Business Stories

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Patrick O’Shaughnessy put out the book signal and we’ve collected the data

We’ve done this before for China Books and Sutherland’s Suggestions.

This “methodology” includes manual inputs from Amazon for the number of reviews, total sales rank, and used book price. I selected the last item thinking that if a book was great, people would keep it, making fewer copies for sale and a higher price. For as good as Good to Great is, it can’t be that good if there are 1,300 used copies for sale starting at $0.19 plus shipping.

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General data.

There were 82 books in this set. I had to throw out a few things I couldn’t find or didn’t understand. You could buy used copies of all of them for $549.23, which seems like a bargain. When people talk about college being a waste of money this is what they’re referencing. The worst of college is well below the value of these books – and many other life experiences. However, the best parts of college are still great. Where does it switch?

The average age of a suggested book was 13 years, the median age was 11, the modal age was 1. Less recency tendency than I expected.

The best-selling book (Bad Blood) was ranked #48 of all books on Amazon, the median (Barbarians at the Gate) was #154,990, and the lowest (Accidental Empires) was 10,477,615.

The Best of the Best.

Ranking all the books on the three metrics above and then totaling those scores led to these with the lowest composite score. Bad Blood, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Shoe Dog, Creativity Inc., and The Goal. I thought the first four were fantastic.

Collector’s editions.

These are the books with the highest cost of a used hardcover. The Power Broker, Masters of Doom, Against the Gods, Business Adventures, and Accidental Empires. Though they’re also older, with an average age of twenty-two years. Older means fewer and rarer and that probably explains the bulk of the higher price. Still, these books still come up frequently on Twitter.

Social suggestions.

These were the ones suggested most frequently in Patrick’s Twitter thread. Barbarians at the Gates, When Genius FailedThe Fish that Ate the Whale, Liar’s Poker, and Cable Cowboys. If my memory is correct, I think Rich Cohen credited Ryan Holiday’s email list for pushing The Fish into such esteem.

Most obscure (today).

Books with the lowest sales rank or fewest reviews include; Billionaire, The Life of Sir James Goldsmith, A Hippie’s Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder, Fortune’s Fool, and Fooling Some of the People All of the Time.

Oldies but Goodies.

With an average age of thirty-seven years, this set of not-yet-mentioned books are some classics you may have missed. The Soul of a New Machine, Made in Japan, Predator’s Ball, House of Morgan, and Onassis.

My Favorites.

These are the ones I read, really liked, and reference regularly. Setting the Table, The Outsiders, Made in America, Let My People Go Surfing, and In-N-Out.


Happy reading. Source data.

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