Wading into the personal-finance section of a bookstore can be as fun as a trip to the dentist. Marketers are either trying to scare you ("You're sabotaging your finances, and you don't even know it!") or offering up too-good-to-be-true promises ("Retire rich in ten years!"). Just in time for the gifting season, LearnVest suggests some time-honored—and timely—personal finance books that are as good to give as they are to receive.
"The Richest Man in Babylon" (1926) by George S. Clason
Penned before the (first) Great Depression, this small book (easily read over the course of a few lattes) is actually a personal-finance classic, with the basics of money management told through a collection of parables taking place in—you guessed it—ancient Babylonia.
"How to Win Friends & Influence People" (1937) by Dale Carnegie
While it's not strictly a personal finance book, this 62-year-old classic is a critical read due to its emphasis on leadership and the creation of productive personal and professional relationships. According to Carnegie, making people feel important and appreciated—and, most importantly, making them receptive to your ideas—is the key to financial success.
"Think and Grow Rich" (1937) by Napoleon Hill
Generally considered the fundamental work on motivation and personal achievement, Hill's illustrates his "Law of Success" philosophy through profiles of early magnates such as Henry Ford and Charles Schwab. He focuses on issues like teamwork, decision-making, and the maintenance of a positive mental attitude. While Think and Grow Rich has been updated for the 21st century by Arthur Pell, many find that Hill's original version is still perfectly relevant for today.
"What Color is Your Parachute? "(1970) by Richard Bolles
If you're considering switching careers, or are out on the job hunt, Bolles’ seminal work is a necessary addition to your library. Through the exercises provided in the book, you'll discover not only what you should be doing in life, but how to go about achieving it. Parachute has been updated annually since 1975; pick up the 2010 version, which addresses the job search in our current economy and using Internet resources to reach your goals.
"The Millionaire Next Door" (1998) by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
Millionaires among us? There's more of them than you think, and they're all not living in swank houses and driving flashy cars. The authors have gathered two decades of research on $1+ million earners to demonstrate that getting on Millionaire Row doesn’t take luck or inheritance, but rather choosing the right career and living below your means.
"The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke" (2007) by Suze Orman
So, Ms. Orman's bubbly financial persona may not be everyone's cup of tea, but Young, Fabulous, and Broke targets twenty- and thirty-somethings who are up to their necks in student loans and credit card debt. Orman's message: Face the music now, develop a strategy to reduce your debt burden, and get smart about the ins-and-outs of personal finance.
"A Random Walk Down Wall Street: The Time-Tested Strategy for Successful
Investing" (2007) by Burton G. Malkiel
Think a small-cap is a hot beverage? Should you buy gold when the economy takes a downward turn? This heralded book offers up the basics on investing, from stocks and bonds to tangible assets like that house you might be saving up to buy.
"I Will Teach You To Be Rich" (2009) by Ramit Sethi
No cutesy titles for Sethi, the personal finance blogger behind Iwillteachyoutoberich.com. This book is a well-received newcomer which lays out a six-week course, targeted at people ages 20 to 35. The course is all about developing financial independence through "conscious spending."
And, don't forget—after you've read through your books, stay in the spirit of maximizing your budget by selling them back for cash.