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The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich
 320 Seiten
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Impulse purchase when in Prague, the place of the assassination. Bought it despite its unfriendly cover (Nazi guy raising his right arm in the air...) and its old publish date (1989!). I'm really glad I did buy it, though.

The writing is far from being as shallow as the dramatic cover suggests. In fact, Callum MacDonald was a British professor of history who has sadly died from cancer in the 90s. While being well researched and reflective on many actors during the war, his writing is so clear and concise that it was hard to put this book down.

A large part of the book is dedicated to telling the story of the fate of Czechoslovakia, a country which enjoyed a brief time of independence before basically being handed over to Nazi Germany in 1938 after France and England co-signed the Munich agreement. The Czech president Beneš went into exile in London, where he tried to support the Czech underground while lobbying with the Allies for more support of the Czech cause. Eventually, he was involved in sending "Operation Anthropoid" to Prague. Their mission: Kill Reinhard Heydrich, the "butcher of Prague" and highest ranking nazi who has ever been assassinated during WWII.

We also learn about the background of Heydrich, his early and quickly progressing career and his eventual posting to Prague.

The actual story of the assassination is told just as interestingly as the rest. If you are interested in that part of the story alone, go and watch "Anthropoid", a recent Hollywood movie which depicts the dramatic events very well, I think.

Overall, one of my better impulse purchases.

Lilac Girls
 496 Seiten
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The story of three women throughout the 1930s and later. One is American, one Polish and one German. Mostly based on actual characters, this books is another good read of the tragedies of WW2, in this cased based around the women concentration camp of Ravensbrück.

I've learned a lot, because I wasn't aware of the Ravensbrück camp before and the unique stories that took place there.

I only subtract one star because the motivation of the German doctor during WW2 wasn't told as convincingly as the other characters' motivations, in my mind. I understand this is the most challenging to get across, but it would also have been the most interesting one, I think.

You Need a Budget
 224 Seiten
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How many more personal finance books will I read? I don't know. But this one, I did have to read. I am an avid fan of the budgeting software YNAB (You Need a Budget) and this book by their founder highlights the 4 principle of how he recommends you should organize your money.

  1. "Give every dollar a job". Explicitly put your money in categories. Food, gadgets, travel, what have you. These categories reflect your personal values. It's not about money, really. It's about what's important to you, now and for the future.
  2. "Embrace your true expenses". Larger, less frequent expenses like yearly insurance fees are often overlooked. Make them part of your "jobs" from rule no 1 so that no expense will ever surprise you. Instead, slowly save up to when that bill hits.
  3. "Roll with the punches". A good budget is designed to be changed, not to force you into a fixed set of rules. If your priorities change, be honest to yourself, and re-assign the jobs from rule no 1.
  4. "Age your money". When you're living paycheck to paycheck, money leaves your account soon after having arrived. This is a stress factor and not sustainable. Aim to extend that "age" of your money, at least for 30 days, preferably longer.

I liked the content and also the tone of the book. Jesse is a friendly and humorous advisor, but also a good storyteller who shares the experience of managing a household with 6 kids and his family's approach to having healthy finances.

Personally, I have been working with the YNAB software for a year and they do have a lot of educational content online, so actually I didn't learn a lot that was new. Still, having everything told in this format felt nice and worth my time.

Unclear to me still: How exactly would one implement this budgeting principle without YNAB or similar software? At the very least, probably you'd have an elaborate spreadsheet. I don't know.

The Simple Path to Wealth: Your road map to financial independence and a rich, free life
 288 Seiten
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Good book as a general overview of how to sort out your finances, no matter if you just want to be prepared for retirement in your 60s, or move up that date of not-having-to-work to some time earlier than that.

Basically, JL Collins just says:

  1. Spend less than you earn. Invest the rest. Ideally, you save and invest 50% or more of your income.
  2. Simply pour your savings in the cheapest and broadest stock market product there is. In the US, it's Vanguard's Total stock market index.

Things that were not "perfect":

  • Very US-centric. A handful of chapters do not apply to people outside of the US, because he talks about tax-efficient retirement plans which we do not have in Germany.
  • Most reported yields used numbers that were taken from the optimistic end of the range of historic market returns. I wonder why. This strategy does not require any magic sauce to make the maths work. 5-8% of stock market returns are perfectly fine if you have your savings rate and spending habits in check.

Why I think this was great:

  • Target audience was JL Collins' daughter who does not care for finances. His language was clear, to the point and had a friendly tone.
  • A significant part of the book was supposed to teach you to "not panic". Stocks are risky only in the sense that they are volatile. Understand that crashes are part of the deal, and just invest calmly.
  • One chapter talked about the "safe widthdrawel rate": You can withdraw 4% per year from a stock portfolio and can (pretty much) live on it forever. I only knew this blog-compressed version of the rule, when in reality the original study goes in depth a lot more. The book even sported 4 full pages of numerical calculations. Loved it! And it helped my understanding of how this works.

If you don't want to read the book, you can find a lot of overlap in his free blog series: https://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/ -- OR, for an overview, simply watch this talk that he gave when invited to speak at Google: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T71ibcZAX3I