The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Bringing Back the Book Club Edition

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After chatting with a few readers lately, I’ve been thinking about trying the “book club” concept again, where a single book is discussed in detail over a series of posts.

I’ve done this three times in the past:

The first time, with Your Money or Your Life, went really well, with tons of good discussion. You can browse through those entries here.

The second time, with Born to Buy, went pretty well, though it seemed to engage parents much more than other elements of the audience. You can browse through those entries here.

The final time, with The Intelligent Investor, didn’t go well at all. I think the key problem was that the material was too dry and the topic was perhaps a bit too far away from what most Simple Dollar readers are interested in, at least with that much coverage. You can browse through these entries here.

One big thing I learned is that doing it weekly was too slow. If I bring it back, it’ll last about a month to a month and a half, with three entries a week. Another thing I learned is that the book really needs to be in sync with what you all are interested in, because if you’re not interested, the discussion isn’t interesting. You seemed to get into the first two (especially the first one), but didn’t like the last one at all.

So, are you interested? I’m considering these eight books as possibilities (click through to read my earlier shorter reviews of them): Getting Things Done, The Total Money Makeover, Never Eat Alone, Debt Is Slavery, Scratch Beginnings, The 4 Hour Workweek, You’re So Money, and Green With Envy. I think each of these books have enough information and enough material in them to discuss to really get some good discussion going as well as teach us all something along the way.

If you’re interested in doing this again with one of these books (or another one), leave a comment. If you really are opposed to one book or another (or to the whole concept), leave a comment. I’ll try it again if there’s a clear consensus towards a particular book (or two) – otherwise, I’ll let this sleeping dog lie.

40 Places Where Freelancers Can Learn More About Business I tend to think that these are resources that anyone can use to sharpen their business skills, particularly if they’re self-employed or starting a small business. (@ freelance switch)

Stocks Are for Losers? A more appropriate statement would be that individual stocks are for losers. Although the stock market grows over time, that growth is pushed almost entirely by the top 25% of stocks – the ones that really hit it big and drive industries. The other 75%? A net loss. Interesting – and a great reason for wide diversification. (@ five cent nickel)

5 Ways to Dramatically Improve Your Finances – Beginning NOW These are probably the best five principles around if you’re just getting started turning your finances around. Great article with tons of links to more information. (@ simple mom)

Failed Frugality: Five Clues You’ve Gone Too Far In a nutshell, if your frugality is interfering with your interpersonal relationships and driving people away, you might want to rethink things. (@ wise bread)

Is Converting a Traditional IRA to a Roth a Brilliant or Stupid Idea Right Now? I actually get this question fairly often – and I agree with the conclusion. It entirely depends on the assumptions you make and your own situation – there is no blanket right answer, just like the 401(k) versus Roth IRA debate. (@ frugal dad)

Saying No This is one of the hardest lessons I’ve ever had to learn. If you’re good at something, the surest way to ruin it is to not know how to say “no” – you’ll take on more than you can handle and you’ll eventually fail miserably or burn out. (@ seth godin)

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108 thoughts on “The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Bringing Back the Book Club Edition

  1. Trent, The 4 Hour Workweek might fold in nicely with your new “Small Business” section. The Total Money Makeover has many ideas to chat about (the debt snowball, pros and cons of credit cards, the seven baby steps, etc.) which might make for good discussions. I personally grow tired of the GTD stuff, but I know others are pretty passionate about it.

    Thanks for the mention!

  2. Getting Things Done and Never Eat Alone interest me. I tried and failed to read The 4 Hour Workweek, so maybe with this format I’d get more out of it than I did actually reading it. I am also not sure whether 3 posts a week would be too much. Yes, the book needs to be finished in a fairly short time frame, but maybe you do that be covering more of the book in each post rather than 3 posts a week?

  3. Not interested; please don’t do it. I liked your recent post about GTD – that’s how to go over a book in more detail. You could make a post like that for each of these books, but if you spread any of them out you won’t really have enough content.

  4. I would be interested in either Total Money Makeover, or Getting Things Done. I am a fairly new reader to your blog, so I did not participate in any of your previous book clubs, so I don’t know exactly how this would unfold, but I am interested in having a more in depth conversation about these books. I think that three times a week may be too often, and will take away from other valuable content, but I leave that up to you.

  5. I have read GTD in the past and need to reread it so that would be interesting. I have also just checked out Debt is Slavery from the library so that would be a good one too.

  6. I’d be interested in Getting Things Done or Never Eat Alone — I’ve been interested in what you and others have had to say about those two but I haven’t read them yet.

    I’m also a bit confused about why some people get rather passionately anti-book-club… if they’re not interested, surely they can just skip those posts?

  7. Many of these books seem interesting, I have only read Getting things done, and halfway through The 4 hour workweek. If I can find the time I will read the book proposed (any of them is good for me).

    But please not 3 posts per week about the book. If that comes on top of your regular posting I will be swamped in reading material.
    Also to keep up and stay current with 3 postings per day, I would have to read a chapter each other day according to your schedule, but that might not match my schedule.

  8. I agree that 3 posts a week might be too much if it’s at the expense of other posts – you always have an enjoyable mix here. Personally I’d love to dive into GTD but that’s because I am a recent convert.

  9. I’d like Total Money Makeover or Debt Is Slavery best.

    And I think maybe… two posts a week? Not too concerned about the post volume, because I’d read 10 posts from you a day, but the thing is, if we pick a book that requires ACTION STEPS along the way, we’re going to run into trouble where our reading is well ahead of our actions if we go faster.

  10. I think 3 posts a week for more than a month is too much. I love your site because of the variety. This format would destroy that aspect until the discussion was over.

    Perhaps once a week doing a more extensive book review and cover the whole thing in 3-4 entries. That would enable a more thorough discussion of the book but not take over your site.

  11. The Total Money Makeover or Debt Is Slavery sound particularly interesting to me. Three times a week seems a bit much , once or twice max would be better.

    I have to agree, the Intelligent Investor was pretty dry.

  12. I loved Scratch Beginnings as personal reading, but I would be very annoyed to see that as a “book club” multi-post blog. The book is more about a story….not good to break down and analyze.

    That said, I would like to have that break down of Total Money Makeover, or a similar book that has enough meat to really discuss the pros and cons of each step.

  13. If I’m just reading the posts, then I’m pretty happy with all the choices and the pace. However I’ve found that I’ve looked for over half of those books, and sadly they’ve all been written in this decade and thus are not available at my library yet (give it another 5 years), so my participation would be prohibitive. If I could participate, 3 times a week might be pushing it unless the sections are short, say ~20 pages.

    I think I’d vote for GTD, just because I don’t get what the fuss is about, but I feel like I should.

  14. I’d like to hear more about “Debt is Slavery”. PLEASE stay away from books like “The Intelligent Investor”. I stopped reading those reviews because I felt like I was in a college class, and that’s not how I want to start my morning (I always read TSD during breakfast).

  15. My vote goes to GTD or NEVER EAT ALONE . . . but goodness, 3 times a week? Really? That seems excessive. Why not once a week? The book reviews can really clog down this site . . . I gave up on your site during the INTELLIGENT INVESTOR Months.

    (Okay, it may not have been months, but it sure felt like it. ;-))

    I’d also vote to not do Chapter by Chapter. Good grief, most people read way faster than that. ;-) (“Real” book clubs don’t discuss that way either — read the full book and have ONE BIG post, perhaps? Or break it down into three BIG posts? Something liket that, perhaps?)

    But yah . . .the books you mentioned are all ones that I have on my To Read List, so I would be interested in reading reviews/comments from you and other Simple Dollar readers.

  16. I would love to see Getting Things Done. There are so many different ways people implement the process, that I think the feedback would be extremely helpful.

  17. I’d vote for “Never Eat Alone” or “4 Hour Workweek” (which I think it’s be really interesting to get the take of the commenters here on). I’m less interested in stuff like TMM, and not remotely interested in Scratch Beginnings, but I’ll probably read the posts whichever is chosen.

  18. I would like to see Getting Thing Done. I have it sitting in a stack of books that I’ve been meaning to read. This would motivate me to read it and contribute to the discussion.
    Thanks for asking and keep up the good work!!

  19. I’ll be down with Getting Things Done because it’s the only book from the list I own.

    How about two posts a week? Like one on Sunday, then one on Thursday? I think that’s enough time to read at least one chapter from any book you propose.

  20. Getting Things Done or Never Eat Alone have my vote. Three days would be too much. Maybe Wednesday and Saturday posts would suffice.

  21. I vote for “Never Eat Alone.” I’d be interested to see how other readers work with the concepts in the book.

  22. GTD. I have only partially gotten into it. But I’ve made more progress than with more complicated systems in the past. Hearing about other people’s tips/tricks for a paper and/or electronic system would be cool. It might even give me some motivation. Too much to do and not enough hours in the day.

  23. I really disliked it when you did this before. I enjoy the variety and was always disappointed when those articles came up. Please continue your shorter book reviews but not the deep dives.

  24. I’d be interested in seeing more in depth discussion of some of those books – particularily Getting Things Done, as it seems to have an immense following, and reading about here might motivate me to actually get around to reading it.

    I’d also like to hear about Never Eat Alone. Networking is one skill I could definitely stand to improve.

    I don’t think Scratch Beginnings has the depth to it to justify a series like that for it though – but I’m one of the many people who didn’t like it and thought the author was really missing a lot of the causes of poverty.

    One thing I’d encourage you to do is break up the themes in the books your own way instead of however the authors did it. Address the themes you thought were important and don’t devote a post to a chapter if it doesn’t speak to you or if it is reiterating the same theme you can discuss better elsewhere. Synthesize the information for your readers, that’s part of being a writer.

  25. Silly me. I didn’t realize we were supposed to be reading the books too. I read past reviews as your take on the content. I guess I just appreciated your reading it for me and giving me the nuts and bolts. As with another, I couldn’t afford to buy the book either.

  26. I’d love to see Total Money Makeover discussed, but it looks like I’m against the crowd. I didn’t participate in the last couple of discussions because the topic didn’t really interest me – but it certainly didn’t keep me from reading this blog. Google Reader or Bloglines makes it easy enough to skip over a post or two.

    I’m also dying to read Scratch Beginnings – I put it on my wish list on PBS in January, but I’m still 36 people away from getting it, so I don’t think I’d get that one in time.

  27. I feel like I would be more interested if you waited a bit longer- perhaps until the end of summer? You may have fewer participants solely because of the time of the year.

    And also, if you did another book club, would that take you away from your other new ventures – like podcasts and how-to videos? I really enjoy both of those features.

  28. For me, personally, I would prefer not to see another long series of posts devoted to a book that I was not interested in reading (which applies to most of the ones you’ve suggested).

    How about this for an idea: Real, in-person book clubs – at least, the ones that I receive announcements for – discuss one book each month, and each in a single session, rather than a chapter at a time. You could do something like that. Say, on the first Sunday of each month, replace your normal book review post with a book club post. These would be different from the book review posts in that the book schedule would be announced in advance (say, Total Money Makeover in July, Scratch Beginnings in August, 4-Hour Workweek in September, etc.), and the comments section would be a discussion of the *book*, not necessarily of your review of it. (So readers would be requested only to participate in those particular discussions if they’d actually read the book.)

  29. Trent – I was one (of the many) that hated your The Intelligent Investor series. But I’m willing to get the book club attempt another try with a better book.

    Three times a week is too much. You would be better off shrinking the series either by including more per post or overall staying at higher level – either way you would not need as many posts to cover the book. Another suggestion is to make sure one of those days is on the weekend – don’t waste our work day breaks reading your blog on the book club more than once a week.

    My picks are Getting Things Done, , Debt Is Slavery, You’re So Money, and Green With Envy.

  30. Hmm, I’m kind of mixed on this issue. I *loved* the YMOYL posts because I was really into the book and wanted to learn more about it and the concepts within. The others? Not so much.

    All of the books listed sound good, but I’ll put my vote in for 4 hr work week.

    I do agree that 3x per week is too much, but I also think that once per week was too long. Perhaps you could post the reviews in another section of your site and just a small blurb directing people to the new post. Not sure if you have the capablity as this is a “blog” and not a regular website (as far as I know).

    Good luck and looking forward to it whatever you decide.

  31. I would say The Total Money Makeover (which I have already read) or Never Eat Alone (which I have not). I am a Getting Things Done fan, but I think it is too detailed and the discussion would be too much about the details of the system and not about “big ideas”.

    The other books sound okay too except for “The 4-Hour Work Week”. I am definitely not interested in that. I have read some things about the author and I think that he doesn’t really practice what he preaches.

    3 times a week is definitely way too much. Once a week would be perfect, twice a week tops.

  32. Getting Things Done and Never Eat Alone get my vote. I agree with others that 3x a week might be too much. I also love the idea of a discussion around the book rather than the review.

  33. Trent, I LOVED your intelligent investor series. It had so much substance and sound academic intellectual reasoning. It has stood the test of time, wasn’t trendy (like a lot of the books and topics you cover), and exuded solidity. I wish you would cover more things like that.

  34. I would like to see Total Money Makeover. I didn’t like 4 hour workweek when I read it, but maybe it would be better in a group context.

  35. DEFINITELY the Total Money Makeover. The amount of discussion with that book would be immense and varied. Because it is basic, common-sense finance, everyone will get something out of it. It also ties in very well with your website…the SIMPLE dollar.
    It’s time we got back to basics in this country, and I think a lot of your readers would benefit from the discussions.

  36. I am fairly new to your blog, and I love the variety of articles you post. But, I don’t have time to read a book, so I won’t be joining if you decide to do a book club. I will just read what you write about them.

  37. My vote:

    Debt is Slavery

    Even if you don’t cover this book, I still love saying the title!

  38. I also want to add that while it didn’t generate a ton of discussion, I found the Intelligent Investor series very worthwhile. But – I read the series instead of reading the book.

  39. I would be interested in GTD or Total Money Makeover. I agree that 3 times a week for a month seems a bit much.

  40. I’m afraid I wouldn’t be interested in the book reviews. If you plan on doing them for 3 days of the week, I suggest you pick 3 days to devote to them (say Fri, Sat, Sun.) so that readers such as myself know when to ‘tune in’ and when to not bother.

    Alternatively, you could just do podcast book reviews.

  41. My vote is for “Getting Things Done” or “Never Eat Alone.” I think one post a week would be sufficient, and two only if necessary.

  42. I would vote for “Never eat alone” or “The 4 hour workweek.” I haven’t read either of them but they are on my reading list.

  43. I’m not familiar with any of them but it sounds interesting. I agree with 2 times a week 1 of witch is on the weekend. Need a heads up when you choose witch one so I can pick it up.

    The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less is on my to read list and might be of interest.

  44. I would be interested in doing this and I really like the format that Johanna suggested. I think we should give that a try and see how it goes. I would most be interested in doing The Total Money Makeover, which I have read, and Green With Envy, which I haven’t. (But will before the club if you go that way!) I’m least interested in Getting Things Done and Never Eat Alone.

  45. I would be totally interested in all the books that you have earmarked. I did find the Intelligent Investor a bit boring an skipped most of those posts but I loved the other ones.

    I would really like to do Getting Things Done and Scratch Beginnings and the 4 Hour Work Week.

  46. I would be up for it this time around. TMM or 4HWW would be my pick. I’ve read TMM but that was a few years ago. I’d be up for it again.

  47. My friend just sent me the audio CD of TMM for graduation, so I would be interested in that book…

  48. I vote for GTD. I have ordered it from the library and would love to work through it with everyone.

  49. GTD gets my vote. Can you please give us 10 days + warning though so we can get our own copy?

    While I love DR’s TMM, it is already extremely well-covered and debated in so many other blogs and websites – no need to do again.

    Cheers.

  50. My vote goes to TMMO! Never Eat Alone sounds interesting as does Scratch Beginnings. But please, Please, PLEASE NOT Tim Ferris!!

  51. Apparently I read that too quickly, I didn’t notice that GTD was in there too. I had a hard time with the book itself, but I love the way you manage to simplify everything.

  52. I vote against resurrecting this concept. I just skip over most of the short book reviews, and definitely wouldn’t engage in this.

  53. Got a question for you re: Your Money or Your Life. This, too, changed my thinking radically. My question is how to think about the ‘hours of life’ exchanged for cash: things when your income isn’t earned, ie when it is rental or investment income. That’s my scenario. Another that I see a lot is where wives are quite happy spending the money earned by the hours of their husbands’ lives. Difficult for them to be motivated to be frugal, as they aren’t sweating it out at the coal face.

  54. I’d suggest one of these books simply because YOU refer to them so often:
    Getting Things Done
    Never Eat Alone
    Debt is Slavery

  55. I really enjoyed The Intelligent Investor. It may have been a bit too sophisticated for your audience

  56. I agree with others that Getting Things Done might be too detailed for discussion. But love the other books ideas

  57. I am a new subscriber and this sounds like a good idea! I am in learning mode and so am looking forward to whatever you decide to do.

  58. I would love to do this for Total Money Makeover or GTD. I have read Total Money and would like to dive in more. GTD have not read yet, but this woudl make it the perfect springboard.

    Thanks for all you do!

  59. Getting Things Done and Never Eat Alone get my vote. I’ve tried GTD before and just couldn’t get it off the ground so that would be my first pick.

  60. I vote for Getting Things Done, Trent! I’m very interested to know why it has its huge following, but when I picked up the book, I just couldn’t get into it.

  61. I loved Total Money Makeover and Scratch Beginnings. They would be most excellent books for discussion.

  62. I’d like to see Getting Things Done or Never Eat Alone, or maybe 2 posts a week, 1 on each of them?.

  63. I would like to get involved in the book club. I would be most interested in GTD, TMM, Never Eat Alone or Debt is Slavery. The 4 hour Work Week and You’re So Money don’t really interest me.

    I followed your first two book clubs and really enjoyed them. I ended up reading both books. I didn’t pay much attention to the third and I think it’s mainly because I’m not to that point in my financial life yet. I’m still working on paying off the debt and saving the emergency fund.

  64. Trent:

    For what it is worth, I enjoyed The Intelligent Investor.

    @Sabine: if you disagree with Andy’s observation (“a BIT too sophisticated” {my emphasis}), do you propose an alternate hypothesis on why Trent’s review of it was less well-received than other book reviews he has done?

  65. Debt is Salavery 1st pick, Total Money Makeover 2, I have no interest in 4 Hour Workweek or Never Eat Alone. I’d like time to purchase (or more likely, get from the library) the book you choose so I could follow along. If I’m not interested in your choice, I’ll do what I’ve done previously & just scan/skip over that part of The Simple Dollar.

  66. I think any of these books would be great to discuss. I am new to finance books and just finished Your Money or Your Life and loved it. I would be happy to read others based on your suggestion and discuss.

  67. I agree with Joanna – could not get into GTD. Perhaps if you distilled it for me, I’d be able to use it, or some parts of it. On the other hand, perhaps it’s just not right for me. I’m not tidy by nature.

    I read most of the Intelligent Investor posts – again a book I couldn’t get into, partly b/c I already learned a lot of his points through trial & error. He was preaching to the choir.

    And Andy, it’s not always about “lack of sophistication.” I have an MBA, and I had to read some awfully dry, abstract stuff en route to that degree. Now that I don’t have to write a book report or pass a test, I can choose not to read authors whose style just doesn’t appeal. So in my case, perhaps laziness?

    In any case, the same content in your hands was more palatable.

    BTW, my hypothesis about the Intelligent Investor not being popular is that it was long, dry, long, technical, long comprehensive and long. I didn’t finish War and Peace, either.

  68. I think that this is a great idea! I would be interested in reading and discussing Total Money Makeover. Like others have written before, three posts a week might be a bit much. Maybe one or two instead?

  69. My vote is for Green With Envy, or Never Eat Alone.

    2 posts per week for 1 month would be good length.

  70. I’ll vote for Never eat alone, 4-hour workweek or Getting things done.
    I’d really like to read your detailed views on these – I got quite a bit out of the intelligent investor series, though I didn’t comment much, and I like the fact that it’s a resource I can come back to at need.
    Thanks!

  71. I think once a week report would be better that three. I just read Monday Morning Choices and will read this again immediately!

    Second vote is for Getting Things Done.

  72. Any of these books would be good. Even though I’ve read some, I’d be interested in other people’s perspectives. Haven’t participated in anything like this before. Curious to see how it goes.

  73. I’ve only been reading your blog for a few months, so I am not familiar with how the book club and postings would work. But I would love to do Total Money Makeover or Getting Things Done. Both are on my reading list. Thanks.

  74. Interested in the book club, but clueless as to what book. Especially interested in trying to save when barely make bills as is (yes, I’m looking for another job, but is there any outside of the box thinking book?). Also, newbie investing. For example I don’t even know if I’m supposed to have our retirement evenly distributed by number of shares of each stock or amount of money in each stock (I would assume the later.). Just some thoughts; whatever book you go with I’ll try and read, but I do hope it’s available at the library :)

    Thanks!

  75. Trent – I only read your reviews and wouldn’t be interested in the book club. I am not into investing or networking, as I am retired and where I want to be – debt free and saving and tithing and giving. As my late husband said, “You never feel poor if you have something to give to others.” We made that a part of our life, even when we were deep in debt and it helped us work harder to be debt free and able to give more. Thanks for all your great work.

  76. I’d vote Never Eat Alone.

    Like others have mentioned, I love your site for the variety. Breaking down the book into chunks as little as you did for previous books makes it too slow. Perhaps do a chapter or two per week – one or two posts.

  77. I just got “Never Eat Alone” from the library and started reading it. I got far enough to know that a) I wanted to get a copy that I could write in, and b) that I would need to be able to talk about it with people when I was done (or throughout) because I love the concepts, but it’s hard to see how I could make his ideas work in my life.

    My vote is for “Never Eat Alone.” If that weren’t obvious. :D

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