How to Read the Financial Pages [Michael Brett] – Book Review

I don’t write many book reviews on – mainly because the purpose of this blog is to provide free information on investing rather than encouraging the readership to spend money on e-products, subscription services, get-rich-quick schemes and similar. I believe that most personal finance books sell themselves like a sensational magazine features or a miracle cure peddled by sales people. The most useful finance books aren’t those promising to make you a £million in 400 pages, but rather they are the reference guides that provide financial education and help you on the way to becoming a ‘sophisticated investor’.

‘How to Read the Financial Pages’ is a perfect example of such a reference guide.


How to Read the Financial Pages offers a guide to the jargon and principles behind the financial world. The book has a UK bias, including an overview of the main businesses in the City of London and the stages of evolution that the worlds financial centre has gone through over the past 200 years.

The author; Michael Brett, uses a simplified (but not patronising) tone as he walks through many distinct and separate topics that any investor should know. The chapters cover the following:

  • Companies & their accounts
  • Shares
  • How banks work
  • Types of investment funds
  • International money & debt markets (including corporate bonds)
  • Foreign Exchange markets
  • Insurance
  • City regulation
  • Venture capital, Private Equity
  • Derivatives
  • Commercial Property
  • Tax Shelters

Stitched together, this provides a comprehensive ‘first look’ at the workings of all things financial. This is not intended to create experts – as each chapter can only cover the basics. However this book is a sizable volume, and I felt that each area was given sufficient attention for any beginner or amateur investors.

This book also serves as a useful signpost to any further reading you might wish to do. If the financial derivative chapter takes your interest, then you may want to purchase a book in that specific area to get into the detail.

I particular enjoyed the final section, entitled “How to read between the lines” which offers a light-hearted guide to words and phrases often used by financial journalists to convey suspicion or warning to their readers – without being so obvious as to provide ammo to particularly litigious subjects. An excerpt below:

“When a journalist suggests shares are ‘fully valued’ he is almost certainly trying to say ‘overvalued’ without trying to offend the company too deeply”.

This book will provide you with the background knowledge to finally make sense of the vast majority of articles in the Financial Times. Once you have tackled the steep learning curve of such news sources – your general financial acumen will begin to take care of itself as you flick through the news pages week after week and build a wealth of knowledge on topical issues.

As you may have noticed above, the latest edition of this book was published in 2000, making the title more than a decade old! In my opinion this doesn’t tarnish the reader experience – I think we are all extremely familiar with the events of the last 5 years thanks to continuous rolling news coverage on the financial & debt crisis and prominent national attention given to the economy since 2007. In fact, it is useful to hear about a time before the recent market troubles. You may enjoy drawing parallels between 1980/1990 glitches with events in recent memory.


How to Read the Financial Pages is a dated – but not out-of-date, book to be taken seriously if you fancy cracking the lid on the inner-workings of the financial world.

I purchased this title in 2006 from Amazon for £12. You can find the 2000 edition on Amazon here.


Simon OatesHow to Read the Financial Pages [Michael Brett] – Book Review

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