Thriftygal’s Book Reviews – January 2017

By | January 10, 2017

More book reviews! I read a lot self-help manuals recently. Overdosed on them, you might even say. I think I would have appreciated the avalanche of good advice more if it had been dispensed as a light shower instead. A light shower on a sunny day so the rain feels like a treat.

I snuck in some non-self-help books too, of course.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Written as a long letter to his son, the author speaks about the black experience in America. He writes about poverty and violence and the mental energy expended on the rules of the street. He weaves in the visceral breaking down of black bodies throughout the book as an explanation for all the anger and fear he feels. Haunting.

Razor Girl, A Novel by Carl Hiaasen

Billed as a mystery, but not really one. I think the characters are supposed to be quirky and unique, but I just found them irritating. I’m probably being too harsh. I didn’t like it. Fast read though.

Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell

I read forty pages before I gave up on this book. And I don’t really give up on books. It’s a point of pride. But this one just was too painful. The prose was impossible to read, overly complicated and filled with gibberish. I dreaded picking it up and then I realized nobody was making me, so I stopped and threw it back at the library.

On the bright side, I Googled “cloud atlas sucked” and came across this delightful review. Apparently, they made it into a movie starring Tom Hanks that also sucked.

The Tightwad Gazette II: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacyczyn

The original thrifty blog in newsletter form from the 90’s. The author, married with six kids, dispenses lovely saving gems. I think we’d be friends if we knew each other in real life. Fast read, but I skipped over the recipes, the kids’ stuff and some of the more dated advice (example: something something something your VCR).

My favorite tip that I successfully used: after you eat all your store-bought pickles, cut up a cucumber and put it in the brine for a couple of weeks. Homemade pickles!

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

Shonda is a writer and producer for some television shows I’ve never seen. Specifically, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal. She’s a veritable powerhouse of success and she’s still a wee bit insecure. It makes me love her. Shonda is a workaholic, but finds that she’s kind of miserable. So she embarks on a year-long quest to say yes to scary things. Spoiler: her life gets better.

Great read. She’s funny and smart and has her shit figured out. No wonder her shows make up all of Thursday nights.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr

Easy read that confirmed what I long suspected. Surfing the net can easily be a vapid waste of time. This is why I stopped reading the news and why I haven’t sacrificed myself to the goddess of lava out of despair. Worth the read just for that. Plus, it’s got some fascinating bits on the history of books. Maybe fascinating isn’t the right word.

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

I’ve already told you how much I love this book. Find something you like doing and keep doing it, even when you fail. Remind yourself as often as you need to that you’re going to get better and that what you’re doing matters.

Success follows.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

All of these self-help books cover a lot of the same stuff. This one emphasizes attitude. The author urges you to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. He postulates that interest is a critical factor in success, agreeing that it’s not about being smart, but using what smarts you have. Adjust your attitude from “can I do it better” to “how can I do it better?” Kind of sounds a bit like grit. He even goes so far as to use the bricklayer example that Grit also uses.

First bricklayer: I’m stacking some bricks. It’s kind of boring.
Second bricklayer: I’m building a church. It’s a living.
Third bricklayer: I’m creating a temple for the Universe. It’s going to be awesome.


The only reason I wouldn’t recommend this book is because it’s a bit antiquated. He talks about employers interviewing the wives of their potential employees, explaining to them that the hours will be long for their husbands. What? Also, this stupid gem “Perhaps the most unpleasant task to most women is washing dishes.” I love washing dishes.

The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli

Short chapters (which makes it a great book to read “on the go”) that discuss various logical fallacies. I mentioned how he told me to stop listening to the news and how I’m sane because I took that advice. The book contains a ton of good bits, but the most obvious money one is the hedonistic adaptation thing. His happiness reminder notes:

1) Avoid negative things that you cannot grow accustomed to, such as commuting, noise or chronic stress.
2) Expect only short term happiness from material things, such as cars, houses, lottery winning, bonuses, and prizes.
3) Aim for as much free time and autonomy as possible since long-lasting positive effects generally come from what you actively do.

And this advice: “Follow your passions even if you must forfeit a portion of your income for them. Invest in friendships.”

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson 

Well written, funny and packed with really good advice. You have to pick and choose your battles. Success is about figuring out what battles you want to fight because there will be battles in everything. It’s easy to imagine the rewards and get excited. It’s harder to imagine the struggles and still want to power through. That’s what you should focus on. What struggles are you willing to struggle through? Pick that life path.

I added his blog to my feedly and I can already tell I’m going to hate him. In a wonderful way. He’s someone to aspire to. He even does book reviews much better, including, coincidentally, “Between the World and Me”. Someone to aspire to, indeed.

I’m not ready for a lot of his wisdoms, especially regarding relationships. This line haunts me: “Depth is where the gold is buried.”

I want to devote an article to this book. When I’m ready.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

Stoicism is a life philosophy/religion developed in the time of Zeus. I mentioned it here already, but there is a ton of really great ideas and thoughts in this thing. Except in the beginning when he talks about the history of stoicism. I got a little bored there.

I’m pretty sure Mark (the author of the previous book) read this book because he sums up their philosophy in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: “Stoics of ancient Greece and Rome implored people to keep death in mind at all times, in order to appreciate life more and remain humble in the face of its adversities.”

This is another book that deserves at least one article of its own.

13 thoughts on “Thriftygal’s Book Reviews – January 2017

  1. Will

    Great post! Love your humorous take on these books. Also cool to know what didn’t make the grade.

  2. tt

    “I read a lot self-help manuals recently.”

    “I’m not ready for a lot of his wisdoms, especially regarding relationships. This line haunts me: “Depth is where the gold is buried.”


    Depth avoiding, thrifty, financially independent, smart, funny, attractive (stunning to the right eyes) woman who loves adventure and washing dishes.

    Self help? Most of the cited tomes address challenges you have conquered.

    ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss.’ Or relationships. (but you know this.) Great for creativity, but…

    Time for a little immersion with like minded folks? Sparks and ‘gold’ occur & are found with time.

    An interesting book that demonstrates how a place fixed in space can be quite different over time and support a vibrant life:

    The shadow of the wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

    an unusual story; a little romance, a lot of Barcelona…

    ‘Power of…’ continues to be a great read.

  3. Kraken Fireball

    Bummed to hear that Cloud Atlas didn’t make the cut, I’ve wanted to read it ever since the movie came out. I love the pickle advice though. Half of these I wanted to read before I saw your reviews, the other half I now want to read because of your review. Thanks for that.
    How do you deal with picking which books to read next? I have this problem where I find new books at a rate much faster than I can read them.

    1. Thriftygal Post author

      I have a loooong list of books I want to read and when I go to the library, I just see which ones I can find. It’s not very scientific. 🙂

  4. Rudi Schmidt

    Manson and Irvine books–YES!!!! … them both, share your views…..BUT, the value is in the disciplined and committed acceptance and practice of the ‘right stuff’ they describe; otherwise, just junk reading. You are young–more able to accept and implement: hope you will. Love you.

  5. Alex

    I’d suggest the latest Michael Lewis book, its called the Undoing Project. Great history of the behavioral economics field – lots of interesting nuggets on how we make decisions.

    Unrelated – thanks for the Diverbo idea you mentioned elsewhere on your blog. I did the program and had an excellent adventure in Espana.

  6. Desmond

    awesome book reviews! I wanna read these books too! I just finished ‘Your money or Your life’! 🙂

  7. Cleona Lira

    Mark Manson’s blog is very interesting. Thank you for sharing…

  8. mary w

    I usually like Carl Hiaasen books, but I completely agree with you about Razor Girl. Annoying characters and storyline.


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