward.” Things can be overpriced and stay that way for a long time . . . or become far more so.” 7 likes
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