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Books that keep on giving

Michelle Singletary offers her list of the best personal finance books as holiday gifts.

Michelle Singletary
Michelle SingletaryRead moreFritz Blakely

EVERY YEAR, someone asks me what financial books I recommend as holiday gifts to teach children or young adults about money, to help somebody prepare for retirement - or for someone trifling with his or her money.

Let's be honest, not many people are going to exclaim great joy when they unwrap a personal finance book. They are likely to respond as I did years ago when my husband gave me exercise clothing. I was not a happy camper even though I had been telling him I wanted to get in shape.

Give a personal finance book, and despite your good intentions, you might get a similar response with the recipient left feeling financially unfit. Still, I think it's worth the risk. In fact, pair the book with an offer to go out to dinner to talk about it. That's one way to ensure the book doesn't end up on the shelf unopened.

So for you risk-takers out there, instead of a Color of Money Book Club selection this month, here are my top picks in several categories for financial books to buy this holiday season.

Oldies but goodies. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason; Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez with Monique Tilford; The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

There are some financial books I think everyone should have on their bookshelf or in an e-reader. Think of these books as food staples you keep in your pantry. Follow the advice and you can live a rich life. And by that I don't mean having a lot of stuff. I mean understanding that you can live well following the concept of living within your means or curtailing your sense of entitlement.

Books to help raise financially savvy kids. O.M.G. Official Money Guide For Teenagers by Susan P. Beacham and Michael L. Beacham; Raising Money Smart Kids: What They Need to Know About Money - And How to Tell Them by Janet Bodnar; and The Giving Book by Ellen Sabin.

The book by the Beachams came out this year. It's a slim, colorful, graphic-filled work that is great as a conversation starter with teens. It's written for them. I could see you giving this 48-page book and then talking through some of the topics covered - good budgeting choices, how to handle credit cards, and the importance of charitable giving. Upon receiving the book, your child may roll her eyes - my 14-year-old did - but don't be daunted. It did result in a discussion about why she needed to know how to handle her money before bad habits could sink in.

Books on retirement. The Couple's Retirement Puzzle: 10 Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together by Roberta K. Taylor and Dorian Mintzer; How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire by Stan Hinden; The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty: Answers to Your Most Important Money Questions by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz with Joanne Cuthbertson; They're Your Parents, Too!: How Siblings Can Survive Their Parents' Aging Without Driving Each Other Crazy by Francine Russo.

All the books in this category address issues people often put off or don't want to talk about, including long-term care for a parent to the conversations that couples need to have before retiring.

Be sure to get the newest editions of The Couple's Retirement Puzzle and How to Retire Happy. Both books have expanded and updated sections. It's because of these two books that my husband and I didn't panic when we got the news that there may be major changes to my pension. Russo's book was so helpful when my husband's father came to live with us. My husband sent a copy to all his siblings.

Color of Money Book Club favorites. Say Goodbye to Survival Mode: 9 Simple Strategies to Stress Less, Sleep More, and Restore Your Passion for Life by Crystal Paine; The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life by Kimberly Palmer; Confessions of a Credit Junkie: Everything You Need to Know to Avoid the Mistakes I Made by Beverly Harzog; Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton.

The books that fall into this last category tackle issues from managing your time to creating multiple streams of income, to getting rid of a debtor's mentality to making your spending really count for something.

Your gift of financial knowledge may not be greeted with glee, but hopefully the people who receive the books will realize the advice and wisdom are priceless.