Book Reviews : Tools, Pain and why this weeks book theme is all about assistance.

This week I’m going to share two books which could both be loosely defined as ‘self help’. One of the books ‘helps’ us understand more about our money and the other is designed to help us cope with our lives.

Lets take a look at the reviews…

The tools (11)

by Phil Stitz & Barry Michaels

“The tools” is an interesting book and one I’ve got mixed opinions on.

On one hand it’s a book full of practical tips on how to cope with adversity, manage emotion and create bad habits. It’s well written and full of great stories and some of the ‘tools’ mentioned in it’s title are ways of thinking which have the potential of helping all of us living happier, more satisfying lives.

Exploring ideas like the importance of gratefulness, the benefits of challenge (or pain) and the advantages of creating a sense of urgency in our lives the book is an interesting insight into the work it’s authors, both prominent Los Angeles psychotherapists, use to help their clients.

However I’ve got some serious misgivings about some of the things in this book. You see, both Phil and Barry, seem to believe that one of the requirements for us to have supremely happy and healthy lives is to believe in “Forces higher than us”.

Interestingly the authors are clear about the concept, ‘Higher forces’ might not mean being part of an organised religion or as part of the sort of a new age belief which is so popular in parts of the West coast of America but the authors believe that faith in something greater than us helps us manage our lives.

I’m not doubting that faith in any sort of ‘higher power’ helps millions across the globe, that Phil and Barry (the authors of this book) believe in the higher forces they talk about and I’m also not doubting that this belief might have helped them and their clients with certain aspects of their lives.

However despite their obviously honourable motivations and a desire to help…

…I don’t believe in any form of ‘higher power’

You see faith might help us put certain aspects of our lives into perspective. However the reality is that whilst I concede that science hasn’t discovered all there is an unthinking belief in an unknown ‘higher power’ makes no sense to me at all.

It’s strange. I know a decent number of people who believe in something and whilst we don’t share certain beliefs they are still great people who I like and often learned from.

I’m sure that Phil and Barry (the authors of this book) are also great teachers, sharers of knowledge and nice blokes.

However to try to intertwine the concepts of ‘unlocking human potential’ with the idea that you need faith in a higher power seems to me a little disingenuous.

So, I finish reading this book with mixed emotions and mixed opinions.

There’s no doubt that it’s a book with plenty of good tips and ‘tools’ to think about our lives in different ways it’s about taking control and owning the decisions we make however as a book with too much talk (for me anyway) about higher powers not only does it lose it’s impact and credibility, in my eyes anyway.

Ouch! (12)

by Paul Knott

Ouch!, not that you’d immediately know from the title, is a book about Money….and a pretty good one too!

It’s Funny, Irreverent and full of knowledge presented, mostly, in an easy to understand way.

I get the feeling from reading ‘Ouch!’ that it’s author was on a mission. A mission to demystify the world of money and shine a light on some of the murkier areas of the world of finance. It’s a mission I wholeheartedly applaud.

There’s a lot in “Ouch!” as the author takes us through how the banking system works, how emotion impacts our financial decisions all the way to through why we should ignore most of what we hear and why spreading your money across different assets is so fundamentally important.

If I did have a minor criticism I’d suggest that in a book which talks about the human biases which impact our lives the ‘voice’ of the book contains it’s own biases. What comes across is Paul Knott is often understandably critical about the world of finance, often fairly but every now and again crossing the line to being overly cynical.

Also whilst Paul makes a valid point about the personal finance pages in our newspapers (i.e. much of it doesn’t add value and often confuses or leads to us making poor decisions) he seems to be comfortable citing the sources he agrees with or fits with his arguments…although I suppose this can’t be avoided if you’re trying to explain your particular point of view.

However these critisisms are minor. On the whole Paul’s book is well written, funny and insightful.

It’s full of massively useful tips like the the importance of focusing on the costs of investing and I must admit I was slightly envious of some of his great analogies (particularly about Cavemen!).

So, if you’re looking for a money related book which, whilst sometimes overly cynical, provides a massively useful insight into what you need to think about whilst taking control of your financial affairs “Ouch!” isn’t a bad place to start.


So there’s the book reviews for this time! Until next time…happy reading!

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