No matter how promising your business looks, damaged personal credit can be a major obstacle to getting the financing you want. Fortunately, though, there are plenty of ways to mend your credit rating and some good new books to show you how. Gerri Detweiler's The Ultimate Credit Book (Plume, 1993, $10), for instance, is full of useful information on how credit works. She takes you through the whole system of what goes into a credit record, and outlines how to recast your profile. Some credit references (like car loans) can't help you much, notes Detweiler, the director of Bankcard Holders of America, in Herndon, Va. The most influential reference is from a Visa, MasterCard, or Discover card that reports regularly to credit bureaus. If you want to upgrade your credit and can't get an unsecured bank card, she recommends getting a special card secured with bank deposits.

In Downsize Your Debt (Penguin, 1993, $10), Andrew Feinberg covers much of the same territory as Detweiler, but in a breezier fashion. His efforts to be entertaining can be a little overdone, but Feinberg compensates for that irritant with a generous amount of resource material and a useful index.