On bad mergers and acquisitions, Charlie Munger says, “When you mix raisins with turds, they are still turds”.

It’s unlikely that you would come across ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’ if you are not familiar with stock market investing. ‘Poor Charlie’s Almanack’ portrays a brief sketch (more like an insightful doodle!) of Charles T. Munger, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and partner of the better known Warren Buffett for more than 40 years now.

Unlike ‘Snowball’, written by Alice Shroeder, Poor Charlie’s Almanack is not a book or a biography, but a compilation of almost all the literature written by and about Charlie Munger, with inputs / interviews of people that have been close to him. Of the 400 pages or so of this compilation, the first 150 pages chronicle the major events of Charlie’s life, while the remaining pages reproduce the 10 talks given by Munger to various universities and public engagement forums.

It’s these 10 thought provoking talks, all in one place, that make this compilation a wonderful read.

Right from the title itself, it is clear that Charlie continues to remain very much influenced by the life and deeds of Benjamin Franklin (his autobiography is a must read!), who finds stimulating presence in Charlie’s thoughts. Not just Franklin, Charlie recounts luminaries from history like Demosthenes and Nietzsche, to modern business leaders like Jack Welch.

What Charlie Talks About

In his illuminating talks, Munger shares his learnings across diverse fields, notable ones being psychology, accountancy, economics and mathematics. The quote, “A man living without the knowledge of elementary probability is like a one legged man participating in an ass kicking competition”, has been quite popular.

Munger talks about having a latticework of mental models by taking big ideas from various disciplines as far ranging as physics and philosophy. You keep seeing this idea, this rationality, taking a form of brilliant content, wherein he talks about cost of capital and money management ethics, accounting frauds and circles of competence, the history of Coca Cola and the importance of checklists, and of course, the Psychology of Human Misjudgment, a checklist like narrative of human tendencies.

To Read or Not to Read?

What really helps is the layout of this compilation. Fashioned like a collector’s edition, weighing 4 pounds, no less, it has umpteen illustrations, cartoons and bold italic quotes. If you are looking for quick fix investment advice, this is certainly not the right place. Instead, you will find a dash of wit, a lollapalooza of ideas and a dollop of worldly wisdom.

Happy Reading!

About the Author - Umang Shah

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