The Millionaire Next Door: The surprising Secrets of America’s wealthy

Like most people in America, I am curious about the well off.  In this book, The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy, the authors have done market study on millionaires.  The results are surprising.  Many of these people are self-made, and super frugal.  They would not be easy to pick out of a crowd with their american made vehicles,  their ordinary houses, and off the rack suits.

The book is very informative and gives great advice about what to do to become wealthy.  The first point: high income: is obvious, but the second: frugal living is not as expected.  The author points out that you can’t always tell these millionaires from their middle class surroundings and lifestyles.

Some parts of this book are a little dry, but the data itself is interesting.


The language of flowers

In The Language of Flowers: A Novel, a girl who ages out of the foster care system, finds her family after many years. This is very sweetly written, and actually is surprisingly positive for all the challenges that this group of people face.  There is a certain feeling of destiny as the main character falls back into the family she bonded with most strongly.  Yet, she is still unable to make a family.

What I found the most surprising was the idea that being a part of a family takes skills, and if these skills are not taught, the next generation won’t have any idea how to make a family.

I love the layering of meaning that the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, creates with the flower meanings.  She is very kind to her characters, giving them space to find their way, but not making them perfect, just true.

This Life is in your hands

I have an interest in the farming movement, the hippie return to the land movement. I saw this autobiography, This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.) at Mother Earth magazine. Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue, were some of the pioneers in this movement.  They moved to a small piece of land in Maine and built their farm from nothing. Yet, this is Ms. Coleman’s autobiography of this time, told first from her perspective and then adding to her memories with talking to others.  She was frustrated with her father’s drive to make the farm succeed, at, what she believes, the expense of his family.  It is interesting to read how even though she loves her parents, and she tries to understand them, she does hold them in a bit of judgement for her unconventional childhood.  It seems a reoccurring theme with the books I read lately, of the parent’s selfish dream overtaking the child’s need for a childhood.

This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.)

Little free library

My neighbor just opened a little free library.  Now, if you don’t know about this movement check out their website at Little Free Library.  Essentially you buy or build a small box about the size of a bread box. Then it’s like the “leave a penny, take a penny”,  but with books!  In other words, if you see a book you like take it, return it if you like when you are done or put different one in.

Our neighbor had a little party with cookies and lemonade for the grand opening.  Many neighbors came down to bring books and take books home.  I traded Swiss Family Robinson and Eastern Mushrooms for Girl with a Pearl Earring and Trout Country.  Steve also donated a copy of his book: How I met Van and Numan Future, Present and Past: Or my first impression of the future by So Cal Punk. It was a great evening of visiting with neighbors who are obviously readers!


the Memory Palace

The Memory Palace is a difficult and strange book to read.  The book is a memoir of Mira Bartok’s relationship with her mentally ill mother.  It begins at the end of her mother’s life and then goes through the author’s life with her mother in a semi-chronological way.  She uses short passages from her mother’s diary to illustrate her mother’s madness and also, how she cared about her children in her own cloudy way.  It is not an easy book to read especially for anyone who is or has a mother.  In order to have any sort of normal life, both the author and her sister have to hide from their mother because her mother physically threatens them.  Even though the author is in engulfed in sadness about her mother, the book conveys she still feels her mother’s love.  She still responds to that, in some ways, in spite of herself.  There is a poignant death scene at the end, a feeling that the author and her sister were able to have some kind of closure with the situation.

how to fix copyright

How to Fix Copyright is one of the most important books concerning cultural growth in the Western world. Mr. Patry explains how copyright laws are insisting on stifling creativity at a time when the internet is making it explode.  His argument is that copyright laws are too broad.  The laws are not allowing cultural building. The copyright laws have too long of term with two outcomes. Some works are over protected and due to this not allowed to be part of the canon to be built on by newer artists. Others become obscure because the owners can’t be found to release the works even as the internet allows small disperse audiences to grow. Either way the cultural loss is apparent. Copyright does not serve and promote the artist’s interests as much as protecting corporate interests.

The book is very well written, although I would say if you aren’t particularly interested in this issue you may find it a little long.
How to Fix Copyright, William Patry, 2011, Oxford University

out of poverty

Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail (BK Currents (Paperback)) by Paul Polake is an interesting take on poverty.  Instead of looking to give out hand outs, or to work top down, he went to poor people and asked them what they needed.   They, of course, said, “more money.”  But this is where it gets interesting: instead of offering them money, he thought about how they could make more money themselves.  The answer in this case, since he was talking to subsistence farmers, was low-cost irrigation so they could produce higher value crops.  Then he went about developing affordable irrigation systems, and created affordable lending so the farmers could get the systems.  With a group of people, he started International Development Enterprises.

The book stands on an interesting concept – listening and learning what people in poverty need – rather that assuming we know best because we happen not to be impoverished.  He also talks about the idea of using the market as a tool to bring things to people in poverty that they need, instead of using donations which can be corrupted or misused.  It’s interesting as a business model, because what business person wouldn’t like to open a new market of millions of people?  Also, I believe that most business people would like to make a difference, as well as, make money.  I have both motivations.  Often, but not always, in my life these have been separate endeavors, but when they come together as one, it is the best.

The book itself is well written, and simple.  Although it gives specific successes, the author sustains his central thesis through the whole book, and spells it out clearly.

Out of Poverty: What works when Traditional Approaches Fail, Paul Polak, Non-fiction, September, 2009