The Most Important Thing

Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

Howard Marks

Columbia University Press

The Most Important Thing

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Pub Date: May 2011

ISBN: 9780231153683

200 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $29.95£21.95

Pub Date: May 2011

ISBN: 9780231527095

200 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $28.99£22.00

The Most Important Thing

Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor

Howard Marks

Columbia University Press

"This is that rarity, a useful book."--Warren Buffett

Howard Marks, the chairman and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, is renowned for his insightful assessments of market opportunity and risk. After four decades spent ascending to the top of the investment management profession, he is today sought out by the world's leading value investors, and his client memos brim with insightful commentary and a time-tested, fundamental philosophy. Now for the first time, all readers can benefit from Marks's wisdom, concentrated into a single volume that speaks to both the amateur and seasoned investor.

Informed by a lifetime of experience and study, The Most Important Thing explains the keys to successful investment and the pitfalls that can destroy capital or ruin a career. Utilizing passages from his memos to illustrate his ideas, Marks teaches by example, detailing the development of an investment philosophy that fully acknowledges the complexities of investing and the perils of the financial world. Brilliantly applying insight to today's volatile markets, Marks offers a volume that is part memoir, part creed, with a number of broad takeaways.

Marks expounds on such concepts as "second-level thinking," the price/value relationship, patient opportunism, and defensive investing. Frankly and honestly assessing his own decisions--and occasional missteps--he provides valuable lessons for critical thinking, risk assessment, and investment strategy. Encouraging investors to be "contrarian," Marks wisely judges market cycles and achieves returns through aggressive yet measured action. Which element is the most essential? Successful investing requires thoughtful attention to many separate aspects, and each of Marks's subjects proves to be the most important thing.

Everyone knows about the anticipation leading up to Warren Buffett's annual shareholder letters. But for a certain Wall Street set, there are equally high expectations for the writings of Howard Marks.

Peter Lattman, Wall Street Journal

Regular recipients of Howard Marks's investment memos eagerly await their arrival for the essential truths and unique insights they contain. Now the wisdom and experience of this great investor are available to all. The Most Important Thing, Marks's insightful investment philosophy and time-tested approach, is a must read for every investor.

Seth A. Klarman, president, The Baupost Group

When I see memos from Howard Marks in my mail, they're the first thing I open and read. I always learn something, and that goes double for his book.

Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

Few books on investing match the high standards set by Howard Marks in The Most Important Thing. It is wise, witty, and laced with historical perspective. If you seek to avoid the pitfalls of investing, you must read this book!

John C. Bogle, Founder and former CEO, The Vanguard Group

If you take an exceptional talent and have them obsess about value investing for several decades, including deep thinking about its very essence with written analysis along the way, you may come up with a book as useful to value investors as this one—but don't count on it.

Jeremy Grantham, cofounder and chief investment strategist, Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo

The Most Important Thing is destined to become an investment classic-it should easily earn its place on every thinking investor's bookshelf. Howard Marks has distilled years of investment wisdom into a short book that is lucid, entertaining, and ultimately profound.

Joel Greenblatt, Columbia Business School, founder and managing partner of Gotham Capital

A clear and expert resource for all investors.

Kirkus Reviews

Veteran value-investing manager Howard Marks draws on pithy memos he wrote to clients over the years to dispense insightful advice on everything from risk taking to the role of luck.

Money Magazine

There is, quite simply, an incredible amount of wisdom between the covers of his book and an investor is doing them a disservice if they don't read, and re-read, this book.

FocusInvestor.com

The book is written in a way that both seasoned investors and novices should appreciate.

Brenda Jubin, Seeking Alpha

If Benjamin Graham's and David Dodd's Securities Analysis was the essential, must have investment book of the end of the 20th century, then Howard Marks's The Most Important Thing is a serious contender for parallel status in the 21st century.

Stephen E. Roulac, New York Journal of Books

...many valuable insights into the psychological roots of investors' habitual errors.

Martin Fridson, Barron's

All investors should read it.

Alex Dumortier, The Motley Fool

"The Most Important Thing"... offers readers an overview of how to think when considering an investment opportunity, which is quite valuable indeed, considering studies have shown most people tend to make impulsive, indiscriminate investment decisions.

Syracuse Post-Standard
Introduction
The Most Important Thing Is...
1. Second-Level Thinking
2. Understanding Market Efficiency (and Its Limitations)
3. Value
4. The Relationship Between Price and Value
5. Understanding Risk
6. Recognizing Risk
7. Controlling Risk
8. Being Attentive to Cycles
9. Awareness of the Pendulum
10. Combating Negative Influences
11. Contrarianism
12. Finding Bargains
13. Patient Opportunism
14. Knowing What You Don't Know
15. Having a Sense for Where We Stand
16. Appreciating the Role of Luck
17. Investing Defensively
18. Avoiding Pitfalls
19. Adding Value
20. Pulling It All Together
Web Features:

Howard Marks in conversation with James Flanigan from the Live Talks Business Forum

About the Author

Howard Marks is chairman and cofounder of Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles-based investment firm with seventy-five billion dollars under management. He holds a bachelor's degree in finance from the Wharton School and an MBA in accounting and marketing from the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor.

Bruce C. Greenwald holds the Robert Heilbrunn Professorship of Finance and Asset Management at Columbia Business School and is the academic director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing. He is the coauthor of The Curse of the Mogul: What's Wrong with the World's Leading Media Companies.