Book Recommendations

Pretax Reading

It's that time of year again. 2015 has come and gone, and the inevitable tax filing awaits. Whether you're struggling with debt or basking in the luxuries of financial success, we are sure these books will resonate with you (and offer an excuse to put off doing your taxes for one more day!) 




Dear Money 

by Martha McPhee


This book asks the question: Can a woman in midlife abandon the writing life and under the proper tutelage become a wildly successful trader on Wall Street? It came out of an incident in McPhee’s life when she was dared to try this and refused. Her protagonist, India Palmer, switches places with a successful broker friend. He goes off to write a novel and she heads to Wall Street. No spoilers here, so you’ll have to read it if you’ve considered even for a moment radically changing your life. 



The House of Mirth

by Edith Wharton


Lily Bart chooses money over love and ends up with neither. This is the go-to book on the ruinous effect of unintended debt. Lily thought she was investing in a fabulous future but her unwillingness to repay her lender in the way he would have liked marks the beginning of her descent into utter ruin. 





New Grub Street

by George Gissing


George Gissing’s financial problems were compounded by his marital choices. His first wife was an alcoholic ex-prostitute. After she drank herself to death, he married a working-classwoman named Edith, whose small income could provide at least a bit of financial stability. It was the very poor man’s version of marrying for money—not a recommended course for anyone—but in his case it went especially badly. The writer’s relationship to money is central in this novel. The choices presented are between literary ambition and financial ambition, and it’s a great read, though sadly it didn’t make its author much money. 



Martin Chuzzlewit 
by Charles Dickens 


It is impossible to recommend books about debt without adding a Dickens title to the list. Money and class are his great themes. This one is especially resonant in 21st century America, dealing as it does with a Ponzi-ish insurance scheme that leaves so many people penniless. It will leave you feeling that debt is honorable in comparison.



Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth 

by Margaret Atwood 


In 2008, Margaret Atwood was asked to deliver the Massey Lectures and decided to talk about debt—not personal debt or financial management, but the notion of debt, what it means, its history, its impact: the big picture. Like all Atwood’s nonfiction,Payback weaves in the personal, sometimes meandering down strange paths, the writing full of wit and the usual understated erudition.



Le Père Goriot

by Honoré de Balzac


Almost anything Balzac wrote will do: Le Pere Goriot, Illusions Perdues, La Cousine Bette, Eugenie Grandet. Money was his central metaphor. We recommend La Père Goriot because it is a moving story about an idealistic young man learning the harsh ways of the world.