Top critical review
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An enjoyable read, but not the best book for small investors
on 11 September 2011
I enjoyed reading this book, although for a typical small investor this isn't the best stock picking book. This book describes the author's method to pick companies that one can expect to achieve high growth. However, for a typical private investor, there's a couple of weaknesses. First, the book was originally written in the 1950s so it's quite dated. Amusingly it talks about the new technology of the "pocket calculator" and then there's this gem: "If a man, he usually gives but a tiny fraction to handling his investments than he devotes to work. If a woman, the time and effort given is equally small to that devoted to her normal duties". More problematic is that it focuses mostly on manufacturing industry, which might have been the most relevant in the 1950s but less so now. For example, it says you should invest "when the factory is about to come on line". The main reason for this focus is, as the author explains, where his strengths and knowledge lie. By the author's own admission the advice is less relevant to other industries. Second, the advice it gives is more useful for someone who is managing a fund and has the time to spend investigating firms. The author's main point is to spend lots of time talking to management, employees and customers of the firm to find out its prospects. I doubt most small investors could do this. It's not as if I could get a luncheon appointment with a CEO. A fund manager with more experience in this may be able to, which is why I think this book is more suited to them.
One final point worth mentioning is the inexplicably pointless preface and introduction by his son, Kenneth. It serves no apparent purpose and worst comes across as an ego trip. On the first page Kenneth (the son that is) manages to mention that "Who knew that I would go on found a large investment management firm, write my own books, and become the sixth-longest-running columnist in Forbes magazine ...". Who knew and who cares? I recommend skipping the preface and introduction and go straight to the book itself!
All this aside, as noted earlier I did enjoy reading this book. As a small private investor, it's not the most useful book for me (that is instead, by the way, "One up on Wall Street"). But if you're generally interested in business and fund management, this is a good read. There's lots of interesting anecdotes and gives good insight on fund management.