008-2020 Atomic Habits

Title: Atomic Habits (Tiny changes, remarkable results)

Author: James Clear

Hi all, I’m back with another review, and I’m telling you upfront that this was a great reader that you should definitely have on your wish list.

One thing that has come to haunt us are our new years resolutions that we only uphold for a few months. Eventually you might just stop making them because you felt that you tried it a few times already and you mostly ended up not sticking with them.

Maybe, we have approached them all the wrong way…..

The book brings in a different approach that you should try, and that is to create small habits, improve on them, and then eventually their results could be the same outcome what you had wanted with that new year resolution.

The idea behind the habit is that it should not follow an outcome-based approach, but rather an identity-based approach. Meaning, you should adopt habits based on an identity you wish to live, rather than only working towards a goal. If you think about it this way, it is actually a better approach, since if you’re working towards an identity (a way to live – ie. fitness, healthy eating habits, etc.) rather than a goal (losing some weight) it tends to motivate you a little more for the long term as well, since your identity is a long-term perspective, whilst a goal can be achieved in the short(or medium)-run, whereafter you could easily default back into bad habits.

Working towards this identity, the author suggests that you should build small habits that support that identity, and then improve (or upgrade) those after you have mastered them.

The four steps to master a new habit are 1) cue, 2) craving, 3) response and 4) reward.

For each step he introduces you to what the step represents, and how you can implement a certain strategy to include a good habit into the equation, which should help you reach that identity you are striving to achieve.

A personal message from myself for switching from outcome-based approach to an identity-based approach. Really consider adopting this with your next big life decision, because making a decision to achieve a goal, will have you focus your attention to achieving that goal, which results in a commitment to a short-term or medium-term. Whereas making a decision for your identity, it is considered somewhat more significant, and lasting, and is therefore a long-term matter. And because it is long-term you would strive to live up to that much longer.

Summary:

Great read, great tips, and definitely something that I will try and implement into my daily lifestyle. Rated as 5/5 🙂

Until next time, keep well!!!

Feedback

Hey all,

Hope you are enjoying the reviews that I have posted so far.

I just thought I’d reach out and ask you guys if you think they are good, and I should keep going as they are, or if there is something not quite right that you really want me to make it more attractive /informative to you.

You could also give me some tips on books you think I could benefit from, or even ask me to review something you have had your eyes on but not come around to yet and I’ll see if I can make it happen 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you!

007-2020 It all adds up

Title: It All Adds Up (The story of People and Mathematics)

Author: Mickael Launay

I’m going to tell you from the start that this is about mathematics. If that scares you off, rather face that monster today and see mathematics how it evolved to what we know it be today.

In fact, after finishing off the book I thought that mathematics taught in school should get a face-lift, by not just teaching how something is done, but include critical thinking and have them ask why is something done that way, or why is it done. Because when you understand how it came to be, rather than only how it works, you understand the background and maybe even appreciate it more.

I actually re-read this book now for the first time, but didn’t write a post before, because I actually thought I had done one already. Just when I scrolled through my list of posted works I noticed it was absent quite by chance. So now I’m making up for past mistakes and getting back into it.

The book is written by a mathematics Phd from what I read in the book, and is about the author walking through the museum (for some of the historical mathematical context) on different occasions and then telling us the historical background and how mathematics came into the picture in that time.

Something as simple as counting the number of sheep was recorded by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia on clay tablets with a picture of the sheep and a figure to represent a quantity. Today known as tokens…… Hmmm, where have we heard that in the modern day before? Video games!

Other topics include friezes, geometry and then we start heading to the first celebrities of mathematics, Thales, Pythogoras and Archimedes. The Greeks were the first to present their works in the form of theorems, whose aim was to present an idea, give proof and then conclude. These would then be attributed as their works, and contributions to the science.

The works of authors include:

Pythagoras’ theorem 5square = 4square + 3square (z2 = x2 + y2)

Archimedes method 3,14 (pie) sequence

Bhaskara I 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (known as Arabic numbers, but originated in India)

Brahmagupta Description of zero and negative numbers

Arab mathematicians trigonometry (study of the measurement of triangles – i.e. cos, sin, tan)

Muhammad al-Khwarizmi algebra (methods that make it possible to solve mathematical equations)

Leonardo Fibonacci Fibonacci sequence (value is equal to the sum of the two values before it)

Renaissance era Invention of the operations ‘+’, ‘-‘, ‘x’ and ‘./.’

Rene Descartes a, b, c should represent known quantities in equations, whilst x, y, and z should denote unknown quantities

Isaac Newton F = G * (m1*m2 /d square)

Blaise Pascal Probability theory

And so many more…..

If you look at the list above you will note that the mathematics we have today pulls its roots from different ages, and from thinkers of different nations.

The author takes you on a different mathematical trip than you would find on a field trip, because he lists most of the people’s contributions to the science, and how the theorem had been developed, which I thought was also quite interesting, than just learning how to use the method to a given set of facts.

Now, you might not be hyped about the idea about reading about mathematics. However, this is quite a different mathematics text than others you would have encountered. And, the author writes it very well to the audience by not getting lost with jargon that our professors like to talk in when their having a good day at work with like-educated fellows.

Summary:

Quite a different text to what I usually read. Good approach from the author to follow the historic timeline and then gradually introduce the creator of the theorem, and its application in their daily lives. I rate this as a 4.5/5

Give it a try.

006-2020 Aftermath

Title: Aftermath (Seven Secrets of Wealth Preservation the coming Chaos)

Author: James Rickards

Hi there, I know I’ve been absent for a while and I’m a little behind with regards to the volume as I did last year. Last year was my best year i.t.o. the number of books I managed to read, since ever. This year I’m lagging a bit behind, but I’ll definitely try and make it up by jotting down some great reviews.

I have been browsing in the bookstore and on my liked pages for good reading material, and interestingly found some great recommendations in the books I have recently read. These I will keep you posted on once the last sentence was read over.

But, without further ado, let’s get into this book for a starter.

Just before I left my home country to work abroad I picked up a few finance books to accompany me there. Two of them I have already posted about, namely ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’, and ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’.

One thing I’d like to make clear from the start is that the book is written for a time-specific moment. Meaning, the wealth preservation tips that are given in this reader relate specifically to the time we find ourselves in right now (before the virus broke out, the print was before then). Some people are arguing that the world economy could be standing in front of another financial bubble. Stocks markets could see a downturn and we could enter a recession.

From the start I’d like to tell you that I’m not an expert in this field to make such a prediction. It may happen soon, not very soon, in the distant future. But right now, the book focuses on that it could be coming soon (and by soon I’m not stipulating a time frame), and that there are some ways which investors can utilize to hedge themselves in order to possibly reduce the impact of a possible bubble burst. Maybe I shouldn’t be using the word bubble burst, given how we react to certain words.

There are so many investment brokers out there, and as many investment products that you may choose from to make an investment for your future. Many of us may not be as financially educated to understand as much of it as we’d like to (specifically because we’re dealing with our hard-earned money), and therefore we don’t know what to invest in.

This book was written by an author, whose work suggests that you should invest in such a way that will best protect your wealth. Other authors will again suggest that the market may experience a bubble burst (here I go again), but that it will recover and that share investing is the way to go.

The one tells you you should preserve your wealth. The other tells you the market will recover, and that when it does, your investment will grow better than the strategy followed by the aforementioned investor, whose strategy will only preserve your wealth, but not grow it.

At the end of the day we’re stuck in-between wanting both.

But to get back to the book, I’ll give you some insight to this wealth-preservation book. As mentioned in the title, he presents you with seven investment tips on how to best preserve your wealth in present-day times when some expect that a bubble burst could be imminent.

The way the chapters are structured is by giving an extract of present-day events, and also past events (past meaning the 20th century). Then after the events are explained, and how the author believes we might be coming back to some of those phases, he ends the chapter with the investment tip he believes is an appropriate response we should follow should a situation as described in the chapter come to pass.

Some of the tips given are 1) reducing exposure to high-volatile stocks, and rather back companies that can weather hard times better, 2) allocating a little more of one’s portfolio to cash, than when the economy is in a growth spurt, 3) allocating your portfolio to include some resources where possible, since they have tangible value. There are a few more, but to get them it would be better to get yourself a copy and read the whole chapter dedicated to the investment tip.

Summary:

Overall, I enjoyed the way the author presented the investment tips with some valuable historic background. I also learnt a few more things, for example how the Gold Standard came around quite unintentionally, and what finally led to its removal. The book is well written, but does require the reader to understand some of the economic terminology (which can be solved with a google definition search or the old Oxford English Dictionary booklet). I therefore give the book a rating of 4.6/5

005-2020 1917

Title: 1917 Russia’s Year of Revolution

Author: Roy Bainton

I must confess, history as a subject didn’t particularly interest me very much in my school days. I thought that the thing that we should think about is the future.

Yet, as I came around to read more and more, i came to learn that one good teacher was to collect your own experience, and another is to learn from other’s mistakes and successes. Thus, my interest in history was sparked.

One important thing I do wish to point out from the start is that with history, it is something that has happened, and written down to be remembered. But the part I want to draw your attention towards is the person that is writing the story. It was generally written by the winners. And the writers were generally clergymen, scholars or other educated people of society.

What makes the story of 1917 interesting is that it is one whose story wasn’t written by the clergymen, or other upper-class men. It was the story written by the people who took the revolution to the streets of the Russian Empire.

There are multiple account of the events that took place in 1917, and most will overlap. But every one of them holds something unique to itself, and not all of them are told or heard. The general account of the important events are recorded and taught to everyone around the world. That’s very good because we all then learn a story of the events that took place. But what sometimes can make it better is when someone who lived through the events tells the story from how they lived it from their perspective.

That’s what I felt was the bonus from this book. The author didn’t just take the story as taught to us, and written it in his style. He made the story a little more personal by including people who lived/had close family ties to someone that lived in the time around the Russian Revolution.

Summary:

Enjoyed the element of writing a historical account by including testimonies from senior citizens that could confirm or deny the history that is taught of the old Russia. The book is a great historical account but history might not be everyone’s agenda at first. Especially not Russia with communism. But all history has a lesson for us. Rated 3.8/5

004-2020 South African Economy

Title: Everyone’s Guide to the South African Economy

Author: Andre Roux

One topic that I regard highly is economics. And what is better than reading how the economy of your own home country works, because you learn the theory, and real-life application thereof. You can ‘see’ and understand how that theory works in your economy because you live the daily life in that country and notice these forces playing around you.

When I browsed through the book shelves in the book store before I left my home for an assignment in a new country, I found this book, and thought it may be interesting to see how economics was applied into my home country in the past and present. And that is also what the book wishes to teach the reader, to give the reader a look into the jargon and world of the economists and others of a country.

The topics the book discussed ranged from:

  • What is economics?
  • National Accounts (used to measure a GDP and GNI of a country)
  • Economic growth and development
  • Unemployment
  • Inflation
  • Money
  • Monetary Policy and Interest rates (vs Fiscal Policy)
  • The Balance of Payments
  • Exchange rates
  • Government Spending and taxes
  • South Africa in an international context
  • Africa
  • Economic challenges in South Africa

I will admit I did have economics as a subject in high school and university for two semesters. Therefore i had been pre-disposed to the science. However, the book delved more into how economics applied to South Africa at present and its past, and therefore the book was much better in that regard.

For any reader, if you wish to get a slightly better understanding in how your country’s economy works, get a book that gives you this intro.

Rating:

The book is well written, achieves the objective it set out for the South African, and any foreign readers. Rating i give is 4.4/5

003-2020 Fake

Title: Fake (The truth of Fake-Money, Fake-Teachers and Fake-Assets)

Author: Robert Koyosaki

This was the second book that I took to read from the author Robert Kiyosaki. The first book he published, and which has sold world-wide is ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ of which I have also previously written a review.

When I stood in the book store to look at a new book to read, my thoughts were with investing and whether there was a book that could explain how we can distinguish useful and true information/news in the media from the fake news, and thus use the true news to assist with making proper and informed investment decisions. That’s where I came across this book, which I believed to have just that.

However, it may not have held the information I was looking for at the time, it did give me valuable insight in another respect, which I am glad to have obtained from this accidental selection.

In the beginning he makes it clear that he wishes to teach the reader about three big lessons: 1) Fake Money, 2) Fake Teachers and 3) Fake Assets. The book breaks those lessons into the different chapters, but reference is made to those lessons continuously, that all three should be taken together to assist in the attainment of financial wealth.

1..Fake Money – He introduces you to the three forms of money that we currently have in the world today : Gold (God’s money), Currency (Government money) and Cryptocurrency (People’s money). The lesson he holds is that the government’s money is only worth so much as much the people have faith in the government. That the government is able to print more and more money (which could have severe economic consequences). If people (or the world economy) loses faith in the government, the demand for the currency drops, and the abundant supply in circulation makes it less valuable. This is all in the hands of the government, whereas God’s Money (Gold, Silver) is in your hands, and cannot be printed in more quantities by the government if it is in a difficult situation (as with paper money for Quantitative Easing or Troubled Asset Relief Programs).

2. Fake Teachers – He criticizes that the education that is taught in schools is only to produce people to become active members of the working society. This is definitely essential, of course, for a modern economy to function. However, it doesn’t teach anyone about financial education, which is also essential in any economy, which is mostly a driving force into a better age. Also, he distinguishes between true teachers and fake teachers, those who teach what they have experienced from the real world, and those that teach the theoretical aspect without having applied it themselves in the real world.

3. Fake Assets – Here he makes a clear distinction between what is an Asset and what is a Liability to your pocket. Not just that, but also what constitutes real Assets (tangible), and fake Assets (paper investments).

I have given the briefest of explanations of what was covered in the book for the three lessons, but there are many more in the book. Therefore, I would say that should you wish to get the true benefit of the lessons that he wishes to teach his readers, buy yourself a copy of the book instead of reading my short review. It has more, and explains it much better.

Three other things I wish to share with you, which I didn’t mention above, but thought truly fascinating to share were:

  • 1971 when Nixon took the Dollar off the Gold Standard (ie. a currency’s strength is not determined by the volume of gold reserves that are held in the country), and the government money was no longer backed by tangible Gold reserves. Government money was now only debt.
  • That one should use debt (with Government Money) only to buy real Assets, which generate recurring income
  • Tax should not just be seen from the perspective of the government taking money away to fund its activities, but also from the perspective that it provides incentives to individuals that take on projects for society, which benefits the people, thereby the incentive is tax deductible

Therefore, I definitely gained much more insight in many topics, and will be on the look-out for more of his books and teachings in the future.

Summary:

Terrific reading material, well-written, easily understandable and the knowledge gives every reader something to think about. As he closed off his first book (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) he said “every decision you make with every Dollar you hold today, will influence your future life” – not those precise words, but the message is clear. Rating I afford is 4.75/5 🙂

002-2020 Moneyland

Title: Moneyland (Why thieves &crooks now rule the World & how to take it back)

Author: Oliver Bullough

Whilst I was on my December holidays in Belgium I had opted to buy a day ticket to Brugge. It was here that, whilst I walked through the small town (still decorated in an old-style fashion) during the festive season, that I enjoyed a beer, home-made waffle, and located a small book store.

At first I thought I wouldn’t find anything since most of the books were in Belgian (obviously since i was in Begium). However, in the small English section I did find this book, which turned out to be an intriguing book.

If you look at the picture of the cover, it is of a US Dollar with another piece of currency that covers the lower part of the face (as the cowboys used to do in a bank heist). Basically, the picture suited the content of the story, namely thieving.

It starts off the first chapter in the Ukraine, with one of the prior high ranking government officials who was living a rich lifestyle that he should not have been able to afford with his government earnings. Yet, when it was investigated he didn’t own it, but the properties were owned by a company, which in turn was also owned by another company in another country. All around it goes and ends up back at him, after one had dug deep enough.

The book then delves into the time after the second world war decades, where off-shore banking was introduced into the modern world. As was well illustrated in the story, before offshore was introduced, wealthy individuals could not hide their wealth as easily since they had it with them in their home countries. But with offshoring, individuals took the opportunity to store their wealth in other jurisdictions, and amass more, all safely away from their home jurisdictions. Thus, wealthy individuals took the new concept to hide their wealth and amass even more, all in secret and hidden away from their local tax man.

Nowadays, a good term to describe countries that accommodated these wealthy individuals are called ‘tax havens’.

The book also explains other means which wealthy individuals, and government officials, used to improve their lifestyles, and within the protection of some legislation = diplomatic passports.

Every chapter gives terrific material, and is very insightful. Some of the concepts were already familiar to me, but the idea of how some of these proposals were utilized to hide away wealth, and the economic consequences of these actions were very new and definitely gave me food-for-thought. As they would say, I formed new connections within the nodes of my brain on how these means were used, other than the legal means meant to promote economic growth.

Summary:

To the layman who wishes for a good book to read, this should be on your list. For any academic and individuals interested in law and finance, this would be an interesting read not to miss. For every other individual that just wishes to fill their book rack with another great read, have this in your collection (like mine 🙂 ). Terrific book, well written, very insightful and well explained. The author did a great job in researching the topics he published in this work. I gladly give the book a rating of 4.8/5 (mainly because i wish he could tell me a bit more of this dark network, and stories from within).

Don’t pass this one up.

001-2020 Odyssey

Title: The Odyssey

Author: Homer (translated by W. H. D. Rouse)

One terrific role that Sean Bean also portrayed was Odyssey in the film ‘Troy’. In fact, when I read the book I pictured him being the character in the story line.

Other than in the film ‘Troy’ I had read two other books, both from Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles, and Circe) in which Odyssey was also featured as a prominent character. This brought me to research if there was a book written of the story of Odyssey, and that is what now leads to the book review.

He is a prominent, clever and heroic mythical Greek who rules over the kingdom of Ithaca, and has one son (Telemachos) with his wife Penelopeia, and is then summoned by King Agamemnon and Menelaos to fight against the Trojans for the wrongs committed by Paris and Helena (wife of Menelaos). That is where the great 10 Year war takes place, until finally the Greeks overrun the Trojans with the ingenious idea of Odyssey to build a large wooden horse, dubbed the Trojan Horse. The book doesn’t take place in the war, but rather after the war what Odyssey encounters in his travels to get home to his kingdom.

In fact, it would be almost another decade after the war before he finally returns home. He didn’t offer proper sacrifices to the gods, and had insulted one of the mighty gods’ children (Poseidon’s son, a cyclops), which resulted in his ship being redirected on the ocean, him performing some tasks and meeting Circe, and finally losing his ship to the ocean and being stranded on a island of a goddess (daughter of Oceanos).

Eventually he does return home, but then at home some intruders await, and with the help of his son, and goddess Athena, he removes them from his home, and finally can live his life further.

What kept me stuck to the story is how the Greek gods become involved with the mortal lives, and sometimes help them, or give them an ultimatum of what will come to pass should they not take a certain decision. And also the lessons that some of the tasks bring with them.

This is my fourth Greek Mythology book, and every time I become more and more hooked to them.

Summary

The translation by the author of the Homeric text to English was well done. The link he makes to the Trojan war lines up very well. However, there are a few areas where some characters of the Trojan War story don’t line up with the story of the characters of the film ‘Troy’. Examples are King Agamemnon, Menelaos and Helena. Nevertheless, the adventure that Odyssey goes through after the Trojan War, and how he makes amends and is finally permitted to get back home is fun to follow, and, you learn a little bit of ‘history/mythology’ in the process. The rating I like to award is 4.9/5

025-2019 Range

Title: Range – Why Generalists triumph in a specialized world

Author: David Epstein

I started with the synopsis of the book, and thought that this would be something different to the world of specialized individuals.

Have you ever heard that if you want to become really good at something (novice/semi-/professional) you need to put in at least 10,000 hours of training into that sport? This is where the book comes in and says that there is not one single-way to success.

In all chapters the author practically takes one scenario of someone that specialized, and one that took a slightly different route and both ended up having successful careers. And to showcase this, he started the first chapter with two well-known figureheads: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

He tells a short version of Tiger Woods’ story, where he specialized from a young age and focused all his attention on one sport: golf. Roger Federer, on the other hand, only focused on one sport (tennis) much later in his life, and before-hand took part in a few sports. The comparison between two athletes shows the powerful message the author wishes to portray: namely, that early specialization is not the only way to succeed in everything.

In fact, the author strongly supports the notion that we shouldn’t specialize from an early age, but that we should ‘sample’ a few years and then later on decide on the most favorable alternative and focus our full attention on that. He also brings out that in many cases, human beings change much during their lifetimes and that the specialized decisions we make for our future might actually not be a good idea for all matters, because the future self for whom we’re making a decision now, might not have the interests still in future.

  • Somewhat, I understand where he is coming from
  • However, for some decisions (university degree) it is not always possible to have a ‘sampling period’ because higher education is unfortunately expensive
  • Therefore, I do agree that we change a lot during our lifetimes, and that our interests change constantly, but one good choice might be a gap year, or a year/more working before we make a commitment to study to attain more independence and learn more of ourselves

Summary:

The comparisons between ‘early specialization’ and ‘sampling’ show an interesting perspective on the commonly accepted status quo of how triumph is achieved. It also shows that we should not be afraid to make a change in our lives when we have already specialized too much in our work, because it could sometimes lead to something better.

Also, it is more fun to have a broader knowledge of many things than too much of one thing. The rating I award for this book take a 4.3/5