2023 – What I’m Reading

This is a running list of books I’ve read in 2023, with the most recent first. I would love any recommendations you might have. First, here’s a link to our firm’s book club list (which goes back to 2011): St. Louis Trust Book Club List.

45. The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book is the sequel to The Name of the Wind which is fantastic. The Wise Man’s Fear is equally good (or better)and continues the story of Kvothe, as he grows into a legend. Like with the first book, the story unfolds as Kvothe recounts his life’s adventures to the Chronicler in a remote inn. The tale picks up at the University, where Kvothe continues his arcane studies. However, due to a combination of debt and the need to lie low from his enemies, Kvothe takes a leave from the University. Great book!

44. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment. Csikszentmihalyi identifies the conditions and characteristics of flow: clear goals, immediate feedback, challenge matched to skill level, actions, and awareness merged, loss of self-consciousness, sense of control, and altered perception of time.

By structuring life to provide flow regularly, people can live happier, more fulfilled lives. The book encourages finding flow in work, relationships, and everyday life.

In summary, Flow describes the positive psychology concept of flow and how achieving this focused mental state leads to learning, fulfillment and personal development. The book highlights how to bring more flow into one’s life.

43. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl. The book describes Frankl’s experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during WWII and introduces his theory of logotherapy. Frankl argues that humans are primarily driven by a “striving to find meaning in one’s life.”

In the camps, Frankl realized that even in suffering and degradation, life could have purpose. He notes how prisoners who found meaning, such as through sacrificing their food for others or imagining themselves teaching future generations, had better odds of surviving. Those who lost hope often died quickly.

Frankl introduces logotherapy as focused on the future, in contrast to psychoanalysis focused on the past. It strives to help patients find personal meaning in life, even in the face of suffering. Frankl provides examples of using it to assist individuals struggling with depression, obsession, and even bodily disabilities or terminal illness.

Overall, the book argues that life can have meaning even in spite of tremendous suffering. Frankl suggests that humanity’s primary motivational force is the drive to find meaning and purpose. He contends that meaning can be discovered through creating work, experiencing love, and choosing one’s attitude in suffering.

42. Kick Up Some Dust: Lessons on Thinking Big, Giving Back, and Doing It Yourself, by Bernie Marcus. This is the autobiography of the 92-year-old founder of The Home Depot. He came from nothing and built one of the greatest retail companies in history. In this book, he tells of his challenging childhood, interesting career, and the failure that led him and Arthur Blank to start The Home Depot in 1979. He relates important business lessons and the importance of giving back (he’s a major philanthropist). 

41. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera. This philosophical novel that delves into the concepts of love, politics, and existentialism set against the backdrop of the Prague Spring in 1968.

The narrative primarily revolves around two couples: Tomas, a doctor and womanizer who struggles with commitment, and his wife Tereza, who is driven by a desire for a deeper connection and love, and Sabina, Tomas’s mistress, and her lover Franz. The novel delves deeply into the characters’ lives, exploring their thoughts, passions, and fears. Through their interconnected stories, Kundera examines the nature of existence, questioning the concepts of fate, freedom, and eternal return.

The title refers to the dichotomy between “lightness” and “weight” — the idea that each action we take is unique and inconsequential (light) or that every action bears significant weight and meaning. Kundera invites readers to ponder whether it is better to live a light or weighty life.

In essence, the novel is a meditation on the complexities of human relationships and the philosophical challenges of existence.

40. The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids, by Madeline Levine, PhD. This is a thought-provoking exploration of the unforeseen challenges and pressures faced by affluent adolescents. Despite their socioeconomic advantages, many of these young people face high levels of stress, emotional problems, and substance abuse. The book delves into the paradox of how young people from affluent families can be more emotionally and academically troubled than those from low-income families.

Levine, a clinical psychologist, draws from her many years of practice working with teenagers from affluent families in the San Francisco Bay Area. She argues that while these kids might have material advantages, they often face intense pressure to achieve, a lack of engagement and connection from their busy parents, and feelings of emptiness and isolation. This combination can lead to anxiety, depression, and other troubling behaviors.

39. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson. First published in 1962, the novel revolves around the lives of two sisters, Mary Katherine “Merricat” and Constance Blackwood, who live in isolation in their family mansion with their Uncle Julian after the rest of their family is poisoned with arsenic. The townspeople are deeply suspicious of the surviving Blackwoods, especially as Constance was tried (and acquitted) for the crime. Merricat, who narrates the story, is fiercely protective of their secluded life and has created a series of rituals and superstitions to guard against outsiders.

Their quiet existence is disrupted when a cousin, Charles, comes to visit with intentions that seem to revolve around the family’s remaining wealth. His arrival and the subsequent events force the sisters to confront their past and the reasons for their isolation, culminating in a dramatic confrontation with the town. Throughout the novel, Jackson masterfully employs her signature themes of isolation, societal judgment, and the thin line between sanity and madness. Silly Merricat!

38. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. This is probably my favorite work of fantasy (either this or Game of Thrones), and it’s the second time I’ve read it. Fantastic. Here’s how it starts:

My name is Kvothe.

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

37. WTF Just Happened?!: A Sciencey-Skeptic Explores Grief, Healing, and Evidence of an Afterlife, by Elizabeth Entin. This book was super interesting. The author’s father died and in the midst of her depression and grief went in search of evidence of an afterlife. The author is not religious (atheist, cultural Jewish) and approached this question of all questions skeptically. What did she find? Enough evidence that she thinks that probably there is some sort of afterlife. Fascinating.

36. So You Want to Publish a Book?by Anne TrubekI wish I had found this book a year ago. I just published my first book with a hybrid publisher a few months ago. Having this book would have helped me evaluate my publishing options better and guide my expectations. I learned a lot that will be useful as I embark on my next book.

35. From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, by Arthur Brooks. I thought this book was fantastic. It’s well-written and thoroughly researched. Its central point is that fluid intelligence begins to decline in our forties, which makes continuing to have success based on what we’ve been doing harder and harder. To continue to have success and fulfillment, it’s necessary to change.The good news is that while our fluid intelligence declines, our crystalized intelligence continues to increase well into our 70s and even 80s. Brooks’s point is that we need to change our focus to continue to grow and succeed.

34. I am Pilgrim: A Thriller, by Terry Hayes. This is the best spy/thriller novel I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it. The story revolves around a former top-secret intelligence agent known as “Pilgrim.” He is pulled out of retirement to investigate a seemingly perfect murder committed by an individual known as “Saracen,” who is planning a catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States.

As Pilgrim delves into the investigation, he finds himself entangled in a complex web of international espionage, terrorism, and high-stakes political intrigue. The plot takes readers on a thrilling journey through various countries and follows Pilgrim’s attempts to unravel the deadly plot while facing personal demons from his past.

33. Children of Paradise: Successful Parenting for Prosperous Families, by Lee Hausner. First written in 1990 and updated in 2004, this book is the definitive guide for parenting for families of wealth. While it’s focused on wealthy families, the vast majority of the book is applicable to families of all means. With respect to wealthy families, the key takeaway is to, first and foremost, just be a good parent. And the book is chock full of solid parenting advice. Great book.

32. The Kaiju Preservation Societyby John Scalzi.  I love Scalzi books. Always funny, entertaining, thought-provoking, not to mention being page-turners. This book follows the main character as he joins a secret governmental agency and steps through a doorway into an alternative Earth with totally different flora and fauna, including the existence of Kaiju (e.g. Godzilla).

31. The Good Life: Lessons from the World’s Longest Scientific Study of Happiness, by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz. This book is about the now 85-year-long study of two generations of people into what makes us happy. The authors are the current director and associate director of the study. The book is full of practical advice and inspiring stories, offering a unique perspective on what matters in life. Key takeaways include: Strong relationships are essential for a good life and meaningful work, a sense of purpose, and gratitude are all important contributors to a good life.

30. Party Girl, by Anna David. This semi-autobiographical novel centers on the main character’s exploits as an alcoholic cocaine addict in L.A. The arc of her story is a hero’s journey of struggle and tragedy but also of redemption. I think this is a fantastic book. Great character development, good plot, and it is a book that makes you think. I’m glad I read it.

29. HBR Guide to Crafting Your Purpose, by John Coleman. This is a useful and thoughtful guide written by a former McKinsey consultant. My main takeaway was that there are three common myths about purpose: that purpose is found, that you have only one, and that it stays the same over time. Instead, Coleman argues that purpose is something that you build, and that it can evolve over time. The author provides useful tips for how to find your purposes as well as guidance for companies and how they can create a sense of purpose. 

28. Lost At CEO: An Entrepreneur’s Guide To Strategy, by Carl J. Cox. This is a business book written like a fable, reminiscent of The Goal by Eli Goldratt and books by Patrick Lencioni. It must be a challenge to write a business book as a fable, and Carl Cox nails it. The story is of Jack, the CEO of a manufacturing company. His company is struggling, and he needs to turn it around. He meets a strategic consultant who helps him put together a strategic plan and action steps to improve his company. Great book with tons of useful insight. 

27. Chance (Constance Book 2), by Matthew Fitzsimmons. Like the first book in the series, Chance focuses on its eponymous character, who is a clone. In this book, Chance was kidnapped and killed as an adolescent and continued on as a clone who had Chance’s memories downloaded into the new body. The main plot of this book is Chance trying to find out the details of that kidnapping and his murder. Like the first book, this is a super-fun read and a page-turner!

26. The Guest: A Novel, by Emma Cline. This is a novel about a young woman named Alex who pretends to be someone she isn’t. The story takes place towards the end of summer in the Hamptons, where she is “summering” with a man named Simon she met in the city. Unbeknownst to Simon, Alex was a sex worker and is manipulating him. After a misstep at a dinner party, Alex is dismissed by Simon, who sends her off with a ride to the train station and a ticket back to the city​.

Despite her limited resources and a broken phone, Alex decides to stay in the Hamptons. Using her ability to navigate the desires of others, she drifts through the hedged lanes, gated driveways, and sun-blasted dunes of a world that was initially closed to her. Propelled by desperation and a changing sense of morality, she spends the week leading up to Labor Day moving from one place to another, leaving destruction in her wake, hoping to make up with Simon at his Labor Day party.

This was an interesting, well-written book with stunningly good character development. Yet, because the main character, Alex, was so unlikeable, I can’t say I really enjoyed the book.

25. The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, by Jon Gordon.The Energy Bus is a fable by Jon Gordon that tells the story of a man named George who is struggling in his life  and work. He is constantly bombarded with negativity and is feeling discouraged and defeated. One day, he meets a mysterious woman named Joy who helps him to see the world in a new light. Joy teaches George about the importance of positive energy and how it can help him to overcome any challenge. With Joy’s help, George is able to turn his life around and find success in both his personal and professional life.

The Energy Bus is a quick and easy read and a good reminder of the power of positive energy.

24. How to Invest: Masters on the Craft, by David M. Rubenstein. The author is the co-founder of Carlyle Group, a top private equity firm. As such, he knows some famous investors, and in this book, he interviews 23 of them, including Bruce Karsh, Seth Klarman, John Paulsen, Larry Fink, Sam Zell, and Marc Andreessen. It’s a really fun read, and his interviewees provide interesting insight into how they invest.

23. Birnam Wood: A Novel, by Eleanor Catton. The author’s prior book, The Luminaries, won the Man Booker Prize. This novel has an interesting premise — a group of eco-activist hippies in New Zealand form a loose alliance with a US tech billionaire to share property. The billionaire, unbeknownst to everyone, is using the property for nefarious uses, while the hippies are using it for farming. The book has an interesting plot and great character development. Solid book.

22. The Myth of the Silver Spoon: Navigating Family Wealth & Creating an Impactful Life, by Kristin Keffeler. I’ve read a lot of books on wealth, and this is one of the best. The author is a therapist who works primarily with individuals who are the “rising generation” in wealthy families. This book is about the challenges of growing up in a wealthy family and provides concrete advice about how to carve out your own identity and live a life of purpose. Great book!

21. On Good Authority: 7 Steps to Prepare, Promote and Profit from a How-to Book That Makes You the Go-to Expert, by Anna David. This is a book about writing and marketing a book. I’ve read numerous books on this topic and still learned valuable strategies from the author. Plus, she writes in a witty and engaging style that made it a fun read. Here’s the author’s amazing and entertaining timeline (e.g., she dated Matt Damon).

20.  Family Wealth: Keeping it in the Family, by James E. Hughes, Jr. I first read this classic work on family wealth nearly ten years ago, and its points are as salient today as they were then. Jay Hughes is a pioneer in the field of family wealth management, and this is the book that made his name. The book provides an overview of the challenges and complexities that arise when transferring wealth within a family and offers practical advice on how to navigate these issues. A must-read for all wealth advisors!

19. Down by the River unto the Sea, by Walter Mosley. This is a detective novel. Joe King Oliver was an NYC detective until he was forced out of the department after being framed for a crime. After spending weeks in solitary confinement, he exited prison as a broken man. The events in this book take place a decade later as he works to solve his framing and defend a journalist who killed two crooked cops. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I found the plot a bit convoluted at times.

18. Bloodless (Pendergast Book 20), by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. I love Agent Pendergast books (I think I’ve read all 20). “Bloodless” is the next great installment of the series and finds FBI Special Agent Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, his partner Armstrong Coldmoon, and his ward, Constance, in Savannah investigating a series of strange murders where corpses are found without any blood. Like always, this book is fast-paced, exciting, and well-written.

17. Meru (The Alloy Era Book One), by S.B. Divya. “Meru” is one of the most creative sci-fi books I’ve read. It is set far into the future in a time when humanity is confined to Earth because of our mistreatment of the planet. “Alloys” are genetically modified beings based on human DNA but are extremely different from humans. Alloys roam space and control humans. The book centers on Jaya, a young adult human who is chosen as a representative of humanity to live on a newly discovered planet, Meru, to test if she can survive without contaminating the planet. Great book!

16. Assassin of Reality: A Novel (Vita Nostra Book 2), by Marina & Sergey Dyachenko. I loved book 1, “Vita Nostra,” which is about a girl who attends a strange educational institution where she and her fellow students are taught supernatural powers. Book 2, “Assassin of Reality,” is a solid follow-up but doesn’t sparkle like book 1 — the story seems tired, and the plot is less compelling.

15: Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence, by Rachel Sherman. The author is a Ph.D. sociologist. Her book is a sociological examination of how wealthy people in America think about their wealth and how they navigate their social and cultural identities. Through interviews with affluent New Yorkers, Sherman explores the emotional and moral conflicts that arise from their privileged positions, including feelings of guilt, insecurity, and a desire to be seen as “good” people. She also looks at the ways in which the wealthy attempt to justify and legitimize their wealth, often through philanthropy and charitable giving.

Given what I do for a living (I’m a wealth manager), I wasn’t surprised by what Dr. Sherman found about her interviewee’s views of wealth. Yet, her in-depth interviews provided me with additional insight into what some of my clients might be thinking about wealth and their own place in our society. Interesting book.

14. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Considered Steinbeck’s magnum opus, East of Eden tells the story of two families, the Hamiltons and the Trasks, who are intertwined in a complex and multigenerational saga of love, betrayal, and redemption. The novel is set in the Salinas Valley of California and spans several decades, beginning in the late 19th century and continuing through World War I.

At the heart of the story are two brothers, Charles and Adam Trask, who are as different as can be. Charles is rough and violent, while Adam is gentle and kind. Their relationship is strained from the beginning, and it only gets worse when they both fall in love with the same woman, Cathy Ames, who is manipulative and deceitful.

As the story unfolds, we see how the lives of the Trask and Hamilton families intersect and how their pasts and choices shape their futures. The novel explores themes such as the nature of good and evil, the power of choice, and the importance of family and community.

It was a long book but so good. I’m glad I read it.

13. Navigating the Dark Side of Wealth, A life Guide for Inheritors, by Thayer Cheatham Willis. This is a guidebook for those who have inherited wealth and are struggling to cope with the emotional and psychological challenges that come with it. The author, who is a therapist and also an inheritor herself, draws on her personal experiences and those of her clients to offer advice and strategies for managing the complexities of inherited wealth. The author provides many examples from her own clinical practice of helping wealthy clients who struggle under the burden of wealth.

12. The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, by Lynne Twist. This fantastic book explores our relationship with money and how it affects our lives. Twist argues that money is a powerful tool that can be used to create positive change in the world, but it is often viewed in a negative light because of our limited beliefs and misconceptions about it. She emphasizes the importance of shifting our mindset from scarcity to abundance and of using our resources to support causes we believe in. Twist also highlights the harmful effects of consumerism and encourages readers to live a simpler, more purposeful life. Overall, the book offers a thought-provoking and inspiring perspective on how we can transform our relationship with money to create a more fulfilling and meaningful life.

11. Unstoppable Referrals: 10x Referrals Half the Effort, by Steve Gordon. As the title suggests, this book is about getting more referrals. It highlights why asking for referrals is problematic and suggests new ways of creating a referral engine for your business. A main point is to have a “referral kit” to give out rather than ask an existing client to introduce you. Good idea. Writing a book is highlighted as a great way to create a referral kit.

10. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? by Raj Raghunathan. The author is a professor at the University of Texas, where he researches and teaches about happiness. He made happiness the focus of his research after noting that there was little correlation between being smart and successful (“S-and-S”) and happiness. In this book, he hits on the seven deadly sins of the things that impede our happiness and then suggests practices to counter the deadly sins. Good book.

9. The Latecomer: A Novel, by Jean Hanff Korelitz. This novel is about a family — the Oppenheimers — a mother, a father, triplets (2 boys and a girl), and then the “latecomer” who is a sister born 17 years after the triplets. This book is about relationships (and the lack of them) and family dynamics. It’s a page-turner and full of intrigue. The character development is fantastic as the reader becomes invested in the lives of all the characters. I loved this book!

8. Turning Pro, by Steven Pressfield. Turning Pro is a follow-up to the author’s amazing book The War of Art. In this book, Pressfield distinguishes between amateurs and professionals with numerous examples of how amateurs think vs. pros. The gist of the book is that professionals do scary hard things and get out of their comfort zone. From the Amazon description: “What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.” I loved this book and feel inspired to do hard things!

 7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. This classic novel follows the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, two characters who are initially drawn to each other despite their pride and prejudice. Through witty dialogue and social commentary, Austen explores themes of love, marriage, and class in Regency England. The novel is widely considered to be a masterpiece of English literature and is known for its memorable characters, sparkling dialogue, and romantic storyline. Stunningly good!

 6. How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan. In this book, the author explores the history and science of psychedelics, particularly their use in the treatment of mental illness and the enhancement of well-being. Pollan presents a case for the responsible use of psychedelics and the benefits they can offer but also highlights the importance of proper preparation, setting, and support for a safe and positive experience. The book delves into the subjective experiences of people who have used psychedelics, as well as the research being done to understand their effects on the brain. The author argues that psychedelics have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the mind and open up new avenues for self-discovery and healing. Very interesting.

 5. Whiskey When We’re Dry, by John Larison. In the spring of 1885, seventeen-year-old Jessilyn Harney finds herself orphaned and alone on her family’s homestead. Desperate to fend off starvation and predatory neighbors, she cuts off her hair, binds her chest, saddles her beloved mare, and sets off across the mountains to find her outlaw brother Noah and bring him home. A talented sharpshooter herself, Jess’s quest lands her in the employ of the territory’s violent, capricious Governor, whose militia is also hunting Noah–dead or alive.  Wrestling with her brother’s outlaw identity and haunted by questions about her own, Jess must outmaneuver those who underestimate her, ultimately rising to become a hero in her own right. I LOVED this book!

 4. Bunny: A Novel, by Mona Awad. “Bunny” follows the story of Samantha, a graduate student in a creative writing program. Samantha becomes obsessed with a group of wealthy, eccentric students in her program who call themselves “The Bunnies.” As she becomes more involved with the group, she begins to lose touch with reality and becomes embroiled in a world of dark fantasy and surrealism. The book explores themes of identity, mental health, and the corrupting influence of power and privilege. I loved this beautifully written book, but it was bizarre. Reminded me of the movie “Heathers.” Not for everyone, but I’m so glad I read it.

 3. Search: A Novel, by Michelle Huneven. I adored this book. It is styled as the memoir of Dana P., a mid-fifties author and food critic who is tapped to be on her church’s search committee for a new minister. The book chronicles the year-long search and the group dynamics of the church. Ultimately, the search comes down to two very different candidates backed by different constituents on the committee. Riveting read.

 2. The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense, by Kevin W. McCarthy. This book was a quick read told as a fable about how to find and live your purpose. Unlike most books that are more hypothetical, the “On-Purpose Person” provides concrete steps for discovering and living your purpose. Good book.

 1. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, by Martin E.P. Seligman. Written by one of the pioneers of positive psychology, in Flourish, the author argues that traditional psychology, which focuses on fixing problems and relieving suffering, is incomplete. He proposes an alternative framework called “well-being theory,” which emphasizes the importance of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment in leading a fulfilling life. Seligman provides practical advice and exercises for improving well-being and achieving “flourishing.”





























































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