Generally speaking, questions that are basically a "list of X" are not very appropriate for the Q&A format of the site. They are basically polls and add little value to the body of knowledge.

However, are lists of books an exception to this?

Even Stack Overflow contains such questions and I have found value in them.

So, what does the community think?


6 Answers 6


There are two ways I can see the "list of books" questions having value:

  1. The question is asked in a limiting way, suggesting the person has already done a little searching themselves. E.G. "I was in the bookstore looking for books that really teach technical analysis, ones that have exercises where the reader does their own analysis. I paged through 'Technical Analysis For Dummies' and 'Technical Analysis From A to Z' and neither have what I want. Are there any books out there that have what I'm looking for?"

    By putting some scope on what's being sought, the questioner is doing a little bit to ensure the answers are going to be relevant to him. Also, the answers are going to be something more than what one would get by doing [keyword] search on Amazon.

  2. The answers contain enough detail that the person asking the question can make a judgement on whether they would be interested in the book. It's much more valuable to have answers that are clearly from someone who has read the book and thought about its strengths and weaknesses than to have ones where a title is being thrown out there with little to no other information.

    If we can collectively maintain standard (2) then I don't think the questions would become useless space-fillers. Otherwise, we would have to fall back on (1), such that when someone asks a question like "What are some good books on investing", we inquire in a comment "Is there anything in particular we can help you with?" and explain that we discourage wide-open questions.

  • #2 adds a lot of value. Listing books and then why you are listing them can be a huge help. Commented Dec 20, 2011 at 20:38

I like list of books questions and think we should permit a limited number of them. (There are only so many subjects under the personal finance umbrella.)

While every answer may be valid (assuming a book in an answer is about the correct subject), I find the best, most popular books on a subject tend to get voted up.

When you're looking to learn about a particular subject from a book, it's useful to know which books the community considers high quality or authoritative.


I think lists have value, but I think this is best served in a wiki style ongoing list and not multiple questions. There should first be a discussion on the sub-categories, and then when a book come up, agreement on what sub-category it falls into. Options? easy. Asset Allocation? yup. But where does "Millionaire Next Door" fit in? Or Books on the history of Bubbles/Market Crashes?


I would suggest also that answers to the question be limited to a single book per answer. The downside of that is the reader might have to look at multiple answers. Upside is that they'll get the "best of breed" answers.


I don't like the list of books questions. They feel like "Every answer is equally valid" which is an off-topic subject.

I think they are better replaced with "How do I learn about XYZ?" questions.

Instead of "What is the best book about options trading?" use "How do I best learn about options trading?" Then a book, or a website, or a class could be given as answers.


I'm with Alex B at least halfway.

I don't think "list of books" questions have much value, but I diverge with him in that I don't like "How do I learn about" questions either.

On the other hand, is the site still getting revenue by converting book links to Amazon associate links? If the site is getting money off these posts I might be swayed.

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