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4.0 out of 5 stars

VINE VOICEon 28 December 2009
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." -- 1 Timothy 6:10

Put down your Wall Street Journal, unplug your trading software, don't think about your estimated taxes, and count your blessings that you can take time to look at this book and laugh at yourself.

For those trained in making money from money, it's all about the numbers, keeping an eye on what others are doing, and being nimble. For those who focus on human values, money just gets in the way. In this volume, the latter get a humorous look at the former. Even the former will get a chuckle or two.

The book's strength comes in the many cartoons aimed at tax collectors, self-serving corporate managements, and investors who do silly things in the name of trying to make money. The humor in these is strong and timeless. Everyone will laugh at these.

The book is organized around decades, from the 20's to the 2000's. As I looked at the humor, I was reminded of the vastly different economic and financial markets of those decades. Unfortunately, the editor and Introduction author didn't choose to add that context for those who aren't long-time students of the economy and markets. As a result, I fear that a lot of the humor won't quite strike home.

I was pleased to see that the well-known essayist, Malcolm Gladwell as tapped for the Introduction. I was less impressed when I read how little he put into his comments. Well, I have to give redoubtable editor, Robert Mankoff, credit for trying.

I was struck in looking at the collection that much of the humor is surface deep. When the occasional introspective example of humor arrives, it works all that much better for the contrast. My favorite is the cartoon where the speaker notes that he's genetically cheerful. Perhaps cartoonists for The New Yorker in the future should aim deeper to capture the fundamental silliness of chasing after what doesn't last and can provide more distraction than satisfaction.

The book's main weakness is that many of the images don't reproduce quite well enough, so that either the words in the image are too small for easy examination or the image isn't quite crisp.

If you have a friend who finds making money is funny business, this is book will make a great gift. I'm thinking of giving a gift of the book to a friend of mine who is a financial guru.
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