Updated on 02.20.07

The Richest Man in Babylon: Buy or Don’t Buy?

Trent Hamm

The Richest Man in BabylonWhat can possibly be learned about modern finance from a book first published in 1926, you ask? What is so worthwhile about The Richest Man in Babylon that causes it to still be in print today? This week, we’ll look closer at this personal finance classic to see what hidden gems are within.

As I’ve discussed this week, The Richest Man in Babylon is a collection of parables set in the ancient city of Babylon. The goal of these parables is to set forth basic tenets of personal finance that are as applicable now as they were then.

The stories themselves are of varying levels of quality. There are two great stories, a fair number of middling ones, and a few that left me confused as to the reason for their inclusion. Many of the stories had overlapping concepts, but they were explained and applied in different ways.

In short, buy this book if you learn well from stories. If a well-told tale of the experiences of others is the way that you learn, this book will be very enlightening. I often learn this way, as I learned about totalitarianism from 1984 and objectivism from Atlas Shrugged.

On the other hand, don’t buy this book if you learn better from more fact-oriented publications. If you’re much better at following step by step instructions than by learning from observing others, The Richest Man in Babylon will not be a highly effective read for you.

As for me, I quite enjoyed some parts and found other parts dull. The good parts are well worth the time, but the latter half of the book seemed aimless, as if some lesser stories were tucked in to build up the book’s length.

You can jump to the other parts of this review of The Richest Man in Babylon by using these links:
Seven Cures For A Lean Purse
The Five Laws of Gold
Other Tales
Buy or Don’t Buy?

The Richest Man in Babylon is the seventh of fifty-two books in The Simple Dollar’s series 52 Personal Finance Books in 52 Weeks.

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  1. Guncrazy says:


    I have just recently discovered this web site, and only slightly less recently discovered TRMIB. In fact, I am currently listening to the audiobook (for the third time in a week). I find it that good.

    It’s a short book, taking about 5 hours to listen to, unabridged on CD.

    I am a financial retard. No offense to the mentally challenged, but I find no more accurate way to describe my financial life. And I believe that I am in the company of a substantial majority of Americans. I am optimistic that the simple wisdom taught in these tales are the beginning of my remediation, yet bitterly regret that these principles were not taught to me in grade school. I will certainly be teaching them to my daughters, and hope that they will be able to learn them best from my example.

  2. rodgerlvu says:

    thanks. you are the most intelligent person i ever met…

  3. Elsa says:

    I’ve read Richest Man in Babylon, and I agree with you. There are some parts that are really interesting, and there are some others that are boring. But I always take the good lessons I can find from any books, even though there is only one single new information or lesson. It’s a good book :)


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