If you want to read what I would call a great and imaginative mystery; try Deacon King Kong by James McBride. The author succeeds with deep social commentary, rich imagery, all weaved into a provocative story. The book is set in a late 1960s Brooklyn project where Black people have migrated north to escape the racism of the south only to discover a new version of it. The main character known as Sports Coat struggles against overwhelming odds due to family neglect almost from birth, racist abuse, poverty, and finally alcoholism. Tragedy strikes early in the book, but Sports Coat despite his flaws is a deeply spiritual man who struggles to the end to make his life meaningful. Friendship and fellowship are major elements of this satisfying book where all of the characters struggle in their lives, but possess inner strength and character. The world can be a tough place and Deacon King Kong does not hide this reality, but author James McBride does a masterful job of portraying the human spirit shining through the darkness.
“BloodLands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin” by Timothy Snyder is a story of the death and destruction wrought by two twisted criminals. Both Hitler and Stalin dealt in lies and conspiracies designed to heighten their power and bend reality to their liking. Unlike our current situation in the USA (so far) the criminals took complete control, and the result is history. Millions murdered and life cheapened for everyone was the price of allowing the truth to become flexible. Timothy Snyder tells a compelling story using historical documents, statistics, and first-hand accounts to drive home the creation of hell on earth by the two dictators. If we survive as a republic our education system will have to strengthen courses on civics, and effective history that relates the reality of humanity’s story. BloodLands is a book worth your time if you want to understand human darkness and the price of lies.
Overground Railroad by Candacy Taylor is a book well worth your time if you have interest in modern American history or Black history. The book tells the story of the Green Book guide which told African-Americans traveling from the 1930s to the 1960s where they could go with some level of safety. Targeting and degrading Black people was a legal and prominent feature of American society before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The knowledge provided by the Green Book allowed Black travelers to maintain some dignity while protecting themselves and their families. The stories of Black entrepreneurs who started hotels, restaurants, and other businesses to serve their people are inspiring and tie directly into the Civil Rights movement and future progress. A lot of people helped to create the progress in civil rights and dignified treatment for all people that we strive for. Obviously there is a lot more to be done before we approach even reasonable equality of opportunity. Targeted aggression and degrading of Black people continues, but Ms. Taylor is a fighter who shares her plans and suggestions for achieving a better day in the book. The author brilliantly connects current events to history before concluding the book with a listing of historical Green Book sites.
The book Stress Test (Reflections on Financial Crisis) by Timothy F. Geithner (former Secretary of Treasury) is a great source of information about the global financial system. I can say that I learned a lot by listening to the audiobook version. Mr. Geithner refers several times to the movie “Its a Wonderful Life” when people rush to pull money out of the Bailey savings and loan. That movie moment has always resonated to me as a way to understand the financial system. The system is based on trust and as Geithner says; “when trust disappears no one is safe” and that means especially the little guy. I have heard many people say that the bankers got away with murder, and the bailouts were unfair because only poor and working people were hurt. Geithner makes it clear that what he calls “Old Testament solutions” of punishment cause panic in financial systems(with lots more pain for the little guy). I would recommend anyone wanting to learn more about the financial system, the crisis of 2007-08 to read this book and “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis.
The book Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg talks about being aware of our 1. cues (things that trigger behaviors), 2. routines (common behavior patterns we don’t think much about), and 3. rewards (the feeling, event, or praise we receive that reinforces the behavior). All of us fall into loops of behavior and activities that lead us to what we want in life, or further away from it. Duhigg talks about how powerful habits are in our lives and that we should try to control them. I agree with his conclusion. Lets make our journey through life one that is more of what we want by weighing our habits and whether they add or subtract from what we want to be.
There is a lot of growth in the podcast business and I want to share three essential programs that promote living well and enjoying liberty: 1. The Jocko Podcast is a great listen that reviews books and stories of military veterans and relates them to leadership and living well. Sound difficult? Host Jocko Willink with producer Echo Charles weave career, fitness, and lifestyle with military history and strategy for an entertaining, insightful, and funny show. To quote Jocko – “Discipline = Freedom”. 2. Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell is entertaining while teaching you a truth you did not know existed, but should. This is an excellent podcast. 3. The Dave Ramsey Show is great while being straight to the point about money and life – get out of debt, stay out of debt, and enjoy financial freedom. The stories are all different, but the road to better living is the same; get discipline, and lose debt.
I just finished Dave Ramsey’s book “The Total Money Makeover”. This is a great short read for anyone who wants to improve their financial circumstance and/or lifestyle. Dave has clear steps and practices that anyone can understand and put into practice; the only thing you need to add is determination and you will change your life. This book has a lot to offer, but I know how easy it is to substitute or create a hybrid of Dave’s formula. The book spells out that you can; have a disciplined budget, a clear focus (the debt snowball), and a goal to live like no one else so that you can live and give like no one else (retire debt free with a million plus in assets).
If you want more from your life, and want to listen to an ongoing conversation on ideas for doing it – listen to the Jocko Podcast featuring Jocko Willink, and Echo Charles. The podcast is predominantly about living and being your best through the lens of business consultant, former US Navy SEAL, and Jiu-Jitsu master Jocko Willink. A quote from the show that I feel sums a lot of the shows humor and good advice is – “When in doubt; get after it”.