Book Box: A Guide to Help Women Get Rich - Hindustan Times

Book Box: A Guide to Help Women Get Rich

Apr 08, 2023 01:11 PM IST

Start the new financial year with books to help you get rich. And meet financial coach Lisa Pallavi Barbora, who tells us which books we should avoid.

Dear Reader,

Lisa Pallavi Barbora. PREMIUM
Lisa Pallavi Barbora.

I am standing outside the school gate, with a gaggle of mothers. One mother is giving out her phone number for a dabba service of home-cooked food.

Another has parked her car nearby. The boot is open. Inside is a selection of salwar kameez materials.

I brought these from Surat, very reasonable prices. And if you like, I can get them tailored for you, she says. Some mothers compliment her on the smart business she is doing.

Now, suddenly, she is uncomfortable.

It’s not a business really, it’s just a hobby, she says.

I remember the scene like it was yesterday, though this happened 20 years ago. So many women, monetising their skills in whatever way the economy permits them to. Yet they stay self-deprecating and small. They’re smart women, but they won’t get rich, because they hold themselves back. They build generations of livelihoods, like the women in the Korean family saga Pachinko who make a business of selling homemade kimchi. Or the abandoned orphan girl in Where the Crawdads Sing who uses her knowledge of plants to write beautiful books on botany.

They came to me again, these industrious women, with Sonali Kulkarni’s attack on women being lazy in the matter of earning money.

Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?
Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?

And yet another time, a few days ago, when I read Found Again by the founders of Flexibees. In their introduction to stories of women and flexi-work, they say, Women… a whole battalion of them, working, half working, not working. Oh, wait, scratch that, every woman works. They just don’t manage to get rich. There are many other reasons for this and books like the acerbic Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? do an instructive job of addressing the economic aspect of these problems.

In the context of lots of new research, as we enter April and a new financial year, here for you are three books to read to get rich.

Women Don't Ask.
Women Don't Ask.

Women Don’t Ask say Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. At Carnegie Mellon University, for instance, eight times as many men as women negotiated their starting salaries. This one difference, translates into losses of thousands of dollars, given that later salaries are often predicated on their starting points.

We set our goals lower, we are conditioned to believe nice girls don’t ask and we are anxious about conflict. We think of our incomes in terms of what we need rather than what we are worth. These beliefs and behaviours keep the wage gap alive in all sectors of the economy, reveal the authors, who share research to back every thesis. Just being aware of these tendencies is a good starting point. The authors move beyond to some very useful advice on negotiations on money and ways of asking for an ecosystem (like extra help or support) that will help us make more money.

The Psychology of Money.
The Psychology of Money.

If you haven’t already read The Psychology of Money, or listened to it on audio, this week is a good time to start. In less than 200 pages, bestselling author Morgan Housel tells us truths that get neglected in far weightier primers on personal finance.

In the real world, people don't make financial decisions on a spreadsheet, he says. They make them based on their unique money stories, on needs and desires they form in their childhoods. Understanding this is liberating, because it helps you ferret out financially illogical rigidities that may be holding you back from having a happier and more secure life.

Let's Talk Money.
Let's Talk Money.

I’ve written about Let's Talk Money in hacking your financial life, because, really, there is no better book on personal finance in India. Monika Halan is a long-time finance expert; she knows her bonds and budgeting. She won’t frazzle you with fin-speak. Instead, she gently weaves in her family’s financial stories, proffering practical advice on portfolios, home ownership, fixed deposits and other saving schemes.

Finally, meet Lisa Pallavi Barbora, a certified financial coach, who tells us which books we should avoid and which ones we should read. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.

Meet Lisa Pallavi Barbora.
Meet Lisa Pallavi Barbora.

Tell us about your childhood reading.

I grew up all over the country and reading was what kept me company. My father being in the Air Force, every few years we changed schools and made new friends and that always happens with a lag. Reading was a good filler. We had access to the library on the base that we were posted to, and that was the main source of reading material. In those days, I recall everyone being a reader.

What are some books that have shaped your thinking about money?

I remember reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and being completely taken in by this idea that if you work hard, you deserve the riches that come your way. And that the rich are not obliged to be charitable to those who won't take responsibility for their financial independence. No one puts it quite as harshly and yet accurately as she does.

Over time, I incorporated this belief into my work ethic. Now that this is no longer a subconscious belief and I am aware of it, I have also realised that in many ways it is a limiting belief. While financial independence, in my opinion, is still a must-have for every individual, one needn’t be punished for the lack of it.

Rand’s writing may be dated in its setting, but one must consider reading her work to get perspective on money beliefs and how they impact our everyday decisions. On the non-fiction side, books like Liar’s Poker or The Billionaire’s Apprentice are great reads on the intersection of human behaviour around money, our greed and fear.

Any book recommendations on women and finance?

There are several women-oriented books on personal finance. However, most will project women who make independent financial decisions almost like superheroes. Some can even come off as a bit sexist, assuming that all women deal with money in a standard way. It’s important to note that women are inherently good at making money decisions and it’s more a matter of support and confidence when it comes to making decisions around wealth creation.

For couples who have different attitudes to money, are there any books that might be helpful?

I haven’t honestly read any books on couples managing money. As a society we are very far away from such a joint management of finances, there are a few stories here and there, but for the most part, a couple where both spouses are working doesn’t even know each other’s salary. I do know a book to avoid when it comes to gender attitudes towards money — Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. If you want to understand gender attitudes, stay away from this one.

You are a family of readers. Do your tastes overlap?

Recently, I read Andre Agassi’s biography and really enjoyed it. I wanted Shuja (husband) and my twin boys to read it too. One of them took an instant liking to the book. The other didn’t. He encourages me to read books that he has liked and will leave one by my bedside for me to pick up whenever I get the time. So, I know that the children also look forward to discussing books that have touched them in some way. Shuja and I sometimes will read the same title, like Murakami’s Men Without Women, which we both read and discussed.

What are your favourite books on personal finance?

Rich Dad Poor Dad is a must-read and a great starting point. The Psychology of Money is brilliant and very contemporary as well. I would highly recommend reading books on behaviour like Atomic Habits, Nudge and The Chimp Paradox, all of which are great books on how behaviour impacts decision making around money. In the Indian context Let’s Talk Money is great for beginners.

Recently, I bought Grandpa’s Fortune Fables by Will Rainey for my kids on money and it’s had a super impact on them.

And lastly, what books are you currently reading?

I picked up A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins. I loved reading The Girl On The Train and had high hopes from this one too. However, the story disappoints and the writing is perhaps not her best. Other than that, a book that my son has left for me, When Stars Are Scattered, a story about two boys in a refugee camp.


Next week, I bring you stories of reading at work, on how creating libraries at the workplace can de-stress us and help us become better readers.

Until then, Happy Reading.

Sonya Dutta Choudhury is a Mumbai-based journalist and the founder of Sonya’s Book Box, a bespoke book service. Each week, she brings you specially curated books to give you an immersive understanding of people and places. If you have any reading recommendations or suggestions, write to her at

The views expressed are personal

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