Category Archives: Book Reviews
It’s been a while since I have done a book review. It gets harder and harder to do the books I read any justice with a half-assed book review. I’m making an exception to my own rule of needing to finish a book before you review it, as I am only halfway through The Feminine Mystique and it is one the best books on contemporary Western (North American) society I have read, and it was written in 1963. The attitudes and perceptions of the 1960s and previous decades have had a huge impact on women, women’s perceived place in society, in the office and at home.
I’ve never focused on women’s rights because I was raised in such an equal household. I never felt that I couldn’t or shouldn’t do anything, and a lot of times I wanted to do the things that “only the boys did” just to be different.
I feel lucky to have grown up that way and it certainly influences my mindset to this day: I’ve always worked in male-dominated fields and I am perfectly comfortable with that, and if I have ever felt the influence of the feminine mystique in the attitudes of others, I generally brush it off and take on a breezy, “I’ll prove you wrong” attitude. And you know what? It’s worked out for me.
I Don’t Have To Be Defensive About Being A Woman
But this book is allowing me to stop being defensive about being a woman. I admit, I have always taken an attitude along the lines of “Yeah, I’m a woman, but I’m as smart as any guy. I’m as good an athlete. I’m funny and I can hold my own and I am not all twisted up into knots about my image and my ability to catch a man.” So even though I have always had respect for a hard-working, self-made woman, I’ve belittled the idea of womanhood for a long time. It’s because there were just too many bullshit Secret commercials (remember the one that implied the most important times of a woman’s life were her wedding and her kid’s milestones?) and ridiculous romantic comedies I could not relate to. My friends are a bunch of crude and crazy women and we don’t really get a lot of the usual female stereotypes. So I always dismissed this idea of feminism and women’s rights, because I thought “I’ve got it figured out for the most part.”
Why The Feminine Mystique Is Absolutely Fascinating
Betty Friedan proved me wrong. This book is so fascinating. Although it was more prevalent in the 50s and 60s, Friedan investigates why so many women were choosing to become housewives instead of pursuing their educations or careers. And then why those same women found themselves unfulfilled, empty and frustrated. She analyzes the huge impact Freud and “Freudian” theories influenced our roles in society, our ideas of what is acceptable and expected from men and women. She is funny, candid and a timeless writer: just like my favorite fiction authors, she captures the moment and the idea.
My favorite part by far has been The Sexual Sell. Friedan herself sums it up best:
“Why is it never said that the really crucial function, the really important role that women serve as housewives is to buy more things for the house. In all the talk of femininity and woman’s role, one forgets that the real business of America is business. But the perpetuation of housewifery, the growth of the feminine mystique, makes sense (and dollars) when one realizes that women are the chief customers of American business. Somehow, somewhere, someone must have figured out that women will buy more things if they are kept in the underused, nameless-yearning, energy-to-get-rid-of state of being housewives.”
The rest of this chapter was just as enjoyable and mind-blowingly revelatory (is that a word?) Seriously, this books gives names to ideas we’ve all vaguely had. It’s worth reading for any man or woman who wants to understand our society. I’m just past the halfway mark, and this may need another book review, but for now, I am grateful to Friedan and the movement that came after her that has allowed me for so long to simply live my life exactly as I want, enjoy my career and find fulfillment outside the home, without ever once questioning it or feeling guilty for not being home making a sandwich for my man! (Side note: those sandwiches look really, really good).
And now, everyone, I must go back to not shaving my armpits and changing all mentions of “history” to “herstory”. <Insert additional feminazi stereotype here.>
- Everything you need to know about FHA loans becoming more expensive. But still, you could get the FHA loan and refinance when you’re at 20% equity value, no?
- I’m no fan of unnecessary government surveillance, but I really liked Edward Snowden is No Hero.
- I’ve always wanted dreadlocks. It’s true. But I just didn’t want them to be so permanent. So I will probably never get them.
- Bill Burr recently went on the Joe Rogan Podcast and the two rant and rave for like 3 hours. It was awesome.
- Khaled Hosseini’s third book, And the Mountains Echoed, was released. Not *quite* as heartbreakingly tragic as A Thousand Splendid Suns, but Hosseini does it again with killer storycrafting and characters.
- Jon Stewart is directing a movie about Maziar Bahari’s 118 days in Evin Prison called Rosewater. Exciting and feeling fairly confident that this won’t be another Not Without My Daughter or Argo. (Future Jeopardy Question: The reason why all Iranians loathe Sally Field. Answer: What is Not Without My Daughter?”)
- I have $3,968 in debt left.
- Everyone needs a personal investment philosophy before diving into investing. I have invested before without a defined strategy or philosophy and anything that haphazard simply can’t end well. So I am working on that as I will finally be focusing my energy on investing. Here’s a good summary of developing a personal investment philosophy.
- What do you know about primal living? Check out Mark’s Daily Apple for obvious but good ideas like “Get lots of sunlight” and “Move at a slow pace for a long time.” Beats all those lunges Jillian Michaels has me doing!
- And finally, it’s been too long: Reggaeton Video of the Week: Reggaeton Latino by Don Omar
I am a big fan of Todd Tresidder at Financial Mentor, so I was excited to review one of his 60 Minute Financial Solutions books. How Much Money Do I Need to Retire? helps you accurately analyze all of the conventional assumptions in retirement planning in order to understand why they can be extremely misleading. This helped me a lot. I’ve always known that the whole “8% annual return” number couldn’t be entirely accurate, but Todd shows exactly why it’s such a dangerous assumption (the short answer is that it’s never a neat 8% return and the volatility of negative returns one year followed by positive returns the next can be devestating on your portfolio.) Next, even small changes in inflation can have dramatic eroding effects on your retirement portfolio. So when searching for that Magic Retirement Number, it helps to realize that actually, there is no magic number. You should calculate for a range that you feel comfortable with, based on different spending, saving, inflation and investment return scenarios. The book is worth your time and I just want to leave you with Todd’s two critical numbers that will help you best plan your retirement:
- #1: Percentage of income saved versus income spent
- #2: Return on investment minus inflation
There is a ton of helpful information and ideas in this book, even if you think you are many years away from retirement (I know I am). I like the Ultimate Retirement Calculator that lets you play with a bunch of variables. I also like that it delves into business and real estate assets as part of a retirement portfolio, since I really don’t think of myself ever retiring, I always want to be active in business, knee-deep in projects, and an owner of rental properties.
Giveaway: I have a copy to giveaway and entry is really, really easy! Either follow me on Twitter or show me some like on Facebook and enter using the Rafflecopter below. You’ll get this awesome book mailed to you!
There are less than two months left in 2012 and I have a lot of reading to do! To recap, I designated five books to be my foundation in personal finance:
1. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Caslon (Click for my review)
2. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Dank (Click for my review)
3. Think and Grow Rich Action Pack by Napoleon Hill
4. A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
5. The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
With Think and Grow Rich, we’re moving away from the foundation of personal finance success (like: not being a flashy bastard, spending less than you make, etc) and taking steps to create an above-average income, and hopefully an above-average life with it. It’s time to look beyond changing my habits and creating self discipline. I want to move to the next level in income. That’s where inspirational authors from the 1930s come in! Napoleon Hill wrote Think and Grow Rich in 1937. Hill was a student of Dale Carnegie, whose How To Win Friends and Influence People from 1936 is timeless advice that can teach you the basics of salesmanship and how to connect with people better than any contemporary work. Think and Grow Rich is well-cited and is an entrepreneurial must-read. I was excited to read it. But first, a question.
I run into lots of resistance when I talk about money. Being rich is a goal that makes many people uncomfortable and doesn’t really make sense as an end unto itself. Is the desire for wealth a base desire? Are we giving into greed and avarice by focusing any sort of effort into acquiring wealth? I have struggled to justify spending any time on building wealth because I held the belief for a long time that I cannot think about money because that would make me crass, base or deprived. But not thinking about money sends you down many wrong paths. A little bit of self-discipline over the past year and a half and I feel much less emotional about money and confident that I can use money as a tool to do good, have fun, be creative and be myself. I think many of us hesitate to think of “having a lot of money” as a noble goal because we equate “having a lot of money” with “being a total jerk who stomped on a lot of necks and sacrificed family and friends to get where he is”. I’m not the only one right? If we have not come from wealth and our understanding of having it has always been ostentatious wealth, then it’s easy to assume a desire for wealth makes you a less noble or interesting human being. But I have come around from that understanding. Wealth does not need to be ostentatious. Nor does it need to be your only shining goal in life. You can be who you are while building wealth. And if you are driven to create and are interested in building your own business, accumulating wealth from those efforts should be one of the rewards of those efforts! To conclude, wealth is not evil. If you want to make a lot of money, be comfortable with it. If you are focused, determined and willing to work towards your goal, Think and Grow Rich can help you get there.
Back to my review: The book is divided into 13 steps towards riches AND THEY ARE IN ALL CAPS IN THE BOOK TOO with lots of punctuation marks!!! (Did Tom Wolfe read Napoleon Hill?):
- Step One: DESIRE
- Step Two: FAITH
- Step Three: AUTOSUGGESTION
- Step Four: SPECIALIZED KNOWLEDGE
- Step Five: IMAGINATION
- Step Six: ORGANIZED PLANNING
- Step Seven: DECISION
- Step Eight: PERSISTENCE
- Step Nine: POWER OF THE MASTER MIND
- Step Ten: THE MYSTERY OF SEX TRANSMUTATION
- Step Eleven: THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND
- Step Twelve: THE BRAIN
- Step Thirteen: THE SIXTH SENSE
While some of the titles are self-explanatory, many are not. I will let you enjoy the wonders of SEX TRANSMUTATION on your own. Each chapter is filled with both personal and now-historical anecdotes about Henry Ford, JP Morgan, Charles Schwab, Thomas Edison and many others. The Points to Pin Down give you an easy summary of the chapter, but you will learn more by really reading and re-reading this book. Do you have a master mind group? The power of the collective mind is incredible. I’ve been collaborating on a weekly basis with some blogging friends among other things, and it’s been effective and bringing back my creative side. Are you persistent? Do you know how to keep trying and to stay focused even when you are ready to let discouragement take over? Think and Grow Rich is one of my favorite books about money. It doesn’t have any technical education, but I guarantee it will make you richer, if you’re into that sort of thing.
A few great quotes from Think and Grow Rich
The “missing link” in all systems of education may be found in the failure of educational institutions to teach their students how to organize and use knowledge after they acquire it.
The majority of people who fail to accumulate money sufficient for their needs are generally easily influenced by the opinions of others…If you are influenced by the opinions of others, you will have no desire of your own.
Genuine wisdom is usually conspicuous through modesty and silence.
Spasmodic or occasional effort to apply the rules will be of no value to you. To get results, you must apply all of the rules until their application becomes a fixed habit with you. In no other way can you develop the neccesary “money consciousness”.
Next Time on Personal Finance Classics
It’s happening. Im reading the mother of all value investing books, The Intelligent Investor. In order to properly digest it, I think I may have to review one chapter at a time. I am also not convinced A Random Walk Down Wall Street needs to be in the Top 5. I really like the other four, and need to find a worthy final pick. What’s your favorite personal finance/money/investing book? I’d love to find the last book for this series!