Rethinking money

Hunt likes Weston's recently updated "Your Credit Score, Your Money & What's at Stake: How to Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future." The book takes "complicated and confusing issues and (makes) them easily understood," Hunt says.

Like it or not, your credit scores matter. So does being honest about what your money can -- and should -- realistically buy. "The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke" is not a polemic against working moms but a clear-eyed look at how the cost of living goes up faster than the salaries of working people.

Former MSN Money columnist MP Dunleavey puts that book on her short list of "eye-opening perspective changers and priority shifters," noting that finance isn't always as simple as dollars and cents.

Some people thrive on tracking expenses and making budgets, she says, but others "learn just as much about money by reading about life, priorities, the brain, behavioral economics."

"After all, many of us know the (money) rules, but we're still trying to figure out why we don't follow them," says Dunleavey, the editorial director at the DailyWorth website.

There's a reason we mess up with money -- even if it's not a good reason. Some people are in financial straits because of unconscious money beliefs, for which Davis recommends "Mind Over Money: Overcoming the Money Disorders That Threaten Our Financial Health."

Financial writer Carmen Wong Ulrich likes "Your Money & Your Brain" as a way to demystify money choices. "It creates an awareness that enables you to change your behavior," says Wong Ulrich, the author of "The Real Cost of Living."

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So you want to be rich?

How to make your money grow? "The Intelligent Investor" is perfect "for anyone who wants the basics of investing," says financial expert Jean Chatzky.

Wealth adviser Barbara Friedberg recommends "The Elements of Investing," a short guide packed with "stellar" advice. Another book that changed her life is "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need."

"A Random Walk Down Wall Street" had a "monumental" impact on certified financial planner Kimberly Foss. "It forever changed my views about free markets, wealth accumulation and wealth preservation," says Foss, of Empyrion Wealth Management in Roseville, Calif.