24 April 2012

Some notes from free Kindle books

I downloaded a few dozen free classic kindle books. Mark Twain's free stuff was boring (he wrote to pay the bills), the Scarlet Pimpernel dated, and others not worth more than a few pages, but these were good:

PT Barnum's Art of Money Getting (1880):
Here is a recipe which I recommend; I have found it to work an excellent cure for extravagance, and especially for mistaken economy: When you find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day or week in two columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts," and the other headed "luxuries," and you will find that the latter column will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most of us can earn.

[snip]

The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young man starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most congenial to his tastes. Parents and guardians are often quite too negligent in regard to this... We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery.
There's a LOT more good stuff in here (5 stars). Read this free book before anything written in the past 20 years for career and financial advice (hint!).

Chesterton's Man Who Knew Too Much (1922) was ok (2 stars -- read Sherlock Holmes), but I liked this complaint about people who profess to live simply but do not:
"Well, I am a trifle tired," said Fisher, "of the Simple Life and the Strenuous Life as lived by our little set. We're all really dependent in nearly everything, and we all make a fuss about being independent in something. The Prime Minister prides himself on doing without a chauffeur, but he can't do without a factotum and Jack-of-all-trades; and poor old Bunker has to play the part of a universal genius, which God knows he was never meant for. The duke prides himself on doing without a valet, but, for all that, he must give a lot of people an infernal lot of trouble to collect such extraordinary old clothes as he wears. He must have them looked up in the British Museum or excavated out of the tombs. That white hat alone must require a sort of expedition fitted out to find it, like the North Pole. And here we have old Hook pretending to produce his own fish when he couldn't produce his own fish knives or fish forks to eat it with. He may be simple about simple things like food, but you bet he's luxurious about luxurious things, especially little things. I don't include you; you've worked too hard to enjoy playing at work."
In the paid section, I read Salvatore's Crystal Shard (1988), a decent retelling (3 stars) of The Hobbit (about 70% familiar).

I really enjoyed Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker (1989), a book describing (yet another example of) hubris and abuse by Wall Street's financial innovators and their short-term, destructive ways of making money (5 stars). Regulators who read this book would have had a clue of how to see and prevent the crisis in housing finance. I saw it coming (experience from my days in real estate), but those in charge were either blind (naive) or blinded (corrupt). That's a pity, since the government-facilitated market collapse wiped many trillion dollars off our balance sheets and still has most of the world's economies in a twisted deep hole.

Bottom Line: There are good books out there -- for free. Enjoy!

1 comment:

Peter Easton said...

Thanks for tip on Barnum book. Have downloaded, in between reading through your own book.