In academic circles, the humble book is one of the finest educational tools. With the exception of their own lectures, professors from respected business schools the world over would probably recommend this medium more than any other for a student looking to expand their financial knowledge.
In this article, we’ll compare the main genres of finance books that students and professionals are tapping into for personal and professional development. We’ll also explore the myriad of ways in which business and economics books have taken the world by storm and introduced new concepts in the last 20 years.
An overview of finance book genres
Ranked by undergraduate usage in 2021, the following shortlist reflects the top sub-genres of finance books used by UK students:
- Finance textbooks
- Economics textbooks
- Business autobiographies
- Business & marketing textbooks
- Investing handbooks
Finance textbooks are often mandatory text for the cluster of undergraduate degrees which attract future accountants, deal-makers, bankers and business people. Bachelors of Science degrees such as Accounting & Finance BSc and Banking & Finance BSc will recommend that students buy a series of increasingly complex finance textbooks as they progress through their studies. These titles cover concepts such as the time value of money, how to measure risk, and sources of finance.
Economics textbooks are naturally a staple of any Economics BSC or Economics Masters course in the UK. But you may not be aware that the majority of business and finance degrees offered in the UK will include at least a single module of Economics (which will include a textbook in the mandatory reading list). This module is often unofficially (or sometimes even officially) called Economics 101, and is the first opportunity for students to learn about concepts such as supply and demand curves, how interest rates affect the macroeconomy and how Gross Domestic Product is measured.
Business autobiographies are sold in retail bookshops to the casual business reader who wants to follow the escapades of a role model or pick up some new management, marketing or leadership tips. Business books written by entrepreneurs tend to neglect the financial element of their careers. Instead, they emphasize the people, relationships and chance events that formed decisive milestones in their journey.
Business and marketing textbooks are offered to A Levels and undergraduate students and act as an encyclopedia of business. It’s impossible for any single book, no matter how long, to cover every business topic in detail. These books sacrifice detail for breadth, to allow students to learn about the risks and rewards of being in business, how organizations structure themselves, as well as some basic marketing and management concepts.
Investing handbooks sell themselves as the formal education for private investors which the education system never provided. Investing isn’t covered in any part of the national curriculum and therefore all investors learn their craft from friends, family, their profession, or investing books like these.
Relevant and recent concepts from finance books published in the last 20 years
“The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an economics book that explains how in a more interconnected economic environment, unpredictable and obscure events which have a catastrophic effect on the global economy should be regarded as common events rather than rare. While, in isolation, a black swan event is rare, the virtually unlimited possibilities conspire against us.
“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty was an influential economics book that painted a bleak picture of wealth inequality in developing and developed nations in the recent and modern day.
In the age of Twitter and blogs, well-written and deftly-edited finance books can still be a meaningful way to convey complex new ideas. While the resulting discourse may take place on social media; the book itself was the device that planted the seed in the minds of those debating the subject.
Thomas Piketty’s award-winning title was later quoted by world leaders and opposition politicians when speaking about inequality. By quoting text from a respected and well-read book, they were able to add another influential voice to an argument they were putting forward.
Financial books are clearly here to stay in the modern, digital age. Professors will continue to recommend the best economics books they think their students need to read.
Curious business people will continue to pick up business and management titles for their own leisure or even to help with career advancement.
It’s still popular to circulate book lists among one’s peers to demonstrate thought leadership within a professional community and demonstrate that one is pro-actively working to expand one’s knowledge.
Story by Simon Oates