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How We Beat the Stock Market-and How You Can Too

By the Beardstown Ladies Investment Club with Leslie Whitaker

Hyperion 232pp $19.95

The exceptional appeal of The Beardstown Ladies' Common-Sense Investment Guide shouldn't be surprising. (It's No.2 on BUSINESS WEEK's February Best-Seller List.) After all, they are the antitheses of fast-talking Wall Street brokers: 16 women from small-town Illinois, most over age 60, who started an investing club with little knowledge of the markets and with modest amounts of money. Yet they have been beating the pros for 10 years, with an average annual return of 23%.

The mere ordinariness of the ladies of the club is compelling to anyone who would follow in their footsteps--readers figure if they can do it.... And the authors' folksiness makes this book unintimidating. These investors know their stocks, too: One of their favorites, for example, is Wolverine World Wide Inc., which makes sturdy boots that have seen duty on many an Illinois farm--and on which they earned a 184% return.

The book plays up this hominess. It's illustrated with knitting needles and grocery bags, and it even provides some of the ladies' favorite recipes: "Shirley's Stock Market Muffins (Guaranteed to rise!)" and "Hazel's Quick-Return Meal...pop it in the microwave." But the meat of the book, with tips on everything from starting a club to evaluating companies, is savory, as well. With its clear definitions and examples, it's a handy introduction to buying stocks.BY PAM BLACK

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