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.

The Cubs Way by Tom Verducci

When I read this book, the Cubs were firmly ensconced in a playoff position and Joe Maddon was still their manager. Things change fast in the world of pro sports…

This book documents everything that went into ending the Chicago Cubs 108 year championship drought. While this is a baseball book, it will be of interest to any fan of professional sports.

Author Tom Verducci spends much of the book detailing how Theo Epstein and Maddon approach their respective roles. Those two men in particular, provide a great deal of insight on how to be effective leaders. They were very candid about how they went about creating a championship calibre organization.

I suspect that many managerial types in professional sports across America have pored over this book and taken notes.

Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It by Jeff O’Connell

A thin and healthy man faces his prediabetic diagnosis head on. Rather than accepting the standard treatment of disruptive drugs offered up by doctors, the author looked to find solutions by altering his diet.

With a low carb, low sugar, high protein diet, O’Connell was able to stop the onset of diabetes in its tracks, despite its prominence in his family history.

I found many of the diet tips offered in this book to be very beneficial. A few tweaks to my diet resulted in a loss of winter weight I had been negligent in working off.

This book also provides additional motivation for pursuing a healthier diet by laying out exactly what happens to those who suffer from type 2 diabetes. Blindness, amputations and massive heart attacks are what awaits many of us if we don’t fix our diets while we can.

 

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton

A broad overview on the mindset of mankind. The author explores what he believes to be the causes of “Status Anxiety” and the variety of philosophical solutions that have emerged over millennia, which humans have attempted to use to cope with the anxiety they feel.

Over the past century, the idea of meritocracy has been widely accepted across the Western world. While the opportunities life affords us are beyond anything our ancestors could ever imagine, we now struggle with a new form of anxiety that emerges when we feel that we haven’t been successful enough, especially when we compare ourselves to our peers and neighbours.

Art, Politics, Misanthropy, Stoicism, Christianity and even Bohemia have all attempted to wrestle with this form of anxiety, which shows no signs of slowing down in our consumer-driven world.

 

The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis

A collection of essays and speeches, grounded in Christian thought, that C.S. Lewis prepared during and shortly after World War Two. There are nine addresses in total. The ones I liked most where “On Forgiveness” and “Learning in War-Time.”  The book is a short read. You can either power through it all in a few hours or read one essay at a time at the end of your day.

This is the second Lewis book I have read. The first was his celebrated Mere Christianity, which I first read about five years ago. His essays, including The Weight of Glory, are available in audio format on YouTube.

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