6 top books for booklovers: What books made an impact on you in 2022?
Every March this blog publishes a few selections from the prior year’s reading. For 2022, below are 6 favorites from finance, fiction, and self-help.
(For past recommended books, check the Resources page or enter “books” in the blog search.)
Psychology of Money
The top book recommendation this year is The Secret Meaning of Money: How To Prevent Financial Problems from Destroying Our Most Intimate Relationships, by Cloé Madanes. Ms. Madanes is a family therapist, not a financial adviser. But she gets to the heart of what ails so many couples and families – money behaviors and beliefs. Although published in 1994, there’s nothing outdated about her observations and advice. She covers common money mistakes in the lifecycle of a couple, from younger years, through children, divorce, second marriages and stepchildren, long-time marriages, and end of life.
Understanding the impact of one’s upbringing on behaviors and beliefs goes a long way toward beginning to break patterns that no longer serve us. Poverty, eviction, and even great wealth all have childhood impacts that can be seen in adult relationships. The book concludes with chapters on using money in positive ways, and a list of common irrational behaviors rooted in money and power family dynamics.
On the fun side, here were my 2 picks for fiction, out of about 20 total.
First is The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin. In one word, it’s sweet. AJ Fikry is a recently-widowed, lonely, angry, snobbish owner of a bookstore on Block Island, Rhode Island. He gets entangled in a community problem. There are financial issues at stake. A new young book wholesaler from Boston enters and things get more complicated. Of course it’s heartwarming to read about love emerging between two people, but even moreso to read about a bigger sort of love emerging within a community that found itself divided.
I also appreciated that finances, so often left out of both fiction and non-fiction, were a front-and-center concern. How will AJ manage to keep the mortgage payments going when no one is coming to his store? How could his love interest possibly afford to leave her job in Boston and move to Block Island? Zevin tied everything up at the end with a slight twist that left me smiling.
The second novel, Bring Me Back, by B.A. Paris, is a psychological thriller. It kept me guessing the. whole. time. The constant twists and turns reminded me of an old movie, “Death Trap,” with Christopher Reeve. You’re never sure who’s the good guy, who’s the bad guy, or perhaps they’re both playing bad-guy cat and mouse with each other? What do you mean they’re not dead after all? The appearance of creepy emails felt like a new tool for psychological suspense. This one had a resolution that was both surprising and satisfying.
Life Improvement: (also known as “self-help”)
Two psychology books made the list this year: The Illustrated Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living, by Russ Harris and Bev Aisbett and The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk.
The Happiness Trap Illustrated is a short collection of cartoons illustrating feelings and stories that we make up as part of modern life.
The cartoons begin by depicting common myths about happiness, such as
- “Happiness is the natural state for human beings.”
- “If you’re not happy, you’re defective.”
- “You should be able to control what you think and feel.”
Importantly, the cartoons allow a quick grasp of sometimes heavy emotions. Because they are cartoons and not stock photos, they are relatable by just about anyone. Part of the balm in the book is the message that lots of people in today’s world are challenged by similar issues. Exercises throughout the book help to focus on one issue at a time and practice working through it. This is a good book to just open up to any page anytime and get a little worthwhile advice, delivered in a lighthearted way through cartoons.
The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk, is focused on trauma. Van der Kolk’s work stemmed from the idea that our bodies store traumatic experiences physically in our tissues. Without proper attention and treatment, the trauma eventually shows up as a medical crisis. Indeed, van der Kolk’s research worked with war veterans and domestic violence survivors. Some of the cases are hard to read.
Trauma doesn’t apply only to physically violent encounters. Therefore, someone who has experienced verbal abuse, neglect, betrayal, or abandonment may also have stored trauma. Van der Kolk walks through ways to treat even long-ago experienced traumas with common therapeutic methods that deliver long-lasting relief. A big takeaway is that trauma survivors often downplay physical symptoms. So paying more attention to pain and discomfort now might save someone from a more serious medical event down the road.