April Reading Report

I love to discover new books, blogs, and interesting news articles through bloggers’ reading roundups or recommendations lists.  I’ve decided to join these bloggers with a monthly report about the books I’ve read and any articles that I found interesting this month.


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

This book has been getting a lot of buzz in the personal finance blogger community, so I decided to give it a go.  It was a very quick read with a lot of interesting graphics and examples of “essentialists” in action. Even though the book seemed geared more towards business executives than teachers, there were quite a few takeaways that I can apply to my own life.

One idea that really resonated with me has to do with decision making.  Only say “yes” to things that are absolutely critical, and focus your energy on those things.  McKeown quoted the TED speaker, Derek Sivers, in how you can use a simple technique to weed through all of the requests you are inundated with day to day.  Sivers said, “It’s either a HELL YEAH! Or No.”  This technique can be applied to the projects that land on your desk at work, or to your social life.  I sometimes feel guilted into going to a social event, but applying this filter to any invitations I get, can help to ensure that I’m only attending events (and spending money) on the things that I am really excited about.

All in all, this book had a lot of interesting ideas in it, some fascinating case studies, and was a very quick read.  If you’re interested in learning about how you can streamline your decision making process and spend more of your mental energy on the things that are essential, then I recommend that you read this book.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

I may have been a little behind on reading this New York Times bestseller, but I’m so glad that I finally did.  In fact, my husband and I read it at the same time (he would read in the morning, and I would read at night), keeping our pages marked with separate bookmarks.

Reading this book is not the life-changing part, so I’ll have to report back after I do the massive belongings purge that Kondo recommends.  Mr. Farmhouse Finance and I have decided that when we pack up our apartment to move into our house, we will go through each item and decide if it “sparks joy”, as Kondo instructs.

Basically, Kondo found that no amount of tidying will solve your storage/organization problems.  First, you must get rid of most of your clutter.  Only then will you find the place to put away your things and create a home that feels harmonious to live in.  I think this advice makes a lot of sense, and would definitely recommend this quick read.  Some people find Kondo to be a little kooky when she goes off on tangents about thanking your belongings or allowing them to rest after a long day’s work, but that’s actually what makes this book endearing to read.

South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion

South and West is a newly published collection of excerpts/notes from Joan Didion’s journals.  The majority of the book is a collection of observations from her time on a road trip through the south in the 1970s.  The last ten, or so, pages of the book are her musings/memories of growing up in California.  She wrote these notes in San Francisco while researching a Rolling Stone piece about the Patty Hearst trial.  This piece was never published.

This was an interesting read, but a totally different genre than the other two books I read this month.  I’m waiting for a book that I have on hold, and needed something to tide me over, so I picked this one up at the library.  I have never read a Joan Didion book, but have had her work recommended to me, so it caught my eye.  This book was probably not the first one of her books that I should have read, but I still enjoyed her vivid descriptions and interesting character studies.

Interesting Articles

“Eating Right Can Save the World” by Tim Zimmerman for Outside

In this article, Zimmerman explores the environmental costs of many different popular diets (including paleo, vegan, and organic).  If you are interested in sustainability, and how your food choices impact the planet, then I recommend reading this article.

Noteworthy Blog Posts

“Living in Half of Our House” – Keep Thrifty

Chris at Keep Thrifty wrote about how he and his family have been slowly living in a smaller part of their house, and are ready to sell their current home to downsize.  What began as necessity during renovations, became a minimalist challenge. This experience/experiment taught Chris’ family that they don’t need as much square footage as their current house, and actually prefer to live in closer, cozier quarters to one another.  I would call this experiment a minimalist win, as well as a positive for their family dynamics.

Is Becoming Financially Independent in Ten Years Possible for the Average Person or Couple? – Apathy Ends

The Groovies shared their story on Apathy Ends about how they reached financial independence on $50,000 a year salaries.  The Groovies earned more than the national average, but their salaries were not as high as many FIRE bloggers.  I found their story to be inspirational as I’m thinking about how we can up our savings rate, and reach financial independence (whether or not we retire early).

Here are a few ways that the Groovies were able to reach financial independence in about ten years:

  • The Groovies made $250,000 selling their condo on Long Island, and moved to North Carolina where the cost of living is much cheaper.
  • They saved 60-65% of their net income in 403bs, 401ks, and Roth IRAs
  • They live modestly

Their story is really inspirational and worth checking out.

Are You Wealthy? (today, you’ll know) – The Retirement Manifesto

The Retirement Manifesto used the Wealth Formula from The Millionaire Next Door to create a spreadsheet and a table to help you determine if you are considered “wealthy” based on your income, net worth, and age.  Unfortunately, I’m not considered wealthy yet, but it was definitely a fun exercise to do.

Check it out to see if you’re wealthy.

What have you read this month?


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  • Thanks so much for including Mr. Groovy’s post about our story.

    Maybe it was all the hoopla surrounding it but I just didn’t get that much out of Marie Kondo’s book. Maybe I’ll try again since it’s available from our library on Kindle. I definitely have to check out South and West. I’ve never read any of Didion’s books either but I find the whole Patty Hearst thing fascinating.

    • You’re welcome, Mrs. Groovy! I loved reading about how you guys made your early retirement happen. I agree that there was a lot of hoopla with Kondo’s book. I think that’s why I avoided it for so long. Usually when I get around to those bestsellers I realize that there’s a reason why they’re so popular. I like the simplicity in her approach.
      It might be worth checking out again, but it sounds like you and Mr. Groovy don’t have a lot of extra stuff to get rid of.

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