I created an initial list of important books in September, right after the start of the financial collapse. With the economy still moving in reverse, it’s time to update this list with a few more nuggets to help you understand how we got here, figure out how to deal with it, and be a part of the new way forward we can all create. (I’m an optimist. I have to see the silver lining.)

Understanding What Went Wrong
One book returns from the previous list, but I’m also adding a movie and a blog.

The Trillion Dollar Meltdown – It’s a brief (very brief) and easy to read exploration about the recent history of the financial markets. Charles Morris explains how recent deregulation allowed the big investment banks and mortgage companies to spin out of control. It was released about a year ago now and his once dire predictions are actually spot-on.

IOUSA – I reviewed the movie in full about a month ago after it aired on CNN. If you can find a local screening, go see it. If not, watch the 30-minute recap on YouTube. Then gather up your pitchforks and meet me at the halls of Congress to kick some butt.

Planet Money – The fine folks at NPR created this blog that reports news and analysis of the financial collapse, and all related issues. It’s award-winning, easy-to-understand, and fear-inducing.

Dealing with the Aftermath
Frugality is back in style now. Living within your means is back in style, too. If you already live the frugal life, good for you, but it never hurts to get a few more tips. If you need to learn to control your expenses and get your financial house in order, read these books.

The Total Money Makeover – If you’re deep in debt, this is a good place to start. I don’t totally agree with some of his claims and suggestions, but millions of people have followed his advice to baby step their way out of consumer debt. Use that part, and ignore his mortgage advice.

Your Money or Your Life – At this point, this book should be required reading for anyone in credit counseling or anyone at risk of foreclosure or bankruptcy. It should probably be required reading for the whole country. It doesn’t tell you that you can’t spend money. It does teach you how to reconcile your personal values with your personal spending, and to value yourself over your stuff.

Simplify Your Life – If you need to cut back on expenses but a total overhaul of your spending habits isn’t necessary, check out this book for simple tips for reducing your expenses here and there.

Building a New Way Forward
Even though I sometimes drive home thinking that the bad news on the radio is a dream and that we’ll all snap out of it, I know that’s not true. Instead of wishing it away, we can instead see this as an opportunity to rectify our wasteful ways. We can fix our environment and our economy at the same time. Ultimately, the economy will only collapse again if the climate spirals out of control and we return start living beyond our means again.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded – Thomas Friedman looks at how our overspending and overpolluting ways kicked off the global climate crisis. The rest of the world now wants what we have, but getting it the way we did would destroy the planet. He offers careful analysis and suggestions for changing our own ways while we lead the world by example.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Barbara Kingsolver spent a year living off her own farm. We can’t all own farms, but her story of self-sufficiency can inspire the rest of us to be more conscious and frugal in our food choices.

Economics for Dummies – Not only do we all need a basic refresher in economics before we get to the business of fixing our economy, but I think Congress does, too. Like all Dummies books, this is well-researched, well-written, and easy to understand.

These seven books, one blog, and one movie should keep you busy for a while. At worst, you’ll have lots of information to get you through small-talk at cocktail parties. Oh, you don’t go to cocktail parties anymore?

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