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Book Review - Dave Barry's Money Secrets by Dave Barry

In Dave We Trust

Dave Barry's Money Secrets
by
Dave Barry

Published by Crown Publishers

Review by W. R. Greer


Dave Barry has always possessed that rare talent to take an everyday experience, turn it on its head, and make it laugh out loud funny with both the familiarity of the experience and the absurdity inherent in it. His syndicated Sunday newspaper columns were often the talk of the office the next day, and when you heard someone guffaw while reading the paper, you knew they got to Dave Barry. Or more exactly, Dave Barry got to them.

In Dave Barry's Money Secrets, Dave Barry does his best to explain everything about money and finances. You know it's going to be a typical Dave Barry book when you start with his dedication:

This book is dedicated to all the people of the world, on the theory that they will respond by thinking: "Wow! A book dedicated to me. I should buy a copy."
He writes this book in a manner that satirizes all the other self-help financial books, with items in bold, bulleted lists, photos, and inscrutable graphs. Although, Dave Barry's photos and charts often have nothing to do with the item they're expected to explain. This not only serves to deliver a humorous punch, but to reinforce the underlying message of this book: that money and finances are really unexplainable. Dave Barry first explains how money works, by describing the history of money (one of the first prehistoric versions of money was cattle: "The cash registers were disgusting."), how the gold standard evolved, and why we now use paper money ("If our money really is just pieces of paper backed by nothing, why is it valuable? The answer is: Because we all believe it's valuable.").

Along the way, Dave takes on financial advice gurus Suze Orman and Donald Trump, often punctuating any moment of humor with the same photo of Suze Orman. He skewers corporate executives, singling out the Coca-Cola Corp. executives who tried to replace the most popular soft drink in the world with New Coke, or the General Motors executives who agreed to try to sell the butt-ugly Aztek. His explanation for executive ineptitude: Furniture Induced Brain Shrinkage.

Ask virtually any employee of virtually any large corporation about the competence of the people in charge, and you will be assured that they are complete morons whose apparent goal is to destroy the company. High-level-executive moronity is a universally observed phenomenon, although nobody really knows what causes it. The most plausible theory is executive office furniture, This theory holds that, in small quantities, there is nothing harmful about your quality hardwoods such as walnut, oak, mahogany, Formica, etc. But apparently when you have a large mass of this type of wood — as you would find in the office of your typical high-level corporate executive, who, to indicate his executive stature, has a desk with the same surface area as Vermont — the wood emits some kind of invisible Stupid Rays that penetrate and ravage the brain of any human who remains too long within range."
Of course, the reason anyone reads a financial book is to learn the secrets to make more money or hold on to what they already have. Dave Barry explains how to get a job if you don't have one (naked pictures of Angelina Jolie on your resume appear to be key), how to manage medical bills (you can't, so he gives you guidelines to stay healthy), how to argue with your spouse about money, how to afford college for your children (sabotage their grades so they can go to a crappy college), how to start your own business, and how to make money in the stock market or real estate (you can't). Along the way, Dave Barry uses any topic to highlight his pet peeves or just take off on a tangent totally unrelated to the topic at hand. His take on the motivations of the "Good Witch of the North" from The Wizard of Oz is priceless.

Dave Barry's Money Secrets is one of those books that makes you laugh out loud and then read that passage to whomever is with you, and then give them the book to read when you're done. Even though Dave Barry has retired from writing his weekly newspaper column, it's obvious his skill at writing humor still runs strongly within him. I can continue quoting humorous passages from the book, but do yourself a favor instead, and get your own copy.

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