Opinion

Why you should not buy most of my books

James Altucher
7th Sep 2016
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Books suck. I can’t believe anyone would write a book. I go in the bookstore and there are about 10,000 books. Who reads them?

I will tell you. Nobody. I have rarely seen anyone read a book. People do it in hiding. Like in the bathroom.

And then I read about the National Book Award winners. Average number of books sold per nominee: 3,000. Practically nothing for the books that people consider the best.

Let me tell you…

Burning-book

My first book:Trade Like a Hedge Fund” – don’t buy it. It’s out of date. I give 20 or so techniques for trading the market.

The techniques were all modeled out via software I had written. I programmed software that let me “question” the history of the market and get answers.

Like, “What happens when Microsoft stock goes down five days in a row? Is it statistically likely to go up on the sixth day?”

What a great piece of software. I traded the market for years based on that software and it worked. It was like an ATM machine.

Then I wrote the book and all the techniques stopped working. So it’s out of date. Even the idea of writing software like that is out of date. There’s much better software out there.


My second book:Trade Like Warren Buffett” – is not so bad. It’s OK. The top Wall Street Journal reporter who covered Buffett at the time told me that Buffett thought it was the best book ever written about him.

It was about how all the other books about Buffett were wrong. He’s not a value investor at all. I describe what he’s really like.

But….out of date now. The stock market has changed. Buffett evolves every few years like everyone else. So my book is historically interesting for a period of Buffett’s life but won’t do anyone any good right now.


My third book: SuperCash“, should be burned. If there were book burnings, SuperCash should be on the top of the pile.

By the way, this is when I wrote about investing. I no longer write about that.

I hate all of those books.

In SuperCash, talk about “alternative” ways of investing. Like buying art. Or buying credit card debt. Holy s***t. DO NOT buy that book.


My fourth book was OK. I will tell you why it was OK. Because in the middle I made a crossword puzzle. Have you ever seen an investing book with a crossword puzzle in it?

I had been solving crossword puzzles for about a year at that point. So, I figured, I’d make one.

BAM! Great idea for a book. That book, “The Forever Portfolio” sold 299 copies according to Bookscan.

I begged the publisher not to release it. It was December, 2008. The middle of the worst financial crisis in 80 years.

“Nobody wants to hear about buying stocks forever when the market is being sold off EVERY SINGLE DAY.”

It’s too late, the publisher told me, it’s in the catalog.

The 300 people who bought the book are very lucky. The stocks in the book are up huge. But now it’s out of date. I mean, I know the book says “Forever” but nothing is forever.


My fifth book:The Wall Street Journal Guide to the Apocalypseis so bad I haven’t even read it. They made me get a ghost writer because my prior book sold so poorly.

But the ghostwriter, god rest his soul, took my ideas, twisted them around, and wrote a pretty standard boring investing book. At least, I think he did. Like I said, I haven’t read it. Maybe it is a classic.


Then something happened to me. My kids bought me a scooter for Father’s Day.

I rode it down the street and on the very first ride I hit a pothole and did a somersault in the air and landed on my head in the street.

My kids started running after me, “Daddy!” They were worried.

I felt like lying there for awhile so I didn’t at first respond. Then I peeled myself off the ground. I was scarred all over, even my face.

“I’m fine,” I said.

But when I was lying there on the ground, I decided I didn’t want to write any more books on investing.

People don’t need another investing book.

I wanted to write a book (or more) that helped me figure out how to find meaning in my life. A book I could actually use instead of just vomit out onto the page.

And I wrote some more books.


The first three were self-published. As in, I made a file, I made a cover, and I hit publish, and I had a book.

That’s not the proper way to self-publish. And the books were OK. But not great. At the very least, they were honest.

I like that third one. It’s the only book where I put a picture of me on the cover. Hence, it’s probably my worst-selling self-published book.

I needed to treat self-publishing as if it were not just a business, but a successful business.

So then I went BIG.


I went out of pocket. I hired a book designer, an interior designer, three editors, a marketing company, and I had very experienced editors help me with every stop of the process.

The result, “Choose Yourself” has now sold over 600,000 copies. A few weeks ago it was #1 for all non-fiction on Amazon. This was three years after it was first published.

The book is about how to find meaning in your life so you can best help others, including yourself.

How the world has changed to not only make it possible to choose yourself (and help others to do the same) but that it is inevitable that you will have to choose yourself.

How choosing yourself is the most un-selfish thing you can do if you want to help the people around you. If you want to find meaning in your life.

I believe in that book. I love it. I read it the other day and thought, “Man, I used to be a good writer.”

I then took all the more autobiographical stories that didn’t fit into that book and made another book, “The Choose Yourself Stories“. I love that book also but it didn’t do as well.

I then focused the ‘choose yourself’ ideas on money to write “The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth” which I like a lot.

And then so many people were confusing “choosing yourself’ with quitting your job and becoming an entrepreneur that I wrote “The Rich Employee” to describe how you can choose yourself as an entrepreneur.

Along the way I wrote a small book as an experiment, “The Autobiography of Prince George“. I signed it with the name “John Kenneth Rowling”. It’s funny. I like it.

I have two more books coming out in the next few months that I hope you will like. “Reinvent Yourself” – about how we are constantly in a process of reinvention. At least, I hope I am.

And a children’s book: “My Daddy Owns All of Outer Space” illustrated by my friend, the talented cartoonist, Molly Hahn. What I love about this book is it’s based on a true story.

Like anyone, I have to reinvent myself. Just like I did when I stopped writing BS finance books and going on BS financial TV.

I want to write different things and try out different ways to be creative. People say, “Oh, I don’t have time to be creative.”

Sometimes it feels like there is no time. I run a few businesses. I have lots of responsibilities. Sometimes too many. I feel overwhelmed by them all.

I need to be even more of a minimalist to cut down on my responsibilities.

If you keep doing things the way you’ve always been doing them, then your results will always be the same.

You have to shake things up. Which is why reinvention happens in small steps every day if done correctly.

Like today, I’ve decided to get out of my comfort zone. I’m going to sleep on the other side of the bed. To hell with it.

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