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The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor (Columbia Business School Publishing) Hardcover – 29 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (29 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231162847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231162845
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 81,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


When I see memos from Howard Marks in my mail, they're the first thing I open and read. I always learn something, and that goes double for his book. -- Praise for The Most Important Thing, Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway If you take an exceptional talent and have them obsess about value investing for several decades--including deep thinking about its very essence with written analysis along the way-- you may come up with a book as useful to value investors as this one. But don't count on it. -- Praise for The Most Important Thing, Jeremy Grantham, Cofounder and Chief Investment Strategist, Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo A clear and expert resource for all investors. -- Praise for The Most Important Thing Kirkus Reviews Veteran value-investing manager Howard Marks draws on pithy memos he wrote to clients over the years to dispense insightful advice on everything from risk taking to the role of luck. -- Praise for The Most Important Thing Money Magazine The original is great, but if you're willing to spend a bit more money (eBook is $9.99), this new version does have a little more meat to it. My Money Blog I recommend this book to all who aspire after value investing. Aleph Blog / Money Science This new edition does the nearly impossible; it takes an already classic text and makes it an even more indispensable tool for investors! Ultimately The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor is an outstanding read. I'll be referring back to it often. I'd say it's a must-have for every value investor. Seeking Alpha Enlightening and well detailed. Midwest Book Review This is a book I recommend you keep on your desk -- Charles Sizemore Moneybuilder Marks' The Most Important Thing distilled the investing insight of his celebrated client memos into a single volume and, for the first time, made his time-tested philosophy available to general readers. In this edition, Marks's wisdome is joined by the comments, insights, and counterpoints of four renowned investors. Value Walk Blog

About the Author

Howard Marks is chairman and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles-based investment firm with seventy-five billion dollars under management. He holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the Wharton School and an MBA in accounting and marketing from the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor. Bruce C. Greenwald holds the Robert Heilbrunn Professorship of Finance and Asset Management at Columbia Business School and is the academic director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing. He is the coauthor of The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By A. Spagnolo on 21 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
this is very good a first book on investing. some of the commentary was brilliant and added value, and some was just saying that they agreed with what was said. i would have given 5 stars if there was a reading list for each chapter showing where to get more detailed 'how to' information.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Howard's framework for analysing markets and specifically risk is one of the best I have come across. This book is a rare case of one I have read a number of times.
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By Hariseldon on 16 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written, covers the behavioural aspects of investing and in particular value investing. Useful commentary helps emphasise and clarify the content.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 89 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
This book can save you from yourself when investing 17 Feb. 2013
By Andy Wallace - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Each year, there are hundreds of books written on the subject of stock market investing. Most of them are not worth the investment of one's time or money. Every once in a while, a new classic hits the market. This book is one of those new classics on investment writing.
Howard Marks, Chairman of Oaktree Capital Management, writes clearly and persuasively about the importance of risk avoidance when investing in stocks. He emphatically states his belief that risk avoidance by buying at a good value is the key to success. He then spends the rest of the book telling the reader the 18 most important things to consider when buying stocks. His discussion of investor psychology is worth the price of the book by itself. Everything else is a bonus.
I had been meaning to read this book for a year or so. When I learned that an annotated edition, with comments from some leading value investors, I grabbed it. I took my time reading it, as there is so much great information within. The final chapter, in which Marks pulls all 18 important things together, is now something I intend to re-read several times a year, like I do with Chapters 8 and 20 of Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor.
Highly recommended.
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
A Classic Made Even Better 12 April 2012
By Richard M. Rockwood - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
I have to say I was very excited to learn that this new edition was going to be released as I found the first edition of his book to be a seminal investing work, one that deserves to be on the same shelf as The Intelligent Investor, Security Analysis, Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits, and the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters.

I was not disappointed when I read my review copy. I found that the annotated comments highlighted important sections in the text while also providing additional compelling perspectives but yet didn't get in the way of the flow of the book.

Don't just take my word on this, here are a few examples:

p. 58: Howard Marks: Understanding uncertainly: Dimson's formulation reminds us of a very simple concept: that many things are possible in the future. We can't know which of the possibilities will occur, and this uncertainty contributes to the challenge of investing. "Single scenario" investors ignore this fact, oversimplify the task, and need fortuitous outcomes to produce good results.

p. 104: Seth Klarman: Even the best investors judge themselves on the basis of return. It would be hard to evaluate yourself on risk, since risk cannot be measured. Apparently, the risk-averse managers of this endowment were disappointed with their relative returns even though their risk adjusted performance was likely excellent, as borne out by their performance over the following three years. This highlights just how hard it is to maintain conviction over the long run when short-term performance is considered poor.

Please allow me to make one additional comment on the annotations before I discuss the new chapter. I was not familiar with Mr. Johnson before reading his collection of annotations in the book but I found them insightful and thought provoking. I wish my college career had included being a student in his classes. You can find more information on him at this site: [...].

The new chapter is called Reasonable Expectations. This chapter develops the theme that investors need to keep their expectations grounded in reality to guard themselves from overreaching and thus taking on far more risk than is reasonable. Mr. Marks cautions his readers that one can never know when the exact right time to make a purchase is. Focus on buying it when its trading at below your estimate of value with the understanding that if its gets cheaper you will buy more as the price declines. The point is not to become despondent if a stock declines after your purchase it because being able to catch the absolute button is nearly impossible.

Here is a quote from this chapter in which Mr. Marks is telling his readers how an investor should have been thinking in the dark period of 2007-2009:

"I need 8 percent. I'd be glad to earn 10 percent instead. Twelve percent would be even better. But I won't try for more than that, because doing so would entail risks I'm just not willing to bear. I don't need 20 percent."

I find that comment particularly interesting when you consider that Mr. Buffett has spoken on the record many times that he looks for investments that can earn him 15%.

In conclusion I certainly think the chapter is a valuable addition to the book. This new material, along with the added annotations, make the new edition a worthwhile purchase. All in all this new edition does the nearly impossible, it takes an already classic text and makes it an even more indispensable tool for investors!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Great Book - annoying commentaries 10 April 2014
By kc - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Howard Marks is one of the great investment thinkers. This book provides tremendous insight into the nature of risk and return. For example, higher prices mean both lower expected returns and higher risk (which is counter to Modern Portfolio theory).

Unfortunately, I found the comments in the "illuminated" version distracting. There were some insightful comments (mostly from Marks himself) but they were inserted into the middle of the chapters. I would prefer to have the comments at the end so I could keep my stream of thought.

I would probably recommend the un-illuminated version.
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
Little value added to the original 26 Mar. 2013
By Mtrush - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read all of Howard Marks' memos as well as the original "The most important thing illuminated" book and consider them to be outstanding gems of financial management. This version adds comments from other outstanding investors. However, it otherwise appears to be identical to the original version. If you can borrow this book from the library then by all means get the book and read those comments. I'd not recommend buying it though if you have already read the original version.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
learn from experience? 5 Dec. 2013
By JOHN W MCNEAR JR - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Getting experienced in investing can be very expensive. This is one of the few books that captures the true essence of how to make money in markets, which has so little to do with academic theory, and is much more about street smarts. Few others have been able to capture that and teach it out of a book. Greenblatt sums it up perfectly when he discusses contextualizing market and security price movements, which is so much more important than anything we learned in school.
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