Power of Half: one family’s decision to stop taking and start giving back

I am starting to give more money to charity.  Sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin.  Help locally?  Help in developing countries?  Help animals, people, or the environment?  And how should I involve my kids so they know how fortunate they are?

Well, this book definitely got me thinking.  It’s about a family whose 14-year-old daughter wants to do more for others.   Her parents are motivated by her good intentions and decide to sell their 6,500 square foot house and downsize to something half as big and half the price.  They plan to give the other half of the proceeds to charity.  This is the true story of this process.  It’s interesting to hear how they chose who to give the money to, and how this act changes their family dynamics for the better.   A short and uplifting book. (submitted by KA)

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Too Big To Fail: the inside story of how Wall Street and Washington fought to save the financial system from crisis — and themselves

What a soap opera!  Andrew Ross Sorkin uses his behind-the-scenes access to lay out the details of the recent financial crisis, from the failure of Lehman Brothers to the near failure of other key financial players.  This is riveting and page-turning stuff – you can also get updates on this ever-changing drama on his blog, dealbook, for the continuing story.  It’s a big book, and I couldn’t put it down.  If you want a moment-to-moment breakdown of the events and decisions made by the big boys in 2008-2009, you’ll enjoy this one.  I certainly did.  Update: HBO is making it into a movie. (submitted by Jen)

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Just Listen: discover the secret to getting through to absolutely anyone

I bought this book.  I have given it as a high-school graduation gift.  I cannot recommend more highly.  Mark Goulston dissects his natural gifts to share with the rest of us.  Simple and powerful techniques for better and effective communication, especially with difficult people, or with people who are having a difficult time.  Very practical and enjoyable to read.

Some of the things I liked:

  • Stop trying to be interesting, be interested instead
  • Let a person in crisis exhale: they vent, be quiet, they stop, say “tell me more”, don’t engage or debate or offer solutions, just listen and let them exhale
  • Make everyone feel valuable
  • Share your own vulnerabilities (bare your neck)
  • Steer clear of toxic people: the needy, bullies, takers, narcissists, and psychopaths
  • Ask: What is impossible but desirable?  Then ask: What would make that possible?
  • Ask: “Do you really believe that?” when they make a hyperbolic statement
  • The power of “Hmmmm….” (and “Really” and “And so…” and “Tell me more” and “Then what happened?”) to de-escalate
  • Cause people to look up (with their eyes) and reflect on your question – you’ll make a better connection with them than if your question is transactional (yes/no) (submitted by Jen)

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Medium Raw

It starts out with a wonderful story about the most illegal meal he’s ever had. 

 A very angry cook wrote the iconoclastic Kitchen Confidential about the underbelly of the New York restaurant scene in the 1980s and 1990s, published in 2000.  It made Anthony Bourdain  a star.  I loved that book.  This is the follow-up.  He’s older and wiser and less angry, or at least he’s more self-aware and philosophical about it.  He writes the way he talks – which will be familiar if you’ve watched his TV show, No Reservations.  This book is about how Kitchen Confidential utterly changed his life, opening up the world to him.  He tells great stories, in a wry and humourous tone, and I was only sorry that the book ended – I would’ve been happy to keep reading.

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Debt-Free Forever: take control of your money and your life

 
I love her TV show on Slice – Til Debt Do Us  Part – and her other books have been great too.  Here is a practical book on getting out of debt that is fun to read – it feels like she’s speaking to you from the pages, in the same tone as her show.  Things that I learned:  
*
Cancelling a credit card isn’t always enough – you need to check your credit score to be totally sure.  Ask for written confirmation from the bank that the account has been closed.
*Written requests for your credit score cost nothing.  It is free once per year.
* You can save a lot of money on your mortgage by switching from a monthly payment to an accelerated weekly payment.
*I was not convinced by her arguments in favour of life insurance – I think that life insurance is only for people with dependents – and I don’t have any of those.  But I’ll be looking into critical illness insurance.
*I need a will.  I know it.  And I should probably have a lawyer do it. 
 
You can probably find things in this book that you didn’t know about money, budgeting, insurance, and getting yourself out of debt.  Very useful.