Squandering Aimlessly by David Brancaccio

Brancaccio is the guy who does “Marketplace” on NPR. Now, I like NPR a lot, but I do think that Marketplace has strayed from the core ideals of public radio–the peace corps, Kennedy mourning, peacenik hippie ideals I think of when I think NPR.

I mean, when the boomers went from hippie to Yuppie, it was hypocritical. And NPR’s new concern with the rise and fall of the Dow the NASDAQ seemed part of that trend.

But even so, when I saw the book, I had enough affection for NPR and hippies to check it out.

Brancaccio starts off with an anectodal premise: What do you do with a surplus of money? After graduating from journalism school, he worked for a while and he and his wife managed to accumulate a little surplus–$17,000 to be exact.

They talked it over, and thought the thing to do with the money was for him to fulfill his life dream of being a foreign correspondent. They moved to London to try to make that happen, and just as they were about the run out of money, he hooked up with some radio journalism. It took him on the path to what he does now, hosting “Marketplace.”

Now THAT is something I can respect. It’s a crisis for the hippie-types to find themselves with more money than they need. And it’s the sort of crisis that requires some action to be taken.

The book is really enjoyable. It’s as if the author is taking a walk around the problem, looking at it from different angles and seeing what it’s all about.

He takes a series of road trips to talk with people about what they have chosen to do with their extra money. Some people spend it on shopping, some invest, some go back to school, and some quit their jobs.

His writing is really insightful, not preachy at all, thank god. The book asked a lot of questions I’ve asked myself and gave a few new perspectives. I’m glad I read it.