I can't say it's been a great year for investing books. It's been hard enough to keep up with the gyrating stock market and European crisis. Fortunately, there are a handful of books that manage to tell good stories or give you timeless advice. Here are my picks:
1. "Get Your Act Together. The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife" by Marc Freedman
If you're hitting the sweet spot between middle age and retirement, you need to read this book. Freedman is a master at defining what could be done to make your life meaningful while living the best part of your life.
"Our culture needs to do more to send signals about this emerging period, marking its existence and establishing a vision for it," he writes.
This is also useful for those searching for a working ecology between work and life.
2. "Global Gloom. Boomerang" by Michael Lewis
If you can get past Lewis's strange fixation on German scatology, there are some amusing and tragic vignettes of investors in Iceland, Ireland, Greece and the U.S.
A follow-up to his "Big Short," the book explores the delusion that anyone could become a successful investment banker or real estate mogul.
So why did Icelandic fisherman start speculating in currency markets and conservative German banks start to load up on junk mortgage debt? All of these crazy moves made sense at the time, even though everyone eventually got burned. Over-confidence will cook the goose every time.
This multi-layered allegory for the 2008 meltdown is an enlightening read.
3. "Income Investing. Bonds: The Unbeaten Path to Secure Investment Growth" by Hildy and Stan Richelson
For years, it's made sense for income investors to look at individual bonds as a means of boosting cash flow. With yields at record lows this year, you had to be creative. The Richelsons present a diversified approach and tell you everything you need to know in this second edition of a book they originally published in 2007. There's absolutely nothing sexy about the Richelson's strategies, yet you can use their wisdom to protect your portfolio in turbulent markets.
4. "Smart Portfolios. The Smartest Portfolio You'll Ever Own" by Daniel Solin
Building on his other "Smartest" money books, Solin lays out sensible ways of constructing safe portfolios that are customized to where you are in life.
As with his other advice, Solin favors low-cost, passive portfolios that are diversified and tempered for risk.
5. "Easy Economics. Grand Pursuit" by Sylvia Nasar
It's hard to love a book about economics, so Nasar, the celebrated author of "A Beautiful Mind," tells the story of the most influential economists of the past 200 years or so.
Although she curiously doesn't start with Adam Smith, there are rich portraits of leading lights such as Keynes, Hayek, Friedman and Sen and lesser-known thinkers such as Mayhew and Beatrice Webb.
If you've always been stymied by the subject, this is a graceful narrative that will give you a full perspective on today's money woes.
By the way, these books make excellent holiday gifts. Enjoy and prosper!
The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
(Editing by Chelsea Emery and Beth Gladstone)