Summer 2019 Reading List

I read more books during the summer months than at any other time of year. The warm weather allows me to get outside, find a bench in a nice park somewhere and read for hours at a time. Here is a list of books that I have read this summer. I enjoyed them all.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

What a gift Cervantes left us all some 400 years ago! This is a book that will stay with the reader long after having turned the final page. Book II in particular, is filled with nuggets of wisdom, from both Don Quixote himself and even from the simple-minded Sancho.

After some 800 pages, both characters become somewhat like extended family to the reader, who recalls their stories and positive disposition with fondness. There’s a reason this book has been translated and re-printed for four centuries.

I finished the book weeks ago, yet I still find myself thinking about it. I’ve watched multiple educational YouTube videos that analyze the book in detail. There is a whole community of people around the world who obsess over the novel. You can buy t-shirts, attend speeches and view art that has been inspired by the book in cities across the globe.

It amazes me that Cervantes, a man who spent years in prison and also as a captive slave, was able to pen such an inspired work. The noble Don and his faithful squire, Sancho, still manage to entertain, centuries after they were first introduced to the world.

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This novel follows the war-torn lives of three Sarajevo citizens during the siege of the early 1990s. I visited Bosnia and Sarajevo in 2017 which helped bring the read to life. Steven Galloway goes out of his way to describe the neighbourhoods, landmarks and market squares of Sarajevo, which I had walked through a couple of years ago. Thankfully, I explored the city well after the conflict came to an end.

The book does a good job of describing the nightmare of being a civilian trapped in a siege zone. Something as simple as accessing potable water becomes a potentially deadly task. Electricity is often unavailable. You can’t flee a city, because every exit point is guarded or mined. Everybody ages horribly. The only people who get ahead in this situation are the organized criminals. Everyone else is stuck in a deadly trap, watching their city , life and friends get shredded.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

A quick read in which Steven Pressfield argues that “Resistance” is our greatest enemy. Whether it’s self-doubt, procrastination, fear of failure or even fear of success, everything that stops us from achieving something great is due to the great force of resistance.

The book is mostly intended for those who work in creative endeavours, but its message can also be applied to entrepreneurs or even career types.

Goodbye Things, The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki

A Japanese man’s take on minimalism. What makes this book work is that the author writes with sincerity about his pretentious and insecure mindset before embracing minimalism. For example, he talks about how he liked to prominently display stacks of books in his apartment, half of which he hadn’t even read, to appear more sophisticated when guests would visit. This provides an element of humour to a mostly practical read.

If you feel overwhelmed by clutter in your life, be it in your home or even at your desk, this book may prove to be helpful.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle

John Bogle makes an overwhelming argument that low cost index funds are the best investment option for everyday people. Chapter after chapter, he explains, with statistics and historical evidence, why other popular investment avenues, such as mutual funds, very often amount to minimal gains or a loss to the main street inventor. He also hails what he calls “the magic of compound interest” while decrying the “the tyranny of compounding interest costs.”

While the book provides sound advice, it also offers up a word of caution in Chapter Nine, titled “When The Good Times No Longer Roll.” Unlike the boomers, who enjoyed investment return rates of 11.4% (!) from 1974 onwards, he forecasts that we millennials are likely to experience subdued returns, which he guesstimates to be somewhere between 6-7% in the coming decade.

The book was released in 2017. Bogle passed away at the beginning of this year. May he rest in peace.

Worry-free Money : The Guilt-free Approach to Managing Your Money and Your life by Shannon Lee Simmons

This book is written by a Canadian Certified Financial Planner who is a regular contributor for major media outlets such as the CBC and the Globe and Mail. Worry Free Money helps readers to cultivate a positive mindset with how they spend their money.

Shannon Lee Simmons’ offers up some creative systems to grade and classify your spending habits. She works with her clients to make subtle changes to their spending habits, rather than making radical changes that will be unrealistic or impossible to follow in the long term.

I will update this list at the end of summer.

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