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The financial crisis that has gripped this country since last September has had so many twists and turns, it would make for a great drama -- if it all were not so real and damaging. Companies are shutting down and laying off workers, 401ks are melting away, and the government is spending $700 billion dollars to bail out banks and financial institutions -- and that's only the beginning. The financial services industry, and the many industries that depend on it -- from housing to cars -- is in intensive care.

So what happened? How did we get to this point of financial disaster? Is the economy just a huge, Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme? It is a complicated and confusing story -- but Daniel Gross of Newsweek has a special gift for making complicated matters easy to understand and even entertaining. In Dumb Money, he offers a guide to the debacle and to what the future may hold. This is not so much a book about who did what, though that's part of the story. Rather, it pieces together the building blocks of the debt-fueled economy, and distills the theory and personalities behind our late, lamented easy money culture. Dumb Money is a book that finally lays it all out in an engaging way, and might just help people invest their money smartly until the gloom passes.

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