Stock investing is a relatively recent phenomenon and the inventory of true classics is somewhat slim. When asked, people in the know will always list books by Benjamin Graham, Burton G Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street, and Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writings by Philip A. Fisher. You’ll know you’re getting really good advice if they also mention Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre.
Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is the thinly disguised biography of Jesse Livermore, a remarkable character who first started speculating in New England bucket shops at the turn of the century. Livermore, who was banned from these shady operations because of his winning ways, soon moved to Wall Street where he made and lost his fortune several times over. What makes this book so valuable are the observations that Lefèvre records about investing, speculating, and the nature of the market itself. For example:
It never was my thinking that made the big money for me. It always was my sitting. Got that? My sitting tight! It is no trick at all to be right on the market. You always find lots of early bulls in bull markets and early bears in bear markets. I’ve known many men who were right at exactly the right time, and began buying or selling stocks when prices were at the very level which should show the greatest profit. And their experience invariably matched mine–that is, they made no real money out of it. Men who can both be right and sit tight are uncommon.
If you’ve ever spent weekends and nights puzzling over whether to buy, sell, or hold a position in whatever investment–be it stock, bonds, or pork bellies, you’ll be glad that you read this book. Reminiscences of a Stock Operator is full of lessons that are as relevant today as they were in 1923 when the book was first published. —Harry C Edwards