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THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE: A CUBICLE'S-EYE VIEW OF BOSSES, MEETINGS, MANAGEMENT FADS & OTHER WORKPLACE AFFLICTIONS, by Scott Adams (HarperBusiness, 336 pp., $20). "These days it seems like any idiot with a laptop computer can churn out a business book and make a few bucks." Or so Scott Adams hopes: "It would be a real letdown," he writes, "if the trend changed before this masterpiece goes to print."

Adams, master cartoonist of corporate satire, moves to a new venue in this (mostly) tongue-in-cheek book. It expounds Adams's theory that "the most ineffective workers are moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management." This "Dilbert Principle," named after the main character in his comic-strip, is an update of the so-called Peter Principle, which says individuals rise in a company to a level where they are incompetent for the task.

Like most business books, "The Dilbert Principle" is filled with bullet points and statistics (which Adams plucks from thin air for your enjoyment). E-mail messages from exasperated employees will make you grateful you don't work for their company. (Or perhaps you will be able to pick out your employer from the parade of corporate nightmares.)

While a fun read, this book can get wearyingly cynical at times. The best part is the cartoons, proving that Adams's humor still zings best through that art form.

- Yvonne Zipp

GET A FINANCIAL LIFE: PERSONAL FINANCE IN YOUR TWENTIES AND THIRTIES, by Beth Kobliner (Fireside Books, 283 pp., $11). Public opinion polls find millions of Americans are confused when it comes to the simplest financial issues, from balancing a checkbook to setting up an individual retirement account. Enter consumer expert Kobliner, a writer for Money Magazine and frequent financial commentator on TV shows.

She aims squarely at people in their 20s or 30s who are building careers and families. Informative, laden with sound advice, and attractively packaged with charts and lists, this small book is ideal for anyone needing a primer on personal finance.

All the "basics" are here: setting goals; checking and savings accounts; investing; buying a home; insurance; slashing taxes.

Especially useful for younger readers is its long-range perspective.

- Guy Halverson

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