Good Books: December 2014 Newsletter

I was invited to write the Bookshelf essay for the January issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press. Click on the link above or find it on page 12 of the print edition.


Untethered SoulThe Untethered Soul:
The Journey Beyond Yourself

by Michael Singer
New Harbinger Publications with Noetic Books, 2007
paperback, $16.95

“Your inner growth is completely dependent upon the realization that the only way to find peace and contentment is to stop thinking about yourself. You’re ready to grow when you finally realize that the “I” who is always talking inside will never be content. It always has a problem with something…. Before you had your current problem, there was a different problem. And if you’re wise, you will realize that after this one’s gone, there will be another one.” -Michael Singer

This is the latest book I selected for the One Book Group, and the book that generated the most heated reactions, mainly related to the author’s style. I’m featuring The Untethered Soul here for its life-changing focus and potential. But first read a chapter or two for yourself; this is not a book to buy impulsively, even if the cover and the title are compelling.

The main complaint we had as readers is that Michael Singer can come across as a know-it-all; we found his dogmatic style off-putting. That said, he knows what he’s writing about — how to be free of the endless inner chatter that monopolizes and spoils life.

The ability to stop dwelling on something, especially when there is nothing that can be done about it in the moment, has always mystified me. Now, after reading The Untethered Soul, I have Singer’s clear and simple guidance and understand how to separate myself from my own relentless thoughts; I even have some success at doing it.

The book’s nineteen chapters are organized into five parts: Awakening Consciousness, Experiencing Energy, Freeing Yourself, Going Beyond, and Living Life. In the first two chapters, Singer introduces “the voice inside your head” and your “inner roommate.” He offers a simple demonstration to help readers objectively observe these interior characters. This is followed by exploring the question Who are you? If you read this far, you’ll probably value most of what follows.

Chapter 17, Contemplating Death, is quite amazing. Most of the brief selections the members of our book group brought to read out loud to each other were from this chapter. One reader observed: the chapter is an exceptional essay that deserves to be included in an anthology on living well.

Do I recommend this book? Yes, as long as you’re willing to take what is helpful and let go of the rest.


UnretirementUnretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way
We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life

by Chris Farrell
Bloomsbury Press, 2014
hardcover, $26.00

“Unretirement will reshape how we think about retirement planning. Over the past three decades the baby boom generation has been taught to equate preparing for retirement with investing in the markets…. Instead, focus on what kind of job and career you’d like to do as you get older. Invest in your human capital, maintain your skills, and add to your education.” -Chris Farrell

Many of you will recognize Chris Farrell as economics commentator from Minnesota Public Radio. He is also senior economics contributor at Marketplace, an award winning journalist, and the author of The New Frugality: How to Consume Less, Save More, and Live Better.

Unretirement has been described as a “hopeful” look past the fear and hype surrounding the idea that today’s aging workers will outlive their personal financial resources and become a national burden. I admit to occasionally being freaked out by the idea of running out of money before the end of my life. So, I’m grateful to Farrell for his balanced and thorough look at the research and the “facts” that inform this topic. He synthesizes relevant reports from economists, gerontologists, demographers, health care professionals, financial planners, employers… He looks at the obstacles and opportunities for employing elders who are interested in continued employment.

Farrell also points to growing evidence that retirement is already undergoing a transformation that will better meet the needs of older workers and create a more vibrant future for all of us. The heart of his reporting centers on the positive: stories of people who are reinventing themselves at a time when they might be expected to be withdrawing from the workforce. They are examples of how to extend working, continue earning income, create meaning and purpose, and delay filing for social security. They are creating new possibilities for those who follow.

I recommend the book if you are pre-retirement or recently retired. There is an Appendix: DIY Research on pages 223 to 227 which lists excellent resources for further exploration, as well as a detailed index.

Note: This is not a typical book for me to include in Good Books or for me to read on my own. Even after I was several chapters into it, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading about topics I often set aside. I assume they will be too boring or too in-depth to hold my interest, so I don’t even begin. Farrell has a gift for writing about money/finances/economics. I actually stayed up late reading, reluctant to put the book down. I only wish there was a more likable word than unretirement.


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