You’re the Average of the 5 Authors You Read

You know how they say that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? Well, as a major introvert and nerd, I spend a lot of time with books. I had surrogate mentors. Specifically, there have been 5 authors/thinkers who I have spent reading more than any others and they have radically influenced my mind. They have shaped my perceptions and sharpened my thinking. Don’t just assume it has to be the 5 people you spend the most time with: you’re the average of the 5 authors you read, too.


Funny thing: I had written up the draft for this post a few days ago and I got a text message from my brother asking me for a list of my all time favourite books. Great timing!Anyways, without further adieu: the 5 authors/thinkers who have tremendously influenced my life.

1. Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan had an incredible influence on me. He single handedly developed my scientific mind. By reading his works, I learned to always approach problems with rationality and logic. I learned to constantly test my best ideas and deepest rooted beliefs. If the evidence didn’t make sense, I learned to let go and move on.

Little did I know that this development I received from Sagan would have tremendous utility in my passion for investing. The ability to approach business valuations with cold, hard logic and rationality is proving to be a very potent trait.

Books that I obsessively read and re-read by Carl Sagan include:

Pale Blue Dot, Cosmos, The Varieties of Scientific Experiences, The Demon Haunted World, Billions & Billions, & Contact.

(I also obsessively watched the original Cosmos series and the new Cosmos series)

2. Jared Diamond

I was always a history nerd. I still am. Jared Diamond expanded the scope of what human history was to me. From the moment I laid hands on my first Diamond book in high school, I was humbled by how expansive the history of our species was.

I used to think of human history as these neat, tidy little time periods: the Ancient Greeks, the Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, Victorian England, WWI, etc. Diamond fundamentally shifted how I understood history. History was more expansive and interconnected than I ever perceived it was.

On a strange note, I was inspired by the polymath nature of Diamond’s career as a teenager.

Books include:

Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, & The Third Chimpanzee.

3. Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky entered the picture in the last year of high school. Reflecting back now, I was introduced to the works of Diamond and Chomsky by one of my great friends – funny how the 5 people you spend the most time with can also have an immense impact on the 5 authors that influence your life.

Chomsky was to Politics as Sagan was to Science and Diamond was to History. I had never bothered to think all too critically about politics up until the point I read Chomsky. He radically altered my political complacency with doses of healthy skepticism and critical thought.

Never roll over and accept what political or authority figures tell you. Dig, dig, and dig some more. Find the facts and push away the propaganda. The truth never lies at the surface.

Books include:

Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Imperial Ambitions, Chronicles of Dissent, & Necessary Illusions.

4. Warren Buffett

I’ve been going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of investing over the past several years. I’ve picked up a lot of useful knowledge from lots of different sources. But it was only when I started delving into the works of Buffett that I felt like I was punched right in the face.

For me, everything that Buffett taught immediately made sense: how to think about investing, how to value a business, how to look at the stock market, how to pick your assets. I am still in awe of how much complex information the man is able to communicate in the most easy to understand terms.

I continue to read and re-read everything I can find on this legendary investor.

Fantastic books include:

The Essays of Warren Buffett, The Snowball, Buffett, Tap Dancing to Work, The Warren Buffett Way.

5. Various

I could’t quite come to one single person in this last spot. There have been so many countless authors/thinkers that have had a profound influence on my life. So in no particular order or sense, I will ramble off a small sample of these shakers and movers.

George Orwell’s 1984, Animal Farm, and Homage to Catalonia left lasting impressions on history and politics.

Benjamin Graham’s Security Analysis and The Intelligent Investor, John Bogle’s Enough and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, Charles Ellis’s Winning the Loser’s Game, Robert Shiller’s Irrational Exuberance, and Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street influenced my thinkings on investing, especially at a macro level.

I really appreciated the biographies of Benjamin Franklin (who I relate to very strongly) and Steve Jobs (who helped me understand what “driven” actually means), both biographies coincidentally written by Walter Isaacson.

In terms of fiction, as a child in elementary school, The Giver had a profound impact on how I approached ethics and morality. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is a novel I could read over and over again to indulge my irrational apocalypse fantasies.

Philosophically, when I need to get grounded, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl do the trick.


Looking over this list, I can’t help but notice that almost everything revolves around Business, Science, History, and Politics, with a small dash of Philosophy.

I guess I can conclude that these 5 areas of knowledge have had a profound influence on how I think and how I live my life. They have literally made me who I am today.

Because of these authors and thinkers, I have been taught to appreciate science, logic, rationality, critical thinking, and considerations of ethics and morality.

Don’t just stop at the 5 people you spend the most time with – think and reflect on which authors and thinkers you spend the most time with.

What does that say about you?

6 thoughts on “You’re the Average of the 5 Authors You Read

  1. Would this also suggest that you’re the average of the 5 personal finance bloggers you read the most of? 😉 I attribute many of the great movies we have today, like Intersteller, to be at least partly inspired by the great mind of Carl Sagan. 🙂 I’ve only watched the new Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson. But in the first episode, Niel reveals how he actually met Carl when he was younger and it inspired him to pursue a life of science and discovery.

    The Giver had a big impact on me as well. I read it when I was about the same age as Jonas is in the book. The imagery from the novel is so strong I can still remember most of the story today, like the apple turning red, even though it’s been 15 years since I read it. Also, the movie adaptation is pretty good. Don’t know if you’ve seen it yet. Jeff Bridges does a great job in it. The only problem I have with the film is how the younger characters were played by much older actors lol. But other than that I really enjoyed it, and I think it does a good job keeping true to the novel. 🙂

    1. I haven’t been reading too many personal finance blogs lately so I can’t really gauge it – but I will think that one through.

      You need to check out the original Cosmos series, it is simply amazing (cheesy graphics aside).

      Loved the book, the movie was just ok. It didn’t do the book justice because it felt like the whole plot was rushed along and you didn’t really develop a connection with the characters on screen. Book is the far superior product!

  2. Was just looking for new stuff to read on my kindle. Found some on your list that I’ve always wanted to read but I keep forgetting about them. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Neat idea! The five authors I’ve read most are probably: Kurt Vonnegut, William Faulkner, Haruki Murakami, J.D. Salinger, and a tie between Dostoevsky and Plato. Looking at the five, I guess that means that I’m very cynical/critical about the world around me, but in a resigned and semi-whimsical sort of way? Yep, sounds about right.

    1. Sounds like the safest attitude to have when approaching the world of money. There are way too many sharks out there who will take your money and leave you dead on the streets if you are naive enough to believe their promises.

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