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.
In the course of a normal week I write three blogs, run an accounting practice, jog three hours, lift 3 hours, and read 3 or 4 books. I have thousands of books in my home and read countless more from the library. Some weeks I read fewer books, some weeks none at all, but I still spend plenty of time reading online and during the course of my work.
How can someone read so darn much while running a business and keeping his body fit? You smokin’ somethin’ WA? No, I am not smoking something. Besides, I always understood cocaine was supposed to keep you going until it burns you out and I don’t do that either. (Can you smoke cocaine?)
There is some truth about my sleep habits. During a normal week I sleep approximately 30-40 hours and meditate 10 hours. Meditation time can happen while walking or while sitting in a quiet room alone.
So let’s add up the numbers. There are 168 hours to a week the last time I checked. For arguments sake we will say I sleep 40 of those hours and meditate 10. I spend 40 hours dealing with issues in my tax practice and another 25 hours writing blog posts. Exercise takes another 10 hours (3 hours running; 3 hours lifting; 4 hours light aerobic). Mrs. Accountant and the junior accountants get 20 or so hours of my life each week. That leaves over twenty hours for reading and research. In fairness I sometimes read at the office (okay, I read a lot at the office).
There is one thing missing from my normal week compared to the average Americans’ life: TV. I watch limited amounts of TV and do not play video games or Pokémon. Any TV I watch is either background noise or educational videos. On rare occasion I will think through a problem while playing a mind numbing computer card game.
How the Wealthy Spend Their Time
Most weeks I do not finish four books. Over the course of a year I read 100-120 books, a bit over two books on average. Some weeks go by without any book completed. This week I drove a stake through The Fountains of Paradise, by: Arthur C. Clark; Meditations, by: Marcus Aurelius; The Fortress in Orion, by: Mike Resnick; and The Obstacle is the Way, by: Ryan Holiday. The remarkable thing about this week’s reading list is two novels are in the batch. Novels are less than 20% of the books I read and rarely for pleasure only. Novels I read generally illustrate a lesson I want to learn. For example: A Man in Full, by: Tom Wolfe is a great novel about Stoic living. A recent documentary mentioned a space elevator and The Fountains of Paradise, hence the addition to this week’s reading list.
Some books have more meaning than others. I have read Meditations online, but wanted a copy to take with me to read when I have a few minutes available. Meditations is the kind of book you read again and again. It is a short book, but takes time to read as each passage has meaning requiring reflection.
Therein lies a truth. There is a direct negative correlation between how much TV you watch per week and your income. The wealthiest people in our society watch modest amounts of television and what they do watch tends to be educational videos. Meaningful books are the one alternative to TV that will affect your income positively. What you learn from books has a direct application to real life.
The more books you read the more people think you are a speed reader. Nothing is further from the truth. I tend to read on the slow side and, with the exception of novels, go back a re-read some passages to fully digest the meaning. Where I get the volume of my reading in is during the 20 or so hours per week allotted to reading.
Those dead times in between tasks is also great for reading. Like Charlie Munger, sometimes people think I am a book with legs and arms sticking out.
Buy the Damn Book
A thousand or so books adorn my humble abode. My frugality is tested when books are involved. Many of the books I read I return to and review them again so owning them makes sense. There are times I read library books and later buy the book so I can return to it again and again at will. My vast reservoir of knowledge is not from some magical elixir. I know you want to be frugal, but knowledge is not where you practice frugality. I am into wealthy: wealth of knowledge and financially.
Books are cheap. Amazon sent me Meditations for $1, shipping included. I have Amazon Prime at the office so shipping is free. But come on. $1? I’ll wear Meditations out as I lug it everywhere reading passages at every opportunity. You read books like that again and again. Trust me, I’ll get my $1 out of that book.
The Meaning of Life
There is no other way to acquire the knowledge of the ages straight from the source other than books. Movies and videos cannot show you great men and women from past ages; they can only give an abridged and modified (to fit the format of television) version of the original. Stoics shared a wealth of knowledge from 2,000 years and more ago; I can hear their voices in the words they wrote. I can’t call Thomas Jefferson and jawbone ideas of polity; I can read the volumes he wrote. Even people still alive do not have time to tell everyone all the knowledge they wrote in books! Imagine all the stuff I share on this blog. If you stand around me long enough you will get a strong flavor of my beliefs, values, and ethics. But when you read this blog you get something more, plus you can return again and again reading and re-reading the information. It may sound strange, but I have to go back to my own work at times to relearn a lesson. Keeping all your knowledge front brain is not possible.
The other part of reading is travel. You can live in a hundred places in a thousand ages with books. You can travel strange new worlds and times all in one afternoon. You can be a child again or experience old age. You can join Viktor Frankl in the Nazi concentration camps without any risk. You can learn and experience with books.
Why Do I Read So Much?
This is a crazy question to my ears. How can you not read so much? Turn off social media and the idiot box and crack a book. Training videos can teach a lot, but nothing beats a good book. When I hear statistics like the average American does not read another meaningful book once they leave school I am perplexed. College is only a start, not an end game! Your education never ends. Only a small fraction of your education is formal and that is if you even attended college.
Every day you breathe. Every day you eat and drink to nourish the body. If you do not also feed your mind daily you will die just as fast as or faster than if you forgot to eat or breathe. I read so much because I am alive.
Ryan Holiday has come a long way since writing Trust Me, I’m Lying: The Tactics and Confessions of a Media Manipulator. From his personal experience and stories of great men and women from today and in history, Holiday outlines how the ego gets in the way of aspirations, success, and even failure in his latest book: Ego Is the Enemy. This book is a guide on how to live life well with a healthy dose of Stoic philosophy so you can live happily too.
This is the best book I’ve read on living right since reading A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. From the beginning to the end Holiday provides example after example of how ego has harmed great men and women over the ages. He also gives examples of ego as it applies to aspirations and success. Holiday is not afraid to expand the narrative to include his own failures in life, bringing a personal touch to the lessons taught.
At 29, Ryan Holiday has lived an eventful life filled with awesome successes and fantastic failures. His drive and understanding of human nature allowed him to become a massive success at a young age. He worked with Tucker Max, using reverse psychology to create controversy and hence, sales. Next he worked with Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, and other authors such as Timothy Ferris and Tony Robbins.
In the past Holiday used his talents to create controversy around a product or book to bring attention and sales to the product. His uncanny ability to understand the media world we live in today has made him a master of the trade. He has used underhanded methods of manipulating the media in the past to generate buzz. Billboards and press releases are not effective anymore according to Holiday. Getting the media coverage needed to sell a book or a company requires manipulating blogs, both large and small.
There is a tinge of regret in the tone of Holiday as he gives examples of aspirations, success, and inevitable failures in life. His prolific reading and writing makes his storytelling hard to put down. Each story has you nodding your head as you see a piece of yourself in the mirror. Heavy Stoic teachings are woven into the narrative so you can take the lesson taught and apply it in your life, creating happiness without anxiety or worry.
Ego Is the Enemy is a blueprint to avoid the failures of great leaders from the past. The lessons learned can help us lead a happier life without feelings of revenge, regret, or envy. By accepting you have enough you can put ego aside and live life for what it is worth.
Holiday watched up close and personal the destruction of an American company: American Apparel. The founder, Dov Charney, disintegrated before Holiday’s eyes while he worked as the Director of Marketing for the firm. Lawsuits began to unravel a fashion empire. The in-fighting and recriminations grew in intensity. Charney could not let it go. Instead of practicing a Stoic mindset or taking honest advice, he doubled down, then tripled down on failed policies. Eventually he was fired from his own company. He filed lawsuits against American Apparel, the former CFO, and multiple board members. By the time the fighting was done the company was gone.
Ryan Holiday was there to see American Apparel fail. He advised Charney, but Charney was in no mode for sound advice. Steve Jobs lost his company in a similar fashion, but took the opportunity to self-reflect and grow. Steve Jobs was hurt when he was ousted from Apple by the board; Charney destroyed the company in an avalanche of lawsuits so there will not be a company to come back to.
Subduing the Ego
No matter how hard we try, no matter how good we are, regardless out intentions, there will be times when things go very wrong. Defeat does not define us, how we handle defeat does. Bad things happen to everyone. Preparing mentally for these difficult times starts now, when we are able to think clearly and can condition our minds to handle tragedy.
Ego is in every one of us. Ego wants to assert itself at the worst possible moments, when our pride is wounded and we want to control things we have no control over. Ego Is the Enemy illustrates the successes and failures others have experienced and provides solutions to destructive ego issues.
One of the most moving stories in the book is about Katherine Graham, the remarkable woman who ran The Washington Post for over two decades. Graham faced hardships most people would be crushed by. Graham was born into wealth and privilege and was unprepared for the hardships she would endure. Her husband ran the family newspaper until she discovered he was having an affair. He later committed suicide leaving her in control of a business with thousands of employees and no training or experience to run a company.
Family and advisors told her to sell The Washington Post and use the money to retire to a comfortable life. She could not do it. Her father started the business and she wanted it to succeed. The challenges got worse. She managed The Post through the Watergate scandal. When the board and advisors told her not to publish confidential documents she did anyway. The President of the United States made it a project to punish her for her audacity.
The Washington Post was the first Wikileaks and Graham the first Julian Assange. There is a price to pay when doing the right thing. A President was exposed and brought to his knees, but before the smoke cleared a crippling strike brought The Washington Post to the edge as millions in advertising revenue was lost. If this wasn’t enough an outside investor was buying shares of the company; Graham could be facing a struggle for control of her company.
The strike ended and The Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for journalistic reporting. The outside investor was no other than a young Warren Buffett. Buffett mentored Graham as they built the newspaper into the powerhouse it is today, even in an environment where newspapers are dying.
How can we have the same fortitude and toughness of a Katherine Graham? Is there anything special about people who face defeat in life and use the opportunity to excel? Without knowing it, Graham had a Stoic determination. Most winners in the world possess the same attitudes. Here are some final thoughts before you borrow a copy of Ego is the Enemy from the library:
- Problems make you a better person. Without problems it is impossible to learn hard lessons. As much as loss, difficulty, and challenges hurt, you must work through them. It is in this place where you are defined as a human being.
- An easy life is a curse. Struggles will happen and the more you deal with difficult people and situations the better you become.
- Accept you are blessed. We live in an awesome time is history where the poor are better off than ever before. A modest middle class American life is more luxurious than the wealthiest man’s life in 1930. Wealthy people today have luxury like never before.
- Engage in negative visualization. Close your eyes and imagine what it would be like if your significant other has died. Dig deep into the ramifications it would have on your life. Then open your eyes and realize how lucky you are to have such a wonderful significant other. Use negative visualization to fully understand all the gifts you have. Imagine life without hearing, then realize how lucky you are to hear the sounds of nature and the human voice.
- You have enough. How much stuff can one person have? You are alive; it is enough for happiness.
- Money is not the end game; happiness is. Wealth is important, but is worthless if you are miserable. Find happiness and you are already wealthy. For some reason the money keeps rolling when you live this mindset.
- Let go of hate, envy, thoughts of revenge or retribution, and lust. The greatest failures in history started with these negative, ego driven, emotions.