Book Reviews

Hi and welcome to my book review page.

I love reading and the knowledge gained from reading quality, well-written books. Here I have curated a selection of books that I have enjoyed reading and shared links where you can purchase them at discounted prices from the regular RRP’s.

Take a look through my growing selection and broaden your knowledge today!

Dave

From Monk To Money Manager

Why It’s Okay To Be A Little Bit Wealthy – And How To Make It Happen

By: Doug Lynam

Published: 19th June 2019
ISBN: 9780785223870
Number Of Pages: 256


“While it’s generally unwise to discuss religion or money with strangers, Doug Lynam, who is an expert in both, joins the world of God and mammon for your benefit.
Read, absorb, and enjoy From Monk to Money Manager, and you’ll enrich both your spirit and your pocketbook.”

—William Bernstein, Author of The Investor’s Manifesto

Money to some is the greatest thing and the target of all endeavours. To others it is the necessary evil that we need but we try, at least publicly, to not appear entrapped by. 

Doug Lyman rejected money and capitalism as a young man. He eventually ended up in a Benedictine monastery for twenty years where he  met the challenges of living with a vow of poverty in the financial western world.

His talents for assisting people with their finances and desire for social justice, led to his present position in the financial world. He teaches the balance of having money without money having you.

Doug Lyman sorts through many of the misleading and dysfunctional approaches to money. He shows how a correct love of our resources means prosperity and responsibility and discusses how the power of our good personal money management can benefit those around us

The book starts with chapters on the benefits of a thriving economy for all of its citizens and how this promotes personal and community development. This book is also a really good basis for those who have a capitalistic mind but are hampered by a conscientious heart that wants justice in the world.

It is a very practical book, looking at the practicalities of personal finance like Budgeting, Insurance, investing, debt recovery and saving and would be a great companion to those who like the ‘Barefoot Investor’ or Dave Ramsey’s approach of ‘ethical capitalism’ and perhaps, like me, found books like ‘Rich Dad poor Dad’ a bit mercenary and exploitative.

As a person who has put these common-sense beliefs and disciplines into practice and has experienced being liberated from massive debt (even raiding the kids piggy banks for milk and bread) and now the beginning of a healthy financial future, I find this book very balanced and correct in its approaches to wealth.

This book tells you how to get rich in your pocket as well as your heart and shows us how a good healthy bank balance with plenty left, can bring about contentment and fulfilment. You can not only achieve personal wealth but assist your community in becoming a little bit wealthy also. I highly recommend it.

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Brain Rules (Updated and Expanded)

12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

By: John Medina

Published: 8th May 2014
ISBN: 9780983263371
Number Of Pages: 304

John Medina has written a very entertaining book that explores 12 rules for brain optimisation and health that he has noted from many years of research and neuroscience. As I study neuroscience I greatly enjoy Medina’s writing style which is down to earth, often comical and easy to understand while expounding some serious scientific stuff which keeps me smiling and learning. Medina tells of some amazing facts and the latest research which shows us how to get the best out of our brains as well as benefit from certain personality traits and habits that assist in the better chance of possible avoidance of some common neurological ailments as we age.

Through my own research and a deep interest in brain science, especially in its relationship to learning, I have found books like this to be reliable and accessible to people with an interest in this arena of knowledge. If you are planning on learning something, which by all accounts is very helpful, especially another language or musical instrument, the hints in this book I have found very helpful when it comes to general memory and methods of retaining facts.

I have adopted many of the tips in this book and have found great benefit. It debunks some of the myths about our brains and gives good, practical advice to help in everyday challenges. I am now embarking on post-graduate work in Educational Neuroscience and Brain-based Education because of this and other great books by experts that seem to be able to break down the mystique of the brain science so that people like me can understand it. Loving it….I hope you will too!

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The Keeper

The Unguarded Story of Tim Howard

By Tim Howard

Published: 26th May 2015
ISBN: 9780062387585
Number Of Pages: 288
For Ages: 8+ years old

As a person who grew up with undiagnosed Tourette’s syndrome, I relate to many of the moments in this book. Like many with our condition, it is the story of a young person who broke through to realise his goals to spite the circumstances of his early life, and in his case, reached the dizzy heights of a professional player in British and International soccer.

I found this book inspirational and felt the moments of great triumph and the moments of deep despair as one who has journeyed with this condition and gone through the whole spectrum of the feelings of courage and confidence through to the despair of failure and massive ‘imposter syndrome’; wondering what I was doing there and who was I kidding?

Tim Howard shows in his story the timeless pattern again of a young person showing great courage and tenacity which is drawn out by a parent who gave it all and a few key mentors who appeared along the path and drew out his fabulous goalkeeping talents. In this regard, it is also the story of those people who stepped into his life and fulfilled the classic position of ‘guide’ for the journey.

Tim made many sacrifices along the way, some of which sadly cost him dearly, some that I personally think should have not been made. The book displays how ambition and drive is a two-sided coin, pushing us courageously forward and crushing us when we allow our performance orientation to reveal that sometimes our self-image is based on what we can do in the eyes of others rather than who we really are. 

While a few people have rated this book as egocentric and self-serving, I found it very honest and encouraging as he tells of the many mistakes contrasting the moments of brilliance professionally and personally that make up any public life. Thank you, Tim, for the strength of character in being prepared to be so vulnerable to tell of many of these moments.

I hope young people, particularly with a disability, after reading this book, will get inspiration to not settle for a victim posture and give in to circumstances but push past their feelings of inadequacy and ‘have a go’ through the ups and the downs that are often missing from many stories of greatness. I have learned to push through with the help of many ‘guides’ in the Education and the Careers sector after falling out of school in grade 9. If you have a sports-mad kid with a few challenges or just want to get them reading, this is a good one!

Enjoy!

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Why We Sleep

By Matthew Walker

Published: 4th January 2018
ISBN: 9780141983769
Number Of Pages: 368

Now and again you read something that alters your world. Why we sleep by Matthew Walker is one such book for me. Prepare to be frightened, enlightened, excited and challenged about your attitude to your sleep and others sleep patterns. This has been a life-changer for me!

Scientific, yet easy to read and understand, this book explains why good sleep is profoundly important for human survival rivalling even food and exercise for importance. In a very down to earth and often humorous manner, Matthew Walker: a neurologist who has been studying sleep for over 20 years, explains sleep cycles, the chemistry and physiology of the brain while debunking many of the myths and misconceptions about sleep including sleep through the life cycle and why teenagers have to sleep in till noon!

Everyone can benefit from this great book and I especially highly recommend every teacher read this book. I am a teacher of young people and have benefitted greatly from this read. The book reveals the possible answers to so many of the problems we have with students learning including the best times to teach them for the ‘clinically tested’ best results.

Not only does Walker explore neonatal and post-natal developmental issues with sleep but, as I approach later life, I am finding an understanding of some of the challenges I am facing with a sleep disorder and poor sleep patterns.

I am going through this book again, also in Audio so that I can listen while exercising. I believe there is something beneficial to everyone in this book from all walks of life.

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The Richest Man in Babylon – Now Revised and Updated for the 21st Century

By: George S. Clason

Published: 19 February 2007
ISBN: 9789562913799
Number Of Pages: 124

About the time Rhonda and I were in our financial crisis, our mortgage broker gave us this little book called ‘The Richest Man in Babylon’. Although the original copy he handed us was in old King James English, the story captivated us and was another catalyst in our big turnaround from survival mode into a more prosperous future.

Written in the early part of the last century it is a book of fables about people living in the ancient Babylonian empire and how they made and lost their money. In this new revised standard English version, the story begins with a chariot builder who is furious that he works long hard days to make ends meet and yet his friend, who is the richest man in the whole empire doesn’t seem to work any harder, has a life of abundance and relative ease. With his other friends, the chariot builder sets out to corner their friend to disclose the secrets of his wealth.

This and other stories are very easy to read, well written and very palatable to even young readers. Many times I have given copies out to the apprentices I teach, many of whom have gone on to invest and buy a property. Like many parents, I have tried with varying success to get our children to read this book, some of which have not gelled with it immediately but have however come back to it and others like it in later times. In this age when young people are sold the lies of easy credit and mass marketing, I think this little book should be compulsory reading in the later years of schooling.

Personally, it took many years for our large and hefty ‘financial ship’ to turn around, but with patience, budgeting and time we have moved from a retreating, scattered force to an advancing position. If you identify with our story, then I recommend you have a read of this little book and I hope you are inspired as we were.   

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9 things you simply must do to succeed in love and life

By Henry Cloud

Published: 9th September 2007
ISBN: 9780785289166
Number Of Pages: 256

When I first read 9 things you simply must do by Henry Cloud, I was at a point with a failing business, Rhonda and I had little money and 5 young children. The Global Financial Crisis was breathing down our necks and, because I was driving a great distance every day, I first listened to it on Audio CD in the car and then bought it for further reading.

The genre of the book is self-help however it is based heavily on observations by Dr Cloud of common traits he had noticed in successful individuals in his many years of Psychological practice. He labels these people ‘déjà vu’ people because he noticed a distinct set of principles operating in their lives that led to great outcomes and the maintenance of stable mentalities.

He describes each of these traits in-depth and through storytelling and the experiences of his patents, shows how these character disciplines promote wellbeing and help us deal with the different challenges of life.

This book was a turning point for me in vision and relationships. I entered into what I can only describe as ‘my positive mid-life crisis’ in which I studied and improved myself into a life that I wanted including becoming a successful teacher with a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in education as well as having many adventures leading towards more security and greater fulfilment. This book may not have been the full story behind my breakout towards success but was certainly a definite catalyst for the drive to move forward to where I am now. This is another book I have revisited over the years and try to put the principles into practice.

I recommend this book, especially if you are in a rut or relationship ‘entanglements’ as I have found some real wisdom here.

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Ordering Your Private World

By Gordon MacDonald

Published: 19th October 2017
ISBN: 9780718088002
Number Of Pages: 256

When I first read the first edition of ‘Ordering your private world’ by Gordon McDonald in 1986, I was seeking a good book on prioritising my life and seeking some inner peace for a crazy schedule in Church Youth Ministry, Music and Trade work. This book did not disappoint then and since recommended by a friend again, for the new addition (2017), has once again helped me refocus on what is important on the inner life and how maintenance of the inner life affects our responses to the external world around us. 

Not exactly a self-help book, McDonald focuses primarily on our inner spiritual life and uses references from the Philosophers, Historical biographies, some medical studies and the Bible to explore the lives of successful people, particularly those in the service of others, who experience lots of personal interactions, and how they maintain balance and stability amongst the noise of very public lives. He begins with the story about a vessel in rough seas and, how the Captain being on the bridge brings security to those aboard because the master of the ship says ‘everything is alright’. He talks about how even the most successful people often collapse inwards because of the ‘sinkholes’ created by an empty inner life.

The new addition has some further insights on the original text and some more life experience written into it as McDonald, now in his 70s, looks back on his life and shares some of the challenges that he has made it through because he has practised these habits and concepts.

This book may be more slanted to those in faith ministry or people who have a faith-based life, however, I think even if you are not convinced of all the answers offered, the concepts explored and questions asked of us in reading this book should be useful for contemplation of the life of any reader. I will read it again and I think I will revisit this book often. 

Even though I received a great amount of good advice and it changed my life over 30 years ago, I hope this time, now in my late 50s, I will put more of it into practice than I did last time I read it in my 20s.

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Let Your Life Speak

Listening for the Voice of Vocation

By Parker J. Palmer

Published: 10th September 1999
ISBN: 9780787947354
Number Of Pages: 128

I noticed this book because I was looking for something about vocations that would fire me up after all the study, statistics and theory of career development. This did it indeed. As a successful academic Parker Palmer turned his back on the world of College and higher learning in California, claiming that it was corrupt and immoral.

Palmer ends up in a community in the Midwest of the USA where he begins what he thought was a short retreat period, emerging ten years later and becoming a sort after speaker and thought-leader in education.

Palmer talks mainly about his journey towards ‘authentic self’ in which he travelled many internal paths and ‘dark nights of the soul’ including a large battle with bouts of depression. He gives some great insights into what people can do for those who are struggling with this crippling challenge as well as some simple, but profound, insights into how he discerned his actual calling in life.

One thing I got out of it, that has really changed me, is the idea that what we commonly call ‘burnout’ doesn’t occur because we are giving too much of ourselves; but because we are not giving out of our authentic selves. He infers that when we give out of our authentic selves we are exhilarated and built up.I thought about this and realised that when I light someone else’s candle form mine, my candle doesn’t lose anything or go out, but the light spreads and grows. When I give out what I do not have myself, I soon come to grief.

While I found this book personally profound, I do fear that Palmer’s insights, while having such an effect on me, might be a product of timing for the level I am at, at this point and may not be the same amazing revelation for others who are in a different journey or place on the journey. I have read it twice now and have really found it helpful. I hope you do too!

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Grit : The Power of Passion and Perseverance

By Angela Duckworth

Published: 21 Aug 2018
ISBN: 1501111116
Number Of Pages: 368

Angela Duckworth has written a book about her studies of people who have significantly performed in their fields. With her reasonably easy to digest science intermixed with great stories, Angela tells stories about and interviews successful people who had found that passion, purpose and a ‘Gritty sticking with it’. This had produced great results when others, more talented and considered most likely to succeed, have fallen short of the goal.

Recounting some past disturbing experiments displaying ‘learned helplessness’, Duckworth shows that those who have succeeded have not been the most talented but much more often the most determined. Covering the period of the few stumbling steps of a toddler’s first walk to the Halls of WestPoint Military academy, Angela Duckworth looks at how we teach resilience and what the results are in real terms. Hired by WestPoint, she and other researchers developed methods of determining grit. They could forecast with some accuracy which recruits would survive the gruelling training and stick with it and which would not last the distance.

One of the great quotes towards the end of this book is by Pete Carroll, coach of the continuously successful Seattle Sea Hawks, after a decision of a play that cost them the super bowl, quoting Churchill, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” Overall, she contends that those who surround you provide a sort of slipstream and organisational culture that carries you along to where the group is going. There is an underlying base of good advice for building grit in kids and young adults; knowing when to step in and help and knowing when to let them work it out themselves.

I enjoyed this book, which supports other principles I have learned through writers like Dr Henry Cloud, who relate this ‘grunt’ (as we call it in Australia) to whom we have around us and the ‘culture’ of our ‘tribe’. If you need to get ‘fired up’ to accomplish something soon…..this is a good one!

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Abba’s Child

The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

By: Brennan Manning

 

Published: 1st June 2015

ISBN: 9781631463952

Number Of Pages: 192

I don’t know what to write about this book, but I will try. I first read the Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning many years ago when recommended to me by a friend. Manning, who died a few years ago, is a hero of all who does not seem ever to get it entirely right and often slip back down the hill a bit. The emphasis of the book is first to expose and recognise the false self. We see ‘the imposter’ who makes a good impression, who seeks others approval at all cost and, while keeping us safe when we were young and hurt, is now a tyrant who avoids vulnerability and fears exposure to others.

I have received so much out of this book which I have read several times. The great truth of the Christian faith is that we are loved as we are by the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. As I reread this book, I realise that my charity, right living and moral correctness should never come out of an attempt to be accepted. Instead, it is out of an awareness of our heavenly Father’s total acceptance and as an offering of thanksgiving back to him because we are already acceptable in our ‘moral and spiritual rags’.

This book is not a complex theological epistle or a ‘touchy-feely self-love’ book. It is about finally giving up the ‘good guy or good girl image’, getting your self-image from the one who knows us totally, and then becoming like a little child who knows unconditional love no matter how they fail. ‘Abba’ is the Hebrew word for Daddy, and I have found great liberation by realising that I am just his minor child, here for a few years and then going to be with him forever.

Sometimes simple is profound. This is one of those works that I revisit every couple of years because when we drift off the basics for a while, we tend to lose perspective and the realities of that total acceptance; and start performing for love again in different ways.

Even if you do not consider yourself a spiritual person and wonder about the basis of the Christian faith, the chapter on the imposter will be getting you thinking and hopefully lead you to a new peace.

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Brain Changer

How diet can save your mental health – cutting-edge science from an expert

By: Professor Felice Jacka

 

Published: 14 January 2021

ISBN: 9781529326642

Number Of Pages: 336

This book explores the relatively new frontier of Nutrition and Psychology. For years, we have known the good and bad effects on our cardiovascular health and our overall fitness, but this book goes further into the impact of depression and anxiety. It explains well the science side of things and yet is very readable and doesn’t, in my view, require much scientific understanding.

One of the great things that I liked about this book, which incidentally Felice Jacka was criticised for by some, is that it is the story of her journey through depression and other health problems. She is making ground-breaking discoveries as a psychologist, which led her to become a nutritional expert and become a professor in the ne3w field at Deacon University, Australia. In short, the primary strength of this book is that it is not written by some expert in a sterilised emotional ivory tower but by someone who has lived the problems and can testify to the validity of what she is telling us through her own experience.

I was surprised by the research results and reminded that much of what we are consuming as ‘food’ in the western world is causing us problems.

This is far from another recipe book or fad diet. Brain Changer explains how we should consider what goes into our mouths, look at the facts about corporate profit in the food industry in general and realise that brain and emotional fitness is influenced as much as physical fitness by what we eat.

I indeed found this book non-fanatical, science-based and very human. It is one of those books we need to revisit to fine-tune our lives, and I will be using it to strengthen my mental and brain health for the rest of my life.

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Age of Opportunity

By: Laurence D. Steinberg

Published: 1 December 2015

ISBN: 9780544570290

Number Of Pages: 272

Often you run into books you wish you had read 20 years ago. With great facts and understandable science to back it all up, Laurence Steinberg talks about the ‘age of opportunity when we can significantly influence the adolescents of this generation and the futures.

Starting with the fact that puberty is coming much earlier and, in many cases, maturity coming much later, Steinberg talks about how adolescence is now a much longer process than in earlier years. The arrival line at ‘adulthood’ is now more blurry than ever. Although he spends a fair amount of time in the early chapters discussing puberty and its neurological and psychological effects on young people’s growth, it is worth working through, and we are rewarded with many great insights once he has laid out the basis of the discussion. His personal stories and parenting advice are beneficial for those who have children entering the ‘teen zone’ and those who have children in their early twenties and wonder how long this will last!

While there was one issue I had trouble with, the general advice is very sound and well tested, and his apparent vast experience matches up with the science. As a teacher and past youth leader, I found the information resonated with me.

Teachers, parents and those who hold a special place in their lives for young people would find great insight in this book. It unravels many of the mysteries behind the choices young people make and thus encourages us to use this understanding to help our adolescents make good decisions, including advice on how to discern when to let their rope out a little further.

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The Power of the Other

By: Henry Cloud

Published: 2 Jun 2016

ISBN: 9780061777141

Number Of Pages: 256

The Startling Effect Other People Have On You, From the Boardroom to the Bedroom and Beyond-And What to Do About It.

As a budding Educational Neuroscientist, I find books like this fascinating. One of the first things one learns in neuroscience is that we as humans are very social creatures, not just in an ordinary interaction sense but also profoundly neurological and psychological. One of the critical points of this book is that we can call each other on to great things in exhortation or destroy each other with our poor attitudes and discouragement.

I have been a big fan of Henry Cloud for many years. In this book, he tells stories of how people make remarkable differences in others’ lives through encouragement and belief, which extends beyond even the physical boundaries, sometimes defying the realms of perceived personal endurance.

Many people have been put there just at the right time to call me onwards to more extraordinary things in my life. This includes a close-knit group of men who have grown as close as brothers. Often they will clarify for me what the real issues are and challenge my garbage attitudes when I am looking for an easy way out.

If you are tired of negative influences in your life or want to influence someone else’s life positively, you will find this book helpful and exciting.

The book’s first major story tells of Cloud’s ‘older brother’ figure and the influence he had on others in his military unit. Following this are basic facts about our social brains and how we have a unique capacity to affect others in a world that demands rugged individualism and self-fulfilment. The bottom line is that others do have power over us….so we had better get used to it. Do those around us enhance and grow us as people or use us for their ends?

The only natural choice we have is whom we let have the most effect!

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Turn the Ship Around!

A True Story of Building Leaders by Breaking the Rules
By: L. David Marquet

Published: 4th January 2016
ISBN: 9780241250945
Number Of Pages: 240

 

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David Marquet was about to be assigned the Captaincy of one of the USA finest nuclear submarines. Suddenly his orders are changed and his commander assigns him to what was described as the poorest performing boat in the submarine fleet: The Santa Fe. This boat had even been the butt of jokes among those training for officer’s positions in the US navy due to its almost non- existent staff retention level, poor operational standards and near zero morale.
 

After some bad experiences with leadership as an officer aboard other vessels, David Marquet was very hesitant to take on the command but after being assured by his superiors that he was the handpicked man for the job and permission to stretch and modify whatever it took, he took on the command.

The rest is history and a great story of how a leader built leaders who together not only retained their crew and raised the submarine’s status to the top of the rankings but also, post to Marquet’s command, produced a phenomenal record number of Officers and Captains of other vessels.

This is a true story of a leader who challenged structures, questioned what served his people and their cause, and, what just served a system. It is also the story of a human who knew his limitations and with humility sourced co-operative solutions; upholding the dignity of each of his crew and treated problems, not just symptoms.

I found this an exciting and inspirational story and highly recommend this book to anyone in leadership, especially those who feel they are not connecting with the people they are leading.

As a teacher, and especially as a parent, I found that I can parallel many of the ideas and have had many new inspirations just from engaging with the story which relates to any group of people no matter what their cause. I think the biggest lesson for me was that leaders produce leaders and redundancy in tasks, because you have raised someone else up, is the greatest complement.

I hope you will get new insight about those you lead, because really, we are all leaders somewhere, somehow.

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