Updated on 07.31.14

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Holiday Reading Edition

Trent Hamm

As the New Year rolls around, I find myself engrossed in several new books received over the holiday season. The largest, by far, is Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, weighing in at 960 pages. I’m currently deep into it – and enjoying every second. Stephenson is perhaps my favorite writer.

What’s up next on the docket? For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin are likely going to be the next two books I read once I finish Anathem.

Oh, how I wish I had a few more hours in the day just to read!

They Told Me That Madoff Never Lost Money If it sounds too good to be true, that’s probably because it is too good to be true. Ben Stein lays it out very well here. (@ new york times via get rich slowly)

The “One Big Lump” Theory of Your Money The advice here is simple: don’t think of your money as split up among a bunch of different accounts (401(k), Roth IRA, checking account, savings account, major assets, etc.). Instead, think of it all as one big lump. Then, you can treat the whole thing as a diversified portfolio of investments – and you won’t sweat as much if your stocks lose some of their value, because other parts of your “portfolio” will have gained value. (@ wisebread)

How to Protect Kids from Identity Theft This article takes an interesting angle on identity theft that I hadn’t considered before. In short, there’s no good reason to have your child’s identity out there – so protect it as much as you can. Your young child does not need a credit card to establish their credit history. (@ carrie & danielle)

Is Your Business Prepared for a Disaster? The Simple Dollar is as prepared as can be. I have plans in place for most of the disastrous situations I can think of. (@ freelance switch)

22 Secrets to Discovering Your Dream and Living It This is an excellent collection of advice on following your dreams, even if it seems like there’s no room in your life to give chase. (@ dumb little man)

Post-Christmas Hacks I’ve been thoroughly enjoying browsing the archives of Ikea Hacker over the past few weeks – lots of good frugal stuff there. The premise is simple: buy relatively cheap stuff from Ikea, then modify it to make something classy or interesting. (@ ikeahacker)

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  1. JonFrance says:

    I think Stephenson is my favourite author too–I can’t wait to get into Anathem (I got it for Christmas, but the package still hasn’t arrived yet; maybe today will be the day!)

  2. Nice round-up. I have only read some of Stephenson’s work, but have enjoyed it every time. My brother just finished Anathem and highly recommended it. Hopefully I can get around to reading it soon.

    Oh, and kudos for mentioning ikeahacker. I love that blog.

  3. Battra92 says:

    Just be aware that the Team of Rivals book is being used as political propaganda right now to make the president elect look like Lincoln.

    After you’re done with Rivals you might want to check out The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis to contrast the two sides. I really think if we had swapped presidents the South would have won the war.

  4. Rick Roberts says:

    Good for you on For Whom the Bell Tolls. It remains my favorite book. The writing is gorgeous.

    This book is the reason I started savoring red wine. You’ll see!

  5. Rae says:

    Anathem is incredible! I got it for my birthday and finished it less than two weeks later. That’s the book that got me back into reading for fun (not just on the train or at bedtime), which I’ve really been into lately. Enjoy!

  6. Michael says:

    Would have won the war at the expense of anything good about the South, you mean?

  7. J says:

    I <3 Neal Stephenson. He’s a great writer.

    Team of Rivals was published in 2005, and I’m betting work started on it years earlier. Great propaganda writing, Doris Goodwin should be commended for her ability to see the future so clearly. Or maybe it’s a big liberal plot. Or maybe Lincoln’s approach has some merit.

    Or maybe the book written by the president of the Confederacy has a wee bit of bias?

  8. CPA Kevin says:

    Great batch of links as always, Trent. I love the ikeahacker blog. Check out the vote for the 2008 hack of the year…there are some great ones mixed in there.

  9. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the link to protecting your childs identity. I found this out the hard way after my parents racked up $100,000 in credit card debt in my name before I was 15. I’ve spent a while trying to clean it up, including hiring an attorney and eventually filing charges against my own parents (which darn near killed me, but I was told I had to in order to prove identity theft). It’s hard to believe a parent would do that to a child, but it happens, and it’s happened to more people that you would think.

  10. ChrisB says:

    Anyone have any other Stephenson recommendations? I’m reading Anathem as well, and am likewise enjoying it, but it’s my first read by him.

  11. Battra92 says:

    J, you are missing the point. I said the book is being dug up to use for that and that’s why it’s been brought up in the news lately. Just saying not to read into the news too closely. I mean, it’s like saying “Look Lincoln had a beard so all presidents with beards were great.”

    And I was saying to read the other side to see how BAD of a president Davis was. He fought with state governors seemed to do everything possible to mess things up yet he went to his grave thinking he did everything right.

    Lincoln was a shrewd and master politician. He was highly intelligent could use political moves to the country’s benefit. I mean, the Emancipation Proclamation for example was Lincoln’s finest political move in that he did it to keep Europe out of the war (which almost happened.)

    On the other hand, Davis was a highly stubborn man who would appoint friends and keep incompetent people on while removing those more qualified (Joe Johnston etc.) If he gave his word he would never break it etc.

    I’m not saying to agree with Davis (History has proven otherwise) but it is interesting to contrast the two men who were, at one point in time, the two opposites on the political coin.

  12. “Oh, how I wish I had a few more hours in the day just to read!”

    Trent, if you really want a few more hours in the day, you have to start hiring.

    I’ve read your experiences with hiring. You hired one person to review comments, and that person didn’t work out, so you gave up.

    I’m assuming you’ve read “E-Myth”? You’ve created a job for yourself, not a business.

    Bad employees are everywhere. You’ll likely have to hire more than once to find the right person. And, a lot of times, when you do find the right person, they leave later. That’s life.

    You need to explore what your priorities are. Would you prefer to spend time manually approving every comment, or would you prefer to read? If you would prefer to read, then it’s time to hire…and find the right person. Plus, it makes great blog fodder. (I know…I write about business!)

    Hiring, and finding the right person, will not only help you find more free time, but it will also give you new writing avenues to explore as you overcome fears related to having someone else work on your business.

    The question to you is: Are you going to continue to wish you had more time to do the things you love, or are you going to take steps to make that time appear?


  13. Jeff says:

    I used to like Stephenson until Cryptonomicon when he apparently became big enough a name that his publisher decided he didn’t really need an editor. That was when he went from writing relatively short, quick plotted enjoyable novels (see Snow Crash and the Diamond Age) to writing enormous mind-numbingly dull doorstops.

  14. Kat says:

    ChrisB, my favorite book by Stephenson is Cryptonomicon, with Anathem running a close second. Check it out.

    Great article by Ben Stein. Unfortunately, his statement of “We are more than our investments. … We are what we do for charity. We are how we treat our family and friends. We are how we treat our dogs and cats. We are what we do for our community and our nation” rings a little false when you consider that he was the driving force behind the movie Expelled!, which tried to link scientists to Nazis, and glorified intelligent design. I used to be an admirer of his, but now I can’t get over what a hypocrite he is.

  15. Suzanne says:

    Something I intend to add to my list “The Tyranny of Dead Ideas” by Matt Miller. It will be released sometime this month. You can read an article at:http://money.cnn.com/2008/12/29/news/economy/miller_downwardmobility.fortune/index.htm Basically, he is trying to explain that Americans need to get used to the idea that our children will not continue to make more than thier parents. America has experienced a remarkable history of growth by coincidence and that the sense of entitlement we have acquired from that history needs to rethought.

  16. J says:

    Battra92 — thanks for the clarification. I have the book in my queue to read, anyway. I would agree to some point that I’m tired of hearing about the book and Obama, likely from people who have not read it and are just picking up stuff off a teleprompter. It trivializes a great president, and another man who has the potential to be one if he can play his cards right. I’m impressed that a cabinet is being filled with people who won’t just say “yes” — in my experience, the best solutions are devised through adversity, discussion and review.

    Thus far, my favorite Stephenson work has been “Cryptonomicon”. I’ve also read “A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer” and “Quicksilver”, which were OK reads, but not as tight as “Cryptonomicon”. I plan on reading “Snow Crash” when the moons align and the library has it in.

    I completely concur about the lack of time to read. I make time to do it, but I always remember the carefree days of my youth when I could stay up very late untying a good yarn. Now with a wife and kids and job, there’s just not time for that any longer.

  17. imelda says:

    Hey Trent,

    What did you like in particular about the wisebread article? I found it a little strange, and possibly not great advice, though I’m not confident I entirely understood his point. What did you find appealing?

  18. Madelaine says:

    I personally liked Snow Crash the best of any Neal Stephenson book.

    I thought Anathem was good at first, but there were some philosophical tangents in the middle that bored me and almost made me quit reading. I feel like it could have been a better book with some more radical editing. I liked the basic premise, though.

  19. Jessica says:

    You might try Stephenson’s “Cryponomicon”, if you haven’t already. Very long and detailed, but a great read if you can find the time.

    I’ll add Anathem to my “to-read” list =)

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