Lynn O'Shaughnessy

If you spend much time in bookstores, you'll appreciate that the nation is in no danger of running out of personal finance books. Most of these books are written by financial personalities with mediocre results. But crammed on the shelves along with these clunkers are some jewels. If you are looking to buy a financial title for the holidays, here are my picks:

- "Smart and Simple Strategies for Busy People," by Jane Bryant Quinn.Nine years ago, Jane Bryant Quinn, the personal finance columnist at Newsweek, completed an encyclopedic book, "Making the Most of Your Money." I kept a copy of the tome on my shelf and would consult it from time to time.

But a book can grow stale and, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, "Stuff happens." Tax laws change, and investing opportunities multiply. But Quinn now has a fresh title that recognizes many people don't want to read a book that's heavy enough to aggravate a tennis elbow.

Her latest book is focused on sharing only the most essential advice for investors who are grappling with major financial issues, such as shouldering the burden of retirement and college, as well as crawling out of debt and navigating insurance options.

Her mantra remains the same as always: Think simple. It's no surprise, then, that she strongly advocates using index funds.

- "Does Your Broker Owe You Money? If You've Lost Money in the Market and It's Your Broker's Fault - You Can Get It Back" and "The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read: The Simple, Stress-Free Way to Reach Your Investment Goals." Both titles are by Daniel R. Solin.

If the person handling your investments is a stockbroker or you're thinking about consulting one, you should buy "Does Your Broker Owe You Money?" Of course, you may not even know that the person urging you to buy shares of General Electric or to dump Intel is a broker. While there are more than 600,000 brokers working out of 4,000-plus brokerage firms in this country, the term stockbroker has vanished from the financial industry's lexicon because of its negative connotation.

These registered reps - the official name - now call themselves financial consultants, financial advisers and wealth managers. The titles have changed, but the practices haven't.

The first step in seeking financial help is to know what type of expert you're dealing with. This may seem obvious, but I continue to be dismayed at how many intelligent people I meet who don't have a clue. Read this book and you'll understand why this matters!

I also recommend Solin's new book, "The Smartest Investment Book You'll Ever Read," which is even skinnier than Quinn's. Solin, a securities arbitration attorney, does a great job of boiling down what is truly essential for most investors.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of Retirement Bible.

Be the first to read Lynn O'Shaughnessy's column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.