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Michelle Singletary hosted a Web chat on December 2nd with Zac Bissonnette, author of "Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships or Mooching Off My Parents"


Want to know which personal finance books to read? Join the Color of Money Book Club. To become a member all you have to do is read the recommended book then join Michelle Singletary and the author in a Live Online discussion. Check this page each month for updates on new books and chat times.

December 2010

Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It

By: Mariko Lin Chang

(Oxford University Press, $24.95)

The wealth gap between men and women still matters because about half of all households are headed by single people (never married, widowed or divorced). "My intention in this book is to shift the dialogue about women's economic future toward one that includes the importance of building wealth," writes Chang, a former associate professor of sociology at Harvard University.

November 2010

Debt-free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents

By: Zac Bissonnette

(Portfolio Trade, 304 p., $16.00)

The book, written by a University of Massachusetts senior who will graduate with no debt, is not vanity project meant to berate people who take out student loans. Instead, it lays out a blueprint that students and parents can use to avoid financial heartache.

October 2010

Aftershock: The next economy and America's Future

By: Robert B. Reich

(Knopf, 192 pp., $25)

I'm warning you. This isn't the type of book you take to the beach or set by your nightstand, eagerly awaiting the hour when all of the children are in bed. It's academic. And yet Reich's historical look at the economic crisis is a good read.

September 2010

Turn Setbacks into Greenbacks: 7 Secrets for Going Up in Down Times

By: Willie Jolley

(Wiley, 166 pages, $21.95)

Jolley is a man on a mission to get all of us to see that our dreams might have been deferred but they don't have to die because of the recession. "In changing and challenging times, I believe it is necessary to think differently," Jolley writes. "If you are willing to do different things and do some of the old things differently, you will be able to go beyond surviving and get to a place of thriving."

August 2010

Buy, Close, Move In: How to Navigate the New World of Real Estate -- Safely and Profitably -- and End Up with the Home of Your Dreams

By: Ilyce Glink

The book looks back at what happened when the housing bubble burst and then forward to what's to come in the real estate market. It's also a guide to help buyers and sellers navigate the brave new world of real estate. Glink offers advice on what to do in a new era of declining home values, the changing role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, fixing your credit, calculating what you can realistically afford and snagging a house through a short sale or foreclosure.

July 2010

When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles And Solutions

By: Paula Span

(Springboard Press, 288 pp., $23.99)

The book, published last year, isn't a how-to manual as much as it's a how-to-get-through-the-years of caring for an elderly relative. Span writes that her work is a "support group in print."

June 2010

When the Time Comes: Families With Aging Parents Share Their Struggles And Solutions

By: Paula Span

(Springboard Press, 288 pp., $23.99)

The book, published last year, isn't a how-to manual as much as it's a how-to-get-through-the-years of caring for an elderly relative. Span writes that her work is a "support group in print."

June 2010

Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life

By: Reyna Gobel

Okay, graduates, so now that you have your degree, what do you know about your loans, and how will you manage them? True to the CliffsNotes brand, this compact guide walks you through the student loan labyrinth starting with "know what you owe."

May 2010

Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview? The Crash Course: Finding, Landing, and Keeping Your First Real Job

By: Ellen Gordon Reeves

(Workman Publishing Co., 277 pgs., $13.95)

Talk to anyone in a position to hire folks and you will hear some of the most outrageous stories about job candidates. There are many books on this topic. But Reeves has put together a guide that reads fresh and is as easy to navigate. The book is hip and it's not written in a way that is condescending. It's also encouraging.

April 2010

Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life

By: Gail Blanke

(Springboard Press, $13.99)

Spring, the season of rebirth, is as good a time to get busy throwing out the stuff clogging your home, office, mind and spirit. Gail Blanke's ideas can help you clean up your money mess or the emotional baggage that causes it.

March 2010

Celebrate Women's History Month

In honor of Women's History Month, read four personal finance books authored by dynamic women:

A Purse of Your Own: An Easy Guide to Financial Security
By Deborah Owens with Brenda Lane Richardson. (Fireside, $15)

Live It, Love It, Earn It: A Woman's Guide to Financial Freedom
By Marianna Olszewski

Save Big
By Elisabeth Leamy

Expect to Win
By Carla A. Harris

February 2010

Stop Acting Rich . . . and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire

By: Thomas J. Stanley

(Wiley, $26.95)

This book makes the case that if people stop acting rich, they can achieve the kind of happiness money can't buy. Stanley proves there's a big difference between income and net worth. Many pretenders have become very good at generating income and enjoying a high standard of living, but, he says, "Those who are among the least productive in transforming their incomes into wealth are in the higher-status occupations."

January 2010

The Power to Prosper

By: Michelle Singletary

(Zondervan Books, $14.99)

Michelle Singletary has a financial challenge for you. For twenty-one days, you will put away your credit cards and buy only what you need for survival. With Michelle’s guidance, you’ll discover how to break your spending habit and your bondage to debt, make smart investments, and be prepared for any emergency.

December 2009

Regifting Revival! A Guide to Reusing Gifts Graciously

By: Jodi Newbern

(Synergy Books, $16.95)

Newbern has written a fantastic how-to guide that just may win over many opponents of regifting. The glossy 161-page book is part persuasion, part regift manual. She promises -- and delivers -- a "definitive source for all things regiftable."

November 2009

¿Se Habla Dinero? The Everyday Guide to Financial Success

By: Lynn Jimenez

(Wiley, $19.95)

Although anyone will benefit from this basic personal finance guide, Jimenez wrote this bilingual book specifically to appeal to multigenerational Hispanic families.

October 2009

Consumer Reports Money Adviser

Editor: Noreen Perrotta

($29 for a 12-month subscription)

The typically 17-page newsletter covers personal finance topics in short, engaging articles -- from credit to investing to saving to insurance to real estate to retirement planning to taxes.

September 2009

Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life

By: John C. Bogle

(Wiley, $24.95)

This book mixes critical analysis of our financial system with common-sense wisdom to help you become a better person and a better investor.

August 2009

Job Hunting for Dummies

By: Max Messmer

(Wiley, $16.99)

In an increasingly crowded field of job applicants, this book gives solid advice on how to make your résumé rise to the top of the pile.

July 2009

Asset Allocation for Dummies

By: Jerry A. Miccolis and Dorianne R. Perrucci

(Wiley, $24.99)

Various authors try to explain asset allocation in the simplest terms, a subject that can be intimidating to a lot of people.

June 2009

Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown

By: Edmond L. Andrews

(W.W. Norton, $25.95)

It hadn't even hit the bookstores before last month's Color of Money Book Club selection, "Busted," set off a flurry of Internet conversations. Critics have slammed this book in the blogosphere, where people could sling anonymous potshots that they would never have had the guts to say to someone's face.

May 2009

Catastrophe: The Story of Bernard L. Madoff, The Man Who Swindled the World

By: Deborah and Gerald Strober

(Phoenix Books. $14.95)

If you haven't taken the time to devour the many news reports on Madoff's dealings, the Strobers' book will catch you up. Its initial printing didn't include the money manager's March appearance and sentencing in federal court, so be sure you get the updated version.

April 2009

The Millionaire Kids Club series

By: Susan Beacham and Lynnette Khalfani-Cox

(Advantage World Press)

This series written for children ages 3 to 12, are about four friends, each with a different money personality. Sandy is a saver. Dennis likes to donate. Stephanie likes to spend, and Isaiah likes to invest. Together, these multiracial friends formed a club to talk about money-related issues.

March 2009

The Wall Street Journal Guide to the End of Wall Street as We Know It

By: Dave Kansas

(Collins Business, $15.99)

This book is a look at how we came to be in what I call the Millennium Meltdown. Kansas is an experienced financial journalist who has covered the good, bad and ugly of the financial markets. He's editor-at-large for FiLife, an online personal finance Web site.

February 2009

10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage

By: David and Claudia Arp

(Zondervan, $12.99)

52 Fantastic Dates for You and Your Mate"

By: David and Claudia Arp

(Thomas Nelson, $12.99)

It's often said that money is the main cause of marital discord and even divorce. But that's not quite accurate. What really causes the fights is all the emotional baggage. As I was going through the many "love and money" books I get this time of year, I decided to choose two non-financial works.

January 2009

Ponzi's Scheme

By: Mitchell Zuckoff

Oh, what a time we live in when fortunes of everyday folks are being wiped away in seconds. And that's just from honest dealings in the stock market. The latest financial scandal comes courtesy of Bernard L. Madoff, who is accused of orchestrating a $50 billion Ponzi scheme.

November 2008

150 Best Recession-Proof Jobs

By: Sue Pines and Stephanie Koutek

(Jist Publishing $16.95)

Many of the books stacked against the wall in my office were written before what I call the Great Millennium Meltdown. Although some forecast trouble ahead, much of the financial advice lacks today's context. That's not a criticism. Nobody knew how bad things would get.

October 2008

Wall Street Versus America

By: Gary Weiss

(Portfolio, $14.95)

If you're mad as hell about what's happening to our economy and need to stay mad to keep from wailing, read the October selection for the Color of Money Book Club.

September 2008

The Teen Girl's Gotta-Have-It Guide to Money

By: Jessica Blatt with Variny Paladino


This book, aimed at teen girls, is packed with information. It has interactive exercises that explain basic financial terms and concepts, job-hunting tips, and a good section on how the stock market works.

August 2008

Mortgage Rip-Offs and Money Savers

By: Carolyn Warren

(John Wiley & Sons)

Part of the reason we're in this mortgage mess is that many borrowers naively believed what mortgage professionals were telling them and didn't verify the information or shop around for a better deal.

July 2008

The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up

By: Scott Christopher and Adrian Gostick


Should companies use levity to boost their bottom line? Could laughter help firms keep workers? These authors say absolutely.

June 2008

Changing Your Course: The 5-Step Guide to Getting the Life You Want

By: Robert and Melinda Blanchard


As the economy continues to slide, many people will face unwelcome changes in their lives. Already people have lost jobs, homes, cars and, in some cases, hope.

May 2008

Up to Our Eyeballs

By: José García, James Lardner, and Cindy Zeldin

(New Press and Demos)

"The word alone causes people's blood pressure to rise. It's a hard-sounding word, phonetically in sync with its impact on people's lives," writes Tamara Draut in this book.

April 2008

Money Changes Everything

By: Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell

(Broadway Books)

The abundance or lack of money does change everything. But if money is so important, why do so many people avoid talking about their finances?

March 2008

Going Broke: Why Americans Can't Hold On to Their Money

By: Stuart Vyse

(Oxford University Press)

I keep coming back to one question: What has made us into a nation of people who spend more than we earn? It's a question that led Stuart Vyse to write this book.

February 2008

The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches

By: Jeff Yeager

(Broadway Books, $12.95)

With so much bad economic news coming out almost daily, you may be feeling overwhelmed. You may feel there's nothing you can do to prevent your own household from crumbling financially. But you can do something.

January 2008

Isn't It Their Turn to Pick Up the Check?

By: Jeanne Fleming and Leonard Schwarz

(Free Press, $21)

They're just four little words, but they can cause strife after a pleasant meal out with co-workers, friends or family. You've all heard them at one time or another: "Let's split the check."

December 2007

The Financial Wisdom of Ebenezer Scrooge

By: Ted and Brad Klontz and Rick Kahler

(Health Communications Inc., $14.95)

As any therapist will tell you, conflicts about money are usually not about money. They're about you, or rather, "your issues."

November 2007

Mileage Pro: The Insider's Guide to Frequent Flyer Programs

By: Sue Pines and Stephanie Koutek

(OAG Worldwide, $19.95)

For years, "members of frequent-flyer programs have been trying to make sense of these deceptively simple yet endlessly complicated programs," these authors say. These two men have made a career out of helping frequent fliers.

October 2007

Mortgage Confidential: What You Need to Know That Your Lender Won't Tell You

By: David Reed

(American Management Association, $16.95)

For the savvy buyer, this market can yield a good deal. On the other hand, what about those buyers who don't know how to negotiate with lenders or loan officers?

September 2007

Rich and Thin: Slim Down, Shrink Debt and Turn Calories Into Cash

By: Deborah McNaughton and Melinda Weinstein

(McGraw-Hill, $16.95)

These authors want us to face a simple truth: Many people consume too many calories and their unhealthful eating is costing them a piece of prosperity.

August 2007

Campus CEO

By: Randal Pinkett

(Kaplan Publishing, $16.95)

You spend tens of thousands of dollars attending college with the hope of one day landing a well-paying job, maybe even one with a six-figure income. Pinkett writes that it's possible to become your own chief executive even while pursuing your college degree.

July 2007

Crazy Bosses

By: Stanley Bing

(Collins Publishing, $21.95)

I once had a boss who could put my stomach in knots just by walking past my desk. This person was so scary that even today, decades later, I still get chills thinking about her reign of terror.

June 2007

Zero Debt for College Grads

By: Lynnette Khalfani

(Kaplan, $14.95)

You've got the college degree, and now you're stressed about what to do with the debt.

May 2007

Tax This! An Insider's Guide to Standing Up to the IRS

By: Scott M. Estill

(Self-Counsel Press, 2007 edition, $21.95)

Should you fear the Internal Revenue Service? Not if you know your rights as a taxpayer and you respond to the first notice you get from the IRS, says Scott M. Estill, a tax attorney.

April 2007

Financial Literacy Month

This month, to celebrate Financial Literacy month, Michelle chose a number of books and products to help teach children about money.

March 2007

Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders

By: James D. Scurlock

(Scribner, $24)

James D. Scurlock, author and director of "Maxed Out," hopes to do with the overselling of credit what former vice president Al Gore has done for global warming -- elevate people's consciousness about a terrible threat to our existence. In this case, it's our financial well-being.

February 2007

Forty Million Dollar Slave

By: William C. Rhoden

(Crown, $23.95)

Are black athletes wasting their considerable wealth? Sportswriter William C. Rhoden thinks so.

January 2007

How to Go to College Almost for Free

By: Ben Kaplan

(Harper Collins, $22)

There is so much information about college financing that it's hard to choose which Web site to visit or book to read. But, as one well-worn Chinese proverb goes, "to know the road ahead, ask those coming back."

December 2006

The Best Way to Save for College

By: Joseph Hurley

(, $22.95)

Thankfully, securities regulators have been examining more closely the sales of 529 plans, an increasingly popular way for families to save for college. But, we investors still bear most of the burden of finding independent research on 529s.

November 2006

FastWeb College Gold

By: Mark Kantrowitz with Doug Hardy

(Collins, $21.95)

Paying for College Without Going Broke

By: Kalman A. Chany with Geoff Martz

(Random House and Princeton Review, $20)

Given how much a college education costs, you need to plan ahead and know how to navigate the twists and turns of the financial aid process. That way, you and your child can avoid being hit with a tuition bill that can cause serious damage to your financial future.

October 2006

The Insurance Maze

By: Kimberly Lankford

($18.95, Kaplan Publishing)

It's time for open enrollment. That means millions of workers will be evaluating their health, life and disability insurance options as part of their employee benefits package.

September 2006

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car

By: Chris Balish

(Ten Speed Press, $12.95)

Balish's mission is simple. He wants all of us to challenge the notion that we need a car. Most importantly, he says we all should reevaluate the cost of car ownership.

August 2006

Your Little Legal Companion

By: The editors of Nolo

(NOLO, $9.95)

I always thought it would be nice to have a pocket-size book of my grandmother's advice. Whenever I was perplexed about something, I could just flip through the book and see what Big Mama would say.

July 2006

24-Karat Kids: A Novel

By: Judy Goldstein and Sebastian Stuart

(Martin's Press, $22.95)

No doubt you've heard that Warren Buffett, investor extraordinaire, has decided to give most of his wealth away to charity. What's also extraordinary is that Buffett won't be leaving his vast wealth to his three children. As I read reports about his gift, I was struck by Buffett's explanation as to why he's not transferring his riches to his kids.

June 2006

Raising Money Smart Kids

By: Janet Bodnar

(Kaplan Publishing, $17.95)

Summertime often means summer jobs for teens. But is that always a good thing for young people? Not necessarily, says this author.

May 2006

Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2006

By: The editors of Consumer Reports magazine


Every time my husband and I decide to buy something, he responds with one phrase: "We need to check Consumer Reports." Every time. Even for products that are relatively inexpensive.

April 2006

House Poor

By: une Fletcher

(Collins, $21.95)

I have a dear friend who recently put her townhouse on the market. It's a lovely home. But my friend is worried because the house hasn't sold. It's been on the market for about eight weeks..

March 2006

How to Retire Happy

By: Stan Hinden

(McGraw Hill, $16.95)

By now you've probably heard that this year the oldest of the baby boomers will turn 60. Specifically, the Census Bureau estimates that 7,918 people will be turning 60 each day in 2006. That amounts to 330 every hour."

February 2006

Dave Barry's Money Secrets

By: Dave Barry

(Crown, $24.95)

I've been told I'm too serious. Financially serious, that is. For example, I'm serious about teaching my children the importance of saving. I rarely take them to the mall. I make sure that when they're buying something, they comparison-shop -- even my 5-year-old.

January 2006

Smart and Simple Financial Strategies for Busy People

By: Sue Pines and Stephanie Koutek

(Simon & Schuster, $26)

How many tomorrows have you been promising that you will start handling your money better? When it comes to your finances in 2006, adopt the mantra, "Today is tomorrow."

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