BOOKS IN BRIEF -- MAKING A LIVING

The Baltimore Sun

THE BIG SQUEEZE: TOUGH TIMES FOR THE AMERICAN WORKER By Steven Greenhouse Knopf / 368 pages / $26 -- Steven Greenhouse, labor and workplace correspondent for The New York Times, describes life for the American worker in these times of stagnating wages, shrinking pension benefits, rising health-care costs and diminishing job security in this book, due out April 17.

He begins with the personal stories of real people: a Wal-Mart security guard fired when he was injured on the job; a call-center worker forced to work eight hours, but paid for three; a software company employee who worked 24-hour shifts out of company loyalty, but then was fired without notice as her job was outsourced to India. From there Greenhouse describes the forces that have led to the stresses on the American worker: deregulation, the decline of labor unions and the rise of corporate executives who saw workers as costs rather than assets.

In his final chapter, Greenhouse offers concrete suggestions for how to improve working conditions, including determining the "basic needs budget" a family needs to live on in various parts of the country; cracking down on employers who break wage and hour laws; creating a universal health-care system; requiring labor unions to curb the salaries of their executives and spend more on recruitment and education; greater investment in scientific research; and increased college aid for needy students.

WHO'S YOUR CITY: HOW THE CREATIVE ECONOMY IS MAKING WHERE TO LIVE THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISION OF YOUR LIFE By Richard Florida Basic / 374 pages / $27

Relying on census data, government reports and scholarly research, Richard Florida presents an argument that where you live has never been more important. The place where you hang your hat can determine the kind of job you get, the mate you find and even how happy you are.

Curious how Baltimore fares in his analysis?

According to Florida's data, Baltimore is an "experiential region" - a good fit for people who do not need to be around others and who question authority, for those who are creative, but socially aloof, "even cantankerous, or who thrive on stress, anxiety and instability." It's good for single guys (because single women outnumber single guys), it also makes the "best buy" list for middle-aged gay professionals. The Baltimore metro region is good for Asian kids as well as gay and lesbian families with children.

While statistics don't always tell the whole story, they nevertheless can make for interesting reading.

THE ROAD TO WEALTH, REVISED EDITION By Suze Orman Riverhead / 608 pages / $30

This popular advice guide from best-selling author Suze Orman has been updated to reflect today's economic realities. There is information about identity theft, new bankruptcy laws and the volatile real estate market.

Its Q&A; format makes it a user-friendly resource to answering some 2,000 of the most common personal finance questions. Chapters include managing debt, home ownership, insurance, paying for college, retirement planning, wills, stocks, bonds and mutual funds.

What hasn't changed is Orman's can-do attitude that infuses financial advice with pop psychology. Fortunately, the latter wanes after you get past the book's introduction.

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