on April 22, 2008
It's difficult to over-estimate the beneficial effects that Tom Butler-Bowdon's books have had on my life. Whether he is discussing Classics in the Self Help, Success, Spiritual or Psychology - and now Prosperity - genres he has entertained, informed and guided my future reading. There are so many books in each area that it can be difficult to know where to turn when you want to take steps to improve your life. If you face this dilemma Butler-Bowdon is here to help, with his useful summaries and commentaries on classic books in each genre.
In 50 Prosperity Classics the writing is as crisp and clear as ever. The summary of each 'classic' is just the right length to give you a flavour of the book being discussed, but never outstays its welcome. While each book is heralded as a 'classic' Butler-Bowdon isn't afraid to note where criticisms have been made. You can read 50 Prosperity Classics from start to finish, you can dip into it at random, or you can follow certain themes. The 'In A Similar Vein' section is your roadmap if you decide to take the latter route. Even if you don't want to investigate the books further - and I'll be surprised if you don't - then 50 Prosperity Classics is enjoyable in isolation. As I read it I felt my mood lift as I was made aware of countless possibilities I had never considered before.
If you are interested in finding out more about property investment then you will enjoy reading about books such as William Nickerson's excellently-titled How I Turned $1,000 into Three Million in Real Estate in My Spare Time. For those that want to know more about investing in the stock market Peter Lynch's One Up on Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money in the Market will be one for you. Elsewhere there are the stories of entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson (Losing My Virginity: The Autobiography) and Felix Dennis (How To Get Rich) and for the Self Help fans out there you get numerous books about 'the law of attraction' (including Rhona Byrne's The Secret).
If you buy this book - and follow the advice given - you are bound to make a profit on the deal. Even if you don't follow the advice you will have been entertained and enlightened. Recommended.
This is one of five volumes in a series written by Tim Butler-Bowdon. Each of the others also focuses on 50 "classic" sources of information and wisdom provided in landmark books in the fields of psychology, self-help, spirituality, and success. Of course, throughout human history, the subject of this book - prosperity -- has been defined and measured as well as achieved in many different ways. Hence the importance of the fact that Butler-Bowdon offers a wide range of perspectives from the works of an especially diversified group that includes P.T. Barnum (The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules of Making Money, 1880), Andrew Carnegie (The Gospel of Wealth, 1889), Milton Friedman (Capitalism and Freedom, 1962), Benjamin Graham (The Intelligent Investor: A Book of Practical Counsel, 1949), Orison Swett Marden (Pushing to the Front, or Success under Difficulties, 1894), Ayn Rand (Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 1966), and Adam Smith (An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1778).
Note: Warren Buffett is also included. His contributions to this volume are from The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Second Edition, edited by Lawrence Cunningham, and published in 2008. Graham was Buffett's idol, mentor, and eventually his business partner. If Buffett does not qualify as an "intelligent investor," I have no idea who does.
As in the other volumes in his series, Butler-Bowdon follows a format for each of the 50 chapters: brief representative quotations, an "In a Nutshell" section, a rigorous and remarkably thorough summary of the given source's key points, and then a brief bio of its author. I also appreciate the fact that the book can be read straight through from the first chapter to the last (i.e. James Allen to Muhammad Yunus), or in chronological order, or according to four themes (attracting, creating, managing, and sharing wealth), or by cherry-picking whichever contributors and/or subjects are of greatest interest. As a convenience to his reader, Butler-Bowdon suggests in his Introduction which authors belong in which category. Here are a few of his comments about some of those whom he discusses:
"Contrary to the image of Barnum as an over-the-top impresario, this book [i.e. The Art of Money Getting or Golden Rules of Making Money] is actually a solid success manual. Some of the points may seem obvious, but it does not hurt to be reminded of them, especially the idea that personal virtue is the foundation of wealth. Without honesty and reputation, fortunes can disappear overnight; with these things, an enterprise or a service can create prosperity for all involved." (Page 32)
"Some have viewed Carnegie's attitude as altruistic. Yet he honestly believed that individuals, including himself, counted for little in relation to the progress of humanity overall...Carnegie set the modern standard for big-time philanthropy, and beyond the millions of lives enlightened by his libraries and other institutions, this is perhaps an even greater legacy." (Page 67)
"Countries fashioned after the ideas of Adam Smith and Friedman should in theory be monsters of selfish consumption. But as Friedman pointed out, people want to be free not just so they can get rich, but to live according to deeply held values. Prosperity is not just about making money, but about the freedom to live the way you want." (Page 115)
"In the Introduction to the original 1949 edition, Graham candidly notes the risk that his book `may not stand the test of future developments,' any more than a finance book written in 1914 would be relevant to investors of the 1950s. In fact, The Intelligent Investor is considered by many people - despite many references to companies that have now faded into history - to be quite timeless. His humility only makes you trust him more, and he has a calm style and does not talk down to the reader." (Page 13)
"The usual accusation leveled at Rand and her followers is of extremism. A more intelligent view is that she was a supreme rationalist who valued personal freedom to the highest degree. Capitalism to her was not just a system for people to get richer, but was the only system in which people were free to act according to their best interests. Today, because we take our comfortable lives for granted, we take capitalism granted as well." (Page 237)
"The simplicity and common sense of Smith's delineation of government's role has largely stood the test of time. Today, governments have a tendency to grow large and bloated, moving into areas that are not really their business, but in time this inevitably makes the public poorer overall. Though they often believe in their ability to `pick winners' in terms of subsidizing particular industries to create jobs, Smith warns that such investment tends to corrupt the natural tendency of a society to allocate resources in the best way." (Pages 264-265)
As I work my way through the material in one of Butler-Bowen's books, I realize again that Henry Ford was right when he asserted that "whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." However different the contributors to each volume are in terms of who they were, when they lived, and what they accomplished, all of them seem totally convinced of the importance of believing in one's self, especially when no one else does. To them, the term "self-help" correctly suggests the importance of assuming full responsibility for one's values, attitudes, decisions, and (especially) behavior. That said, there is much of value to be learned from others who have achieved what Butler-Bowen characterizes as "authentic and lasting success" that has enriched their own lives as well as the lives of others by utilizing "the resources of the world to the greatest effect and with the minimum of waste."
He realizes that he is providing "only a taste of the literature (the main ideas, context, and impact of each title)" while urging his readers to "feast on the real thing." What he offers is by no means a buffet of entrepreneurial "hors d'oeuvres." On the contrary, the content is solid and skillfully presented. I am convinced that many of those who read this book will then be encouraged to read (or re-read) "the real thing." If Butler-Bowdon's efforts accomplish nothing else, that will indeed be sufficient to earn the praise I think he has earned...and rightly deserves.