February is over and I’ve read a bunch of books since the year started. Just like my previous book review, the books here are mostly in the self-help genre. I’m always on the hunt for books that remind me to strive to be a better person or at the very least, I can learn something new from. Let’s check out the entries for the first review of the year.
The Richest Man in Babylon
By George S. Clason
While reading this book, I was impressed with how simple the concepts being presented were. The main takeaway from this book is to “Save money and let that money work for you to earn more.” It’s that simple and even the book itself ends with that concept in mind. If you’re looking for specific steps on what to do with your money or companies to invest in, you will not find them here.
The financial lessons in this book are presented in an “ancient” way. They are shared via parables of people who lived in the great historical city of Babylon, the world’s greatest, largest, and wealthiest city. I actually preferred this style of delivering information because it’s creative, interesting, and is based on practical examples. Not that it’s easy to earn money nowadays by trading camels or selling rugs (unless you’re from a specific niche of people), but you get the point.
I had a good time reading this book despite most of the lessons being repetitive. It’s still an enjoyable read just to be reminded of the right mindset to approach your money.
Oh, and I have to mention that I was shocked to find out that this book was written back in 1926! This is probably one of the oldest books I’ve read. And it stands as a testament that the financial lessons here are just as applicable way back then until now. The learnings in this book are still as relevant even if ways of earning (and losing) money have definitely advanced in today’s age.
I highly recommend this book to people having a hard time with budgeting their expenses or those who need a fresh view on their earnings. It shows how simple it is to adopt this mindset but how hard it is to apply in life. It’s not at the level of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, but it’s way easier on the palate.
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life
By Francesc Miralles and Hector Garcia
This book wasn’t what I expected based on the title. The content was way more scientific than I expected, especially when dealing with Ikigai, the unique Japanese concept of “the reason to live.”
This is more of a collection of things that a person can do in order to live a long life. The concept of Ikigai is used as an all-encompassing term for these methods. This is based on the authors’ premise that the people in Okinawa, Japan live the longest lives in the world and so they investigated the factors that could lead to this longevity.
This book can get all over the place since it tackles so many things in a shallow manner, but it does help you get started on some things that you might otherwise miss out on. Thanks to this book, I was able to get into Victor Frankl’s Logotherapy. There are also other concepts like wabi-sabi and ichi-go ichi-e that are briefly mentioned, both of which you can go down their own rabbit holes if you have the time.
Meditation, shiatsu, yoga, tai-chi, and radio taiso are also discussed. Even the diets of the Okinawan residents are mentioned as well as their love for green tea. It’s pretty much a primer for living past the average life-span.
But the most important takeaways for me are the parts connected to the mindsets of these people. It’s simply advice from the elders but you can see how their lifestyle and habits helped them. These things can be easily emulated and exercised into our daily lives.
I’d recommend this book for those actually looking to live long lives. But I was expecting a read about finding purpose in life, as opposed to just living longer. Good thing that I read a much better book about Ikigai next.
Awakening Your Ikigai: How the Japanese Wake Up to Joy and Purpose Every Day
By Ken Mogi
After reading these books on Ikigai, I have come to a conclusion that a majority of the public has misconstrued the meaning of the word. We’ve all seen that Venn diagram about Ikigai being the intersection of a) something you like to do, b) something you’re good at, c) something that you can be paid for, and d) something that the world needs.
This is not what Ikigai means to the Japanese people. Ken Mogi (an actual Japanese) states that Ikigai is simply the reason for living and has no need for considerations on economic impact or global appreciation. Ikigai (iki = to live + gai = reason) is simply whatever makes you get up in the morning. It can be as simple as wanting to make that first cup of coffee, or as complex as raising, understanding and loving your child.
The author starts off by naming the Five Pillars of Ikigai before delving into each one. He gives numerous real-life cases per pillar and mentions some popular people like tech entrepreneur Steve Jobs and Sushi master Jiro Ono. When the need calls for it, even Japanese history is visited as the author puts a lot of context into how and why the Japanese developed these specific values.
The book explains that each person has their own Ikigai and it is up to them to find out for themselves what it is. But despite all this searching, it reminds us that Ikigai is not some kind of hidden treasure that can only be found at the end of our journey. The book tells us to find the joy in the small things, because these are just as important in sustaining us as our lofty and ambitious goals.
I can’t put into words how much this book has comforted me. I’ve felt lost in my direction in life at times, and this book has helped me come to terms with that. You don’t have to be chasing the grandest dream to be important. You have your own life to live and as long as you are celebrating that, you are doing well. Find Ikigai in your daily life and you will not get lost.
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
By Fumio Sasaki
I’ve already read a lot of books about minimalism, but this is the first book written by a Japanese person (the undisputed minimalists of the world). For a book about minimalism, this is packed with a lot of content.
It deals with so much more than just “how to be a minimalist.” At the start of the book it introduces the concept and follows up with a chapter called “Why did we accumulate so much in the first place?”
Tackling the root of the problem is always the best way to deal with it. And while I don’t consider myself a rookie minimalist, I appreciate how this book was able to explain the feelings that lead to most of us becoming hoarders.
While I am not at the level of these Japanese minimalists (yet), they serve as extreme examples of people who have reached their goals and are already enjoying their lives with as little belongings as possible. They are the heralds that show what’s possible to achieve.
But the book remains firm that minimalism has a different meaning to everyone so we shouldn’t be bothered if we still have a lot of stuff. Just like Ikigai, the concept is not written in stone and it is up to the individual to customize it to their preference. The important thing is to reach the goal of keeping our minds clean and organized.
The book also goes hard into the concepts of happiness and contentment because it is in fulfilling these emotions that one is able to become a minimalist. It’s already been said lots of times, but there really is truth in the saying that “Happiness is not about owning more, but wanting less.”
If you’re an aspiring minimalist and haven’t read this yet, then I suggest you take a look. And if you’re new to the concept of minimalism, then this is pretty much the only book you’ll ever need.
Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection
By Haemin Sunim
Finally, the book that I most recently finished. This is a good book. Not “good” like “well-written and deserves accolades” although it is also quite like that. I mean that this is “good” in a way that everyone deserves to read it because it will help them out and give them a lot of positive energy.
The author is a zen monk so there is an air of authority with all the words he says here. Sometimes it can get a little mushy, but I love how kind this book is to the reader. My favorite time to read this book is right before bed. I read a chapter or two to clear my mind and it serves as a form of meditation. The good words and feelings that this book evokes give me peace and result into a good sleep. This is how enjoyable the experience reading this book was.
I’m a sucker for quotable quotes and thankfully, this book has so much of them. It alternates between teachings from the author: his life experiences and lessons, and pages just filled with some two-liners and paragraphs about the topic at hand. Speaking of topics, it deals with things that almost everyone is struggling with: Self-Care, Family, Empathy, Relationships, Courage, Healing, etc. There’s something in here for everyone.
But at the core of this book is that aside from giving us advice on how to be better people, it tells us that first and foremost, it is okay to be broken and hurt. We are all works-in-progress and there is nothing wrong with that. That is this book’s most powerful message. To accept ourselves as we currently are before we even decide to move forward.
I’d recommend this book to people who are currently being inhabited by a cluttered mind. Even with just one chapter a night, it can make a difference. Or you can skip ahead to the chapter pertaining to your current worries and read it directly. This is a book that deserves to be a permanent addition to your library. You can keep coming back to it whenever you feel overwhelmed and read the chapters that are relevant to you.
I can recommend all of these for reading if you are into self-help books and have the time. But my favorites from this batch would have to be The Richest Man in Babylon and Awakening Your Ikigai. These two are entertaining and easy to read plus they tackle topics that are important to me right now.
Do you have any books to recommend? Non-fiction books about self-improvement are currently my jam so feel free to let me know! Until then, stay safe and keep on reading.