As goes the stock market, so goes the personal finance and investing books category. Logic dictates that when the market is soaring and there's money to be made, investors are willing to spend on books, but when opportunities are limited, they pull back.
So, how do publishers of personal finance and investing books rate the current market? It's complex, says Portfolio editorial director Jeffrey A. Krames. "While the Dow and the S&P continue to make historic new highs, the NASDAQ remains at less than half of its all-time high. This means that some investors have gotten rich while others have lost their shirts," he explains. "As a result, many investors are more cautious and book buyers have become more cynical."
On the up side, Krames continues, it's easier to get in the game. "Today's online investor has literally thousands of tools that they can access for free on the Internet that simply did not exist a decade ago. In addition, an investor today can purchase, say, 1,000 shares of Starbucks and pay a commission that is less than the price of a single movie ticket at a Manhattan theater."
Amacom executive editor Jacqueline Flynn, too, sees opportunity in all the fluctuation. "It's become a cliché to say that times are changing, but for today's investor this couldn't be more true. Forever everyone has been preaching 'buy and hold' and 'asset allocation,' but these approaches are not giving investors the returns they want in this market," she says. "For more than mediocre results, investors need to roll up their proverbial shirtsleeves and put in some time researching investments and then have to monitor them more closely." The result is a need for guidance—much of it sought from books.
Below are 10 contenders for the attention of investors of all types. All promise to fatten your bank account—though none are offering a money-back guarantee.
Title: Jim Cramer's Mad Money: Watch TV, Get Rich
Author: James J. Cramer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Dec., $25)
First printing: 400,000
Dollars and sense: Investment show Mad Money with Jim Cramer airs three times a day on CNBC; a large portion of the host's audience is likely to turn out for his book as well. But v-p and senior editor Bob Bender says it's more than a mere tie-in, offering "valuable advice that goes well beyond the context of the television show." (Cramer's book lands today on PW's bestseller list.)
Title: Women & Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny
Author: Suze Orman
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Feb., $24.95)
First printing: 300,000
Dollars and sense:Women & Money is Orman's first book with Spiegel & Grau, but her last five titles have all made the New York Times bestseller list. She's also won two Emmy Awards for PBS programming based on her books and hosts her own weekly show on CNBC. Publisher Julie Grau says, "There is a line early in the book that just stopped me cold: 'Why is it that women who are so competent in all other areas of their life cannot find the same competence when it comes to matters of money?' Suze's investigation of what created this problem and what perpetuates it is really original and captivating."
Title: The Only Three Questions That Count: Investing by Knowing What Others Don't
Author: Ken Fisher with Jennifer Chou and Lara Hoffmans
Publisher: Wiley (Dec., $27.95)
First printing: 150,000
Dollars and sense: Knowledge is power, argues the Forbes columnist and Fisher Investments CEO, and most of what the average investor knows is bull. Publisher Joan O'Neil says, "This book helps investors see through the commonly held investment assumptions that are, in fact, wrong." In the foreword, fellow author James J. Cramer (see above) writes, "I believe that reading [this] book may be the single best thing you could do this year to make yourself a better investor" (and jokes, "My agent's going to kill me"). O'Neil concludes, "I couldn't have said it better."
Title: Do This, Get Rich: 12 Things You Can Do Now to Gain Financial Freedom
Author: Jim Britt
Publisher: Square One (Mar., $25.95)
First printing: 50,000
Dollars and sense: It's all about attitude. Says publisher Rudy Shur, "This book is designed for the person who has made the decision to become wealthy and is ready to follow through with that commitment." The author, a motivational speaker and self-made millionaire, provides tips for shedding "the middle income attitude" and facing the fear of success.
Title: Money Can Buy Happiness: Learn How to Spend to Get the Life You Want
Author: MP Dunleavey
Publisher: Broadway (May, $18.95)
First printing: 20,000
Dollars and sense: In a twist on the old adage, New York Times finance columnist Dunleavey argues that money can buy happiness, if only we spend it on the things we really want. "The message goes against conventional wisdom," admits editor Rebecca Cole, but she adds that ultimately the author is "showing readers that quality of life is more important than the bottom line."
Title: Financial Bliss: A Couple's Guide to Merging Money Styles and Building a Rich Life Together
Author: Bambi Holzer
Publisher: Amacom (Jan., $21.95)
First printing: 17,500
Dollars and sense: Financial planning is just as important as family planning—maybe more so—in determining a couple's happiness. "We've heard many times that money is the number one source of conflict in relationships," points out executive editor Jacqueline Flynn. "Bambi Holzer gives readers specific strategies for determining each person's money style and then crafting a financial approach that embraces both styles."
Title: Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes
Author: Michael J. Panzner
Publisher: Kaplan (Mar., $25)
First printing: 15,000
Dollars and sense: With 25 years in the financial industry under his belt, Panzner is part Cassandra and part Boy Scout: he foresees a financial collapse in the near future, and he explains how to be prepared. Associate development editor Joshua Martino says, "This book offers advice to live by—really to survive by—after the crash in order to preserve wealth and protect your family."
Title: Detox Your Finances: Earn More, Spend Less, and Make Your Money Work as Hard as You Do
Author: John Middleton
Publisher: Perigee (Jan., $15.95 paper)
First printing: 10,000
Dollars and sense: One of six titles in the launch of Perigee's "52 Brilliant Ideas" series, this title breaks financial advice into bite-sized and easily digestible bits, such as "Don't max your tax." Senior editor Marian Lizzi, the acquiring editor for the series, says, "This book delivers essential advice with a lighthearted, upbeat tone and even a sense of humor, which is a breath of fresh air on the personal-finance shelf."
Title: The Big Investment Lie: What Your Financial Advisor Doesn't Want You to Know
Author: Michael Edesess
Publisher: Berrett-Koehler (Jan., $24.95)
First printing: 5,000—10,000
Dollars and sense: An insider reveals the seamy underside of the financial advisory industry. Senior managing editor Jeevan Sivasubramaniam says, "This exposé is not written by a journalist or third party, but an insider in the investment advice industry who saw firsthand how this economic institution gets millions of investors to throw their money away on advice that is worthless and fraudulent (and tells investors what to do instead)."
Title: The Last Link: Closing the Gap That Is Sabotaging Your Business
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press (Mar., $21.95)
First printing: 40,000
Author: Gregg Crawford
Dollars and sense: Executive v-p Meg La Borde Phenix says, "The Last Link is special for two reasons: The marketing power will propel it onto the bestseller lists, and the content will produce word-of-mouth sales." A $300,000 marketing campaign includes a "bag drop" of more than 100,000 blads at registers in Hudson News stores in airports. Content highlights include what the author calls "the 3D model" (that's data, dialogue and discipline) and metrics for measuring success. Says La Borde Phenix, "It zeroes in on the link of the chain that determines whether or not a strategy results in better numbers."