In the olden days — before I wrote this blog full time — I was a regular at the wonderful AskMetafilter, a collaborative site for answering reader questions. I don’t have as much time to hang out there anymore, as evidenced by the fact that it took a reader to point me to yesterday’s question about frugality books. Catch wrote:
I’d like to read some good books, preferably autobiographical, about managing a household in hard times. For purposes of ‘professional development’ and generally cheering myself up about being the housewife in a single-income family, I have a craving to read good books about successful living on low resources. Please recommend some! First-hand accounts preferred — depression-era, wartime, or just circumstantial modern hard-times.
I love this question. Recently at our monthly book group, I talked about how some of my favorite books seem built around a similar template. They follow a child as he or she grows to adulthood in a poor family. Four of my favorites are:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (which I wrote about last year)
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (truly great)
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I love these books because they remind me of the struggles my own family had to make ends meet when I was a boy. I feel like these are stories I can relate to, as if the authors understand me. Other suggestions from AskMetafilter readers include:
- The work of Betty MacDonald, including: The Egg and I (which I’ve added to my library list), Anybody Can Do Anything, and Onions in the Stew.
- The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes (I’ve never heard of this)
- The Orchard by Adele Crockett Robinson
- The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan (which I’ve started but never finished)
The thread at AskMetafilter has many other great suggestions. Aside from The Egg and I, the other book I’d like to read is We Survived — and Thrived, which is a collection of anecdotes from people who lived through the Great Depression. (Much of this book is available online at Google book search.)
I read a lot of personal finance books. They’re educational. I get a lot out of them. But honestly, I get a lot more from reading how real-life people have dealt with real-life hardship. Their stories make me realize my own challenges are trivial, that I’m fortunate — and that true wealth isn’t about money.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for a trip to the public library. The Egg and I is calling my name.
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