3 Books To Help You Be More Civil, Memorable And Inspired in 2018

I’m a sloooow reader–so I’m never going to impress anyone with the total number of books I read in a year (other than myself!).  But I do try to immerse myself in as much reading as possible each year.

In the past, I’d try to read a lot of specifically financial books considering my vocation as a financial advisor and writer, and I confess I even suffered guilt about reading anything other than non-fiction until more recently.  But because of my conviction that personal finance is more personal than it is finance, I’ve worked to broaden my base of reading.

This year in particular, I learned a lot about people (and therefore money) through biographies, historical non-fiction and fiction, books on charity and spirituality, and an increasing number of well-written novels, in addition to a couple financial books. (Otherwise, I’ve found that the world of financial planning is so ever-changing that I get the most current information I need from articles, white papers (zzzzzzzz), blog posts, podcasts and conferences.)

Below you’ll see my top three favorite books that I completed in 2017 with short reviews, followed by a list of the remaining books I read this year and links to my Goodreads reviews:

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln

There’s not much more to say than, “Wow.” This book is a masterpiece, and it’s impossible not to leave it without concluding, again, that Lincoln was a mastermind.  His ability to be civil while strong, conciliatory while persuasive, articulate without condescension, and especially to be a friend to political foes whom he knew sought to undermine him–all at the unquestionable height of our country’s political division–seems so far from what is exhibited in our present.

Doris Kearns Goodwin is certainly among those precious few non-fiction writers who  craft a narrative out of lifeless facts that comes to life like a novel, without sacrificing any of its veracity.

To be clear, this book is neither new (it was published in 2006) nor short (944 pages–I “read” it on Audible), but it seems at no time more prescient–or necessary–than now.

2. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact

Chip and Dan Heath have a real gift: making the stuff of behavioral science and economics approachable, even enjoyable to read.  But this is nonetheless the most practical book I read in 2017 that I will work to apply in my personal and professional relationships in 2018 and beyond.

We know, of course, that some moments have more power than others.  Some are more memorable and meaningful while others more fleeting and forgettable.  But The Power of Moments helps us understand why and how we might create more and better moments–intentionally.

And it’s immediately applicable.  My good friend who recommended it emailed me the day she finished the book to tell me how she applied it in affirming her team at work in a meeting that afternoon, and it has armed me to make more of every occasion…and to create occasions out of the seemingly mundane.

I also “read” this book on Audible, thinking I’d only need to glean a few major points, but I plan to get a print copy to further emblazon its lessons into my consciousness.  But it’s a quick read–320 pages–and this one did come out in 2017.

1. The Rent Collector

This book by Camron Wright was recommended by my friend and colleague (and prolific author) Larry E. Swedroe, via the following outrageous claim: “It’s the best story of hope and redemption I’ve ever read.” Having focused much of my reading on hope and redemption (remember my #1 book suggestion last year?), I didn’t have my expectations set necessarily for best-ever–but they were high. And they were met, at least.

The fiction-based-on-facts book takes place mostly in the largest dump in Cambodia, Stung Meanchey, where many families (still) live and scavenge for sustenance. This was an especially compelling backdrop for me because I’ve had the privilege of spending time with mothers and children in the now-closed municipal dump in Nicaragua, La Chureca. So as Wright was describing the sights and smells of the characters’ surroundings, I could call on my own similar memories.

But I believe that the writing is sufficient to envelope any reader in the context, and the deeply developed characters of Stung Meanchey have a rich story to tell.  At the very least, it is certainly one of the best stories of hope and redemption I’ve ever read. And Cameron packs all this into a very consumable 288 pages.

Books by Star Ratings:

I rated each of the above three books as five stars (out of five) on Goodreads, but 2017 was a great year of reading for me, so it was difficult for me to create a Top 3.  Therefore, here is a list of the other 27 books I read, beginning with my highest rated on Goodreads (5 star) with links both to Amazon and my Goodreads reviews:

Five Star Rated Books:

  • A Very Personal Finance Story: Reflections on Family, Love and Money, by Chris Gardner  Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Poe Shadow: A Novel, by Matthew Pearl Amazon | Goodreads
  • What Is the Bible?: How An Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything, by Rob Bell Amazon | Goodreads
  • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, by S.C. Gwynne Amazon | Goodreads
  • When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself, by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert Amazon | Goodreads
  • InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives, by Joe Ehrmann Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Memory of Old Jack (Port William), by Wendell Berry Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence Amazon | Goodreads
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel, by John Irving Amazon | Goodreads
  • Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant Amazon | Goodreads
  • A Prayer Journal, by Flannery O’Connor AmazonGoodreads
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold, by Jon le Carre Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out, by Brennan Manning Amazon | Goodreads

Four Star Rated Books:

  • Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder Amazon | Goodreads
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life, by Richard Florida Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Business of Life: An “Inside-Out” Approach to Building a More Successful Financial Planning Practice, by Michael Kay Amazon | Goodreads
  • Nathan Coulter (Port William), by Wendell Berry Amazon | Goodreads
  • Hannah Coulter (Port William), by Wendell Berry Amazon | Goodreads
  • Unashamed, by Lecrae Moore Amazon | Goodreads
  • Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected, by Soren Gordhamer Amazon | Goodreads
  • Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Connor Amazon | Goodreads
  • From Dependence to Dignity: How to Alleviate Poverty through Church-Centered Microfinance, by Brian Fikkert and Russell Mask Amazon | Goodreads

Three Star Rated Books:

  • Dot Journaling: A Practical Guide: How to Start and Keep the Planner, To-Do List, and Diary That’ll Actually Help You Get Your Life Together, by Rachel Wilkerson Miller Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected, by Nick Ripken Amazon | Goodreads
  • The Banana Wars: A History of United States Military Intervention in Latin America from the Spanish-American War to the Invasion of Panama, by Ivan Musicant Amazon | Goodreads

Two Star Rated Books:

  • The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape, by James Rebanks Amazon | Goodreads

Happy New Year, and happy reading in 2018!