My 2019 in books and a 6-months review of Audible

So last year, I did it! For the first time, I have reached my goal of finishing 19 books as I set in my Goodreads profile. (Yaay!) Even if I finished on the 31st of December 1 hour before heading to the New Year’s Eve celebration, it felt great to achieve this goal.

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Woohoo, I did it!

It is often told that a trait that many CEO’s and successful people share is that they read a lot, and a number of 4 to 5 books a week is usually mentioned. Well, I am still far from reading as many books as Warren Buffett or Bill Gates but I have definitely noticed that it gets easier the more I read (and setting that reading goal helped a lot). I have no specific trick besides making time to read, enjoying what you pick, listening to audiobooks, and trying to read as regularly as possible (even if it is as little as 5-10 pages a day). Getting started is always the most important step!

I have never been huge on reading until a couple of years ago, as a kid I read mostly comics and in my teenage and university years, I read mostly what was part of the study programme, nothing more, nothing less. But I am glad I gradually started to read and listen to more books, I realize I get so much from it:

  • Knowledge expansion on the topics you read about.
  • Learning in multiple ways: particular topics, new vocabulary (very good for me as a blogger/podcaster).
  • It opens your mind to different points of view, you read various perspectives and experiences from different authors.
  • On the same note as above, you get access to “exclusive” knowledge from successful people.
  • You go much deeper in details of a story, the backstory of the characters in the case of a fiction book or you get more data and insights on a topic in the case of a non-fiction book.
  • The forgotten pleasure of immersing yourself in a book undistracted like back in the 90s (when there was only one screen being the main distraction).
  • All in all, reading and listening to books is probably one of my favorite ways to invest in myself.

I wanted to celebrate my achievement by sharing my review of the 19 books I have read/listened to last year! And as well give you my thoughts on Audible after having subscribed for 6 months.

So let’s get started with the top 5 books of this year, the remaining ones (in no particular order), and let’s end with the Audible review.

Top 5 books of the year

Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell

This is one of the best books on leadership I have read. Such a great read and Lee Cockerell touches upon so many great points: Respect of employees, watching out for competition, getting to know every single struggle your employees/Disney cast members are facing, make your customer feel special, make your employee feel special, having to let go of people,…
It is absolutely people and result-driven so it resonated quite well with me. I listened to the audio version and it was pleasant listening to the actionable tips and concrete examples at Walt Disney that also apply in other industries. Definitely a must-read for any leader or aspiring leader!
I can’t wait to apply the principles in the workplace and as well to go back to a Disney World resort to experience this superior service delivered by enthusiastic cast members! On a side note, I have also invested in the Disney stocks and this makes me even more confident that it is a well-managed company.

Harry Potter – The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

Loved it! I have read the first and the 3 last books of the series and this was by far my favourite one. It was nice to see all the Hogwarts secrets unfolding, I simply could not put the book down! I watched the movie afterward and thought it was kind of a downer.

I would not consider myself a huge “Potterhead” but I really enjoyed reading the books: they are filled with humor adult, it is intriguing, you get immersed, it is a nice break from reality and come on I managed to read a book of 956 pages!

The best rule for Harry Potter – Read the books and forget the movies 🙂

I Will Teach You To Be Rich, 2nd edition by Ramit Sethi

Re-read this 2nd edition. I found the first edition excellent and was curious as to the extra materials of this second edition. (For a detailed review of the 1st edition, read more here)

The 1st edition was written in 2009 and we are now 10 years later, the author opens the book admitting he made a couple of minor mistakes in the first edition such as mentioning the high savings account interest rates and so on.

The key financial lessons are still present in the book and some of the jokes have “evolved”, it feels more accessible to an older audience – or the same people that are now 10 years older :).

Some research facts and topics are updated, Ramit talks about crypto, the FIRE movement, Robo-advisers… and Ramit got married so we talk about prenups, love, and relationships,…

The quirky humor is still there. I loved the passage with the wealth managers, it is hilarious. Another funny moment of the book is when Ramit realizes he found the love of his life: “In fact, she said, “I’d really like to be engaged by Q1 of next year.” This was the moment I fully realized I’d found the love of my life: when I heard her speaking about her relationship in financial quarters.”

There is a lot of new and fresh content and the focus of the book compared to the first edition has moved towards living your Rich Life (it was already there, but it feels more present now).

If you are getting started with your finances, I’d highly recommend this book* and this version is more accessible to an older crowd as well. I’d recommend reading this second edition since it is more up to date. If you already read the first edition and are hesitating to purchase this second edition, I will just say this: What would Ramit say about this 10 dollar decision?

*For the specifics of your country on retirement accounts and banks you will have to research yourself locally, but the general principles of the book and the psychology around money apply to all of us.

Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo

Excellent book, I really enjoyed listening to it. It is not only motivating but gives specific actionable steps to figure out anything you want. I especially liked the chapter on perfectionism and the mantra “Progress vs Perfection”.

I was not familiar with Marie Forleo’s work before and saw the book on every shelf at the bookstores. I first thought it was a book for women, but no it’s actually for any reader, in any stage of one’s life. The reviews seemed good, so I gave it a shot and certainly do not regret it. And I’ll probably listen to it again this year.

Your Money or Your Life by Vicky Robin and Joe Dominguez

Listened to it during a few long car trips. The concepts are absolutely solid and will challenge your current relationship to money. The author challenges your purchasing habits, your beliefs about money, work, your career, how you spend your free time, etc.

As an example, those questions are asked to the reader/listener :

Do you have enough money?
Are you spending enough time with family and friends?
Do you come home from your job full of life?
Do you have time to participate in things you believe are worthwhile?
If you were laid off from your job, would you see it as an opportunity?
The author proposes a clear 9 step plan to help you on your way
The book can sound repetitive at times but it is an absolute must-read to help you on your path to exchange more “life energy” for the things that matter to you.

Quick review of the 14 remaining

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Great ideas, solid concepts, and interesting stories to illustrate the concept of starting with WHY. I usually enjoy Simon Sinek’s talks, they are inspirational and actionable. This book stays true to that spirit but the first part of the book is so annoyingly repetitive although relevant in the content it presents. For those in a hurry, watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk (https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek…) on the topic and you can skip already half of the book!

I gave it only 3 stars in Goodreads, due to the repetitiveness.

The Simple Path to Wealth by J.L. Collins

This book was recommended by Mrs Miller on the podcast and it is an excellent book to understand the basics to start investing. It is called the Simple Path to Wealth, but it is also made simple to understand if you are not familiar with investing and index funds. I am used to US-centric books and, in general, that is not a problem. The fundamental principles are the same and applicable wherever you are and for the specifics, you need to check in your own country. There were, for example, a few chapters (20-23 in particular) I had to skip since it really is for the local market only with Roth IRAs and all the stuff we have (or not) in other forms in the rest of the world. If you live in the US and want to get started with your route to Financial Independence, I would highly recommend it. If you live in Europe or any other country, you are still welcome to read it but you will need to skip a few chapters :).

If I had to summarize the book in one sentence it would be: “VTSAX and chill

VTSAX is a Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

This book is very popular and is highly recommended for new startup leaders.

The premise of the book is to provide a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in an age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

I was familiar with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) concept thanks to the 4-hour workweek, but it’s always great to see where such concepts originate from. The MVP is a product that lacks some features because it is developed in a short time with less effort. With MVP, start-ups can test customers’ reactions to the product. Another concept that hit home for me was the Build-Measure-Feedback loop and the importance of pivoting.

This book suits those planning to launch a startup or those wanting to re-examine their startup strategy.

Guards! Guards! (A Discworld Novel) by Terry Pratchett

I read it as I played and enjoyed the video game as a teenager. Since I read it was partially inspired by Guard! Guards! I read my first Terry Pratchett book. A highly enjoyable book, I laughed all the way through from start to end at all the puns, the absurdities, funny descriptions in the footnotes which add color to the book. I also liked how deeper topics about human nature (herd mentality, jealousy, class-divide, greed,…) are depicted. It was my first Terry Pratchett book and definitely not the last :).

A little word of warning: As a non-native English speaker it might be challenging.

Young Fun and Financially Free by Leanna Haakons

This is a fantastic book if you are starting with getting your finances in order. The book is an easy and quick read (easily under 3 hours) and you can see it as a Money 101 guide. There were a few noteworthy points that made this book interesting :
– The tone is light, young, and fun as in the title.
– Each chapter starts with a fun, quirky money quote (and gets you thinking, where did she find that?)
– Something I enjoyed is that the first chapter is dedicated to one’s mindset (many Personal Finance books start on straight with budgeting and saving money), which I think is crucial and the author does that well.
– Each chapter is summarized at the end and makes it easy to identify the key points.
– Smart people make money mistakes too!
– You’ll learn a few financial jargon words like “in the black”
– Leanna Haakons shares her frugality tips but the underlying thinking is preservation, not deprivation.
– If you live in the US or Canada, there are some nifty recommendations on services, brokers,…
– Robo-advisers are fairly recent and there is a section in the book on those
– Another thing I haven’t seen explained so much in other PF books is the importance of insurances and how to prepare for unexpected events, there is even a paragraph on cyber-security.
– At the end of the book, she talks about building a Dream Team of experts (bankers, financial advisors, mortgage brokers, lawyers,..) and your Core Support System two important groups of people that will indeed help you on your journey to financial freedom! (again another key element not often mentioned in your classic “PF manual”).
– The author shares her personal stories and anecdotes throughout the various chapters of the book which makes it more relatable and not just preachy.

Finance, index funds, saving money,… may scare off (or bore) most young people in their early 20s, and with this book the author wants to make it easier and funnier to learn about managing one’s finances and does it well.

Humble Inquiry by Edgar Schein

This is a very short and easy read with deceptively simple advice on effective communication in a team or an organization.

The author argues that leaders must learn how to practice “Humble Inquiry,” which he defines as “the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

A classic in the personal finance space containing the usual money tips and told in a parable style. The interesting thing is that the book was written in 1926 and the principles still apply today.

Here is the summary from Wikipedia: The parables are told by a fictional Babylonian character called Arkad, a poor scribe who became the “richest man in Babylon”. Included in Arkad’s advice are the “Seven Cures” (or how to generate money and wealth), and the “Five Laws of Gold” (or how to protect and invest wealth). A core part of Arkad’s advice is around “paying yourself first”, “living within your means”, “investing in what you know”, the importance of “long-term saving”, and “homeownership”.

The content is from a series of pamphlets distributed by U.S. banks and insurance companies in 1920–24; the pamphlets were bound together and published as a book in 1926.

This one is perfect for newcomers to the personal finance world.

Mort (A Discworld Novel) by Terry Pratchett

I first discovered the Discworld through the 1995 “point ‘n click”  videogame of the same name and loved the absurd British humor, the weird characters, and the universe (or should I say multiverse?). This led me to read “Guards, guards” (see above) of which the game was inspired from. I thought I would continue reading more about the series and decided to read Mort as well. It is about Mort (Mortimer is his full name) who becomes an apprentice to Death (yes, the dude with a scythe). Mort is a clumsy teenager, mistake-prone, and spends most of the story attempting to fix his mistake of saving the life of a princess who was supposed to die while Death is trying out “human” activities such as job hunting, partying, gambling,…Even though some of the jokes and the colorful footnotes made it a pleasant read I did not enjoy it as much as Guard! Guards!

The Money Master by Sandy Yong

I have received a copy from Sandy herself in order to prepare for our podcast episode, which you can find here. It is a short and excellent personal finance 101 book. I found the format easy and accessible to anyone wanting to get started with their finances. It covers the basics and much more: mindset, habits, goals and dreams! I also learned a lot from the financial experts featured in the book on recent hot topics such as cryptocurrencies or even the more controversial cannabis stocks. This book will surely be a classic and inspiration for generations to come.

Pro Tip: Listen to the podcast episode with Sandy, there might be a surprise for those interested in the book 😉.

Bottoms Up In Belgium by Alec Le Sueur

Picked up this book at the airport and after a quick flipping through the pages, I thought it would be interesting to see what a foreigner’s experience in my country was like :).

It is true our quirky country is not so well known even to our neighbours, so this book provides more insight for those interested or planning to move to Belgium.

While you would expect chapters on Beers, chocolate, the European Union, summer festivals (Zomerfestivals with one M), etc. in a book about Belgium I certainly did not expect a chapter on Formula1 or cockerel singing (did not even know it was a thing), so I learned a bit myself as well on my own country while reading.
I found the chapters on the EU and Eurovision lengthy and boring. On the other hand, how can one make a topic on institutions and bureaucracy entertaining? And as for the Eurovision, I must not be that Belgian since I have no interest in it whatsoever.
The music part could have been so much better, it is unfortunate the author was at Pukkelpop the wrong year (There was a catastrophic storm that year).

This is not a book for tourists with some quick best tips and introduction to Belgium, it is more aimed at people who are interested in Belgium, or at potential expats so they get a feel of what’s to come :).
The book gives a good glimpse at the Belgian culture, but it is mostly based on Flemish culture which is different from the Walloon one, as a Belgian I have to say this.

The book is all in all rather pleasant to read and the author has nice dry wit humor which made it enjoyable.

Note to the author: What is wrong with Gueuze beer? I actually like it.

You are Not So Smart by David McRaney

I really enjoyed seeing how “not so smart” I am in 48 ways! 😉 It so easy to think we have an infallible memory, that we remember everything, that we remain rational under all circumstances,… We really are not better than the rest, the stories we sometimes tell ourselves, …ooh and of course there is a section on the Dunning-Kruger effect! 

This is an excellent read I highly enjoyed and can recommend to anyone. 

Fache Comme un Francais avec l Economie by Pierre Robert

This is a French book explaining why and how the French population has nurtured negative feelings towards money and economy. For many, the economy is seen as an ideology only serving the elites and is hence unappreciated, not learned properly and even simply ignored. This unhealthy relation is part of what led to the “yellow vests” movement in France in late 2018-early 2019.

I have found it an excellent book that detailed the origin of the discomfort that the French have with the economy. The author does an excellent job of dispelling the myths on the economy in general and proposes solutions to find ways to reconcile the French with the economy.

Swimming with Sharks by Joris Luyendijk

A must-read if you want a solid introduction to a part of the events leading to the financial crash in 2008. I enjoyed how the author presented his book starting from basic questions and then taking us along in his journey to discover more and more about who the “bankers” really are, what drives them, what different types of bankers exist, how the banking system works,… This book is accessible even to those without a financial background. If you want to grasp more of what lead to the meltdown of the financial sector in 2008, go and read it!

When to Rob a Bank by Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner

It does not beat the original Freakonomics. Never the less, as a former student in Business and economics I enjoy not only how they blend in concepts such as opportunity costs, anchoring,…with our daily lives (tipping an airplane hostess, expressing dissatisfaction at a restaurant, should there be a no gas purchase day,…) but enjoy as well all the unconventional observations, variety of topics and humor.

Audible Review

Audible is an Amazon company providing audiobooks that you can listen to thanks to their app. To make use of their service, you create an account, start with a free 30-trial subscription and get 1 credit which is equal to one audiobook that you can choose. If you are not satisfied or if audiobooks are not the thing for you, you can cancel anytime during the trial at no cost and you will still keep the audiobook in your Audible account.

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Screenshot of Audible app on my Phone

At the end of the trial, you can then go for a paid subscription and this will give you one credit (1 book) a month. You can, of course, buy additional credits if you want to listen to more books.

The price per month is 7.99 GBP or 9.95 EUR for us in Europe.

If you are in the US you are presented with multiple types of subscriptions :

  • Gold: For 14,95 dollars a month you get 2 Audible Originals, in addition to the 1 credit, every month, which is pretty neat! And if you are an Amazon Prime customer, you get Audible for free (but with a limited selection of books).
  • Gold Annual: 149,5 dollar/year and you get 12 credits
  • Platinum : 22,95 dollars – you get 2 credits/month
  • Platinum Annual: 229,5 dollars – you get 24 credits.

A recent audiobook stand-alone is easily 25 to 35 dollars, so going for the subscription is definitely a great deal.

My take on Audible? 

I must say I was reluctant at first because I simply prefer to read than to listen to books. Never the less, Audible has helped me greatly to achieve lasts year’s goal (I listened to 6 books last year) and I intend to continue my subscription this year too. Thanks to this service I have been able to listen to books in the car and most of the time when doing menial tasks at home (it is very easy to listen to 30-40 minutes of a book while getting ready in the morning for example). A nice side benefit of listening to audiobooks is that for some books you will have the author reading the book to you as he/she intended to. Right now I am listening to Becoming by Michelle Obama and it gives a special feeling, it is like having her in my living room telling me her story. The subscription is 9,95 euro/month in my case and I can choose any new book every month, to me that is a no-brainer: this is an excellent deal and I am happy to pay for it.

On the other hand, I found that depending on the book, audiobooks might not be the best format for me. For a self-help book like Everything is Figureoutable or fiction books like Harry Potter, audiobooks are perfect. However, for personal finance books, I prefer to visualize the graphs, tables, and calculations. But this is my opinion of course.

If you want to try it out, you can do so by joining Audible here (US/UK/EUR). It is risk-free and remember, you keep your book even after canceling, so if you are an avid reader, give it a try!

Bringing it all together

Reading all those books was quite an achievement for me, and I got a lot from them. What I enjoy as well as you read more is that you get to make the connections/parallels between ideas of all the books you read. This year I have made a new goal of reading 20 books, so little by little I am trying to take on more each year. They serve as great inspiration for the blog and podcast, and for my professional and personal life in general.

But now tell me, have you read any of the books above? What did you think? What were the books you have read last year that stood out?

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My 2019 books, have you read any of those?

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. That means I may make a small commission (at no cost to you) if you make a purchase. This will help to support Joney Talks!


7 thoughts on “My 2019 in books and a 6-months review of Audible

    1. Hey Simone, thanks for stopping by, well I was reluctant at first but it has really turned out to be a great experience. Will be curious to hear your experience, just send me a tweet 🙂

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