Children’s books can help parents talk to their kids about money, but reading can also help inspire smarter financial decisions for grown-ups. American Public Media’s Marketplace Money recently asked personal finance writers (including this one) about their favorite money books, and not all of them fall into the “how-to” category.
One benefit of reading memoirs, nonfiction narratives, and other nontraditional personal finance books is that they can get you thinking about money and the financial choices you make without even trying. In “Where the Peacocks Sing,” a memoir by Alison Singh Gee (the book recommended by Alpha Consumer in the Marketplace Money segment), the protagonist is forced to learn to live on a budget after she breaks up with her well-to-do boyfriend. She starts eating more at home, taking buses and skipping high-priced shopping sprees.
Along the way, Gee finds out what’s really important to her, and it’s not 1,000-thread count bed sheets. Without being forced to listen to a lecture, the reader is lead to contemplate her own values, and how they should be impacting her budget.
Here are more books for adults that other money experts recommended on the program:
1. “Debt, the First 5,000 Years,” by David Graeber. An anthropologist delves into the origins of debt systems, and reveals our own values system along the way. (Recommended by Carmen Wong Ulrich, co-founder of ALTA Wealth Management.)
2. “The Bankers’ New Clothes: What’s Wrong with Banking and What To Do About It,” by Anat Admati and Martin Hellwig. This take-down of the banking industry explores how the government might be able to better regulate banks without slowing down growth. (Recommended by Jill Schlesinger, CBS News analyst.)
3. “How to Cook Everything” and “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” by Mark Bittman. These dual cookbooks help even novice cooks get started in the kitchen, and they include plenty of simple, healthy recipes that can be dressed up as needed. (Recommended by Meg Favreau, senior editor at the personal finance website Wisebread.com.)
4. “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” by Charlie LeDuff. The author explores what happened to his hometown in this personal and deeply reported account. (Recommended by Nela Richardson, analyst for Bloomberg Government.)
5. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” by Katherine Boo. This hard-to-put down narrative tells the story of growing up in one of the biggest slums in India. It’s eye-opening, depressing and stunning at the same time. (Recommended by Chris Farrell, economics editor for Marketplace.)
6. “Life,” by Keith Richards. The autobiography of one of the Rolling Stone’s founders sheds light on his entrepreneurial impulses (among other impulses). (Also recommended by Chris Farrell, economics editor for Marketplace.)
Do any of your summer reading books explore financial themes?