What is so rare as a day in June?
Then if ever, come perfect days;
-- James Russell Lowell
In honor of the coming of summer, we are dispensing with financial tips this month and offering up tips for your summer reading list. Legendary investor Charlie Munger said “Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.” What better time to take up a new book than at the beginning of summer. The following are a few books we have recently enjoyed:
With an already abundant library of stories about “the road not taken,” is it worth your time to read another version of this well-trod tale? If the book you’re considering is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Haig considers the old idea of how one’s life would have changed by pursuing different decisions. How would your life have changed if you had stuck with the swim team as a teenager instead of quitting in frustration? But more interestingly, Haig explores the impact our own decisions have on the lives of others: how were our friends affected by this decision? The Midnight Library is a thoroughly enjoyable read that makes us think about what it means to live a fulfilling life.
At the start of the 20th century, our planet held only a few desolate places that hadn’t yet been explored. The Last Viking by Stephen R. Brown tells the story of Roald Amundsen, who after centuries of failed attempts would conquer most of the remaining outposts -- the Northwest Passage, South Pole, and possibly North Pole -- within 25 years. Much of this final chapter in the Age of Exploration is still marred by bitter feelings. The British, having lost hundreds of men to Arctic explorations revile Amundsen as a cheat, while Amundsen, lacking the Crown’s financial backing, had to employ dubious tactics to underwrite his expeditions. Part Jon Krakauer adventure and part Laura Hillenbrand nonfiction, The Last Viking describes the many complexities surrounding the ethics and personalities of the last explorers to travel by sail and sled, as opposed to rocket.
A Gentleman in Moscow starts out after the Bolshevik revolution in 1922 when a Russian nobleman is sentenced to house arrest in a grand Moscow hotel. Novelist Amor Towles takes his readers through three decades of Russian history through the eyes of the Count and the many figures who come in and out of his life. The changing fortunes of a volatile country and its people are reflected inside the walls of the hotel in a very intimate look at history from a protagonist who serves as the catalyst for the whimsical and unexpected.
If you’ve every wondered what it’s like to be an immigrant to America today, The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe lets you dive right into those turbulent waters. She focuses on teenagers, newly arrived in the United States and speaking no English. If it’s difficult being dropped into a Denver public high school knowing no one, it’s exponentially more difficult if no one speaks your language or understands your background. The heroes of this book are the kids who persevere and their teachers who devote enormous amounts of energy – both intellectual and emotional – to help these students fit into their new home. On the way, the author meets the families of various students and shares their struggles to make a life in a place completely different from any they’ve experienced. On the path they meet many obstacles, but also many welcoming arms and helping hands that keep the American dream alive for the newest newcomers.
One of our clients recommended Born a Crime to me. She specifically urged me to get the audiobook and after listening to this powerful autobiography, I’m in complete agreement. Author and comedian Trevor Noah speaks seven other language besides English, including Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaans so having him read the book to you is almost mandatory unless you’re a South African polyglot yourself. Plus, he uses his internationally famous comic talent to imitate all the characters he describes. The result is an odyssey that would make Homer proud. He has a talent like wily Odysseus for wriggling out of the tightest scrapes without a scratch, though South Africa was a pretty dark place for a child of an interracial couple whose relationship was illegal under apartheid law. We listened to this book on a car trip last summer and it kept all of us enthralled, including two teenagers who completely forgot their phones as Noah unfolded his story.