Reading list recommended to improve Writing skills

Hi everyone,

We probably all have read more or less the majority of investment classics, but although they're classics, they don't necessarily have the most appealing writing style. anyone here have recommendations on books to read that are novel or not, fiction or not, to gain exposure on multiple writing styles and built a repertoire from there ?

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Comments (24)

May 5, 2020 - 8:39pm

If you're looking for pure writing skill, definitely wouldn't go with anything finance related (Michael Lewis isn't bad though)
- Quarterly letters may be a bit better, obviously Buffett's but Howard Marks & Bezos have really good ones too

Some authors I think are really great writers:

  • Neil Gaiman (All of his books)
  • Stephen King (Most of his books)
  • David Benioff (try City of Thieves!)
  • Older authors like Bradbury & Fitzgerald & Vonnegut (Books can be boring)
  • Carl Sagan (if you're into science/space at all)
  • Madeline Miller (if you're into greek mythology)
  • Jon Krakauer (non-fiction)

Most writers say that the best way they improved their wring was by reading a shit ton. To do this you need to buy books that you're actually interested in - not just books that you think will help you out

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May 5, 2020 - 9:01pm

Good topic, as finance people are not usually the best writers. A slow reading of the NY Times should help. While you are reading, pay attention to style and sentence structure. Then, practice a lot.

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May 5, 2020 - 9:11pm

I think Going for Broke by John Rothchild is what you're looking for. His writing is so clean and concise (features you would like to have in this field) and the story is absolutely wild. It's about Robert Campeau, who was the Donald Trump of department stores in the 1980s before he imploded and went bankrupt. The story is essentially a bunch of business meetings, but it's one of the best books I've ever read, fiction or non fiction.

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  • Anonymous Monkey's picture
  • Anonymous Monkey
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May 6, 2020 - 12:41am

If your goal is to get exposed to different writing styles, read books that you never thought you'd read. I did this by going down a Goodreads rabbit hole -- I started by clicking on random books by an author I already enjoy (Gore Vidal, in my case, but you can do this for topics you like, or start with a book you recently read). Each book on Goodreads then has a list of books that "readers also enjoyed," so I'd read summaries there and would click through to whatever sounded interesting; rinse and repeat for books that follow. Then, I'd read the reviews for the books I selected, see which authors were praised for their writing, and added things to my list from there.

Not only is this a great way to find absolutely sublime, obscure writers but you'll gain a different perspective on common issues (work, love, quarter-life crisis, etc) than you would from reading the latest NYT bestseller. Here are a few books that I read through the rabbit hole method:

  • Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran (really vivid imagery and descriptions of characters' personalities; the book is written from multiple first-person perspectives and each character has a distinct voice, even if they all appear similar on the surface. The writing style truly lived up to the hype)
  • Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy (I mentioned this book in another thread; it read just like a well-made movie in my mind)
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe (I thought of this as a "mindless" book -- I read it on planes and on my commute. It ended up reading like a buddy of your's is sitting with you on the front porch and telling you stories over a beer. I was surprised by how well-written it was and how much I enjoyed it)

For context, I typically read political books or biographies; none of the books above were anything I'd typically rush to get at the library. Yet here we are. Perhaps in a few months, you'll have your own list of random books that helped you improve your writing.

May 6, 2020 - 10:29am

Reading is important - lots of good recommendations here.

If you want to really get good at writing? Start writing. Pick a topic and try and express your views on it. Have others read it, critique it, etc. Forcing yourself to translate your thoughts to written word is extremely important. Writing, like anything, is like a muscle and the more you exercise it the better you get at it. The important part of this is finding your own voice and style - having reference points is very helpful, but candidly most of the best writers have that.

I also cannot stress this enough - befriend someone who is really good at writing, or at least editing, and have them look over EVERYTHING they are willing to. Hell - pay them if you have to. It's worth it.

May 6, 2020 - 11:48am

going to go a slightly different direction with it. get Elements of Style by Strunk. it's not a fiction novel or anything like that but it's hands down the best handbook for developing a concise and efficient writing style

May 8, 2020 - 11:34am

Second both of the above. Would recommend some active practice vs picking it up solely by reading well-written books.

May 6, 2020 - 11:49am

Subscribe to The Economist, The New Yorker, and Foreign Policy.

Fantastic writing, plus you'll become educated about the world.

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May 6, 2020 - 2:58pm

To improve overall writing skills may want to check out "A Writer's Reference" by Diane Hacker

Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.
May 6, 2020 - 10:39pm

First, the WSJ / NYT. Yes, obvious, but the articles are succinct (good business writing) and if you look closely they also have a lot of sentence structure variation which I think is an important trait of good writers. Pay attention to the editorial sections too as that will give you a flavor of different writing styles on a daily basis.

Second, as someone interested in public markets investing (personally + as my full time job) I really enjoyed the book "Capital Returns". It's an edited compilation of short investment write ups from the early 00's through early '10s written by a dozen different investment analysts from Marathon Asset Management. Aside from it laying out a phenomenal framework for thinking about investing in cyclical industries, it provides examples of investment professionals writing clear, concise but also engaging memos.

May 8, 2020 - 9:56am

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield is fantastic and you will finish it in an afternoon.

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