There are many forms of communication; none are as vital as the written word. It is the edited word which conveys more information than any other media. Sure, video is superior when showing majestic vistas, but words, when edited well, are the most powerful learning tool we have. There is a reason the written word has survived so long even with radio, television and YouTube desperate to overturn the monarchy.
Wealthy people the world over credit their success to reading. From Warren Buffett to Bill Gates to Elon Musk to Richard Branson to your favorite accountant, good books are part of the history of the people currently in the winner’s circle. Educated people possess the tools to create the future the rest of us are forced to live in. Most failures can be traced back to a lack of understanding or misunderstanding.
For these reasons I’ve been a dedicated reader since my late high school years. Before that I couldn’t get myself to read a book the the end and it showed. I struggled with direction in life until the magical day I picked up a book from the school library on weather. It was a mere 128 pages and there were a few drawings of clouds and cloud formations, but when I finished that book something clicked and I never looked back.
Before long I was consuming (and digesting) 1000 page books and begging for more. My interest in personal finance was unleashed! I was reading The Wall Street Journal (every section) from beginning to end daily. Business magazines and books were an addiction. (Science fiction novels were also an addiction I never shook if we can be brutally honest here.)
Learning became a part of my daily life, as important as eating and sleeping. I cannot remember a day when I didn’t read at least a few pages of a book. It has been a long time.
From the humble pages of that 128 page book on weather I built a library with well over 2,000 volumes. It might be at 3,000 by now, but I don’t have time to count; I’m too busy reading.
A few months ago I started a Facebook marketing program for this blog. (I fell in love with writing shortly after I discovered the high finishing a book creates which eventually led to this blog.) As the program started a facilitator asked the group for an interesting fact. I said “I read more hours per day than I sleep.” She was shocked! I told her the truth. “I read a lot — several hours per day — and sleep seems to elude me too often for good health.”
Each year I add 50 or so books to my library. This is down from my younger days when I’d add 150 or so novels to the ranks annually, plus a dozen or so meaningful books. Then I visited the library. When I reflect I sometimes feel like Charlie Munger, (Warren Buffett’s right hand man) a book with hands and legs sticking out from it. It is a rare event for me to go somewhere without a book at hand.
If you love books as I do you enjoy lists of good books to help you select your next literary victims. If an educated individual publishes a list of “Best” books I save the list. I’m always looking for more good material and I rely on the smartest people to give me a recommendation.
Fiction is a minor part of my reading now. There is just too much I want to learn before I go to the Great Beyond. My goal is to be the smartest guy in heaven (or biggest smartass in hell). So I read mostly non-fiction now.
Because I read so many books I have a ready mental arsenal to draw from. By sharing with you the best books I read this past year you can focus on the most important material with your limited (egads!) reading time. I hope you pick up my habit of carrying a book with you where ever you go. A few free moments is easily turned into a education if you do.
Below is my list of favorite books I read in the last twelve or so months. There are many more, but I don’t want to bog you down. I grabbed from the stack the books that most moved or educated me. Consume at your leisure. (Consumption is sometimes dirty word in our society. It is far from dirty when it comes to books, learning and knowledge.)
China’s Great Wall of Debt, by Dinny McMahon
There is a fear in the West that China is taking over the world. The China Miracle, we learn from McMahon, is more mirage than miracle. Ghost cities, complete concrete jungles with few people, really do exist in China. Take away all the extravagant (and wasteful) construction and China’s economy isn’t even close to the size of the U.S.
And then there is the debt for all the wasteful building. The tax system encourages bank lending to state enterprises and local governments. The bad debt is hidden from public view. Nobody know how bad it really is. One thing is sure: if it wasn’t that bad there would be no reason to hide the numbers.
China is still a vibrant nation with a growing economy. However, we need to put the economic miracle into perspective. China has lots of problems and time is running out to fix them. The real question is how bad will it hurt Western economies when China implodes?
And China doesn’t manufacture everything! Many products are created and produced elsewhere and shipped to China for assembly. The trade war is unnecessary and more damaging to U.S. companies than politicians are letting on.
This is my favorite business book of the year because it was so eye-opening. I knew China had massive debt and sewer oil was a real issue, but I never realized how difficult the situation in China is.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson
Jordan B. Peterson has been everywhere these last two years. His newest book is a set of rules for living life well. It seems so common sense at first: Tell the truth—or, at least don’t lie; Stand up straight with your shoulders back; and, Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient) are three of the twelve rules. But it doesn’t take long before you realize the depth of his message.
Peterson struck a cord in our world of identity politics and constant offense at every action. I’ve written on Peterson’s work before. And here. And ended up with endless grief. People either love his work or hate it. Those who hate did their best to deliver a groin shot to a certain unnamed accountant.
But many do find value from Peterson’s videos and books. 12 Rules happens to be the best selling book this year on this blog. Readers are also clamoring for a review of his earlier book (Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief) since they discovered I purchased. (Note: I started reading Maps, but this one will take a while. This is serious and difficult reading. I’m 40 pages in as I write and will read several other books in between—something I rarely do. The material is just too deep to plow through without a break. You’ll get your review if I don’t suffer an aneurysm first.)
12 Rules is highly recommended. One of the best books ever written on what makes us tick.
Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, by Steven Pinker
Media constantly tells us how bad things are and many times we yearn for the good ‘ol days. But the data doesn’t bear that out. Things are better now than ever and improving at a rapid pace!
I’ve always been an optimist. There has always been a grand appreciation in me for the awesome time we live in. But even an optimist adjusts to our modern opulent lifestyle and begins to wonder.
Pinker not only makes the case, but backs it up with data. This approach appeals to my analytical accountant mind. Here are a few things I found fascinating: We are living longer by a lot, are healthier, eat better, have more wealth, are less unequal (yes, inequality isn’t as bad as we pretend!), enjoy a cleaner environment in most Western nations than a few decades ago, enjoy more peace (no world wars recently), are safer, have more rights, are smarter and have access to more knowledge, and enjoy a quality of life never before experienced by the species.
It is socially acceptable to whine about how bad we have it. Yet the facts are clear. We are in the best of times and the time are getting better! Reading Pinker allowed me to internalize the worldview that the sky isn’t falling and the world isn’t coming to an end.
There is also a good reason for optimism. Warren Buffett is also an optimist. When the world is ending (the stock market is down double digit percentage points) Buffett knows it’s fake news and buys more great businesses at discount prices. If you can discard the negative attitude for a moment and focus on how good the world has become—as outlined by Pinker’s work—you to can make profitable decisions when the Chicken Little’s of the world are screaming like chickens with their heads cut off.
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
Sapiens really surprised me. I’ve read dry mega-histories of the human race and expected the same here. Regardless, I enjoy ancient human history so I pried open my wallet and am glad I did.
Harari compiled an incredibly vibrant and alive story of human history all the way back to the beginning. A good history story allows us to see ourselves in a cleaner and clearer light. This work does just that.
Who we are and where we come from is lost in the fog of a “time from long ago.” In keeping with the theme of this blog, Harari did an excellent job explaining where and when money was created and first used. It was enlightening to see the backstory to our current financial system. It cleared up many questions I had.
We all want to know where we came from. That is why DNA tests are so popular as tools to determine our true ethnic background. Bringing the details into perspective allows us to live a better life, filled with the knowledge we have an important place in the grand scheme of things.
Once you finish reading Sapiens I’m sure you’ll be on the horn with Amazon ordering Harari’s latest classics: Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. These two are on my shelf waiting for digestion. How I’m going to keep these off next year’s “Best Books” list is beyond me.
Have things ever been worse when it comes to inequality? Well, actually, yes! It has also been better, too.
Inequality is the buzzword of the year. Media is filled with demands of gender and race equality. We demand equal pay and equal rights. Some go as far as wanting equality of outcome! (I have no idea how to accomplish that. We tried communism in many societies in the 20th Century with less than desirable results.)
Equality is a worthy goal regardless what happened in the past. There is a sense of unfairness when the rich get richer while the poor keep getting poorer. (Refer to Steven Pinker’s book above for a clearer perspective.) There is something noble about helping people with less get more for their efforts. Poor people can be just as hard working (if not harder working) than the wealthy. So inequality is a necessary study.
Scheidel gives us a broad view of equality in the past up to modern times. No spoiler alerts from me. You have to read the book! But let me say this: There are four ways to lower inequality (as history has taught), but you might not like the answer. Worse, equality doesn’t mean the poor become wealthier; usually it’s the other way around. This is an eye-opening book you want to read.
As mentioned above, I read about 50 books a year; a few more if they are short. The list of all I read is more than most can get their arms around. The five books above are page turners worthy of investment. You might want to chisel time out of your schedule for these honorable mentions as they are equally as good as those above. (You should see the good stuff I left off the list. It makes my eyes bleed.)
Energy and Civilization: A History, by Vaclav Smil is the best book I’ve ever read on energy production and consumption by humankind. The facts and figures are addicting. From prehistory to modern times, energy sources and uses are illustrated in an easy to understand format.
Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, by Chris D. Thomas and The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth’s Past Mass Extinctions, by Peter Brannen are two excellent books covering the worries of environmental doom popular on social media and news outlets. Things are not as bad as they seem and there is actually some good news! And history tells a story of renewal, rejuvenation and healing from the planet’s past.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street, by John Brooks, was promoted on the CNBC website. After Bill Gates gave a nod I made the purchase. As expected, these are twelve really engaging (and informative and instructive) stories of Wall Street behind the scenes. If you like money then Business Adventures will read better than a Stephen King novel.
Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times, by Kenneth Whyte. I always thought of President Hoover as the guy who brought us the 1929 stock market crash and The Great Depression. The truth is far from it. Many of FDR’s policies came from Hoover and were not instituted over politics and misunderstanding of economic theory until Hoover was out of office.
I now have a healthy respect Herbert Hoover and his life of public service. Our 31st President was an incredible man of many accomplishments. This biography so moved me I have plans of visiting his Presidential Library in Iowa soon. If only I could find the drive to work as hard and productively as he did.
Finally, we end with a novel: Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson. My shelf is filled with westerns, romance novels, mystery novels and every other genre known to man. What stands out is the shear volume of science fiction I once read. Old habits die hard so I’m back at a familiar trough.
Seveneves is the best kind of science fiction: engaging, entertaining, filled with suspense and mystery, and just enough science fact to make it all work suspending disbelief. This novel start with the moon blowing apart and gets more exciting from there. Two-thirds of the way through the the human race is all but extinct; the attempt to save the world from a lunar catastrophe is nearing an end and seven women (the seven Eves of the future human race) are all that remains of the species. I’ll let you enjoy the story on your own. My guess is you’ll end up staying up too late at night, unable to put this book down, as I did. But trust me, it is all worth it.
These are my favorite books of the past year. I encourage you to read the ones that interest you. Please share books you were moved by this past year. You see, I need more good books to read, too.
More Wealth Building Resources
Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.
Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?
Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.
Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.
PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.
QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.
A cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.
We had another drawing this week for two $50 Amazon cards. We have one winner and one in anticipation.
Chuck R of Lincoln NE claimed his $50 Amazon card. Congratulations Chuck and thanks for subscribing. It’s great to have you here.
The second winner hasn’t contacted me yet so if you’re a subscriber be sure to check your email. My legal people tell me I need to wait 30 days before tossing the money back into the ring. If the prize goes unclaimed I’ll add it to another drawing. Check the Where Am I page for details.
Camp Accountant Update
I spoke with Pete (Mr. Money Mustache) earlier and he likes the idea of hosting a Camp Accountant at MMM headquarters in Longmont, CO. A date hasn’t been set and many details need to be worked out.
The biggest issue surrounding Camp Accountant is time. I’m enjoying the best tax season in years. The office is running smooth. Virtually all tax returns are out in a week or less. If your return has been in my office longer than a week we either are waiting for more documents or I’m researching an issue to maximize tax benefits. Even still, the pain of burnout lingers.
Longer hours and hyper-productivity take a toll. The tax law changes this past year are so significant I will spend most of my time this summer with clients and blog readers hammering out the best approach to realizing the maximum benefits from the changes.
With limited personal time available I am unable to run the whole Camp Accountant show myself. I am committed to attending (it was Pete’s first question) and presenting several topics. I will also attempt to get IRS approval for CPE for enrolled agents and CPAs.
All this said, Camp Accountant is on hold unless someone, or someones, volunteer to facilitate. I can provide guidance, advice and encouragement, but I can’t run the whole show myself. (I might be energetic, but I’m not crazy. (Don’t comment!))
If you or someone you know is interested in facilitating a Camp Accountant in Longmont, let me know. You’ll get to meet Pete (always a great experience) and work with me (not always as great as meeting Pete). Ideally the person/s helping organize the event should live near Longmont. Duties would involve planning the event, setup, helping determine the fee to each attendee and handling registration.
Now on to our weekend entertainment.
What I’m Reading
What I’m reading isn’t always what I’ve read. There is a difference. I’m nearly finished with How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Reading time is at a premium during tax season. That said, by the time you read this I’ll have finished the book.
How Democracies Die examines democracies in the recent past that have failed and asks if it can happen to the U.S. The comparisons are concerning. Politically polarized people with a closed mind will hate the information. Intelligent people will see reason for concern and ample reason for hope and how we as individuals can make a difference.
This isn’t a long book. Outside tax season I’d finish it in a day or two. It’s addictive reading. Part of my slow reading pace on this book is the amount of highlighting and note-taking. I may write a full post discussing How Democracies Die when time permits. There is so much powerful information between the covers you will find yourself reading this book and referring back to it often. I know this for a fact because I’m doing it before I’ve even finished the first reading. Yes, I said first reading.
What I’m Watching
Okay, I admit it. I watch some strange YouTube videos. But also admit you find them interesting too.
Our first selection caught my eyes in the feed: 13 Unusual Facts about Females that are Totally True.
Did you know there is an illegal number, as in a number illegal to possess? Me neither! Watch TWL#7: This Number is Illegal and join me on a criminal adventure. Don’t worry. You’ll look good in orange.
By now you’ve realized I have a science fetish. I share a wide selection on this blog, but my history on YouTube is cluttered with math and science videos. I can’t get enough. To that end I share with you Bose-Einstein Condensate: The Coldest Place in the Universe. It just makes me want to start the experiment.
What I’m Listening To
Remember the movie Heavy Metal? It’s been a long time. I didn’t care for the movie, but loved the music. Here is the theme song, Takin’ a Ride.
One Tin Soldier is a powerful song reminding us greed will destroy the most important part of life: peace on Earth.
And to finish this week’s selection I share a reminder from Three Dog Night: Black & White.
May you have peace and love, kind readers. See you Monday where I’ll share my insights into the tariff issues and how it’ll affect wealth, the economy and the stock market.
I can clearly remember the first time I heard about the Pay it Forward philosophy. The year was 2002; the location Schenectady, New York; the event Albacon.
Back in those days Mrs. Accountant and I were groupies of the science fiction convention circuit. The insanity only lasted a few years, but it was a fun ride while it lasted. We met scores of bestselling writers. I can’t speak for Mrs. Accountant, but I drank in every word.
I had recently discovered Mike Resnick. His only novel to grace the bestseller list hooked me. Why Resnick never became a household name is beyond me.
Albacon is a science fiction convention held in the Albany, New York vicinity most years. It’s a small convention, at least it was back in 2002.
It’ll be rare if I don’t mention a book I just finished or am working on. Television is a wasteland, so don’t expect a mention of some popular program or sporting event. I have Netflix. I have to confess I haven’t been watching that much either lately. (It’s been a few months since I watched Netflix.)
I do enjoy YouTube, however. Documentaries are always an attraction, while humor is a fine pastime as well. Then comes music. Yes, I listen to some really strange sounds. Tax season is the worst. I use certain music as a way of closing the door and getting work done.
The “stalking” posts will always be short. I’ll use links so you can follow what I’m up to. I’ll share blog posts that moved me and periodically regurgitate a random thought onto the digital page. I hope you didn’t expect me to be the World’s Most Exciting Man.
But I might be somewhat interesting. Or at least mildly stimulating.
What I’m Reading
My curiosity surrounding energy and how it fuels human development is legend. I just started this book and I’m already hooked. Smil outlines how humanity has been shaped by how we employed energy throughout history. This book isn’t just a modern rendition of human energy consumption either. Early energy use included simple things like harnessing animal power and later wind and water and fossil fuels. From what I’ve read so far: highly recommended.
What I’m Watching
Last night I watched an interesting video of an interview of Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, as he discussed tax reform.
Music I’m Listening To
I warned you. That said, it’s good music to work to.
Who I’m Stalking
In the past week or so I started following @richardbranson on Twitter. It has exploded into a full-blown bromance.
I’ve been familiar with Branson for ages. His accomplishments in the business world are extraordinary. Twitter thought we should hookup so I did. Branson tweets fairly often things about his life. I was most moved by his dedication to family. It created a new-found respect for the man. I was so impressed I purchased three of his books:
Crazy Thing I’m Doing
It’s -9 degrees F this morning and I’m enjoying a crisp walk around the back of the farm. The sound of snow crunching below my boot when the temperatures drops below 10 degrees F is addicting. To me. Care to come?
Before anyone complains about the time I publish on Saturday, know I have no set schedule for the weekend. In short, I’ll get to it when I get to it. During the depths of tax season I may even miss a week, but unlikely, as I like to tell people what deviant behavior I’m up to.
And last, a short discussion on buying books. This community is frugal; I get it. A common question, however, is: Frugal people tend to have one thing they splurge on to keep balance in their financial life. What’s yours?
Books. I buy and read lots of books.
I also raid the library on a regular basis. But I love my personal library; frugality be damned.
My attitude toward traveling is less than exuberant. Still, I’ve traveled the world more than nearly anyone alive. I’ve also traveled through space and time, visited alien worlds and met the greatest actors the human race ever created.
I did all that reading a book.
Remember awhile back when I said I was taking November off? It’s not going well.
My first day back from a conference and people were lined up for my attention. And, of course, everything’s a crisis. Do people think I’m a machine without a need for rest?
My intentions were never to completely bow out of life. I’m not the kind of person who takes a month and does nothing or travels or other such leisure. Curiosity was breed in me and I can’t help myself. I’m like the mischievous kid who is always in trouble. Curiosity killed the cat and unfortunately I’m limited to one life. (Who wants to live forever anyway?)
The list is growing, too. An old friend from the blogger community asked me to Skype and I missed the Monday tentative appointment. I need to rectify that. (Please, God, let Skype work for me this time.)
The most important issue is hiring more qualified help for the office. Over the last week I hired one new full-time employee and think another candidate will work out in the tax preparation arena. It’s hard finding good people who want to work. I changed tactics in my hiring process and finally saw some positive results. I might even open the gate enough to allow a few new clients in. We’ll see.
Hiring takes time and I should finish the process in the next week. A few projects needing my attention in the office are front and center, plus required continuing education is slated for the 29th and 30th of this month in Green Bay.
Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina*
Before you shed a tear for my misfortune, understand hiring additional team members will free more of my future time. By training a bunch of mini-mes should produce benefits in short order. Some of the process can be handled by team members while I focus on reviewing final product.
I see you’re still chocked up. Don’t be! Conferences are hard on me as I try to give every ounce of energy I have. (Actually, I overdo it.) The recovery time takes longer as I age and this time is no different. I’ve slept more those first few days of recovery than I have in a very long time.
My days are normally short by normal working standards. I visit the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week for a workout and the steam room. Gym days mean I spend about five hours at the office.
Non-gym days I get to the office about 9 and frequently leave by 3 or 4. Tax season is a bit more, of course. (Okay, a lot more.)
Then comes the reading and writing. As you know I write here three days a week, too. I cut back other writing due to the pace I keep here and the constant office workload nonexistent in the past. There was a time summer and autumn were light work schedules. What the heck happened?
Frequently people accuse me of prolific writing. Though it is true I love writing and the writing process, my favorite love (outside Mrs. Accountant) is reading. My taste in literature is catholic (notice the little c). I’ve yet to find a topic I wasn’t interested in for at least a short period of time. Believe it or not, twenty or so years ago I read a romance novel by Danielle Steel (this is the novel that did me in (damn books in the checkout line)) and was blown away. It took 80, maybe 90 novels to burn that one out of my system. (Can you see your favorite accountant on the beach reading To Love Again? Yes, I read that book. It was the second novel of my illness years.)
Novels were a large part of my reading material back then. As the years went by novels lost their grip on me. I still read fiction, just not at the same levels. The books I read now can get, well, shall we say, bulky.
Novels can teach as well as entertain. Tom Wolfe wrote A Man in Full. The story has a strong Stoic message which is why I read it from the library.
Most of what I read now is nonfiction. Once again, my tastes run catholic. As you might imagine, I read plenty on finance, economics and business. If my nose isn’t glued inside a book I’m reading similar material and news online.
Currently I still have a fetish for environmental books, especially relating to human history, climate change and how societies collapse.
Old books hold a special interest for me. An Outline of History by H.G. Wells is on my to-do list. It’s a thousand pages of deep reading from a century ago, but still good stuff. I found a copy in very good condition on Amazon for $22.99.
My primary goal when reading is satiation of my curiosity. Learning is important, but I don’t think of it that way. For me learning is entertainment. If my body were not riddled with restless anxiety I would read non-stop every moment I’m awake.
Writing helps you focus a thought as you express it in clear terms. Reading allows you to digest condensed information more quickly than from any other media. Successful people read.
November is my month off and while business has consumed much of this time, I still manage an excess of hours for additional reading. In short, November has turned into a reading vacation. The best part is I will probably extend the vacation into mid-December to make up for my inappropriate behavior working during a vacation. My schedule to the end of the year will be light to make room for the many books I want to pour into my skull.
Reading makes you a better writer. Writing is the most important form of communication. Documentaries and seminars all teach. But reading is faster and incorporates into your mind better than all other forms of learning. Even teachers speaking in front of a room want you to read the material, preferably before class.
My road has never been easy or straight. Reading has given me the edge over the years to win against long odds. No one has an excuse to fail! No one! In the past I would tell clients I’d make an exception for people in prison and quadriplegics. However, need I remind you of Nelson Mandela, Christopher Reeves and Stephen Hawking? Like I said, no excuse.
The common thread among winners is their thirst for knowledge and hunger for learning. People will beat you down because they are jealous while basking in the rewards of your production. Steve Jobs was both loved and hated, but no one disputes his tremendous contribution to society. Even if you don’t use Apple products, you still benefit from the children born of Jobs’s mind.
And what about your mental children? Will they ever see the light of day? Have you even given yourself permission to dream such dreams? People will take every chance to cut you down. Get used to it. It is possible to do everything right and still lose. That is not a character flaw; it is life.
The best mentors I ever had are dead. Plato, Seneca, Will Durant and H.G. Wells have taught me how to live a joyful life. On my shelf is the Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie, perhaps the richest man to have ever lived, adjusting for inflation.
My favorite books are about successful people. Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and many Presidents of the United States have filled my time over the years. When I start to feel down or treated unfairly I read about people who rose above the turmoil. They provide lessons through the mists of time reminding me I’m not alone; it’s all happened before. Need I remind you Isaac Newton lived in turbulent times and wasn’t universally loved? He was known to carry a grudge to the grave. Regardless, everyone of these great minds have something to teach me in good times and bad.
How I Read
Most novel I read come from the library these days. I still buy five or so novels a year if I think they will make good reference material for future writing projects. I borrow another ten or so nonfiction titles from the library annually. However, the bulk of my reading is material I own.
Books are important to me. Tim Ferris says you should just buy the book. Ramit Sethi says if he sees a book and thinks there is only a slight chance he will benefit he buys the book. According to Sethi, twenty dollars is incredibly cheap for even one idea. I agree.
One of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, sends a monthly email with books he recommends. At the end of each email he encourages people to buy the book. Holiday says he will find a way to own a book he wants even if it means skipping a meal. Once again, I agree. (Holiday is thin, unlike a certain accountant we will not mention. This is living proof he walks the talk. )
I know, I know. It’s self serving for me to ask you to buy the book even when it is to your advantage. Libraries are important and borrowing books from the library is a good idea. Owning books is equally important. There is a certain satisfaction with owning a book and holding it in your hand.
Every book listed in this post I’ve read with the exception of those I mentioned I own and plan on reading over the next four to six weeks. The links to Amazon are affiliate links. I do get paid if you buy the book using the affiliate link. The new commission schedule Amazon brought out a few months ago assures I will not get rich off your purchase. Physical books pay a 4.5% commission and ebooks pay 4%.
You can always go to Amazon outside the links of this blog if you are opposed to commissions on religious grounds. Or, better yet, I’ll buy you a beer the next time our paths cross.
Trust me, the beer will cost more than the commission I earned.
You keep all the knowledge.
* Remember, I hide messages and references within posts.
Have you ever wondered why Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz continue to thrill audiences nearly a century later while the box office leader three years ago over Christmas weekend can’t be sold by Wal-Mart for less than a dollar from the remainder bin? Why does The Shawshank Redemption still perform well after more than two decades?
Closer to home, why do some personal finance blogs find a massive and growing audience while others languish? Mr. Money Mustache publishes a few times a month and still generates 5 million page views or more per month. What characteristics do perennial sellers have? More important, can we replicate their success?
Last week one of my all-time favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, published Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts answering the above questions. Holiday has ample experience to draw from in his work with companies such as Google and cultural icons like Tim Ferris.
You can reinvent the wheel or you can learn from the best. Perennial Seller breaks the process of creating long-term success into four parts: The Creative Process, Positioning, Marketing and Platform. We will touch on each of these before we end with a real world example from our personal finance (PF) community.
The Creative Process
Before something becomes a long-term successful seller it has to be created. Too many people want to jump ahead to marketing. They want money and they want it now. Unfortunately they will not like what the marketing section has to say if they do.
Creating a blog with a growing audience and dedicated fans willing to support the blogger, you first need to create the product. Books need to be written before they show up at the bookstore.
Holiday spends most of the book talking about creating a perennial seller in the arts: books, movies, music. He does expand the discussion to his days working for American Apparel before the CEO went off the rails. His advice can easily encompass business models for goods and services, too. The PF community will find the process valuable for their side gigs.
Creating a product, writing a book, composing a song is all hard work. The tendency is to follow a hot trend or create a knockoff of another successful product. It rarely works. You might get some success, but it never lasts. The original has the advantage when it comes to standing the test of time.
When I started this blog I wanted to follow in the footsteps of Mr. Money Mustache. And why not? His readers would be my readers. Working with an icon of the early retirement community meant people would find me by reading MMM. At first.
I knew I would be different, but I always found myself apologizing for the differences, especially the idea of retiring early. Read my early work here. It drips with desperation. Slowly I moved into the open prairie where I felt most comfortable. I started writing my stuff my way. No apologies.
I always told storing which is my hallmark. But the idea I’d be a successful follow-on of the MMM crowd gave me a momentary boost the first few weeks before curling up in submission. My traffic has since exceeded anything I managed those early days.
I stopped apologizing and started doing what I needed to do. I was different and knew it. When I allowed the differences to show through I found my audience. And good thing.
A recent reader emailed to let me know he reads over a thousand PF blogs and never saw one with a picture of Hitler on the front page above the fold. Yeah, I knew it was different.
Readers beg me to publish a book (it’s in the works) of blog posts. More on that in a bit.
The creative process is hard work. You need more than one idea, one book, one blog post. No matter how brilliant you are you need to create more.
As you think about your product, service, book, blog, or song, you need to know who it will appeal to.
Ryan Holiday has provided excellent guides to determining what your work is about and whom it is for. Positioning within a genre is vital if you want to produce a perennial seller.
Success of any kind, long- or short-term, almost always is classified in a category or genre. Nothing appeals to everyone! Too many bloggers, writers, singers think they are serving everyone. Bull!
You can make a comfortable living with a mere 1,000 dedicated fans who buy everything you produce. (Holiday said it in the book and shows how.) Imagine a humble blog, like, ah, this one. Selling t-shirts, ad revenue, third-party affiliates, and Amazon can provide a nice income stream. A thousand dedicated fans buying your book or program can add up. A simple $100 from a thousand dedicated fans gets you to a six figure income.
The trick is getting to a thousand “dedicated” fans. Part II of Perennial Seller is dripping with information on how to position your brand, You, Inc., to acquire those thousand dedicated fans. In all likelihood you will end up with many more as your cult grows.
Now we get to the section everyone wants to talk about. Well, forget about it.
Ryan Holiday is a smart young man and he knows he can’t tell you to do this and do that and you will sell a million copies of your book or get a million page views.
I’ll talk about marketing more in Part 2 of this post to be published on Wednesday.
So no one ruptures an internal organ I will share a taste before moving on.
You do not need a publicist, Google or Facebook advertising, or any other expensive promotional activities to sell well. Most money spend on advertising is useless.
You know what might work? Giving away free copies of your book to the right person. A certain tax guy might want to provide free tax preparation or advisory services to a mustachioed gentleman from Colorado. Or the same tax guy might speak for free at conferences and help attendees gratis as a goodwill gesture.
Doing these things and a few similar gestures will give you more work than you can handle. Then you need to go back to the creative process and create more and develop the brand You Inc. further. It is also time to move toward building your
You can (and should) start building your platform even as you begin the creative process. Gathering followers is how you will generate buzz and early adopters of your book, blog, song or product. I’ll share an idea Ryan Holiday used (mentioned in the book) and that caught me early in his career.
Before Holiday had a product he knew he needed a platform from which to sell his books. He tried blogs/web pages, but eventually settled with the idea of building a mailing list of his monthly book recommendations. By the time his first book came out he had 5,000 people on his email list he could recommend “his” book to. The list has since grown to over 80,000.
As you can imagine, the mailing list is a powerful tool Holiday used to sell his books. And it worked. His books continue to sell better and to a wider audience as the mailing list grows.
Before I include a personal story not in the book I want to share a special gift Holiday gives to his readers. At the end of the book he includes a web address for additional case studies and interviews not in the book. The web address is: perennialseller.com/gift. Or you can email Holiday at email@example.com. He will email back the bonus information.
Before you consider me a lout for sharing this information before you even buy the book or borrow it from the library, know that Ryan Holiday is building his email list as you take him up on the offer. He is building his platform while you get additional free information. A bit of quid pro quo.
In the Real World
Well, who in the heck is this Ryan guy anyway? You may have never heard of him until now. How about we use a live example from our own community: Jim Collins. (If you are reading this Jim, sorry. I needed a guinea pig and you were an available victim. Should sell a couple of books for you though if it is any consolation.)
Last year Jim published The Simple Path to Wealth. You probably heard me extol the virtues of the book. It is pulled from the Stock Series of his blog.
When talking to Jim you will hear him say there is nothing new in his book; it’s all in the blog. It’s a lie. (Sorry to rat you out like that, buddy. Somebody had to expose you.)
Jim’s book is all in his blog, of course. What he doesn’t tell you is he reworked the entire set of blog posts, fixing grammar errors and tightening up the text.
Then he sent the finished product to qualified first readers who promptly pulled the whole thing apart, exposing massive (several hundred) problems. Jim fixed them all. Then he sent it out to another qualified first reader confident he fixed all the boo-boos only to learn a few hundred more were missed the first round.
This went on for a while until the book was as clean and tight as any professionally published book from a major publishing house. As an end user I can assure you The Simple Path to Wealth is better edited than 95% of the stuff from the professional houses. That is saying a lot.
And it’s a self published book! It was the reason I delayed reading the thing. I know how self published books can be. Then I made the mistake of reading a few pages. I was hooked.
My good friend, Mister Collins, has had excellent sales figures on his book. A high quality work, well edited, well created, is a masterpiece. Here is how he did it using Ryan Holiday’s formula.
Jim wrote (the creative process) the blog and later edited part of that into the book, polishing to a bright shine. He positioned his blog and book right down the middle of his genres: personal finance, early retirement and financial independence.
Jim marketed his book through his blog and asked Mr. Money Mustache to write the forward, which he did. Jim already had an awesome platform with his blog and mailing list. People were buying Jim’s book to give as gifts! Camp Mustache SE in January 2017 gave a free copy to every attendee. Nothing beats word of mouth as a marketing tool (also in Holiday’s book).
One Last Thing
Normally I tell people they can either buy the book or pick it up at the library. This book is different. If you write a blog (many readers do), run a business (many readers do) or have a side gig (many readers do) then you want to own Perennial Seller. If you do not fall into one of these categories feel free to visit the library on this one.
If you are a writer, blogger, musician, artist, business owner or have a side gig you will want to hold this one in your hand and keep it within arm’s reach in your personal library. Better bring your highlighter too. You’re going to need it.
You can’t sit down with Bill Gates for more than 10 minutes before he starts telling you about a recent book he read. If you’re not lucky enough to chew the fat with Bill you can get an update on his reading recommendations anytime you want on his blog: Gates Notes.
Ryan Holiday actually has a free subscription service to inform his followers monthly of great books he has read and recommends. Over the years I have found many inspiring and mentally stimulating books from Holiday’s list.
Books are the foundation of knowledge. I read a lot because you will be hard pressed to find a successful individual who doesn’t read on a regular basis and because it is fun. Books have a special feel. Some people enjoy Kindle versions; I still prefer holding a book in my hands. I might get my news digitally, but when I dive deep into a subject I want paper in my hands even if I have to lug it through an airport. It’s just me.
Outside family, books have provided my greatest pleasures in life. I have traveled the world and through time; I have seen great societies and dined with the greatest minds of history. I did it all through the eyes of those who were there. Books have given me all that and more. You are free as long as you can crack a book and disappear into another realm.
It’s time again for me to share some of my enlightened reading. I prefer massive books. I also enjoy books that delve deep into business, science, taxes, accounting, history and math. I am not sure there is a genre I don’t enjoy.
When I was younger I read thousands of novels. Not so much anymore. Most of my time is spent with my nose stuck in a heavily researched book. Take away my reading time and I get cranky. For me, reading books is as important as sleep and breathing and more important than food. I can go longer without food than a book.
I find new books to read in various places. The above mentioned Gates and Holiday have been a reliable source. Sometimes The Economist has a good recommendation. The news gives me books to add to my reading list, too. And now I want you to help grow my list.
Below I will share my reading recommendations for the summer. In return I want you to share some of your favorite reads. It doesn’t matter if you read it ages ago. A good book sticks with you and if it sticks, you should share.
I have starred (*) books I recommend for purchase. The remainder should be borrowed from the library. Starred books I feel most readers will return to again and again so it should be part of your personal library.
The time required to read the seven books on the list is 70 hours (assuming 10 hours per volume) or 10 weeks at an hour per day. You can buy all the starred books used at Amazon (or Kindle) for under $35 with Amazon Prime. A local used bookstore may bring an even greater bargain.
I read two magazines regularly. In the past I read many more periodicals, but most newspaper and magazine stories are online where I read them now.
National Geographic: I travel more than I care to. Most travel is business related and increasing due to this blog. However, I keep pace with the world at large by reading NG. The articles are not long, but contain powerful information. Written different than a news piece, NG writes from the perspective of a traveler on the ground. This allows me a glimpse into the lives of people from all corners of the world. Science and culture related articles interest me most, but I read NG cover to cover every issue.
The Economist: Most news reporting agencies leave me flat. The Economist is packed with news from around the world each week with numerous stories from the business world and the study of economics. You can read The Economist online, have the magazine delivered to your door, or both.
*The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder: The news media has plenty to say about Warren Buffett. You can watch interview after interview of him on YouTube and at the end of the day you are left wondering how he does it. Alice Schroeder (no relation to the author) spent years digging deep into the life of Buffett to give us an unblemished look at what makes Buffett Buffett. A short news piece is no match for 832 pages of journalism. Schroeder spent countless hours on the phone and in personal interviews with Buffett, his family and acquaintances. I warm you, this book is addicting; it is hard to turn out the lights when engaged in such a mesmerizing story. By the end you have a much better idea of how Buffett does it. There is no doubt in my mind your investing skills will improve by the time you turn the last page. These skills can be applied to your investment properties, business or side gig and equity investing.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole: Our first of two fiction entries is rollicking fun. Dunces introduces us to Ignatius J. Riley, a most intoxicating character if there ever was one. Riley is always scheming. His antics with ways to earn money in jobs and side gigs will have you rolling on the floor. But I warn you, Riley is an idiot extraordinaire. His relationship with family and employers will have your eyes glued to the page. Readers of this blog know the value of a side gig. Dunces teaches us how not to do it.
Business Adventures by John Brooks: When Bill Gates and Warren Buffett both say a book is the best business book ever written it might be worth the time to read it. Adventures is a collection of articles written by Brooks over his career investigating significant issues challenging businesses. Before the 1987 crash or 2008 financial crisis was stock crash of 1962. Brooks gives us a detailed look at what went wrong and what was done to prevent 1962 from becoming a 1987. Chapter 3 took a look at the federal tax code and its history. For some reason your favorite accountant couldn’t put the book down during that chapter. I also found the chapter on Xerox riveting. What sacrifices are made by a group of people to bring a company to life is inspiring. Note: These business stories are from the 1960s and therefore are dated. However, each story is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.
It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis: Before the current events caused Americans to doubt their government’s ability to lead there was the fear Nazi theology would usurp the White House. Lewis wrote his dystopian novel in 1935 as fear heightened over Hitler in Europe. The story follows Doremus Jessup, a small town newspaper editor, as Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip captures the imagination of the country. Windrip’s promises sound all too familiar today. Of course Windrip wins the presidency causing the country to spin down in violent authoritarianism. The novel does not offer a happy ending. Jessup and his ragtag compatriots build a movement to take the country back by using an underground network to publish the truth. People begin to fight back, but the cost is dear and the road back may never provide a full return. Perhaps Americans should also read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire too. Or a brief review on how the Roman Republic ended.
*The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are so Rich and Some so Poor by David S. Landes: In The Wealth of Nations, published by Adam Smith in 1776, we learn about the division of labor and its effects on productivity and quality. (You can read The Wealth of Nations online for free here.) Smith also gave us a look at how money really works. Fast forward to 1998 and Landes picks up where Smith left off. No longer are we merely interested in how money works, but why some countries are rich and some poor. Several factors determine the wealth of a society. I’ll let you enjoy the process of learning as you read the book.
*The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins: There is a reason I am recommending this book again. Jim Collins has produced what I consider one of the best books on investing ever written. Taken from the pages of his blog, Wealth is pulled straight from his stock series. Before you jump ship on me, understand this book is not about pouring over stock sheets and financials searching for the next good investment. Instead, Collins’ approach is simple: simple to read, simple to follow. The writing is crisp, clean and to the point. This is the perfect book for the restroom (sorry Jim) or ride to work. Each chapter is self contained, yet part of the whole. I am certain you will read this book again and again as I have. I keep finding myself re-reading chapters as a reminder to keep it simple and safe if I want to grow and maintain my wealth. (If you want to read about how the author and Collins nearly took over the world, read here.)
* The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century by Walter Scheidel: Before we start I want to point out I recommend this book for purchase. Unless you plan on using the book for additional research you may wish to borrow the book from the library instead. The Great Leveler takes Piketty’s work a step further by looking back in history to determine where income inequality began, how it ended and reappeared in societies for millennia. This book is a surprising recount of income inequality in all societies since humans decided to leave the hunter/gatherer lifestyle. What I found most interesting was how similar the issues of income inequality are today with the same issue thousands of years ago. Hint: you are not going to like the four possible solutions history provided.
There it is, kind readers; my reading list to round out your summer. Pick and choose as your interests dictate.
Now it is your turn. I am always looking for good books to read. Share some of your favorites in the comments section below. Don’t leave a wayward accountant, a book lover, in the dark.
Three books I read since the beginning of the year stand out as books readers of The Wealthy Accountant should find interesting and useful. Two books I recommend for purchase, the other can be borrowed from the library; I’ll indicate my recommendation as I introduce each book. The dividing line between borrowing from the library and purchase is the desire to mark the book with a highlighter as you read. Highlighted books are easy to use as future reference. All books I recommend in this blog are books I highlight and own.
A strong theme on The Wealthy Accountant is frugality. So why do I recommend the purchase of so many book? First, I have a weakness when it comes to books. I buy a third to half of all books I read. The percentage changes with time. Many times I start reading a library book and instantly know I want to mark the important passages for future research and use. Your need for research material may not be as high as mine if you don’t own a business or publish a blog.
Second, if a book is important I will find a way to own it. Knowledge is power; knowledge is freedom. My mind is my most precious asset. I feed my mind every day and reference back to previously read books often. A well-read person is almost always wealthier in financial terms, but is always wealthier in quality of life. I have never met a successful person who is not well-read.
Cutting costs is easy. Unnecessary spending is tossed out the window. But books are as vital as food. Some books, especially novels, are a one-time read so the library is a perfect way to consume these books without any financial outlay. Some nonfiction books fall in the same category. Then there are books which touch us deeply. A few works of fiction rise to this level. Flowers for Algernon comes to mind. Many nonfiction books are significant enough to own. If you are like me, you will find yourself returning to these treasures often.
On to our list of must read books to finish off the winter.
The catchy name of this book is the reason I used it as the title of this post. It grabs the attention. It is also the same reason I spent so much time avoiding it. I read enough about Mark Manson online to know roughly what the book would be about. Boy was I wrong.
The Subtle Art was recommended several times before I pulled the trigger, buying the book. My concern is this would be a fuckfest. I have no problem with foul language. It attracts attention and focuses the reader. But fucking this and fucking that gets old after a while.
The first half of The Subtle Art has plenty of f-bombs, but not overwhelming or gratuitous cussing. Manson starts with what he means by not giving a fuck. He points out: Not giving a fuck does not mean being indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different. The second part of his definition is: To not give a fuck about adversity, you must first give a fuck about something more important than adversity. He then gives examples of what he means by his definition of giving a fuck and when to give them.
As strange as it sounds on the surface, this is a book about living the good life. It has Stoic undertones throughout. Happiness is discussed, along with the crazy idea we are somehow special when we are not. A full chapter is devoted to why you are wrong about everything and so is he.
Manson drops hints of how the book will end early on and you have no idea how hard hitting it will be. He describes how much of a dick he was in adolescence and early adulthood. The second half of The Subtle Art tones down the language and takes a more serious approach. Manson explains how a single event changed his life. Though no fault of his own, a friend died. It was the wakeup call Manson needed to grow up.
I’ll leave the end for your personal pleasure. No spoilers today. What I will tell you is where I was when I finished The Subtle Art. I was in the Gainesville, Florida airport waiting for my flight home from Camp Mustache SE. As you probably noticed, I can be an emotional writer and reader. The Subtle Art finale had me fighting back tears. Life can provide subtle lessons or hit you in the face with a 2 x 4. Manson got the plank across the puss. How he came to terms with his best friend’s death is heartwarming as well as educational. The next time you see someone on the edge, remember, they may have come from a much different place than you have.
I recognized a piece of Manson in me as he had to make a choice. He was a party guy and I never was. But that does not mean we do not share common ground. The Subtle Art is a powerful message about living life regardless what is thrown your way. It reminds us how precious, and fragile, life is. We need to learn when to give a fuck and when not to. It matters.
Species: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari
Species is 416 pages of human history from the beginning of the Cognitive Revolution to modern times. I love the kind of material Species presented so it was all interesting me. Early human history fascinates me the most. How humans went from one of the myriad animals to the world’s dominant species is an engaging story. It is the story of us and how we got to be us.
We think of global warming and climate change as man’s first real manipulation of the environment. It’s not. The historical record is clear. Whenever humans, or more accurately, Homo sapiens, arrived in a new part of the planet, things changes quickly. Neanderthals and other humans did not have the same effect as sapiens did. The Earth once hosted several species of humans. Sapiens are the sole survivors. Wherever sapiens went, other humans and large animals lost ground.
But readers of this blog will be most interested by the invention/creation of money and how it changed sapiens forever. Sapiens explores what money really is and what it allows us to do. Without money, including fiat money*, most of what we see and do today would not be possible.
Also of interest is the review of The Capitalist Creed. History is interesting because it can give us clues to the future, what we are really interested in. Where sapiens go from here is always a mystery, but we can get a good idea by studying the past up to our own time.
In under 100 pages Godin outlines why it is so important to know when to quit. In fact, quitting is one of the most important things you can do to achieve success. Quitting before the dip or when you find yourself in a Cul-de-Sac is the only way to preserve the time you need to pursue worthy goals.
The Dip is not only about quitting, but about when to stick it out. All endeavors go through a dip. My tax practice has experienced several dips over the years. I rose to each challenge, transforming my business into something better than before. Even this blog is now going through a dip. All blogs do. Traffic doesn’t go straight up without end. Knowing when to stick with it counts. How you stick with it determines the outcome.
The best part of The Dip is about why it is so important to be number one in whatever you do. This does not mean you must be number one in the world. It means you must be number one in your micro environment/niche or you are irrelevant. The Dip shows you how to reach that goal.
On second thought, I recommend you buy The Dip. My copy has a lot of highlighted text I am sure to return to often.
* * *
Before the weather gets too nice you want to digest these three books. Normally I read a book per week; I managed over double that pace in January. Time on the road gave me more time to read. Tax season will dig into my reading time so I had to get it in when I could.
No matter how busy I am I always find time to read. There is no way I can serve my clients, and you, my dear readers, if I don’t continually educate myself with awesome books. As always, the best of what I read, I will share.
* The only value fiat money has is perceived value. The government declares fiat money’s value without backing the money with any real asset, such as gold. China was the first to use fiat money around 1000 A.D. All nations use fiat money today. The Swiss Franc was the last non-fiat currency to sever its link to gold in 2000.
Now is the time to start a tradition of sharing the best books I read over the past year. The first full year of The Wealthy Accountant is fast approaching. Each December as the year draws to a close I will list my three favorite books I read during the year. Many books I pick up from the library, but the best books really belong in your personal library to read and reread. If you are like me you keep books close at hand for research. There is still time to order from Amazon and have these books in your hand to fill in the quiet time during the holidays.
Some books I consider the best were already reported earlier. Of the three books recommended, there will be additional books mentioned that compliment the recommended book. Time is precious. Books are a must if you want to succeed and reach your goals. A good life starts with learning and books are the only way. Neither the internet nor formal training can do what books can. Sure, the internet, college, and formalized training are part of the learning process, a part you also need to seek out.
I read 30-50 books every year, depending on the size of the books. Reading is part of every day. Your schedule is just as tight as mine is. You still make time to eat, drink, breathe, and sleep. Time for books is as important as food. Food for the mind is vital. The short list allows you an opportunity to read the most books that convey a powerful message without reading as much as I do.
Holiday has become my favorite author lately. His work on the Stoic way to reach the good life resonates. The Daily Stoic is written in the same manner as a devotional. There is a short excerpt from a great Stoic teacher of the past with a short story to illustrate the lesson each day. The reading takes a minute at best, but to gain the most value you need to reflect on what was said. I have started each day with the appropriate entry since The Daily Stoic arrived. Of course, you can read it straight through. To fully digest what is said requires a long-term review of the text. By reading a small entry each day there is almost no time requirement. Reading and reflecting takes five minutes. Returning each day builds a positive habit.
The Daily Stoic isn’t the only classic from Holiday. The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph and Ego is the Enemy are two books you want in your personal library also. There is no doubt in my mind you will return to these books repeatedly, as I do. In an uncertain world, Stoic literature helps us find meaning and the good life. Most Stoic thought comes from the ancients. A few modern authors have provided quality guides of the Stoic philosophy. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by: William B. Irving comes to mind. All these books are excellent additions to a personal library. You will find as much meaning and comfort from these books as I have found.
My science fiction reading days are in the past. I still crack a novel open a few times a year, but most books I read are nonfiction. Kirinyaga has been on my shelf for years. I pulled it off a month ago and enjoyed an afternoon and evening of thought provoking entertainment.
Resnick has a history of award winning stories. The Kirinyaga series is about the best ever produced. The novel contains eight separate stories that weaver together one long story arc. The best story of the group is the second: For I Have Touched the Sky. That one story alone is worth the purchase price of the book.
The stories revolve around Koriba, a witch doctor who took his people from Earth to a planet far away to live their lives the way they should, without technology. Koriba keeps a computer hidden so he can communicate with civilization should an emergency arise.
For I Have Touched the Sky is about a Kikuyu girl, Kamari, who found an injured pygmy falcon and brought it to Koriba for healing. He broke Kamari’s heart when he said the bird could not be saved. He said since the bird has touched the sky it could never live in a cage. She insisted. Koriba relented and said he would try if Kamari would clean his hut. She agreed.
Kamari finds Koriba’s computer and slowly learns to access it. She learns to read and about other worlds, technology, and peoples. Then the pygmy falcon dies. Kamari is heartbroken. She agrees to continue cleaning Koriba’s hut as promised. Koriba eventually discovers Kamari is accessing his computer and that Kamari has learned many things, including creating her own language and how to write. Women are not allowed to write, Koriba told her.
This creates a crisis. Koriba cuts Kamari’s access to the computer and demands she never speak of what she knows. She desperately wants to learn more. Koriba refuses. Kamari grows more despondent each day until she commits suicide. Koriba is tasked with going through Kamari’s belongings and finds strange writing on a skin hide. Koriba takes the skin to the computer for analysis. He is told the writing is the language of Kamari. When he asks what is says the computer translates:
I know why the caged bird dies—/For, like them, I have touched the sky.
For I Have touched the Sky is a moving story you will not soon forget. The message is clear, we cannot go back. Knowledge, once released, cannot be returned to the bottle. Human beings hunger to learn and know. Take away the opportunity to grow and the human dies. Take away the ability to learn once you have touched the sky and there is nothing to live for.
Resnick writes fun stories that read fast. His bestseller, Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, is his most famous novel and put his name on the map. His short stories have received numerous awards over the years. If you are in for an evening of light reading that makes you think after you put the book down, Resnick is a good choice.
I wrote about Valuation earlier in the year. It is a bit expensive for a book, but worth every penny and worthy of a second mention as one of the best books of the year. You will need a yellow highlighter when reading this book. There is so much powerful information you want to take notes.
Valuation is used as a college textbook. The reading is crisp and clear while the subject is in-depth and complete. For readers interested in investing in individual stocks or business owners looking to increase the value of their firm will find the tools necessary to complete the job. Creating value is why you invest. Business owners (investors are fractional business owners of a large company) need to understand how value is created. A simple answer like: A return on invested capital in excess of the cost of capital creates value, is only a small part of the equation. There is much more.
My copy of valuation is marked up and I keep it next to my desk as a reminder, and a resource, of what I am in business for. Business decisions and investment decisions are clearer with a better chance of success because of this resource.
There you have it. Three books to keep your mind active. I know, I know. I talked about several additional books connected to the books discussed. Use this list as a starting point.
One final point. The links to Amazon will generate a commission for me if you buy the books (or anything else) during the same visit you clicked on the link. If you think I am worth it, feel free to use the embedded links. If you would rather I not receive compensation for the links you can go to Amazon directly and order that way. Either way is fine as long as you read more good books and learn—so you too can touch the sky.