Dear Dagen: A Don't-Buy List for the Bookstore

The seasonal flood of investing books is about to begin. Here's a look at what to avoid.
Author:
Publish date:

September will inevitably bring a new crop of personal finance books in anticipation of the holiday season. The shelves are already groaning under the weight of hundreds of titles, many of which shouldn't have been published in the first place. Here are my own suggestions to clear some space on the shelves or at least give you a healthy sense of skepticism when you're browsing.

No More Get-Rich-Quick Books

-- "Become financially secure by Arbor Day."

-- "Make a fortune and lose 20 pounds in 30 days."

These pitches may sound a bit absurd. But the tone is familiar: Make a lot of money in a short period of time.

But the latest selloff in Internet stocks once again underscores that most people don't get rich quick.

Poor, yes. Rich, no.

No More Daytrading Books With Neon Covers

A walk past

Barnes & Noble's

(BKS) - Get Report

island of daytrading books will throw you back to 1984 and

Wham's

"Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go."

The intent of these garish covers is to attract your attention. The result: mild nausea.

No More Books on Daytrading, Period

If you search

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

for books on daytrading, you'll turn up 32 titles.

That's more than enough.

Daytrading is an investment strategy that typically entails trading on small price movements in securities and closing out all positions at the end of the day.

There are only an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 people who trade through specialized brokerage firms that cater to daytraders. Obviously, these numerous books are aimed at a much larger audience, particularly investors trading online through discount brokerages.

The problem: Daytrading doesn't seem to work for the majority of people who practice it. Only 11.5% of the traders observed in a recent study by the

North American Securities Administrators Association

made money consistently.

If you want to read some wisdom, start with

Benjamin Graham

, the father of value investing. One work:

The Intelligent Investor: A Book of Practical Counsel

.

Disclosure of the Author's Investing Record

When I go to buy a book about investing, I'd like to see fewer jacket blurbs from the likes of

Peter Lynch

.

Instead, I'll take an author's 10-year audited returns. In this case, numbers will speak louder than words.

More Answers, Fewer Questions

Question: Why is it that that some personal finance writers structure their books by asking a series of questions?

Could it be they can't write long-form narratives?

Could it be that this is a crutch?

Could there be a lack of creativity going on here?

The One Guide You'll Need, Part 5

If a book is going to be the "complete," "only" or "one" guide to financial planning, the author may want to wait a least a year before pitching the sequel.

The Feminism Mystique

Some women may have a few specific financial needs and questions. But do authors need to turn this into a cottage industry?

Bonds aren't shoes. Investments aren't that gender-specific. Women can get what they need out of any well-written broad investment guide.

Too Much Time at the Buffett

Warren Buffett

is an investing legend. But the number of books with Buffet in the title has reached ridiculous proportions. A search of Amazon.com turns up 31.

The man preaches simple investing principles. Let's keep it that way.

Bogle Boycott

And now on to another subject:

If you are offended by the forced retirement of Jack Bogle from the

Vanguard Group's

board of directors, feel free to express your displeasure by moving your money elsewhere.

You have every right to feel for Bogle, who has done more than anyone to make the mutual fund industry safer for small investors.

But in the words of

consiglieri

Tom Hagen, "This is business, not personal."

Don't imagine that this change will affect the management of the Vanguard funds.

The whole point of indexing is that you're investing via a process and not a manager. Bogle's legacy -- low fees and quality service -- lives on at Vanguard even if the man isn't on the board.

Send your questions and comments, along with your full name, to

deardagen@thestreet.com.

Dear Dagen aims to provide general fund information. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell funds or other securities.