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Books to read if you’re worried about the cost of living crisis

From the informed to the consoling and fiercely practical, here are the books to help you save money this year

The cost of living crisis is one of the most pressing issues of the moment, no matter how hard you try to avoid the news. As the prices of everything from food to fuel to fashion continue to rise, wages remain stagnant and reduce our purchasing power. It’s no surprise, then, that many are feeling the pinch, having to make cutbacks on tough choices about what is most important.

But though things seem a bit bleak, that doesn’t mean it’s cause to lose hope. Whatever your attitude, whether you want to understand how we got to this point, find practical solutions or just escape reality for a while, there’s a book to help you on your way. Here, we’ve picked out a useful selection, including accessible economics primers, toolkits for money management and even some satirical fiction that should have you in stitches.

Practical books to help save money

Money Box by Paul Lewis (2022)

Knowing how to manage your money is an important life skill, and especially so in times of crisis. BBC Radio 4’s Money Box has been offering personal finance advice over the airways for more than 40 years, and now you can access much of it in this handy volume. It’s a complete toolkit for managing your money at every stage of life, covering everything from understanding credit cards to buying a property to investing and much more – all written in uncomplicated language that’s easy to understand.

Rukmini Iyer’s Roasting Tin books have become something of a sensation over the past few years, and rightly so. They’re full of colourful and adventurous meals that tend to have short ingredient lists and are a doddle to make, just the kind of kitchen guides you need when you want to eat well without breaking the bank. The Green Roasting Tin is full of vegan and vegetarian recipes that use everyday ingredients and store cupboard staples, so you can be kind to the planet while dining deliciously (and cheaply). 

For many parents, rising costs might mean cutting down on holidays or days out, but spending more time in and around home doesn’t have to be boring for kids. Daisy Upton, the woman behind the popular Instagram account @FiveMinuteMum, is all about finding fun ways to entertain children using things that are already likely to be lying around the house. The book is suitable for kids from early years through KS1, and contains over 150 games with an educational spin that take minutes to set up and tidy away. 

Books about the economy

Economics can feel complicated at the best of times, so if you’re looking to understand the cost of living crisis and how we got here, understanding the wider economic system is a good start. This “user’s guide” from Ha-Joon Chang, one of the world’s leading economists, covers all the basics, from what economics actually is to why it matters, and how we can use it as a framework to understand the world around us.

Okay, so you’ve got the general concepts down – but now what? This offering from two Nobel Prize-winning economists takes a more practical approach to exploring some of the world’s most difficult social and political problems. Banerjee and Duflo consider new solutions to thorny (and often divisive) issues such as immigration, inequality, climate change and more, showing how economics, practiced with compassion and respect, can help us all. 

While capitalism has been the cause of unimaginable prosperity for some, the system has also been responsible for widespread and continuing destruction in service of exponential growth and profit. In Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire, Harvard professor Rebecca Henderson draws on real-life examples from big businesses around the world to show us a way forward that allows for sustainable financial growth in tandem with positive societal impact. 

Books to help you gain perspective

Wintering by Katherine May (2020) 

When times are hard, it’s not always easy to take a step back and look at the bigger picture – but a break with Katherine May’s Wintering could help offer some perspective. It’s a gentle reflection on the importance of rest during difficult periods and a reminder of how we can draw from the healing power of the natural world. Most of all, it’s a much-needed source of comfort and reassurance – something we all need right now.

Fiction to help you escape

Matt Prior is about to lose everything. His decision to quit his job has coincided with the biggest crisis since the Great Crash, so things aren’t looking great. To add insult to injury, he suspects his wife might be having an affair and he’s got six days to save his house. Luckily, a hare-brained scheme involving some high-grade drugs could just be his way out… The Financial Lives of Poets is a big-hearted laugh-a-minute novel about the things that really matter in life.

Ankh-Morpork’s main bank is facing a crisis, and its only hope for survival is a man who doesn’t especially want the job – unsurprising not just because of the bank’s unusual employees but because there’s also definitely something bizarre happening in the cellar. And, oh, the Royal Mint somehow seems to be running at a loss. As with all of Terry Pratchett’s books, Making Money is hilariously funny, and this one is a tack-sharp send up of our banking and economic system.

Image: Ana Yael for Penguin.co.uk

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