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Some serious summer reading, for grads and the financially curious

It’s a tough sell to recommend financial books as summer reading, but the following will not feel at all like required reading. I have interviewed these authors on my podcast, “Better Off,” so feel free to listen for a preview.


“Why Wall Street Matters” by William Cohan (Random House)

The author is not one to shy away from confronting the excesses of the lords of finance. In his previous book, “House of Cards,” he detailed the demise of Bear Stearns and how it led to the financial crisis of 2008. But in “Why Wall Street Matters,” Cohan provides a defense of the industry that he has pilloried.

He knows that Wall Street firms are imperfect, but he believes that they do far more good than bad. This is a perfect book for those who want an easy-to-read breakdown of how financial institutions work and what role they play in the economy.

“The Undoing Project” by Michael Lewis (Norton)

Lewis, the author of “Moneyball,” “The Blind Side” and “The Big Short,” among many others, wrote “The Undoing Project” to explore the roots of behavioral economics, a field of study created by Israeli psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Forty years ago, the pair explored previously held assumptions about the decision-making process and showed the ways in which the human mind systematically erred when forced to make judgments in uncertain situations.

“The Devil’s Financial Dictionary” by Jason Zweig (Public Affairs)

Zweig’s Intelligent Investor column in The Wall Street Journal is a must-read for anyone who cares about their money. He has the power to break down difficult financial concepts into an easily digestible form. His exposure to financial services over the course of decades makes him a perfect writer to humorously skewer the plutocrats and bureaucrats who gave us exploding mortgages, freakish risks and banks that are too big to fail. The book also distills the complexities, absurdities and pomposities of Wall Street into plain truths and aphorisms that anyone can understand.

“The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust” by Diana Henriques (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff came back to life this spring, when HBO released the movie, “The Wizard of Lies.” The source material was this bestseller, written in 2011 by New York Times reporter Diana Henriques. The author’s access to Madoff and wonderful storytelling skills help her transform the real-life scandal into a Shakespearean tragedy.


“U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life)” by Daniel Lerner and Alan Schlechter (Little, Brown)

Professors Daniel Lerner and Alan Schlechter have written a book that helps parents and students navigate the college years. Using science and real-life stories, they emphasize that happiness is something to pursue, but it shouldn’t be the singular goal of college (or real) life. They stress the importance of quality relationships and explain why a little stress is necessary.

“Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life . . . and Maybe the World” by William H. McRaven (Grand Central)

McRaven, a retired four-star admiral, was the overall commander of the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. In 2014, the 37-year Navy SEAL veteran delivered the commencement speech at the University of Texas at Austin, speaking on how students could overcome challenges and change. The speech became a viral hit, with nearly 25 million views online, which prompted McRaven to expand it into a book. The slim book, which outlines the 10 fundamental life lessons McRaven learned in Navy SEAL training, is a perfect gift for any graduate.

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