There Is No Friend As Friendly As A Book

Munger on making friends with dead people, Roosevelt’s rules for reading, and witty words of wisdom from a less known Marx

‘Make friends with the eminent dead.’ These are the words of Charlie Munger,1 the right hand man of the legendary investor and many times world’s richest man, Warren Buffett. The only way to do this (as of 2018) is through disciplined reading of the greatest works and ideas from the past. Here’s the full quote:

That sounds funny, making friends among the eminent dead, but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better in life and work better in education. It’s way better than just giving the basic concepts.

Witty, sharp, a fantastic breadth of knowledge, a brilliant storyteller and a reading machine, Munger is worth paying attention to. He has given numerous book recommendations over the years, including Jared Diamond’s remarkable account of the history of civilisation, Benjamins Franklin’s (one of Munger’s favourite people) captivating autobiography, the charming Steven Pinker’s wonderful exposition on human language, and the great Robert Cialdini’s revolutionary book on persuasion.

Mungers quote resounds the sentiments of Teddy Roosevelt, who said ‘Books are almost as individual as friends.’ These words are from his intriguing 10 Rules For ReadingRumour has it Roosevelt read two or three books per day, and tens thousands over the course of his lifetime. Another rule I quite like is rule eight:

‘Now and then I am asked as to “what books a statesman should read,” and my answer is, poetry and novels – including short stories under the head of novels.’

The power and reach of stories cannot be overestimated; they inspire, they teach, they heal — they’re the thread that holds civilisation together. Stories about God, Satan, Heaven and Hell — to name the obvious — have influenced human behaviour, in good ways and bad, for thousands and thousands of years; and may have even encouraged human language, through the much loved practice that is gossiping. Compared to a non-fiction book about economics based on stone-cold logic, fact, reason and mathematics, stories are alive. Great stories live for millenia.

Teddy Roosevelt served as the 26th President of the United States.

‘A book is man’s best friend’, said Groucho Marx. It wouldn’t be right, however, to mention this quote without the amusing context, which serves also as a memory aid:

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

In such a post as this it would, I think, be an injustice to not quote one of the most loved and talented writers to ever live. Luckily, Ernest Hemingway, fitting nicely into today’s theme, said ‘there is no friend as loyal as a book’. I can’t disagree.

Reading changes your life whether you’re conscious of it or not; why not take advantage of this by reading books that challenge your beliefs and ideas, inspire action, teach you something new, please your heart and awaken your soul?

  1. Charlie Munger is undoubtedly one of the least appreciated minds of our generation.

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