13 must-read books for accountants and bookkeepers

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In any business, your bottom line depends on the way you handle your finances and investing. Books for accountants can help you solve for both.

One of the best ways to continually build your expertise is to read financial and accounting books. Whether you already have a working knowledge of accounting or need to brush up on bookkeeping basics, check out these great reads.

We’ll first start with accounting books and then move on to books about business, investing, the economy, and the art of persuasion. So without any further delay, here are our recommendations!

The 13 best books for accountants to read

Accounting Made Simple (Mike Piper)

Check out this book if you are completely green to accounting or need a refresher on the basics. Accounting Made Simple is written by a certified public accountant and offers a no-frills accounting lesson. 

Piper leads you through formulas and processes without letting things get too confusing. You’ll learn key lessons like how to prepare financial statements and calculate financial ratios for your business. 

In addition, you’ll pick up the terminology of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), which are essential knowledge for every industry.

For more information on making your job as an accountant easier, check out this post on the essential features of a CRM for accountants.

Intermediate Accounting (Donald Kieso, Jerry Weygandt, and Terry Warfield)

In the 16th edition of Intermediate Accounting, you gain the tools of accounting students and professional accountants. 

This book is best suited for individuals who have already read Accounting Made Simple or have basic bookkeeping skills and want to dive deeper into the principles of accounting. It’s also a great resource for those preparing for the CPA exam and those interested in getting certified in the future. 

With this book, you’ll gain valuable access to problems, examples, and other opportunities to apply your accounting skills.

The Undoing Project (Michael Lewis)

When working with numbers, the facts rarely lie. Yet if we turn to intuition and emotional responses, we are often steered in the wrong direction. 

The Undoing Project follows the groundbreaking research of two psychologists who coined the term “behavioral economics.” It all leads to the use of big data and evidence-based algorithms over our intuitive responses. 

In this book, you’ll learn how to filter through your feelings when working with figures and how to use data to support your decisions.

Thinking, Fast and Slow (Daniel Kahneman)

As a Nobel Prize in Economics recipient, Kahneman is certainly a thought leader in the industry. His book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” is a winner of the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award. 

Discover the two main systems of thought and how to decipher between the two. Building on the concept in The Undoing Project, this book discusses the benefits of thinking slow. 

From an accounting perspective, this knowledge will inspire you to work more judiciously to reduce mistakes.

The Little Book That Still Beats the Market (Joel Greenblatt)

Once you’ve mastered the basics of accounting and are ready to progress to more advanced financial topics, check out this book. The Little Book That Still Beats the Market offers insight on how to invest for your business. 

If you are looking to increase your profits, Greenblatt explains finding the best investments in layman’s terms. In fact, when he wrote the book, he wanted to be sure that it could be understood by his five children, the oldest being 15. 

Simple enough for kids to understand, the principles of investing described in this book will help you develop a long-term strategy for your business.

The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business (Patrick Lencioni)

As described in this book, organizational health is when there is consistency between management, operations, and culture. That harmony leads to a company without workplace politics and one where top talent wants to be.

As the author of several books and president of The Table Group, Patrick Lencioni shares his knowledge and experiences consulting top corporations. His takeaway is that organizational health matters more than strategies, innovation, or intelligence. The Advantage is an easy-to-understand manual for reaching organizational health.

Whether for your own accounting firm or your clients’ businesses, learning from someone who has consulted some of the country’s biggest organizations is never a bad thing.

Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies (Jerry Porras and Jim Collins)

Next, we go from a book about creating a great business by looking from the inside out to one that does the opposite.

Porras and Collins analyzed Fortune 500 businesses that have been around and successful since before 1950 and looked at similarities between them. First published in 1994, Built to Last has influenced how startups model themselves on so-called “visionary companies.” 

From their six years of research at Stanford University, the authors identified several key ideas behind creating prominent businesses including:

  • A “core value system” builds companies that last longer than a good product or a visionary leader.
  • Successful companies are ones that can embrace seeming contradictions and aim to achieve both. For example, low cost vs. high quality.
  • Setting ambitious goals, taking risks, and committing to them. 

At the very least, reading Built to Last can give you the inspiration to reach for the stars.

The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America (Warren Buffet and Lawrence Cunningham)

Business magnate and investor Warren Buffet is worth more than $90 billion and is the second most charitable man on Earth. 

To reach these economic achievements, Buffet has spent his lifetime learning about investing. Now you too can take advantage of the insight from the Oracle of Omaha. 

The Essays of Warren Buffet: Lessons for Corporate America gives you Buffet’s best investing advice for any business in any industry. 

From his letters, you’ll gain plenty of inspiration to help you grow your business (though perhaps not to the extent of Berkshire Hathaway).

Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Thomas Piketty)

In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty explains that the income earned from invested wealth rising is faster than the rate of economic growth. He states that this is the main reason for income inequality. 

It’s this concentration of wealth, he argues, that undercuts the spirit of democracy and generates discontent.

Piketty looks at the evolution of economies from 20 different countries going back to the 18th century to support his argument. Doing so gives you a picture of how capital becomes concentrated over time and the results that follow.

After analyzing these social and economic patterns, Piketty suggests that political action is needed to avoid an extreme income gap leading to major unrest.

While this book may not be directly on point with accounting, it’s definitely a compelling read for anyone interested in history and the evolution of modern economies.

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner)

For some lighter economic reading with a touch of humor, pick up Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. 

Economist Steven Levitt goes beyond basic social statistics to examine the secrets of everyday life. While numbers don’t lie, they often have underlying stories that paint a much bigger picture. 

It may not be explicitly about accounting, but “Freakonomics” can help you investigate and interpret unexpected facts and figures in your own business. For instance, why did your revenue for ice cream bars skyrocket one winter? 

This book makes for some light reading after a long day of crunching numbers at the office.

Money: The Unauthorized Biography — From Coinage to Cryptocurrencies (Felix Martin)

This is a newer edition of a book released a year earlier. In this version, the author includes an introduction and epilogue that discuss Bitcoin and cryptocurrency’s influence on the future of money.

In Money: The Unauthorized Biography, Felix Martin tells the history of money, challenging many of our beliefs about it — including that it evolved out of the barter system. He also recounts how the Western concept of money has been shaped by centuries of friction between the ruling and middle classes.

All this backstory leads up to Martin’s argument that forgetting that money has always been a political tool has led to financial crises and recessions. He also gives his ideas for making money work for us.

With a great title and an interesting subject, this book should appeal to accountants and non-accountants alike.

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (John Maxwell)

For accounting managers who are leading teams of accountants and bookkeepers, start with this read. 

In The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, you’ll pick up the essential skills you need to manage your employees better. 

In particular, you’ll learn how to build credibility amongst your team members, which is critical for protecting against theft, fraud, and other bookkeeping scams.

How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

Chances are if you haven’t read this classic, you’ve at least heard of it. 

Released in 1936, it has sold over 15 million copies and is one of the best-selling books of all time. And while there were already plenty of books offering advice before this, How to Win Friends and Influence People is known for pioneering the self-help genre.

Dale Carnegie first started getting noticed as a teacher of public speaking at a New York YMCA. He was finally convinced to write this book by a publisher at Simon & Shuster as a practical guide to his lectures.

Carnegie offers his insights in the following sections of the book:

  1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People.
  2. Six Ways to Make People Like You.
  3. Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking.
  4. How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment.

As an accountant, developing these skills can serve you well when giving clients financial advice and help you communicate your ideas around the office.

Among the book’s many promoters is Warren Buffet, who apparently keeps a diploma of the How to Win Friends and Influence People course in his office.

How accountants can benefit from books and other good ideas

If you’re not sure where to start with this reading list, consider what stage you’re at in your career. 

Those who are newer to accounting may find that books with formulas and equations will become their go-to resources. 

Meanwhile, books like “Thinking, Fast and Slow” can transform your way of thinking at any stage in your accounting practice. 

And don’t forget to seek guidance from resources besides books! 

When you combine the books on this list with reading daily news from sources like the Wall Street Journal and economics journals, you’ll be well-equipped to build a knowledge base that will benefit you and your clients for years to come.

Looking for more resources for accountants? Check out a recording of our webinar: Why SEO matters for accountants.

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