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7 book reviews

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legal warning: The information here should not be understood legally as financial advice. If you believe anything on this site is in error, please contact me. I am always open to corrections, new ideas, and new opinions...

As an Israeli who uses a lot public transportation; I have plenty of time to kill en route.  Normally, I’d listen to music, but about a year ago, I decided to start listening to audiobooks.  It wasn’t such a huge jump; after all, I was already listening to podcasts.  So just take a series of podcasts and walla! – it’s the same as an audiobook.

The following are reviews for 7 books on money and/or economics that I listened to over the past year:

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey.  This is the book that kickstarted my entire financial transformation.  Before this book, I was tracking some expenses, but not sure why, and my college debt was getting worse.  My wife and I argued over money and we were unsure what we were arguing over because it’s not like we had any savings or any way to monitor what was going in or out.  Dave Ramsey’s organized methodology allowed us to clean up our finances, begin living on a budget and start taking control of ourselves financially.  And while it is true that Dave’s system needs to be adjusted for Israel, his outlook on money and more importantly, his can-do attitude speak universally.  The audio, read by Ramsey himself, was energetic and motivating.

Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner:  I love these books.  These are the best two books on economics that I have read in my entire life, hands down.  Freakonomists Levitt and Dubner apply the principles to economics to just about every part of life, including gangs, global warming, and how to be a good parent.  Even if you disagree with their theories, the material they chose to analyze is incredibly fascinating and will help you use microeconomics to discover “the hidden side to everything.”  And for those considering the audiobook, Dubner is a fantastic reader.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm GladwellThis book has an interesting premise, but probably could have been summarized in a long pamphlet.  And to make matters worse, Gladwell has a horrible reading voice.  If the subject of the tipping point interests you, I would refer you to the wikipedia entry which covers the entire book without the superfluous detail.

Predictably Irrational by Dan ArielyDan Ariely, an Israeli-American who suffered third degree burns and a long recuperation process at Rambam, used the experience as a jumping off point into the world of behavioral economics.  Most of the book deals with small economic experiments (using college students of course), behavioral patterns that emerge, and practical advice.  The book could have been a bit shorter, but all in all was an entertaining and educational read.  Also, unlike Gladwell, Areily realized that his voice was not suited for reading and got some British reader to read the book for him (it is kind of funny to hear him mispronounce the names of Ariely’s Israeli family members.)

The Undercover Economist by Tim HarfordTim Harford can best be described as a fantastic journalist, but a sub-par economist.  The book is clear, interesting and informational, but discusses simple economic topics that are covered in the most basic of economic textbooks.  With the exception of the chapters on supermarkets and China, the book will most likely bore the heck out of anyone who had ever taken even an elementary course in economics.  To add insult ton injury, the reader of this book was annoyingly slow.  Next time Tim Harford needs a British guy to read one of his books, he should ask Dan Ariely for some advice.

The Making of Modern Economics:  The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers by Mark SkousenAs my approbation of Dave Ramsey proves, I like authors with strong personalities, and when listening to history, nothing is more boring than a bland list of facts and events.  In this respect, Mark Skousen’s history offers a unique, interesting history of the people and concepts that shape the Austrian and Chicago Schools of economic thought and the challenges that they faced throughout the ages.  Unfortunately, Skousen ends up repeating his narrative ad nauseum while failing to either mention or significantly explain many important concepts in the history of economics.  It may be one of the best books on the subject of economic history, but it still has a way to go.  Audio was decent, not as bad as Gladwell, but not as good as Dubner

Do you have any good books about money or economics that you can recommend?

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