I asked this question earlier today: What books would be must-read books on personal finance? (Not investing!) Which got put "on hold" for being off-topic. Specifically stating that

Questions seeking product or service recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.

But this seems absurd to me. In specific, I have no problem which I'm trying to solve; I'm trying to learn about the subject of personal finance. And furthermore, the only "product or service recommendation" is a book. But then by that logic, any question asking for book recommendations should be considered off-topic, which is clearly not the case:

So this all leaves me incredibly confused, as the question - which basically boils down to "What books should I read to become more knowledgeable about the main subject of this SE?" - is considered off-topic.

Hence this question: Why exactly is it considered off-topic? How could it even be considering the question it is asking?

Disclaimer: Though this is not entirely a META question, I found no active chat or method of appeal, hence leaving the meta SE as the only option.

  • 1
    Just because something hasn't been closed, doesn't mean it's on-topic. Quite a few of your suggestions date from the early days of the site (perhaps even before its membership of the SE network) and should probably be closed now. But since we're discussing the policy now, I'll wait and see if any there's a decision to change it before doing anything about that. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


That type of questions has two problems:

You are asking for a list. Therefore it is unlikely that there is an answer that answers the question perfectly. If I include 5 books; and somebody else include 4 books, two of which overlap mine; and a third person only includes one but it is in the 2nd person list: who gets the check mark. How do people vote up lists that are partially correct.

The second problem is that the answer will change over time. If a new book is released and it zooms to the best seller list, does it invalidate the answers submitted.

Specifically your question: the topic is also too broad.

  • But both of these problems are present in all questions relating to books, and over all subjects. It's also worth pointing out that all technical stack exchanges I know delve in to even grayer areas than this. The following topic on Math.SE jumps to mind: math.stackexchange.com/questions/329/… Which is a question that is more opinion based than my question, within a SE focusing on a subject which is less opinion based than money.SE. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:12
  • @MitchellFaas Individual SEs can choose their own policies, so don't really provide evidence that something should be on-topic on money. If there was something on meta.stackexchange saying book recommendations should be on-topic, I think we'd pay that a fair amount of respect; but if anything I think the network-wide policy is for recommendation requests to be off-topic. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:51
  • @GaneshSittampalam That's exactly what I consider strange though. Not allowing book recommendations is essentially the same as saying that books are not a reliable source of information, which sounds crazy to me. Especially when you consider the question of how experts in personal finance learned the subject. Surely they didn't learn it by being whispered in to their ears by angles. Though I don't study finance, it seems that books is a pretty likely source of such reliable information. Though the points of opinion and longevity are valid, I don't think this takes away from their value. - cont Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 21:47
  • -cont... For example, it's hard to give someone new to investment any serious advice without pushing them towards books such as The Intelligent Investor, which teach integral concepts about investment regardless of time periods. Day traders would of course shy away from this argument, but there are loads of books on technical analysis which are also considered integral for anyone serious about the topic to at least be aware of. Why would you actively take steps to make it harder for newcomers to find such books? As a strong believer of open-source mentality, this is very strange indeed. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 21:51
  • @MitchellFaas We're not saying books are bad, or that asking about books is bad; just that this site is not suited to doing it. We're not a general discussion board, we aim to do (just) a particular set of things well. Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 22:07

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