Tuesday, March 17, 2009

WSJ's Five Best Money Books

In the March 14-15 weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, the "Five Best" book column was focused on books about money. Here are Jane Kamensky's picks:

1. The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Suze Orman could have saved Lily Bart. Alas, poor Lily: The heroine was born a century too early for CNBC...

I read this book ages ago, and I'm thinking I may have to read it again!

2. Money, by John Kenneth Galbraith
Full of the grainy particulars of history and the god's-eye grandeur of economics, "Money" boasts equal parts empathy and majesty.

Galbraith is one of the authors I've always thought I should read as part of an attempt to teach myself Economics 101.

3. Money and Magic, by Hans Christoph Binswanger
A large and startling theory spills out of this offbeat little volume: Modern money systems have deep roots in alchemy, the Renaissance science of turning base metals into gold.

I'd never heard of this book, but I'm intrigued, especially since the few used copies on Amazon are selling for over $600!

4. Boggs: A Comedy of Values, by Lawrence Weschler
[Conceptual artist J.S.G.] Boggs draws paper currency so accurately that his bills might enter the marketplace undetected. But he doesn't quietly pass them off; he spends them at face value, after providing a full explanation, with any shopkeeper who will agree to play along.

After reading Mr. Wilson's Cabinet Of Wonder, I'd read pretty much anything else this author has to offer!

5. A Nation of Counterfeiters, by Stephen Mihm
This rogues gallery of forgers, coin-shavers and engravers-gone-bad holds up a funhouse mirror to the entrepreneurial face of American money-making.

The book focuses on the years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, when the U.S. had no national currency and instead a variety of privately issued notes competed with each other, making forgery especially easy. Sounds interesting, and I'd love to see pictures of some of those old bills.

Jane Kamensky, who compiled this list, is the author of another book that might be of interest in today's economic climate: "The Exchange Artist: A Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America's First Banking Collapse."

Happy reading!


ZZBoy said...

Thanks for the excellent book reviews on personal finance. I have forwarded this link to all DesktopBudget.com customers. Keep it coming :)

Anonymous said...

Madame X...
The 'House of Mirth', book and movie, is my all time favorite novel and I am a male. I think Lily was basically an early feminist and resented the constraints placed on her. In that era feminism was basically self-destrutive and Lily proved it. And $10,000 dollars in debt for gambling at bridge. How much would this be in today's money?

I will grant Edith Warton must have know what she was talking about though. It is the best historical, psychological, and sociological text I have ever read. And no, I don't think Suze could have saved her, because Suze could not have saved herself in that day and age.