2019 Book Reviews

Last year, in 2019, I read or listened to 36 books. That’s not a number particularly worth bragging about (I think my bookworm mother probably read 4 times that many), but enough that I felt like I was learning or re-learning, or being entertained from other authors constantly.

More than occasionally I am asked for book recommendations. Of the 36, below are 5 recommended from my reading for 2019, arranged by topic. There are links included below. I’ll be adding these to the “Resources” page on the website, with other recommendations for finance, lifestyle, and life improvement books.

A. Fiction:

11 of the 36 I read were fiction. Of those, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, was my favorite. Simultaneously amusing and tragic, the two families central to the story had characters both familiar and foreign to me. Reminding me of the phrase, “If you spot it, you got it,” I found I had to suspend judgment of the character flaws in nearly each one. We are all products of our societal upbringing. Ng brings together a culture clash of two societies in a humorous but believable way.

B. Psychology of Money:

The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle, by Dori Mintzer, Ph.D. and Roberta Taylor – So often in my work, when I ask a couple, “So, what does the ideal retirement life look like for you?” I am met with blank stares. It’s been said we spend more time planning what we will have for lunch then how we will spend a 30-year period of our lives. Mintzer and Taylor have broken this question down into 10 parts, each a chapter that a couple can work through together. Even if you think you know the answer to my question, this book takes couples through more detailed but essential questions they may not have thought to ask.

C. Finance:

Reverse Mortgages, by Wade Pfau, Ph.D. Dr. Pfau upended the financial planning profession nearly 7 years ago when he published research saying, “Financial advisors are not doing their jobs if they aren’t at least considering reverse mortgages.” Initially brushed off, subsequent independent studies have confirmed his findings. Regulations have tightened and these products have evolved into a legitimate option for many different financial goals. His book outlines the details, which can be quite complex, but understandable to non-professional readers. It’s now a reference book on my shelf.

D. Life-Improvement: (also known as “self-help”)

Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan. Meng (as he prefers to be called) is a software engineer who rose to the leadership ranks within Google. His mission (for real) is world peace. Along the way on trying to reach this lofty goal, he started teaching meditation at Google. Having started learning meditation only 3 years ago, I would not have believed I could learn it from a book. Tan, though, sheds a lot of myths about it, and I now have a 3-step process that helps me get in that meditative mindset nearly every morning. Each reader will come away with something different and possibly life-changing, I suspect, from Tan’s book.

Rest, by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Recovering workaholics will get the most out of this book. Pang observes that many of history’s most admired creators and leaders worked hard but not long. They took a lot of breaks. Then he examines science proving that recharging really works. Since reading this I’ve incorporated breaks, rest, and recharge time into my calendar. I came to realize rest is essential to showing up at my best when it’s time to work. As a result so far, being more rested, paradoxically, makes me feel more energetic and productive. As long as I don’t slide into my old workaholic ways, I think 2020 will be an even better year for me personally, physically, and professionally as a result of prioritizing rest.

What books were life-changing for you in 2019? Leave us a comment here.

Holly Donaldson

Holly P. Donaldson, CFP® writes and consults on the psychology of money. Her fee-only, product-free financial planning practice focuses on increasing financial self-efficacy for those seeking a financial navigator to help them make good decisions. She is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch." With a fully virtual practice in Seminole, Florida, she primarily serves clients located in the Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater areas. Holly will also work with clients who are a good fit located elsewhere in the United States.

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