Great Books Distilled: Books by History's Greatest Innovators, Founders, and Investors

The page is a reading list sharing the best books written by history's greatest innovators, founders, and investors. This is a reading list for people who don’t have time for unimportant books—which should be everyone. I only list the best books I've read and recommend.

All Book Summaries

For the best books that I read, I go through the painstaking effort to put together and publish my personal notes including highlights, excerpts, and takeaways. You get the best 5% of the ideas in these books in a form that takes 20 minutes at most to read.

Great Books by Category

These are the best books to read, listed by category. Along with a few collections of rare and hard-to-find speeches, lectures, talks, interviews, letters, and memos that are a great way to go deeper.

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Daniel Scrivner

The Richest Man In Babylon

This is part of my book summary collection which includes The Essays of Warren Buffett, Poor Charlie's Almanack, Special Operations Mental Toughness, and 50+ more. Browse them all to find the best ideas from history's greatest books →

Book Summary

This is my book summary of The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – the original 1962 edition. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

The Book in Three Sentences

Save at least 10 percent of everything you earn and do not confuse your necessary expenses with your desires. Work hard to improve your skills and ensure a future income because wealth is the result of a reliable income stream. You cannot arrive at the fullest measure of success until you crush the spirit of procrastination within you.

Favorite Ideas

  • The 7 simple rules of money: 1) Start thy purse to fattening: save money. 2) Control thy expenditures: don’t spend more than you need. 3) Make thy gold multiply: invest wisely. 4) Guard thy treasures from loss: avoid investments that sound too good to be true. 5) Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment: own your home. 6) Ensure a future income: protect yourself with life insurance. 7) Improve thy ability to earn: strive to become wiser and more knowledgable.
  • To bring your dreams and desires to fulfillment, you must be successful with money.
  • The laws of money are like the laws of gravity: assured and unchanging.
  • Money is plentiful for those who understand the simple laws of making money.
  • Babylon was the wealthiest city in the world at the time of its height because its people appreciated the value of money.
  • You must constantly have an income that keeps your purse full.
  • “It costs nothing to ask wise advice from a good friend.”
  • It’s simple to say, but many people never achieve a serious measure of wealth because they never seek it. They never truly seek it, focus on it, and commit to it.
  • Youth often assumes, incorrectly, that the old and wise only have wisdom about days gone by.
  • You will only begin building wealth when you start to realize that a part of all the money you earn is yours to keep. That is, pay yourself first. You always pay others for goods and services. Pay yourself as much as you can. Save money.
  • You should save at least 1/10th of what you earn. More if you can afford to do so.
  • Do not take advice on finance from a brick layer. Go to people who are experts in a particular subject if you want expert advice. It’s too easy for amateurs to give out advice.
  • Build for yourself a mountain of gold first, then you can enjoy as many banquets as you wish without worry. Don’t spend your money as soon as you earn it.
  • Surround yourself with people who are familiar with money, who work with it each day, and who make lots of it.
  • Enjoy life while you are here. Do not overstrain to save.
  • Do not put your money in investments which do not pay a dividend, but also do not invest in risky places that seem too good to be true.
  • What each person calls their “necessary expenses” will always grow to match your income unless you resist that urge. Do not confuse your necessary expenses with your desires.
  • “A man’s wealth is not in the coins in his purse. It is in his income.”
  • Ensure a future income. Every person gets old. Make sure your income will continue without work.
  • Buy life insurance. Provide in advance for the protection of your family.
  • Increase your ability to earn. Improve your skills. As you perfect your craft, your ability to earn more increases.
  • The more we know, the more we may earn. The person who seeks to know more of their craft is capable of earning more.
  • You cannot arrive at the fullest measure of success until you crush the spirit of procrastination within you.
  • The 5 Laws of Gold: 1) Gold comes easily and in increasing quantity to the person who saves at least 1/10th of their earnings. 2) Gold labors diligently and multiplies for the person who finds it profitable employment. 3) Gold clings to the protection of the person who invests their gold with wise people. 4) Gold slips away from the person who invests gold into purposes through which they are not familiar. 5) Gold flees the person who tries to force it into impossible earnings.
  • If you desire to help you friend do not do so in a way that brings their burdens onto you. There are many ways to help people. You don’t have to choose the ways that restrict your time, money, energy, or ability to care for yourself.
  • The wise lender always has a guarantee of repayment should the investment go poorly.
  • Above all you should desire safety for your money. Better a little caution than a great regret.
  • Protect yourself with insurance. You cannot afford to be unprotected.
  • Do not live beyond your means.
  • No man respects himself if he does not repay his debts.
  • The soul of a free man looks at the world as a series of problems to be solved. Meanwhile, the soul of a slave whines, “What can I do?”
  • “Where the determination is, a way can be found.”
  • If you are in debt, live on 70% of what you make. Save 10% for yourself. Use the remaining 20% to repay your debts.
  • Stick with the plan. Money accrues surprisingly quickly and debts are gone fast with discipline and consistency.
  • Work attracts friends who admire your industriousness. Work attracts money and opportunity. “Hard work is the best friend I’ve ever had.”

For more, I highly encourage you to order The Richest Man in Babylon and read the entire book yourself.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoyed The Richest Man in Babylon, you might also like:

Related Collections

You can find other books like The Richest Man in Babylon in these collections:

About the author

Daniel Scrivner is an award-winner designer turned founder and investor. He's led design work at Apple and Square. He is an early investor in Notion,, and Good Eggs. He's also the founder of Ligature: The Design VC and Outlier Academy. Daniel has interviewed the world’s leading founders and investors including Scott Belsky, Luke Gromen, Kevin Kelly, Gokul Rajaram, and Brian Scudamore.

Last updated
Apr 28, 2024

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