18 December 2008

Holiday Gift Guide, Part 1: For The Recessionista or Recessionister

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has looked at the state of the financial markets in the past year and thought, "What the heck happened?" These are a few of the books about personal finance, the economy (particularly the American economy) and consumption that I found the most thought-provoking and readable, and while not everyone on your list is looking for a big fat reality check, I think they should appreciate the opportunity to learn:
Niall Ferguson, THE ASCENT OF MONEY. I never took economics in college (although I know now I should have!) so this British overview of the creation of banks, the first stock market and the modern real-estate system really helped me decipher more of the current financial news.

Shira Boss, GREEN WITH ENVY. I read this book earlier this year as part of the run-up to my review of YOU'RE SO MONEY, but the construction of a more sophisticated model than "keeping up with the Joneses" has stuck with me, particularly in the second half of the year when I felt pulled into a circle of Schadenfreude as fellow New Yorkers lost their shirts.

Fred Pearce, CONFESSIONS OF AN ECO-SINNER. A journalist chases his stuff back to its country of origin in this collection of short essays about farms, factories and fair trade. This book was more convincing than anything else I have read in pressing me to consider where my food comes from and contemplating more carbon-neutral or labor-friendly options.

Judith Warner, NOT BUYING IT. I read this book last year on my consumerism kick and parts of it really annoyed me, but I dipped back into it a few months ago and was able to get past this chronicle of a New Yorker who makes a ridiculous promise, not to buy any luxuries for a year, and struggles to hold herself to that. The message she comes up with is not, "You shouldn't have nice things," but "Consider the little things in life that actually improve it." Certainly something I've been thinking about with Christmas around the corner.

Peter Gosselin, HIGH WIRE. The disappearing middle class is a concept thrown around a lot in 2008, as the amorphous group of Americans hardest hit by foreclosures, unemployment and incessant campaigning on their behalf. (No offense, John and Barack.) HIGH WIRE, subtitled "The Precarious Financial Lives of American Families," shows how a combination of their own errors and an increasing burden of risk can sink even relatively secure people with a stroke of bad luck.
As threatened, holiday gift guides will appear every day here until the 22nd, which takes you up to the second night of Hanukkah and three days before Christmas.


Jess said...

These books all sound so interesting! Torsten is reading BUYOLOGY right now. He seems to really like it.

Wade Garrett said...

I had to read a lot of Niall Ferguson in college, particularly his writings about the economic aspects of World War I. He has a high opinion of himself, and for the most part its deserved, even if he's a little too fond of the corny pun.

Ellen said...

Niall Ferguson did have some particularly bad lines, but they struck me as professorial... or maybe that's just the teachers I had.

Jess - I have heard great things about Buyology, although I think it pushes the bounds of