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Investing: The Last Liberal Art
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Investing: The Last Liberal Art

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  596 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Offering a picture of investing within the larger world, this title explains how investment managing works by borrowing the big ideas from other complex disciplines: biology, economics, mathematics, philosophy, physics and psychology. In the biology chapter, Hagstrom analyses the central nervous system and the immune system as complex adaptive systems and then draws parall ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 22nd 2002 by Texere Publishing (first published November 17th 2000)
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Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  596 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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Ian Robertson
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Investing: The Last Liberal Art contains no direction on how to read a balance sheet, or on how to project earnings into the future and discount them back to today’s value, nor are there arcane financial terms to send readers scrambling for dictionaries. Still, Investing is an essential book for professional and amateur stock pickers who want to excel, portfolio managers preparing to interview prospective analysts, and investors trying to choose amongst the many advisors ready to serve their nee ...more
May Ling
May 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have rallied against STEM and business education for some time and it's rally against the liberal arts who like Ghandi do not put up a fight. This is yet another book that articulates so well the net affect on society.

The book is written with such positive light of what a liberal arts education could do for a person. The ability to think is what should be the focus, not the acquisition of knowledge. It has several great book lists that I hope to add to my noggin. I love the examples from Char
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the last chapter, the author writes something that perfectly sets the context for this in my mind slightly overlooked investment book (1st ed 2000): “Improving the resource condition of our System 2 thinking – that is to say, deepening and broadening our reserves of relevant information – is the principal reason this book was written”. Writing that in 2000, two years before Daniel Kahneman received the Swedish Riksbank’s economic prize in memory of Alfred Nobel for a lifetime’s effort to put ...more
Will Akins
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read a few books and blogs on mental models and applying those to decisions, but this is the first book that helped me understand them on a deeper level. I hit somewhat of an obstacle with applying mental models in my life which is what led me to this book. That, and I found it for $3.

Prior to reading the book I could understand a concept (model), and then apply it to a situation, but I didn't know how to apply multiple models, and weigh them independently, in decision making.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting take on both investing and college education. After reading, I'd recommend reading the last 2 chapters first. Then, if intrigued, go back and read from the beginning. The author's premise is that the liberal arts degree was meant to expand our thinking not focus it in one limited area. I concur his his assessment. He spends a chapter on various liberal art topics - physics, biology, social sciences, psychology, philosophy and literature. He weaves his investment philosophy through ea ...more
Jai Gupta
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is interdisciplinary in nature and talks about investing from multiple perspective. The author primarily focuses on the fact that the notion of investing, economics and markets are symbiotically associated with a larger body of human knowledge, yet the forces of this new era compels and demands us to specialise in one particular field. One needs to start on the quest of connections and parallels between Finance and ideas in multiple avenues of knowledge to be able to invest in a more in ...more
Igor Chalhub
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book on mental models.
Peter S
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it
I thought this book was going to be for people with a liberal arts background. I hoped Hagstrom would reveal all the great qualities a liberal arts education would have for an investor, and how to apply those ideas. Instead, it worked in the opposite view, and assumed the reader was not well read at all. So, it felt like it was for an investor who needed to be convinced about the merits of opening their minds.

It had chapters on all the major fields of a liberal arts degree - math, physics, biol
Sandy Salzinger
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a rah rah book for the advocacy of Charlie Munger’s mental models and a more interdisciplinary attitude towards higher education. The author has separate chapters for physics, biology, sociology, psychology, philosophy, literature, mathematics, and decision making ( Kahneman’s Systems 1& 2) where he touches on basic knowledge in each discipline and then tries to show how this knowledge could help the investing professional. Not being an investing pro I guess what one could get out of ...more
Nirav Mehta
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is different from most investing-related books that I have read. It follows the principle that investing is actually a liberal art, and being a good investor requires an individual to have broader horizons and the importance of wisdom over intellect.

The book draws parallels from different streams of arts or sciences with the investing world, including physics, biology, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, etc. The conclusion is in line with Charlie Munger's investing philosophy - that
Benjamin Jas. Baker
This book is an excellent tool, not only for investors, but anyone interested in broadening their scope of general knowledge. Since, this book is based on the conceptual ideology of bringing the various fields of academia together into a whole - the lesson basically teaches investors to use knowledge from every aspect of varied educations in order to make more informed market decisions. Well, I have been greatly inspired by this, and brought away a broader understanding of summarized, general in ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Opening one's mind to absorb knowledge from multiple disciplines and linking them together so that they enforce each other to gain a better understanding of the world helps not only in investing but in many other aspects in life.

Well written book, chapters are well connected, I have learned a great many of ideas (from different disciplines) in this books that I would now have to go and study the original work by respective authors.
Elijah Oyekunle
I really love the main concept behind this book, which is that having a broad knowledge in several fields can help improve every aspect of one's life through the combination of ideas.
Then the author tries giving an overview of some really important fields although I didn't think those can do much except provoke an interest in the reader to dive deeper into those topics; because the overviews themselves are not enough.
Overall, this is a good book.
Mourisham Jose
Feb 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Did not manage to squeeze into my MUST READ INVESTMENT BOOK but this book nonetheless offered me a new perspective especially on Charlie Munger's latticework of mental models. In order to survive in an unpredictable world that we are living in today, one must be equipped with worldly wisdom. A heavy duty book especially if you do not have science background.
Tarin Bansal
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: investing
This book is basically a collection of summaries from various other authors like Taleb, Kahneman, Pabrai, Munger, Yuval Noah Harari etc. Good value add if this is among the first investment related books you pick, not so much otherwise.
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant concept of applying major principles from diverse disciplines. This book changed the way I see and interact with the world.
Harsh Thaker
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The book answers the question, why multi disciplinary thinking is required not only to be a better investor but also a better thinker
Pedro Zagury
Jan 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: investing
Great summary of main mental models, from different disciplines. Starting point for having Munger's elementary worldly wisdom.
Saikat Sengupta
May 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finance
One of the best books to explain the 'lollapalooza effect'
On mental models as it relates to value investing. Good multidisciplinary approach to the topic.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: investing
I agree with the overarching theme: be broad-minded in your understanding of the world. However, there is more form than substance.
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: money
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gaurav Singh Kopite
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. A must read for any investor who wants to learn what it truly takes to be a good one
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Patrik Bergman
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

One of the greatest books I have read where liberal arts and broader wisdom are applied to investing. Highly recommended.
Joel Gray
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing


Master the best that other people have figured out rather than sitting down and trying to dream it up yourself.

There are no shortcuts to greater understanding.

Feb 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: investment
gnothi seauton, carpe diem, and keep reading!

A poem by Bertolt Brecht springs to mind, the SONG ABOUT THE GOOD PEOPLE:

One knows the good people by the fact
That they get better
When one knows them. The good people
Invite one to improve them, for
How does anyone get wiser? By listening
And by being told something.

At the same time, however
They improve anybody who looks at them and anybody
They look at. It is not just becaus
Jun 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book is more about investing and less about the liberal arts. The chapter on literature is more about literary criticism than about the works themselves. For example, there are endless lessons one can glean from Shakespeare--leadership, research, empathy, diversification, honesty, self-awareness, decisiveness--but there was no discussion of these works, just discussions about talking about Shakespeare.

Similarly, the chapter on math was just a repeat of the wisdom of probability
May 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Investing is an accessible apologetic for a liberal education. It illustrates the idea that successful investor must develop and incorporate mental models from a variety of disciplines. At the foundation of that development are the thinkers that make up the Western canon. Thinkers from physics, biology, the social sciences, psychology, philosophy, and even fictional literature will help the investor to think critically and develop ways of seeing the world that will approach the world more accurately. It’ ...more
Joma Palana
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Charlie Munger, the business partner of the better known Warren Buffett, has popularized the use of mental models as a tool to be a better investor. From this starting point, Hagstrom has given us the big favor of doing a systematic study of the different fields of the liberal arts from which we can draw to build up our arsenal of mental models. The book is up-to-date and includes findings from the recent business literature. As a bonus, it provides the reading list of the humanities course from ...more
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Robert G. Hagstrom is Senior Vice President and Director of Legg Mason Focus Capital. He has authored the New York Times best-selling The Warren Buffett Way and The Warren Buffett Portfolio, as well as The Nascar Way. He lives with his family in Wayne, Pennsylvania.