Real Estate Book List

By Daniil Kleyman:

Reading is very important to me.

I can trace some of the most impactful decisions and “pivot points” in my life  to a few books that I happened to read.

Some of these books caused a huge light bulb to go off in my head and led to MAJOR shifts in my life and business(es).

Others simply enticed me to some seemingly minor, but (in hindsight) very important “pivots”.

Below are just some of the the books that influenced me or ones that I have found really insightful.  Feel free to add your book suggestions for investors in the comments section at the bottom!  I’ll keep adding great real estate investing books to this list as I come across them.

  Non-Fiction Historical Real Estate and Biographies:

There is so much wisdom and takeaways you can gain by reading stories of other successful investors and developers.  People with grand visions and balls the size of coconuts.  These aren’t always stories of successes – there are many failures here to learn from as well.  History is a great teacher if you allow it to bend your ear:

The autobiography of William Zeckendorf.  The guy was a giant.  Did deals on a level that is absolutely wild.  He was a visionary in terms of seeing paths of growth, viewing development through a macro AND micro lenses, etc. But he also blew up. He was careless with debt, with partners, and basically just took whatever money he could find to get the deals done. Tons of lessons and inspiration here.

Am I Being Subtle by Sam Zell.  Sam passed away recently but the guy is an absolute investing legend. One of the best at timing markets and exiting at the right time, he amassed many billions in real estate assets himself becoming a billionaire many times over.

Bubble in the Sun by Christopher Knowlton  An absolutely fascinating look at how the entire state of Florida was developed from swampland between 1870s and 1920s through the lens of the biggest developers there.

Liar’s Ball: The Extraordinary Saga of How One Building Broke the World's Toughest Tycoons  by Vicky Ward    Awesome book about NYC high-stakes real estate.

Billionaire’s Row by Katherine Clarke  This book essentially picks up where Liar’s Ball left off, telling the story of the super-tall skinny skyscrapers that popped up in NYC starting 2010.  Billion-dollar deals and the visionary (and sometimes crazy) people behind them.

Non-Fiction How To, Philosophy, etc:

Strong Towns by Charles Marhohn Jr The overarching premise of the book is that the development patter then US has followed since WWII (that of suburban sprawl) is not sustainable, nor is it in line with how humanity has grown cities organically for thousands of years. The cost to sustain the massive infrastructure (and to maintain it) this far spread out is beyond the means of almost any locality and eventually a lot of this infrastructure will have to be abandoned.  The book makes the case for dense, urban cities as being much more efficient in terms of wealth generation and impact on infrastructure and government costs.

The Great Indoors by Emily Anthes  In this wide-ranging, character-driven book, science journalist Emily Anthes takes us on an adventure into the buildings in which we spend our days, exploring the profound, and sometimes unexpected, ways that they shape our lives. Drawing on cutting-edge research, she probes the pain-killing power of a well-placed window and examines how the right office layout can expand our social networks. She investigates how room temperature regulates our cognitive performance, how the microbes hiding in our homes influence our immune systems, and how cafeteria design affects what―and how much―we eat.  If you’re into real estate development, you’ll get some “aha!” moments from this book


Real Estate Related Fiction:

Man in Full by Tom Wolfe  This is a classic.  Wildly entertaining book about ups and eventual dows of one very successful real estate developer. An excellent cautionary tale about leverage, ambition, and where life can lead you if don't pay attention.

The Hazards of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland  Very similar in premise to Man in Full.  A fictional story of a big time developer who goes through one shenanigan after another.


Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss  Probably the best, most actionable book on negotiating I’ve ever read.  Ton of great strategies here to implement.  Chris is a former FBI hostage negotiator and this book is filled not only with useful advice but some great stories from his days in the FBI too.

“Powerhouse Principles:  The Billionaire Bluprint for Real Estate Success” – Jorge Perez.  A lot of great real estate insights on development and negotiation here.

“Never Make the First Offer (Except When You Should)” – Donald Dell. Dell reveals the advanced strategies and tactics that he has developed over a lifetime of high-stakes deals. Whether you're making endorsement deals for superstars, negotiating your next salary, or just trying to sell your old car, Dell's wisdom will help you get every possible advantage.

“Negotiating With Giants:  Get What You Want Against the Odds” – Peter D. Johnston  Pretty solid  negotiating book, outlining strategies for how to negotiate as a smaller player against bigger, more powerful counter parts.


Investing, Whole Life Insurance, Planning:

Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel  Good book on psychology of investing.  Some insightful observations though very few specifics.  21 separate short chapters on 21 different topics weaved in together.   Quick easy read.

““What Would the Rockefellers Do” – Garrett Gunderson.  Ok, so this book is basically a disguised, “backdoor” sales pitch for whole life insurance.  BUT, 1) It got me to let my guard down and actually learn about life insurance and 2) MUCH more importantly, it opened my eyes to a new way of estate planning that will ensure that my assets do not get divided among my heirs, do not create “trust fund babies” out of my kids, and rather preserve my legacy and create opportunities for empowerment for my descendants many generations into the future.  See next book recommendation for more:

“Entrusted: Building a Legacy that Lasts” – David York and Andrew Howell. This book came as a result of reading the book I recommended above.  This is a completely different take on estate planning.  Honestly, my mind has been totally blown by the idea of creating a Rockefeller style trust that stays strong and grows generation to generation, empowering my heirs to be productive and thriving members of society rather than a bunch of rich spoiled fucks, which many children and grandchildren of the wealthy typically become. If you plan on leaving behind at least a decent chunk of wealth to your heirs, READ THIS!

Hospitality / AirBnBs:

If you're running STRs or want to, you need to understand that this business is 110% hospitality. you're competing with hotels and other hosts who take this game very seriously (like us). Here are some great books you can read to up your game:

Four Seasons by Isadore Sharp  Story of how a guy started with nothing and built an impressive chain of hotels from scratch based on being the absolutely best in service and on how they treat their guests.  He built a brand name synonymous with luxury and upscale, individualized service and a culture around delivering that service.  Lots of insights here on how to differentiate yourself and provide great service. 

100 Tips for Hoteliers by Peter Venison  Peter Venison developed some of the worlds most impressive hotels and resorts including the Atlantis in Bahamas.  Some good advice in this book that closely correlates to that from other books (Four Seasons, Danny Meyer).  The book goes through site selection and development to construction to opening, marketing, and managing – every step of the process of being a hotelier. 

The Heart of Hospitality by Micah Solomon  Micah Solomon is basically a consultant and doesn’t seemingly have much track record in hospitality. That being said, this book definitely had some good nuggets since he interviewed the best in the field or simply pulled from their books and interviews with others.

Setting the Table by Danny Meyer  Danny Meyer is the founder of Union Square Hospitality, an ownership and management company of a number of NYC restaurants including Union Square Café, Eleven Madison Park, Gramercy Park Café, The Modern, Tabla, and Shake Shack.  He built his business on hospitality and his own unique take on it.  This is also a great book simply about a man building a business empire from scratch based on obsession over quality, constantly improving that quality and on truly serving people and his community. 

Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara Nice auto-biography of the guy who rose from nothing to owning the Eleven Madison Park restaurant (founded by Danny Meyer).  Some great tips on hospitality, providing over-the top experiences as well as managing employees.


Macro History, Politics, Trends: 


Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power by Zachary Karabell   This book is essentially history of America through the 1950s through the lens of a powerful investment bank whose members had their hands not just in all corners of finance but also government.  Fascinating read.

Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty Year Fall – and Those Fighting to Reverse it by Steven Brill   This book basically picks up where Inside Money left off and chronicles America from the 1950s through today. If you want to understand why certain things work the way they do and why certain things are broken in our country, this will be a great read!