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The Einstein of Money: The Life and Timeless Financial Wisdom of Benjamin Graham [Hardcover]

Joe Carlen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

24 July 2012
Warren Buffett (estimated to be worth nearly $40 billion) has repeatedly acknowledged Benjamin Graham as the primary influence on his investment approach. During his life, Graham - known as the 'Dean of Wall Street' - wrote a number of books and papers that provided details of an investment system that actually worked. Drawing on a number of interviews with the likes of Warren Buffett and other high profile investors, Graham's surviving family, and noted finance professors, Einstein of Money gives readers a fascinating look into Graham's most essential wealth-creation concepts, while telling the colourful story of his amazing business career and his multifaceted personal life.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus (24 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616145579
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616145576
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.7 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 136,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, well-researched - and motivating... 14 Aug 2012
I must confess to having never heard of Benjamin Graham or "value investing" until I read this book, having been intrigued by its title. Having read it, I'd would agree that Graham deserves such a grand title, on the grounds that (unlike any number of Nobel-prizewinning economists), he identified ground-breaking principles of investing that work in the real world. Put simply, Graham saw the Stock Market as it really is, and came up with a way of exploiting its often-irrational behaviour using rational assessment of individual companies.

Reading this book was truly revelatory for me, changing my attitude towards investment - and even motivating me to make value investing the core of my approach to financial planning. It turns out I'm in good company, as Warren Buffett was a personal friend of Graham and uses modified value investment theory in his own approach.

The book is primarily a bio of British-born Graham, who was a truly astonishing individual. A financial crisis affecting the family led to young Graham being encouraged to get out and support his mother and siblings. He ended up at Columbia,and while still a student was offered faculty positions in maths, philosophy and English. A chance encounter led to his applying his extraordinary mind to the concept of investment, and developing Value Investing.

The author does an excellent job of weaving in the personal story of Graham with the ideas that made him a Wall St legend, and which are still relevant today. The result is effectively two books in one: a bio of the man and a guide to his investment principles (including worked examples). While the writing style is sometimes a tad florid, especially in the beginning, the author's ability to corral so many different strands into a coherent whole is impressive indeed.

One of the most enjoyable AND informative books I've read in many years.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent summary not to be missed 14 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent summary of the life and philosophy of Benjamin Graham and the best introduction to investing you'll ever get to read and the "holy trinity". The author has done all the hard work for you in terms of structuring and organising Graham's considerations and thankfully the English is of a high standard and very easy to follow/understand. It also provides some insights into the man himself if that sort of thing interests you. I would suggest the book is read in conjunction with "The Intelligent Investor". It all makes just as much sense today as it did when Graham was alive. And Graham has an excellent writing style to engage the reader. Not to be missed if you are a student and aspire to work in the investing industry.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well done work on Graham and value investing! 13 Aug 2012
By Andrew - Published on
Joe Carlen provides a detailed and insightful introduction to Graham and his work. His book is straightforward enough to be understandable to readers unfamiliar with value investing and also detailed enough to appeal to those seeking a deeper understanding of Graham's history and philosophy.

As was mentioned in a previous review, one of the most beneficial features of the book is its structure, which jumps back and forth between the biographical narrative of Graham's life and a survey of the value investing principles Graham formulated. All the while, Carlen links the development of each aspect of value investing theory with parts of Graham's life that informed it.

However, in my opinion, the best parts of the book deal with Graham's actual life. After all, Graham's life story provides amazing material to work with! He led a fascinating existence and could be termed a bona fide renaisance man. He enjoyed and excelled in arts, theater, literature, travelling, language -- so much beyond the boundaries of finance.

This, however, is not to diminish the parts about value investing. They are also very well done. But, of course, Graham himself also wrote a number of books on his theories, including Security Anlysis and The Intelligent Investor. So, for me, reading about his life was the most interesting part of all.

Importantly, Carlen interweaves the theory and the life story -- which has never, to my knowledge, been done in a book about Graham. And he does it in a way that everyone (including those without an overwhelming background or even interest in fianance) will enjoy immensely. Most importantly, I think that all will delight in reading about Graham's theories by virtue of their status in the investment community. Value investing is regarded by many investors as the holy grail of investment theories. Its principles have stood the test of time, outperforming over long, long periods just about every other stock market strategy. This alone is good reason to pick up this book (and others on value investing).

All in all, the Einstein of Money was enjoyable and informative (and NOT "plumped up" or repetitive, as another reviewer incorrectly suggested). Carlen tackles the material with the right structure and appropriate level of complexity. Almost no readers will find the material inaccessible and, in fact, I would argue that they will get a real kick out of it. It's a worthy addition to the pantheon of books on Graham and value investing.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to Graham - This review was written by the author of "Applied Value Investing" 12 Aug 2012
By Joseph Calandro, Jr. - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
After the publication of my book a number of publishers contacted me about potential topics for another book. In response, I recommended a book that collected Ben Graham's articles but they told me someone was already doing that (i.e., "Benjamin Graham: Building a Profession," 2010). They then stated the following: "You know, no-one has written a biography of Ben Graham, and they really should. What do you think?" While I agreed the need was certainly there, I knew I was not the right person to undertake such a project (I am not a biographer) so I turned it down. I am certainly glad that I did for Joe Carlen has done a splendid job in his new biography of Mr. Graham.

One of the main challenges of a project like this was how to deal with the breadth of Mr. Graham's life and theories in one volume that is readily assessable to lay readers. Mr. Carlen accomplishes this by inter-weaving chapters on Mr. Graham's life with those on his theories. This is a novel way of addressing the subject, and one that puts Mr. Graham's theories into context, which is important because Mr. Graham was a product of his times, as we all are, and therefore understanding his times facilitates greater understanding of his theories. The result, as Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital Management stated, is "a lucid introduction to Graham and his ideas, and as such does investors a real service. Its message is an essential one."

The only nit I have is with the title, "The Einstein of Money." In a review, Roger Lowenstein likened Mr. Graham more to Descartes than Einstein, but I would go further and liken him to Isaac Newton, creator of classical physics and calculus. After all, Mr. Graham also founded a discipline (Security Analysis) as well as a method of analysis (value investing). Nevertheless, Mr. Graham was both a genius and a highly independent thinker, like Einstein was, so the title is accurate. More importantly though, this book helps to explain why Mr. Graham "is still a hero to" Mr. Buffett, as well as to countless other financial professionals--including me.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great biography of a fascinating character 5 Jan 2013
By words - Published on
I've been a Benjamin Graham fan for years, and his investing books have had a huge influence on my thinking on the subject--particularly the two famous ones, Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis. I am an ardent value investor and fan of many of Graham's protégés as well (both the famous and not-so-famous ones). But when I came across this biography I realized that I knew very little about the life of the man himself, or the other areas where he was active. So it was with great interest that I sat down to read this book, and I was not disappointed. I had felt that the subject might be a touch dry, even for a fan such as myself, but I was mistaken. This was a highly engaging biography, and entertained me even as it taught me about a character who I've admired for so long.

It has long been an assumption of mine that value investing was born mainly out of the depression, but the tales of Graham's early years were an interesting eye-opener. In reading the stories about his difficult youth--the riches to rags--you can see the foundation being laid for what was to come. There were some fascinating segments here about the downfall of the Graham family, and Graham's determination to raise the family up again and help his struggling mother. And this was 20 years before the start of the great depression.

When it comes to the period of Graham's education, and his academic accomplishments, the story becomes truly inspiring. Graham was a more brilliant man than I was aware, and reading about the breadth of his pursuits is amazing. It's clear that he could have made his name in ANY walk of life, had he never come to the investing world at all. Truly inspiring stuff.

Others have mentioned the format of this biography as a weakness (it is split chapter by chapter between Graham's bio, and discussion of his investing/academic ideas). I partially agree with the criticism, but mainly in the sense that I was deeply engaged by the biographical material and wanted to continue with it at the end of every chapter. However, for readers not deeply familiar with Graham's writings, the investment chapters will be useful. Warren Buffett has said, "No one ever became poor by reading Graham," and I suspect that no one will come to harm by reading these chapters, either. Further, even devotees of Graham, such as myself, probably aren't familiar with areas such as his ideas for currency reform, etc, so there are useful bits there for all of us.

All in all, a really strong biography of a great man, and a very easy and interesting read. Graham was the primary influence on some of the most astute investors in history, and this book is a great way to get to know a little about the man himself. I highly recommend this one to anyone who wants to learn a little more about one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good subject, but poor execution 6 Aug 2012
By Joseph Devita - Published on
Ben Graham was the father of value investing, the idol of Warren Buffet, and a brilliant renaissance man with numerous and varied intellectual pursuits who also led a colorful private life which included three wives, an exotic lover and numerous affairs. As such his story is interesting and worth telling. In addition the author has juxtaposed Graham's biography with alternating chapters explaining his investment and economic philosophies, topics which have amazing topical applications even though they were formulated over 70 years ago. And yet this book fails.

First the good news- Graham is truly a fascinating man whose life encompassed the first 75 years of the 20th century, during which he formulated and implemented his theories of investment very successfully while also being a member of academia [his course at Columbia is where Buffet met him], authored some of the preeminent tomes on finance and investment for both the ordinary man and professionals, wrote plays, invented new kinds of slide rules and translated the Greek and Latin classics from their native languages. In a world where specialization rules and experts are concentrating on smaller and smaller spheres of their subject, encountering a man like Graham is eyeopening and energizing, giving a hint at the true potential within us all. And the chapters on his theories show an intellectual depth and understanding that the markets have only recently caught up to with behavioral economic theory.

And yet the book ultimately fails because the author is a poor writer. He uses phrases and descriptions over and over again [how many times do we have to be reminded that Buffet is Graham's greatest disciple? How about just about every time his name is mentioned!]. And the book, especially the chapters on investing, are plumped up like a chicken on steroids- unnaturally fattened by harmful or useless filler. Thus what could have been said in maybe 10 or 20 pages takes three chapters [over 60 pages] and eventually you find yourself cringing as the same thing is repeated as if you have a 15 second attention span and no short term memory.

The writer also has a tendency to over simplify and thus draw silly conclusions [for example , he compares Grahams contrarian investment style of buying when the market is going down and selling when it goes up to his abandonment of orthodox religious beliefs- a truly foolish analogy!]. There is only black and white in the world depicted- with Graham invariably bathed in the purest color. The net effect is one of enthusiasm triumphing over critical or substantive analysis- resulting in an amateurish work by in inadequate writer.

Upon completing this book I was glad I learned more about Graham who I have encountered superficially in biographies of Buffet and others, and I definitely agree with the value approach to investing, especially compared to the bipolar insanity which passes for market analysis and decision making today [and which really has been the norm for most of history as the Tulip bubble of the 1600's attests to]. But the book could and should have been written better- and it is all the author's fault. And because of that the intrinsic value of the book is less than it should be and there are probably better sources to invest your time in- something Graham would have understood.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Man 21 Nov 2012
By Ralph Grimes - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book was a great read. It offered many insights into the character and atmosphere of the times that Benjamin Graham operated in.
I knew he was a great investor and mentor for Warren Buffett now I know that he was also a great man. It's too bad that Wall Street doesn't practice the ethics and honesty of Ben Grahm today.
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