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As legendary investor Warren Buffett observed, “Accounting is the language of business.” So even if you’re not an accountant by trade, own or work for a business, or are in a leadership position in a nonprofit, it’s worth knowing at least the basics.
Fortunately, there are many books that can help you. Here we list seven of the best, based on Investopedia’s analysis and the judgments of other independent reviewers. We’ve grouped them by category to make it easier to find a book (or books) that will meet your particular needs, and ranked them among the best overall for the breadth of information and advice it offers.
Best Overall Accounting Book: All-in-One Accounting for Dummies
Part of the ubiquitous Dummies series on every topic imaginable, All-in-one accounting for dummies has been a bestseller in its category since its second edition appeared in 2018. A third edition, published on August 30, 2022, has not been widely reviewed but appears substantially similar.
The “all-in-one” in the book’s title refers to the fact that its more than 700 pages are divided into nine separate “books” on various aspects of accounting, beginning with “Setting Up Your Accounting System” and ending by “Audit and Detect financial fraud.
The introduction to the second edition explains that its intended reader is “an accountant, an aspiring accountant, a businessman who needs to know some aspect of business accounting, or an investor who needs to know how give meaning to the financial statements”. The book also assumes a reasonable level of comfort with basic math, adding that higher-level math is “the reason we have accounting software.”
Best Accounting Book for Non-Accountants: Accounting for Non-Accountants
Accounting for non-accountants is an easy-to-read, 210-page paperback book covering accounting basics for businesses of all sizes (although it’s more likely to appeal to smaller ones). Now in a third edition published in 2013, it uses a fictional small business that makes, repairs, and sells bicycles to show how to prepare a balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement, and other common documents. It also explains how to create a general journal and general ledger, as well as a master budget. Helpful glossaries of relevant terms appear throughout the book.
The author, Wayne A. Label, is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who also holds a Ph.D. in accounting. Label mentions at the end of the book that he is considering a fourth edition, but this remains the most current. The book is also available in a Spanish language edition, Contabilidad Financiera Para No Contadores.
Best Accounting Book for Small Business Owners: Accounting Quick Start Guide
There are a number of books on the market today that can familiarize small business owners with the basics of accounting, including the two books listed above. The Accounting Quick Start Guide, however, stands out for its encouraging tone, clarity, and comprehensiveness (all on 213 pages), making it a solid choice for busy business owners with lots of other things on their mind. The book offers a good introduction to the basics of accounting and bookkeeping, as well as a helpful chapter on tax issues.
Author Josh Bauerle is a CPA whose bio indicates that he specializes in working with online business owners. The latest update of this book is the third edition, published in 2018.
Best Bookkeeping for Nonprofit Board Members: Nonprofit Accounting and Financial Statements: An Overview for Boards, Management, and Staff
As its subtitle suggests, Nonprofit Accounting and Financial Statements provides advice to board members, managers and employees of non-profit organizations. But author Thomas R. Ittelson notes that it was written “primarily from the perspective of a board member, because oversight and financial responsibility ultimately rests with the board.” The book walks readers through the accounting rules that apply to this industry and the types of financial statements that nonprofits are expected to prepare and board members are expected to understand.
In addition to this 283-page book, now in a third edition published in 2020, Ittelson is the author of a 60-page visual “companion book” –A Picture Book of Nonprofit Financial Statementswhich covers statements of activities, statements of financial position, statements of cash flows and statements of functional expenditures.
Best Accounting Book for Investors: Warren Buffett and Interpreting Financial Statements
Warren Buffett and the interpretation of financial statements begins with a quote from the legendary “Oracle of Omaha” himself, part of which proclaims: “unless you want to make the effort to learn accounting – how to read and interpret financial statements – you really shouldn’t not select stocks yourself.”
While there are a number of books that attempt to distill Warren Buffett’s investment wisdom, this one has the advantage of being written by a real Buffett, Mary Buffett, his former daughter-in-law, who l co-authored with David Clark, a longtime “Buffettologist.” (Yes, that’s what these people are called.) So far, the duo have collaborated on half a dozen books, but this one, published in 2011, focuses more specifically on how to analyze company financial statements to find stocks with reliable long-term information. long-term profit potential.
Best for QuickBooks Users: QuickBooks 2022 All-in-One for Dummies
QuickBooks has become the go-to accounting software for many business owners. In Investopedia’s latest reviews of the best software for small businesses, QuickBooks Online ranked best overall and QuickBooks Self-Employed was named best for freelancers.
QuickBooks 2022 All-in-One for Dummies by CPA Stephen L. Nelson is a comprehensive guide for new and experienced QuickBooks users. The “all-in-one” in this title means that its 640 pages are subdivided into eight separate books, each covering its own topic. Nelson walks readers step-by-step through the many functions of QuickBooks, such as invoicing, paying vendors, tracking inventory, managing bank accounts, coordinating payroll, and preparing budgets and financial statements. . Additional “books” cover common business analysis tools, including ratio analysis, economic value added analysis, and profit, volume and cost analysis. The final chapter offers a hands-on “crash course” in Excel.
Whatever questions a reader might have about QuickBooks, this book most likely answers them.
Best Accounting Dictionary: An Accounting Dictionary
Definitions of many accounting terms are readily available online, including here on Investopedia. But for a handy desktop reference, the 480 pages A Accounting dictionary from Oxford University Press would be a solid choice. Edited by Jonathan Law, it provides over 3,800 definitions of not only US accounting terms, but also those commonly used in the UK, Australia, India and the Asia-Pacific region. The latest version of this dictionary is the fifth edition, published in 2016.
Other business-related books in the Oxford Quick Reference series include A dictionary of finance and banking and A dictionary of business and managementboth also edited by Jonathan Law.
Accounting has the sad reputation of being a difficult, even deadly boring field of study. Fortunately, there are some very accessible books that can help anyone who wants to learn accounting essentials relevant to their own work (and maybe nothing more). The widely available Dummies series features an assortment of accounting-related titles, two of which made our “best” list, including our overall top pick, All-in-one accounting for dummies. If this book, at 752 pages, is too daunting, however, readers might want to start with a brief introduction, like Accounting for non-accountants Where Accounting Quick Start Guide.
Why trust Investopedia?
Critic Greg Daugherty has covered financial topics for more than 30 years, including stints as editor at Money magazine and Consumer Reports. He is also the author or co-author of two books on personal finance.
To compile our list, Daugherty and his colleagues at Investopedia combed through bookstores, both online and offline, checked out libraries, checked publishers’ websites, and reviewed readers’ comments online. We also asked members of Investopedia’s Financial Review Board for recommendations. We based our final judgments on the authors’ credentials, the quality and clarity of the guidance the books had to offer, and their suitability for readers with varying levels of accounting and financial knowledge.