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The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  9,083 ratings  ·  483 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
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 :)
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
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. ...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,
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 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
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I find Howard Marks great to read because everything he says is the correct way to go about investing, but it is not easy to follow his advice - hence why investing is such a challenging field to be successful in over many years. While at first, I found this book a bit difficult to go through as every other page is a long quote from one of his memos, after a bit, I got used to the format of the book. I also found the form, mainly 21 areas that Howard has found to be “the most important thing” at ...more
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
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
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.
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.
Douglas O'laughlin
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book that really helped define me as an investor. Beyond prolific.

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.
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.
Robert Martin
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So full of investment wisdom – I wish I had read this book in March. While I sold most of my portfolio in February, missing the majority of the drop, I'll be the first to admit that I was slow on the rebound. The Most Important Thing is a short read and is split into 20 chapters, each detailing a different lesson. Marks manages to share his considerable wisdom with humility and without platitude. The only possible criticism is that there is a huge amount of focus on the 2004-2009 time period, bu ...more
Justas Šaltinis
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"There are old investors, and there are bold investors, but there are no old bold investors."

"Every once in a while, someone makes a risky bet on an improbable or uncertain outcomes and ends up looking like a genius."

"We never know where we're going, we ought to know where we are. We can infer where markets stand in their cycle from behavior of those around us."

"The seven scariest words in the world for the thoughtful investor - too much money chasing too few deals - providing an unusually apt d
Daniel Wei-hsuan
I'd never thought of reading an investment book would feel like reading a philosophy book. It is really more of an art than science.

Howard Marks engages in all topics regarding investing such as the concept of risk, the psychology of fear, the invariability of cycles, and how everything eventually comes down to value. You will find ambiguities in these concepts, the more you read the more blurry the concepts become, and it is when you can start seeing concepts as higher-level abstract then you s
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
Karl Wackerberg
Apr 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in investing. Might be a bit repetitive, although, it might be needed to get the message across. A key message in the book is that of avoiding risk through buying at intrinsic value.
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
Jul 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: personal-finance
I have read all of the memos from Howard Marks, so most of the concepts (and book) was just like re-reading gist of those memos. There are few learnings which is covered in more details in book which are scattered in several memos so in that regards book was worth to read.

Book is good read, if you are looking for re-read of memos, and good for them too who do not want to go through all 30 years worth memos and want to have a crash course.
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: ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This deserves to be read again and again and again, for both investors and non investors. It contains the wisdom of someone who has been in the game from the very start, and took the momentous effort to crystallize these nuggets of gold for future investors.
Sudhir Bharadhwaj
Superb book ! Read it to understand the relationship between Risk and Return. Loved all the "Most Important Thing"s . In particular notice the time stamp of few memos and how timely were they in imparting much needed wisdoms to the investors. ...more
Iqbal Yusuf
Oct 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: investing
A good book on investing.

Howard Marks stresses on the importance for the investors to be aware of risk, than thinking of getting gains in the stock market. If you want to read his book, go for this book & then go for Mastering the Market Cycle.

A must read for investors.
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.
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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

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“I'm in a weird place because the book is about to come out. So I'm basically just walking around like a raw nerve and I'm not sure that I...
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“I like to say, “Experience is what you got when you didn’t get what you wanted.” 26 likes
“There are old investors, and there are bold investors, but there are no old bold investors.” 15 likes
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