Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter. Recommended by Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books.
This book is a sort of sad memoir about two brothers who ran a bread store in New York City’s Lower East Side for most of their lives. The book is written by the brothers’ nephew, their sister’s son. Unfortunately, the brothers, Harry and Joe, while good at making money were not so good at sharing with their hard-working family members or even being honest with them about the extent of their wealth. It’s only after Uncle Joe dies and Uncle Harry becomes completely incapacitated that Mort Zachter finds out about his uncles’ hoard: both valuables and junk all mixed together in a cheap apartment where Joe and Harry lived an extremely frugal, even miserly, life for more than sixty years. And all the while they were storing up riches, not in heaven, but on earth where the money did no one any good.
Mr. Zachter tries to understand his uncles and their obsession with making money and keeping it secret. He fails, finally, to make sense of his uncles’ lives, but he does come to appreciate their quirks even while he wishes that they could have lived somewhat differently, enjoying their hard-earned wealth and even sharing it with the family. (Mr. Zachter’s mom served as an unpaid worker in her brothers’ store for many, many years and never knew how rich they were.)
It’s a bittersweet story, not terribly exciting, but thought-provoking in its examination of attitudes toward money and material things.