Book Review: 'The Only Three Questions That Count' - Borrow This One

by: Average Joe Investor

Occasionally I get a free book from a publisher who's trying to get word out on a new book on investing. If there's one thing I like as much as researching and evaluating stocks, it's reading about how to better research and evaluate stocks.

One of the first such books I got was Mauboussin's "More Than You Know" (really great read by the way).

Most recently, I got a copy of Ken Fisher's "The Only Three Questions That Count." Now if you don't mind, I'm going to do a little couching here. I am not a fan of Fisher, nor am I a detractor. I also can't say that I've read really any of his columns in Forbes. So I was coming to this book with a pretty fresh eye for Ken.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I think there are some much better investing reads out there. Particularly if you're new to investing and haven't read a lot of the top books, I'd hold off on this one. If you've read pretty much everything out there, I'd say maybe borrow this if you can.

It's not that I hated it, or got nothing out of it, or think Fisher's a quack (though he makes it very clear in his book that he figures many will see him as a quack). I just figured that the writing would be a little better/tighter from a guy who's had a Forbes column for so long. Maybe it's just that his style is better suited for a shorter form.

I really like the core thesis of his book: that you need to know something that nobody else (or at least few others) does in order to consistently generate good investment results. And maybe part of the book's trouble hinged on the fact that delivering on a premise like that is just plain hard. His idea is that you need to have a framework for evaluating the outside world and everything that's swirling around in the news. He claims that much of what is tightly held in investing lore simply isn't true, and knowing that can help you find solid investment ideas. One such myth that he explodes in the book is that a high P/E stock is inherently bad/overpriced and that a stock with a low P/E is automatically a good buy.

As I mentioned earlier, I did come away from the book with some new investing nuggets, though they were padded by what I felt was a lot of fluff. I think his ideas on investing are fresh and insightful, and he's obviously been a very successful investor himself. So again, bottom line is that I wouldn't actively discourage people from reading this, but I'd put it low on your reading list if you have other books in the queue.