The host of "Marketplace," NPR’s popular program about money, travels the country, Candide-like, in search of ways to
spend a relatively small sum.
Finding himself with a bit of spare cash, Brancaccio, facing the same quandary as the national government, can't figure out
the best way to use the unanticipated surplus. So, for more than a year, he takes a financial pilgrimage. At his first stop, the
redoubtable Mall of America, he foolishly parts with some of his money for mere consumer goods. Next, in Jackson Hole,
Wyoming, he attends classes in socially responsible investing. Having uncovered the unexpected pitfalls of entrepreneurship at
a California "Be Your Own Boss" expo, he makes his way to Las Vegas to learn the differences between mutual-fund investing
and gambling. Partly "to scrape the Vegas" off his heels, he next heads for a little desert town in Nevada to explore giving in
the form of community service and the expenditure of social capital. Thence to Wall Street itself, where mammon and Trinity
Church confront each other. Brancaccio reviews the economics of home mortgages in Levittown, New York; considers country
music as a dropout way of life in a Texas school devoted to the subject; contemplates retirement to Arizona and simply stashing
cash in parsimonious Seattle. Although the author is not nearly as naive as he pretends to be, his reporter's knack of soliciting
advice and experience from a variety of sources works very effectively. The bottom line is a nice synthesis of America's diverse
views on ready cash and what to do with it. For those who want monetary entertainment but may not crave a gnarly financial
tome, Brancaccio provides some surprisingly shrewd instruction and sound financial advice, all embedded in appealing reportage.
A savvy journalist, he’s as conscious of karma as of cash.
A smart and engaging book about money and the American ways with it. (Author tour)