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Posted: Friday, June 1, 2007 10:00 pm

Title: "Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and the Era of Predatory Lenders"

Author: James D. Scurlock

Publisher: Scribner, 2007

Price: $24

Synopsis: "Maxed Out" explores consumer debt from many perspectives: The poor, the middle-class, pawn shops, banks, politicians, and collection agencies. Based on the movie of the same title, the book explores the current state of the American Dream and how it is being lived. Interviews form the base of the book, as for the movie.

Desperation is the common denominator for all the people living the American Dream on plastic. While personal responsibility is not denied, blame is also placed on the lenders. Predation is the common denominator describing the banking industry.

The history of the credit card and its adoption by the banking industry is detailed in a simplistic yet dramatic manner. The mortgage lending business with its "qualification" process, variable and fixed rates, and refinances are all discussed. The bottom line is that the levels of consumer debt are increasing at an alarming rate.

Foreclosures are occurring at a greater rate than during the Great Depression. The recent change in bankruptcy laws is also examined. Instead of protecting both consumers and banks, Scurlock concludes that the new laws are an attempt to outlaw bankruptcy-a dubious prospect at best. Lastly, Scurlock explores the national debt with its sources and use.

Altogether, the book is a compelling indictment. Our nation is living in a financial house of cards.

Author's strengths: Mr. Scurlock's book is immediate and compelling. The interviews grab the reader.

Author's weaknesses: While footnotes are provided, there is no bibliography for further exploration and verification.

Who would this book appeal to? This book is worth reading by everyone who has debt.

Memorable line: "I think everyone knows that something just isn't right."

How did this book move you? "Maxed Out" is truly one of the scariest books I have ever read.

Andrea Woodruff is the supervising librarian at the Lodi Public Library. Each week, a member of the library staff reviews a recent book release for Lodi Living. Reviews are archived at http://www.lodi.gov/library.

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