Fans of stock market investing literature will know that, unfortunately, many of the best books are American. While a lot of what’s discussed in “John Neff on Investing” or "How to Make Money in Stocks" is universal, those of us deploying our capital on this side of the pond can’t help hankering for something a bit more.. well, British frankly. Jonathan Davis’s Money Makers does give a good account of Anthony Bolton and other institutional gurus but still, wouldn’t it be nice to read something closer to the prosaic day to day realities of UK PI investing?

As it happens, help is now at hand with the arrival of Guy Thomas’ excellent new book, Free Capital. Thomas is an investor and former academic actuary who has painstakingly chronicled how 12 UK private investors accumulated sufficient "free capital" to dedicate themselves full-time to their portfolios. Each has made £1m or more - in most cases considerably more – from investing.

With some similarities to Money Makers or Jack Schwager’s Market Wizards series, the book covers these investors’ backgrounds, how they made their fortunes, and how they spend their days now. For those interested in the UK investing space, it is highly recommended reading for a wide range of insights on successful strategies and approaches.

Most of the investors interviewed by the author are only identified using pseudonyms but some profiles will be familiar to users of this site (wink, wink); they apparently also include some of the most prolific posters on bulletinboards like TMF & ADVFN. The divergence in background is striking. Some have several academic degrees or strong City backgrounds; others left school with few qualifications and are entirely self-taught as investors. They also have very different styles. Some invest most of their money in a small number of shares and hold them for years at a time; others make dozens of trades every day, and hold them for at most a few hours. Some are inveterate networkers, who spend their day talking to managers at companies in which they invest; for others a share is just a symbol on a screen.

While no approach emerges as clearly superior to the others, interestingly, Guy Thomas classifies eight of the twelve investors as ‘surveyors’ – who start bottom-up with the company, its balance sheet and its prospects – while only two are ‘geographers’ – i.e. top down…

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