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Read During The Pandemic: List For A New Normal

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Forge Your Wealth is meant for education and entertainment and should not be used for financial advice.

You are either locked in during the pandemic or at least have a bit more of indoor time. You all but certainly are not going to the gym right now or going to the bars. It may be a good time to read. In this post I will put up a list of books I have read recently during the pandemic. I have brought up other books I believe are great to read to forge your wealth in a previous post. Check it out for another great list of books to read during the pandemic or anytime.

I.O.U. by John Lanchester

I.O.U. was written just after the financial crisis of 2008 for the financial crisis of 2008. It is as fun to read as it is an educational account of how the crisis happened and how to prevent it from happening again. I don’t know why, it’s not like I put it in the title, but I feel like now more than ever we should learn how to prevent and minimize future financial crises. This may actually be a book crucial to read during the pandemic.

Why I Like It

John Lanchester explains much of what caused the financial crisis including risk diverting derivatives such as credit default swaps and subprime mortgages. In summary, banks would loan out money, but instead of taking the risk themselves they would sell the debt to investors who kept trading the debt. That produced attractive investments that most investors would not know was to loan money to someone who may never pay them back. But I knew about much of that already. What I did not know was what led to the lack of government regulations on banks, surprisingly not greed alone. Read the book to find out.

John Lanchester explains that the financial crisis could easily happen again if the government deregulates banking and allow them to take on debt with little risk to themselves. I would like to believe that is not the case anymore, but with the recent rollback of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a law meant to prevent the financial crisis from occurring again, I am questioning if this will happen again. John Lanchester does explain that regulating financial institutions to prevent risky and predatory practices have been done pretty well in Canada and their people report further improvements in wealth than the Americans.

Institutional Accountability Vs. Individual Accountability

One of the most heated debates in finance is whether the economy is driven more by individuals or institutions. I lean more towards individuals. However, there is one thing I always overlook, many people are inert. That sounds insulting, but if all it takes is a little push from institutions to push entire populations to do something bad I don’t really ask the institutions why they did that nearly as much as I ask the populations why they allowed it.

John Lanchester does bring this up. However, he also brings up that society is built to work using signals controlled by others. The best metaphor to explain this is a traffic light. Is an accident at an intersection really any of the drivers’ faults when both lights are green? Driving and investing both involve risk. Institutions can minimize theses risks by holding reckless people accountable. I get that point.

And if nothing else, I would like authority institutions to step up so I would not have to be constantly badgered by people to make financially harmful moves. This book made me realize that many people, who it is worth mentioning believe our government is full of idiots, are only as smart as the government is at the moment. Hopefully, reading books like these will give you an intellectual edge over whoever your governor is.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

Pardon my language. Warning, if the language from the title of this book triggers you then You Are A Badass will be an incredibly difficult read for you.

So we have gone from a book showing us how to survive a crisis to a book on thriving. Self-help is a genre that is hit or miss for me. Sometimes self-help is not nearly as much about trying to help people as it is to whine. And sometimes the ones more about whining start out with an autobiography.

Why I Like It

This book starts similar to many self-help books, with a bit of an autobiography, but it is not whiny. I have never heard of Jen Sincero before and the start of the book told me more about her than I really cared to know. But there is a reason for this, she brings up a personal story that relates to her advice.

In a way it is kind of like a conversation. When you meet someone do you start off asking very personal questions including their history and fears? Hopefully not. You start by learning who they are, what they do, then depending on how the conversation goes you can move into more personal matters. Jen Sincero treats her book the same way, granted it is more of a monologue than a conversation (hopefully, it is weird to find people talking to a book).

Much of her book is full of great advice including making yourself new no matter how messed up you are. I am over simplifying this claim, but mostly to avoid the language. That is just the tip of the iceberg, she goes into what you need to do to bring out the best in yourself including finding your passions, blocking out fear, and to keep bringing out the best of yourself by loving yourself.

The Bad

There is one thing Jen Sincero brings up that I think is a bad idea. That is the law of attraction. The law of attraction states that believing in something strongly enough will manifest it. Unfortunately, some people take this a little too literally and I don’t like the ideal that well. You have to believe in something and put in the effort. But in all fairness, this ideal is half right. If you do not believe in something, you will not put in the effort and you will never obtain it. However, I do not take pride in being only half right.

Jen Sincero suggested using the idea of believing you can achieve to illustrate how she got her dream car versus a car she would have to settle on. She believed that she would earn the car later on. Luckily, that story worked out for her. It is an inspiring story, but one that leaves out the effort and sacrifices it took to make that wish a reality. It is never enough to wish for something. That is why I do not like the law of attraction, it only brings up point A and point B.

However, I do not know anyone personally who believes this 100%, not even 90% really. No one believes that they will wish for something and a fairy will grant your wish. Any other version of how the law of attraction alone would work is surprisingly even more ridiculous than the idea that fairies exist. Even Jen Sincero, who someone called the “law of attraction high-priestest,” does not appear to believe this 100%. If she did, she would never have mentioned that she worked harder because of the car. However, words like “if you put positive energy in the universe the universe will give you positive energy back” may need different wording for more sincere audiences to heed any part of the advice.

Despite this, I still think her book is a great book to read, especially during the pandemic.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton

The last book was written by a strong exciting woman, how about a book about a strong exciting woman (this time fictional). In case you could not tell from my previous list of recommended books, I like many vampire stories so of course I read Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter during the pandemic. So the story is about a woman who works for Animators, Inc (not the animators that work at Pixar). What they do is raise the dead, normally for emotional closure of loved ones and for solving crimes. They also assist vampires, which are generally accepted by the public and solve crimes involving things that go bump in the night. This is not the first story I have read with this idea, but it is the darkest.

You would be surprised at how this book brings out the horror. Some of the descriptions of gore in this make me a little afraid of what is going through the mind of Laurell K. Hamilton, or literally anyone who could write down that imagery. And some moments sent chills through my skin. I am into the third book in the series and do not want to give anything away, but once Anita Blake encountered an animated corpse. The book’s description of the corpse and what it was doing was frightening. I don’t know how, but the words Laurell K. Hamilton puts down just have chemistry that will make you look over your shoulder.

Why I Like It

These are scary times, but deep down we know we will come out of this. And sometimes the best therapy to legit fear is to supplement yourself with fears that probably (and hopefully) will never manifest. While I recommend reading during the pandemic to sharpen your mind, you need to read yourself into a fictitious universe, maybe now more than ever during the pandemic.

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

The third posthumous book of Michael Crichton and also one of the latest despite the fact that he wrote this book over four decades ago. This is fitting considering that this book is about the Bone Wars in the late 1800s, publishing it was kind of like digging up history. The Bone Wars is a bitter rivalry between two famous paleontologists, Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh, who dug up and identified prehistoric bones.

Although this was a historic event that increased knowledge of prehistoric creatures it was surprisingly unexciting. You would not be able to tell from Dragon Teeth though. The events in Dragon Teeth are largely exaggerated. Even with the destructive rivalry between Cope and Marsh there was rarely any violence, just schemes and sabotage. However, the story illustrates the rivalry between Cope and Marsh well if you remove the shootings. It is a good fictitious story based off history. Furthermore, it has interested me in a historic event which I did not know about before.

Why I Like It

In addition to a good story there is a good takeaway I think people need now more than ever. The story illustrates two rivals who were out to get each other. They used underhanded tactics to get at each other, not violence (or at least not frequently). Truth is they were two inspiring figures who could’ve done much more working together than they had apart. Regardless, in the end they ruined each other. Now the world only remembers them because of what little they have obtained due to their rivalry.

Just to be clear, yes I am talking about the Bone Wars between Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh. But you tell me that this story will not be repeated. Heated rivalries tend not to be productive and end up ruining both parties. No one likes to be either party of a heated rivalry when history is written.

Final Thoughts

I have read many other books during the pandemic. However, I found the messages of these books inspiring during my time away from my job. I would like to invite everyone reading this post to put at least one book you read during the pandemic into the comment section. Be safe everyone.

Author: Papa Foxtrot

Most of my life I was careful with money and learned where I should invest it. I was very lucky to have parents who taught me financial literacy when I was young. Unfortunately, I am very lucky because many people lack the financial literacy I know. The purpose of Forge Your Wealth is to teach people who are just starting out in life how to obtain their wealth or anyone who just realized they may need to learn more to handle their finances. I currently have a PhD in biochemistry, just started a job in industry (will not disclose where exactly for personal and professional reasons) and am currently married to the love of my life. I am one of the lucky few people in America who graduated with no student debts, my wife was not. Over the series of a little over 3 years we paid for our wedding with no debt and paid off her federal student loans.

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