Books I Wish I Had Read Before 20

Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, once commented – “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.

I came across this comment in mid 30’s and it made me to read a book every week. If I had a time machine then I would go back to my teenage and read the following books from multiple disciplines before I turned 20.

1. Read-Write-Think

First I will learn how to read, write, and think so that I can read, write, and think to learn better.

How to Read a Book

The Elements of Style

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

2. Evolution

If superior creatures from space ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to assess the level of our civilization, is: ‘Have they discovered evolution yet?

The Selfish Gene

3. Psychology

Terribly smart people make totally bonkers mistakes by not knowing basic human psychology. Without a basic understanding of human psychology we will fail in our life.

Thinking Fast and Slow


Predictably Irrational

4. Mathematics

If you don’t get elementary mathematics into your repertoire, then you go through a long life like a one legged man in an ass kicking contest. You’re giving a huge advantage to everybody else.

Introduction to Probability

Introduction to Number Theory

Naked Statistics


5. Physics

Habits of the mind formed from science are very valuable. Physics is the queen of all sciences and it explains how everything in this world works with absolute precision.

Six Easy Pieces

The Pleasure of finding things out

How Everything works

6. Business

Directly or Indirectly we all do business. Hence it is very important to learn the basics of business.

Principles of Economics

How to Read a financial report

The Making of an American Capitalist

Berkshire Hathaway Letters to shareholders

7. Randomness and Luck

A small number of black swans explain almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives. But these are predictable only in hindsight and luck plays a huge role in all these outcomes.

The Black Swan

The Success Equation

Closing Thoughts

It costs only $516.12 to read these 20 books. The value that one gets out of these books are huge compared to the price paid. I am happy that I read these books in mid 30’s. Better late than never. I hope my kids who are yet to enter their teenage reads these books before they turn 20.

29 thoughts on “Books I Wish I Had Read Before 20

  1. Jana – This is good. I try to read and learn something from your blog whenever I get time. At least I could add these books to my wishlist. Otherwise I wouldn’t have know about these books.
    Dileep Abraham

  2. I’m surprised “Poor Charlie’s Almanack” is not included in here, but given the opening paragraph of the post maybe it’s implied🙂
    Great list, thank you Jana

    • Charlie,

      I thought about it a lot and the first paragraph implied it. Great that you are able to read my mind.


    • Prashanth,

      I am sure there are. But I do not keep track of them (Availability Bias).


  3. Correction: the principal cost of the books–if you read them–is the opportunity cost of your time. Not trivial, assuming, say, five hours per book. Still, excellent investments I do not doubt.

    • Emerich,

      You are absolutely correct. I should have mentioned about the opportunity cost of time.


  4. Have some if my favourites there !! Thanks for sharing.

    Bill Bryson or Malcolm Gladwell ?

    No Indian author ? Chanakya ? Gurucharan Das / khuswant Singh / J Krishnamurthi

  5. Hi Jana

    It’s – same hari posted on your other blog – can you share me your email id. I can share my list of books and may be you can quickly review and see if any of those can be useful for you.


    • I added some of your books into my personal list – i ordered all them will be reading the books which i did not red in next 1 to 2 months – my goal towards Health / Wealth / Love / Hapiness so priorities the books based on my goal and read them.

  6. Hi Jana,

    In recent years, the book that has moved me most is Viktor E Frankl’s book : Man’s Search for Meaning.

    Here is a quote from the author: “We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”



  7. Jana,

    I am reading The power of Habit now and let me thank you first for the two wonderful books.
    1) The Power of Habit
    2) The little book of Talent

    I am indebted to you & Prof Bakshi for recommending these 2 books.

    I was wondering if people really know about the power of habits & the real way to practice in their teen years, they can easily do wonders. In India people work really hard to succeed, if they know how to work smarter too can take this country to the next levels.

    I think these two books deserves a place on your under 20 list.



  8. Jana,

    I would like to know one thing:

    Do you read couple of books parallely ? Or you read one book at a time.

    Reason, I ask this question is, I personally read atleast 2-3 books at one point of time. I can’t find a particular reason for that behavior but that’s how my mind has been trained.

    Would like to know your reading habits.


  9. Jana,
    I recently discovered your blog. Good one. Informative. Please keep up a good work.
    I liked your book selection. I have many of these books in my personal library. I came across few new ones. I plan to check them out. Since the tile of your blog is books I wish I had read before 20…I have such list too. My only regret is I did not read the following books before 20…only these books…no more…they could have accelerated my progress…

    1. Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
    2. Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand
    3. Think and Grow Rich By Napoleon Hill
    4. Rich Dad Poor Dad
    5. Intelligent Investor By Ben Graham


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