Book Week at Get Rich Slowly comes to a close today. Well, I guess tomorrow's Ask the Readers is about books, but this is the final review. I've saved the best for last.
Over the past year, I've had a chance to read several titles in the “Skinny On” book series. And although I've only mentioned them in passing here at GRS, I love these books. Today I want to tell you about them.
The skinny on “The Skinny On”
Each of the “Skinny On” books follows the same format. The story is told in comic-book style using simple stick figures and line drawings. Every book tackles some personal-finance or personal-development topic (credit cards, time management, and so on) by following the story of Billy and Beth, a couple with a problem. To help them solve the problem, author Jim Randel enters the story (as another stick figure) and talks through the best advice on the subject.
Yesterday as I walked to lunch, I read The Skinny on Real Estate Investing. I mean that I read all of it. In the 45 minutes it took to walk from my office to my favorite taco place, I read the book from cover to cover. As I did, I marked some of my favorite passages. With Jim Randel's permission, I'm going to show you some of these passages. I think it'll help make the concept clearer.
The Skinny on Real Estate Investing
Here are bits from the introduction of The Skinny on Real Estate Investing. (Note that there aren't any page numbers in “The Skinny On” series; instead, there are panel numbers.)
Throughout his books, Randel uses Billy and Beth as examples of everyday folks who are just trying to make a better life for themselves. They do dumb things — and then try to correct their mistakes. Their actions also serve as an excuse for the stick-figure Randel to show up and offer sensible advice:
And here's the thing: The advice in the “Skinny On” books is sensible. It's not based on shortcuts and fads. Randel shares time-tested techniques that provide the best opportunity for success. And while he maintains a positive attitude, he's not shy about sharing risks and drawbacks:
Based on these samples, you might think that the “Skinny On” books are light. I'll admit that they're not as dense as some books, but I think that's a good thing. They're accessible. They skip a lot of the transitional nonsense that goes into a book, getting right to the heart of the matter. And when math is needed, Randel's not afraid to share the numbers:
I like these books for many reasons, and not just because they're personal-finance comics. For one, I agree with Randel's philosophies on personal finance and personal development. He's all about taking charge of your own life, and taking the slow, safe path to success.
I also like that Randel cites his sources. He frequently refers to books and websites to support his claims, something that most self-help books don't do. (They want you to just accept the author's wisdom as a given.) (The Skinny on Real Estate Investing doesn't cite as many sources as his other books, but it's an exception.)
>Finally, I admire how Randel can take a complex subject and reduce it to easily-digestible chunks. He hasn't dumbed things down, but he's careful to explain confusing subjects and to leave out the non-essentials. These books provide periodic review pages, and the end of each one includes a ten-item summary of key points.
The Skinny on Real Estate Investing is an introduction to the subject. It provides the Big Picture about what it takes to buy and sell real estate for profit, but it doesn't give details on how to find deals, how to make deals, and so on. This is the first part of a three-part series, and I'm unsure whether all of the books in tandem would actually give the reader all the info they need to invest in real estate. But this is a fine place to start. I've been interested in the subject for a long time (much to Kris's chagrin), and have a much better grasp of what's involved after having read this book. I plan to read part two.
For a while now, I've wanted to find a way to combine two of my greatest passions: personal finance and comic books. I've read some personal-finance comics (most notably those from the Federal Reserve), and, to put it frankly, they suck. They're dull and uninspiring. I've chatted with Pop from Pop Economics about how one could produce effective personal-finance comics, but haven't taken any action.
That's okay, though, because Jim Randel seems to have found a way to meld comics and money in a way that makes sense. Because make no mistake: The “Skinny On” books are comics. Sure, they use cheesy stick figures instead of work from expensive artists, but so what? That's part of their charm.
By sticking with (heh) simple line drawings, Randel is able to focus on what's important: the content of his books. The comics format provides freedom that a traditional text-based book doesn't have, but Randel doesn't abuse this. Instead, he's created a series of fantastic, informative volumes about financial literacy and personal achievement. I give these books my highest recommendation.
Books in this series that I've read and can recommend include:
- The Skinny on Real Estate Investing (this is the first of a three-part series)
- The Skinny on Credit Cards (great for somebody getting their first credit card — like a college student)
- The Skinny on the Housing Crisis
- The Skinny on Success
And writing this review has made me want to read more, so I have a pile of other “Skinny On” books to take home with me for the weekend:
- The Skinny on Time Management (I wonder if it says: “Don't play Starcraft II!”)
- The Skinny on Willpower
- The Skinny on Networking
- The Skinny on The Art of Persuasion
Are there any duds in here? There may be, but I haven't found one yet. I've been impressed with the presentation and content of these books. The Amazon reviewers seem to love the books, too. These titles may never become best-sellers like the “for Dummies” and “for Idiots” series, and that's too bad. The “Skinny On” books are great introductions to their topics and deserve a wider audience.