NEW YORK (MainStreet) - Most books that purport to tell you how to be a smarter investor make the author a little richer and set you back $29.95 -- with little to show for it.

If you're willing to put in the time for some reading, consider focusing on these important areas of financial literacy:

  • How to assess value
  • How to avoid fraud
  • How to understand the thinking of people who sell financial products.

Here are my six top picks and who should read them:

If you're over 55, wealthy, and financially literate:

Outsmarting the Scam Artists: How to Protect Yourself From the Most Clever Cons, John Wiley & Sons, 2012 
Author Doug Shadel says the typical victim of a financial scam is a wealthy man over 55 who does well on a financial literacy test. Read this book to find out why you're so vulnerable.

If you spend a lot of time reading personal finance articles:

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry, Portfolio/Penguin, 2012
This books from author Helaine Olen will make you a smarter -- and more skeptical -- consumer of personal finance journalism.

If you have time to read only one book:

Weapons of Fraud, AARP, 2005
Authors Anthony Pratkanis and Doug Shadel got their hands on 645 undercover audiotapes of swindlers pitching people on the telephone and analyzed how cons persuade their victims. The book includes transcripts of many of those phone calls, and is an eye-opener for any consumer who thinks they'd never fall for a smooth talker.

If you're a serious investor:

The Intelligent Investor, Harper Business, 2006
In the view of Warren Buffett, Benjamin Graham's The Intelligent Investor is the best book ever written on investing. And that's good enough for me.

If you'd like to learn from an insider:

Where Are the Customers' Yachts? John Wiley, 2006
You'll laugh and you'll learn if you read this book by Fred Schwed. From the introduction: "Wall Street professionals handle the quote-and-fib part of their business with competence, and sometimes with brilliance."

If you are a parent:

The Opposite of Spoiled, Harper, 2015
New York Times columnist Ron Lieber crossed the country to find out how families handled money discussions with their kids, visiting rich families in the Hamptons, immigrants on their coffee breaks, and Mormon families on dairy farms in Utah. His book gives smart ideas on how to raise a kid who is, as the title goes, The Opposite of Spoiled. This isn't a book for families who are struggling to get by. But parents who worry that their kids might benefit from some perspective about how fortunate they are can get a lot out of Lieber's book.

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