Books You Really Need to Read

The folks who frequently the Observer's discussion board are an unusually thoughtful, though feisty, bunch.  Here's the request I made of them in April:

I'd like to solicit nominations for books in two categories: the one best investing book that every new investor (perhaps, every investor?) should read. The other is the one best personal finance book (that is, the one that covers the "bigger picture" stuff) that everyone should read.
The rules are simple: pick a book that you've read and that others might plausibly read. And explain in a sentence or two what the book argues and why it's good.

That call produced recommendations for thirty books, ranging from Thomas Hobbes' The Leviathan (1660 - who can forget "the war of all, against all"?) to Richard Morgan's dystopic novel Market Futures (2005) "where commodities trading reaches a brutal pitch and the outcomes of banana republic uprisings are the new market. Now, on the road to success, the brokers of the new economy compete for status and promotions via road rage on the freeways of new London."