As I finalized my books read list for 2017 the other day, I started reflecting on the year’s book choices and realized many of them were rooted in challenging the status quo, particularly the thoughts and habits built around consumerism and finance.
“The Millionaire Next Door”, was recommended by my mentor as a tool to frame how we were setting our financial goals as a family. I expected a “get rich quick” theme or endless lecture similar to Dave Ramsey or Rich Dad, Poor Dad. What I got instead was a life changing paradigm shift. The Millionaire Next Door really opened my eyes to how we personally and culturally define “success”, how we measure ourselves against a name brands and labels, and most notably how research shows that the “rich” among us are not the ones buying big flashy expensive new things. Without a doubt, this book changed my life.
While The Millionaire Next Door sat brewing in my brain for several months, I picked up Madame Bovary, a classic French novel written in 1856. The story follows the beautiful Madame Bovary who drives her family to ruin with her boredom and endless search for meaning in frivolous material pursuits. Unfortunately for Madame, the unhappiness she finds in her very normal and simple life cannot be cured by her many debt-inducing purchases, the birth of her only child, nor the affairs with handsome interesting young men, leading poor Madame to commit suicide while her husband and child deal with the fallout of her selfish decisions. While the language can be a bit old fashioned, Madame Bovary is every bit as relevant today as it was 160 years ago.
The universe popped “Babbitt” into my hands shortly after Madame Bovary. Sinclair Lewis did an amazing job capturing the mind and emotions of a middle aged man who had already achieved significant wealth and success but was caught between his desperation for his youth, more money, further success, his endless lust for acceptance by his peers and being happy.
I absolutely hated Babbitt and his grandiose speeches, his wishy washy nature, his constant need to be loved, admired and respected by his peers. His constant scheming, planning and ladder climbing left me grossed out and I felt like nothing Babbitt did ever felt genuine or true. Again, a credit to the author, who created a character so wholly flawed you can’t help but feel sorry for him, even though you hate him.
Until next time, may you find the time to curl up with a good book and a pot of tea!