Monday, September 7, 2015

Paired Reading

In the last few truly delicious-weather days of summer break, while on the hunt for a perfect (free!) spot to sit and read, I realized something.  The two books that I was reading paired nicely together.  So nicely, in fact, that the more I read one, the more I wanted to re-read the other.

Obviously, this is not a new phenomenon, but I haven't noticed it very much in my own reading.  It was doubly surprising when it happened because I was reading two non-fiction books at the same time, which is unusual for me.

The first of these two books was The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealth, written in 1996 by Thomas Stanley and William Danko and wildly popular among the personal finance crowd (and other crowds, too).  It was a look into the lives and habits of America's millionaires, but shockingly different than what you or I may have expected.  After publication, it was critiqued and criticized, and with all of the financial changes the world has seen in the last nineteen years, some say outdated.

The second was Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project.  I'd heard of The Happiness Project, but had never read anything by Rubin before, and I picked it up as the dreaded "The library is closing in five minutes" message rang out over the loudspeaker - a rushed library choice is a bit like Russian Roulette.  Better Than Before speaks to the nature of habits: why some are easier to maintain than others, why certain people have trouble building "good" habits, and what it takes to make and keep them.

So what was it about both books that was so fascinating and enjoyable?

Several things, I think.  Each came with a practical approach to understanding how and why people are the way they are.  The millionaires in The Millionaire Next Door seemed to have mastered the habit-building that Gretchen Rubin discussed in Better Than Before.  Combined, the ideas of self-control, hard work, and slow growth blended together beautifully.  Each offered examples of how habit-building or wealth-building worked for others - and could work for the reader - and the voice of each of the narrators was immensely readable.  (So readable, in fact, that I went out and borrowed The Happiness Project as soon as I could, and went on the hunt for Stanley's later books.) Was this the kick I needed to think about habits I want to build, or did it just coincide nicely with the beginning of fall and all of the changes that come with it? Either way, it worked for me.

Have you ever read books that pair together well, or either of these two books? What were your thoughts?

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