Thursday, September 20, 2018

Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School

The top book recommended by Barry Choi on his list, The Top Personal Finance Books for Canadians, is Andrew Hallam's Millionaire Teacher: the Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School. Choi called it an "almost [. . .] modern day version of The Wealthy Barber," so after reading The Wealthy Barber I was intrigued. So on payday I bought it for myself on Kindle (it's not available at the local library).

Millionaire Teacher is Hallam's explanation of nine rules he believes everyone should have learned in school about personal finances.  Hallam is a teacher who taught personal finance.  He laments that high schools teach advanced geometry but not basic personal finance, so Millionaire Teacher is really his attempt to spread his knowledge.  Most of what he says is pretty similar to what other people have been saying in the personal finance books (spend less than you make, invest as early as you can, invest in low-cost index funds).  But then he really gets into the nitty-gritty, looking at how you can build your own portfolio, or find good help in building your portfolio no matter where you live (he specifically focuses on the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Singapore).  He has loads of data that he shares, all backed up by studies.  And the studies overwhelmingly support low-cost index funds.

I learned a lot from reading Millionaire Teacher.  So much so that my head was left spinning during a few chapters and I definitely feel like I need to eventually reread the book to better take everything in (and also once I have a slightly better understanding of some things he talks about).  But don't let my need to reread Millionaire Teacher scare you off: it's a fantastic book on personal finance that I really think every Canadian should read.

Oh wow: as a side note, I have now read Choi's top three personal finance books for Canadians: Millionaire Teacher, Wealthing Like Rabbits, and Stop Over-Thinking Your Money!  I don't think I'll be getting through the other two honourable mentions any time soon though because there are a few other finance books I'm interested in reading first.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning

I've been reading some disappointing fiction lately, so I turned back to nonfiction (and specifically back to personal finance books).  I think it was Preet Banerjee who spoke really highly of David Chilton's The Wealthy Barber: The Common Sense Guide to Successful Financial Planning, so I thought I'd give it a read whenever I got a chance.  Barry Choi noted on his list that it's a bit dated, so I wasn't really sure what I'd be getting.

The Wealthy Barber is told as a conversation between three young adults and the title's wealthy barber. When one of the young adults, Dave, asks his father for financial advice, his dad directs him to his barber friend, Roy; it was Roy who taught Dave's father all he knows.  Dave, his sister, and his best friend end up going to Roy's barber shop every month for seven months; while the two boys get their hair trimmed, Roy imparts his wisdom on them.  The topics include saving 10% of what you earn for future wealth, insurance, saving for retirement, home ownership, general savings, investments, and a few other miscellaneous items like savings for your children's education. 

This being the sixth book on personal finance that I've read, some of Chilton's advice was familiar to me.  But I still got a few new tidbits for which I am quite grateful for.

The major issue I had while reading The Wealthy Barber was that I got really annoyed with Chilton's three younger adults at the beginning of the book.  They kept interrupting Roy as he was explaining things with random questions (yes the questions were generally on topic, but there were a number of times when I thought "shut up and let the man speak!!!")  Once you get through the first few chapters this sort of disappeared though - the three young adults were learning and answering more on point questions (or maybe I was just used to it?) 

While The Wealthy Barber is a bit dated now (there's no talk of TFSAs, and from what I've gathered his talk of mutual funds is out of date), with its unique conversational structure, I think it's still a great book to read if you're new to personal finances and need some help getting started. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Showrunner

I read Kim Moritsugu's The Showrunner over the weekend.  Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:
Rising-star showrunner Stacey McCreedy has one goal: to leave behind her nerd-girl origins and become a power player — like Ann Dalloni, her former mentor and current producing partner. Ann, meanwhile, is feeling her age and losing her mind. But she’ll be damned if she cedes control of their hit primetime TV show to Stacey.

After Ann hires Jenna, a young actress hoping to restart her stalled career, as an assistant, the relationship between Ann and Stacey deteriorates into a blood feud. Soon, Jenna must choose whom to support and whom to betray to achieve her own ends. And Stacey will find out if she possesses the killer instinct needed to stay on top.
I haven't watched it, but The Showrunner has been compared to the film All About Eve.

I honestly didn't really like The Showrunner.  I thought all of the characters were horrible people and I didn't really care what happened to any of them.  Moritsugu managed to even ruin one of the love interest characters who I thought was okay.  I almost didn't finish reading it (but because I was already near the end I decided to just suck it up and finish it).

I know that The Showrunner will appeal to some people, but it just honestly wasn't my kind of book so I don't want to say anything more about it.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Binti: The Night Masquerade

Well the library doesn't have the last book in the Binti trilogy, so I bought it on my Kindle and read it right away after finishing Binti: Home.  Unlike the time lag between the first two books, Binti: The Night Masquerade takes place pretty much right where Binti: Home leaves off.

Binti and Mwinyi return to her home to find the building burnt to the ground (and several nearby homes damaged as well).  She discovers Okwu has hidden in the lake and has called reinforcements.  So she calls on the elders to meet with her and asks them to invoke Himba deep culture over the Khoush and Meduse to make peace once and for all.  The elders agree.  But at the time of the appointed meeting, the elders do not appear.  So Binti is left to invoke the deep culture on her own.  Amazingly, thanks to her Meduse DNA and the alien technology she has recently awakened, she is able to invoke deep culture on her own.  The Meduse chief and Khoush king agree to peace.  But one of the Khoush king's underlings fires on the Meduse, restarting the war anyway.  Binti is hit in the crossfire and dies.

The war heads to space, leaving the Himba behind.  Mwinyi discovers that Binti's family is safe - they were sheltered in the living root of an Undying Tree (a root that was part of their home's foundation).  Mwinyi and Okwu ask if they can take Binti's body to Saturn because that's where she was going to next thanks to a recurring dream she kept having with her mysterious alien artifact good luck charm.  The Himba have a funeral for Binti, then a newly born spaceship fish (the spaceships in this world are animals - this fish is the daughter of the fish Binti has been travelling in up to this point of the story) arrives to take Mwinyi, Okwu, and Binti's body to Saturn.  But when they arrive at Saturn, Binti is miraculously brought back to life.  It seems that the microbes in New Fish were able to do it *somehow* because New Fish was just born.

So they all travel back to Oomza Uni where Binti gets to learn about her crazy genetic makeup (and that she can only go 5 miles on land away from New Fish; New Fish can go 7 miles up).  The end.

I found myself disappointed by the ending of this series, even though I kind of had a feeling that Binti was somehow going to come back to life (her death was around the halfway point of the third book).  Binti's death was written very well.  And while she may not have succeeded in ending the war, she brought together two human tribes who looked like they were going to work together in the future.  When she was brought back to life, it just felt like the narrative was cheapened (especially since it really did feel like "space magic brought her back to life." Oh, and she refused to talk to her family right away to let them know she was still alive - that seemed selfish in the way that her siblings accused her of being all through Binti: Home). 

On the plus side, this book felt much more complete than the previous two (the previous two both felt to me like they should have been expanded into full novels).  But that's probably because this book was largely just the resolution of things that had happened in the previous book. 

All in all, the Binti series is an interesting read.  If you love worldbuilding, you will enjoy a lot of aspects of this book because that is very much its strength.  But if you're looking for a deeper narrative (and a more fleshed out book), you should probably give these books a pass.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Binti: Home

I wasn't completely sure if I wanted to keep reading more of Nnedi Okorafor's Binti series, but the library had book two so why not?  They're novellas, which means they're super fast reads.

Binti: Home takes place about a year after the first book.  Binti and Okwu have settled into life at Oomza Uni.  But Binti has been struggling with post-traumatic stress from her ordeal in the first book.  She's also found herself increasingly prone to bouts of rage.  Fearing that she has become unclean, she decides to return home and go on a pilgrimage.  Okwu decides to accompany her - he will be the first Meduse to step foot on Earth in peace.

Their arrival is difficult.  Binti's family welcomes her home, but the place turns into chaos when Okwu arrives and the Khoush attack him.  Binti manages to stop anyone from dying.  But later at her home, she has an argument with her sister which almost turns violent (Binti spits in her sister's face in anger, something she would never have done before).  Retreating to her room, she sees the Night Masquerade.  I wasn't really sure what the Night Masquerade really was, but it is something that only men and boys see, not women.  Right after that, Binti's paternal grandmother, one of the Desert People, arrives to take Binti to meet their high priestess.  Binti discovers that she has alien technology in her DNA and is given the choice to awaken it. After she makes the choice, she learns that her home has been attacked and Okwu may have been killed.  The book ends with her heading home to see what has happened.

Like the first volume, Binti: Home has some fantastic worldbuilding.  I do still wish these had been lengthened into full novels though; I feel like there was so much more that could have been explored.  I also wish Okwu had been in this volume a little bit more than he was. 

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

I came across Bustle's list of books that will inspire you to live a more sustainable life back in July I think.  Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time sounded interesting.  And the library even had a copy!  So I snagged it and finally got around to reading it now.

Walkable City explains the many advantages of making your city walkable, before going into a comprehensive list of ten steps to actually making your city more walkable.  Speck uses examples from the world's most walkable cities to illustrate his points.  Walkable City is aimed mainly at small and mid-sized American cities (emphasis on American).  After decades of suburban sprawl dominating city development, Speck believes that now is the time when redeveloping cities urban cores is going to be increasingly important. Millennials are increasingly attracted to urban life (they are far less likely to own cars than people of older generations).  And Boomers are moving back into urban centres because their big suburban houses are empty and they increasingly don't want to (or are becoming physically unable to) maintain their big suburban yards.  Plus they want to be more social, and where is better than a walkable urban core?

So once that's all established, Speck looks at the various things you need to consider and implement to make your city more walkable.  Many of the steps are designed to slow traffic down, while others are concerned with making walking more interesting and safer.  Speck cautions that you need all of the steps working together to make your city more walkable.  He also cautions that not every area of your city will be walkable (for example, streets in the auto district won't be). 

While a little dense at times (largely because people who aren't architects or city planners may not necessarily care about some of the points), Speck's prose is generally pretty entertaining to read.  I especially liked some of his snarky comments in the notes.  All in all, I think this was a great book to read.  It sure gave me a lot to think about!!!

Sunday, September 2, 2018


I have a pile of nonfiction I want to read.  But it's the long weekend so I decided to take a break and read the novella Binti instead. Binti, written by Nnedi Okorafor, is a Hugo and Nebula award winner.  I've seen it go by at work a few times and was intrigued (although I will freely admit I didn't actually read the synopsis on the back of the book). 

Binti is the first of her people, the Himba, to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution in the galaxy.  But in going she is going against her family and her people's traditions; the Himba are of the land and do not leave it.  Stealing away in the dead of night, she leaves her homeland for the first time ever.  And even before she steps foot in space, she finds herself an alien among the majority Khoush in the spaceport.  But she makes her way relatively free of incident onto her transport, where she meets some of her fellow students.

Now I was enjoying this story as a fish out of water story. I liked Okorafor's world building.  The Himba people were very interesting and I was hoping to learn more about the Khoush as Binti interacted with them on the shuttle.  Unfortunately that was kind of glossed over because pretty much everyone on the shuttle except Binti gets murdered when an alien race, the Meduse, arrive. 

The story actually did lose me a bit around this point. 

The Meduse try to murder Binti too, but she is magically able to protect herself with an ancient artifact she happened to have with her as her good luck charm.  The artifact hurts the Meduse.  But it also allows her to communicate with them.  She discovers that the Meduse are heading to Oomza University to retrieve their chief's stinger, which was stolen from him and somehow ended up in the school.  Binti convinces them to arrive peacefully and let her act as an interpreter for them to get the stinger back.  She does so, and as a gesture of goodwill, the school asks that the Meduse send her new friend, Okwu, to the school as well.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of all this.  I'm glad that it all worked out, but the fact that the Meduse murdered a whole bunch of students didn't seem to matter at all to the university's deliberations and final decision on the whole thing.  I guess the ending just seemed a little too abrupt for my liking; Binti really seemed like it should have been a novel, rather than a novella.

All in all, the world building is fantastic and I would love to know more about all the cultures in this book (the Himba, Khoush, and the Meduse).  But the story itself could have been expanded a fair bit (and in my opinion, would have been the stronger for it).