My blistering December pace slowed back to reality with the end of Winter Break and the beginning of a new teaching semester. Still, I managed to pound through four books in the month, which is nothing to sneeze at.

As You Wish - Stories from the Set of The Princess Bride.

This was an enjoyable behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Princess Bride. It followed Author Cary Elwes from the time he received hint he might be cast as Wesley to the end of production. It didn't shatter any walls for me as a literary work, but it was fun to get an in-depth look at a movie so many of us love so much. Especially heartwarming were tales about Andre the Giant passing out on the floor of a hotel lobby, Wallace Shawn's (who is apparently incredibly intelligent in the real world as well as in Florin and Guilder) self-critical anxiety, and WIlliam Goldman's nervous knots over turning his pride and joy into a feature film.

The Princess Bride

As You Wish sparked a desire to revisit an old friend. I first read The Princess Bride as a senior in High School after being told by a Chemistry teacher that the book is nothing like the film. In my mind, I remember this being the case, but now I'm not sure why I thought so. The ending is morbidly different, but other than that the book is a nearly scene-by-scene preview for the film--right down to the memorable dialogue (Does anybody want a peanut?).

The scene that stood out most to me now was the same scene that stood out most to me then. It's where the reader receives some Inigo Montoya backstory. The following scene happens when Inigo returns to an old mentor after training for his revenge:

""I'll tell you the truth, and it's up to you to live with it. First, there has never been a master as young as you. Thirty years at least before that rank has yet been reached, and you are barely twenty-two. Well, the truth is you are an impetuous boy driven by madness and you are not now and you will never be a master."

"Thank you for your honesty," Inigo said. "I must tell you I had hoped for better news. I find it very hard to speak just now, so if you'll please excuse me, I'll be on my..."

"I had not finished," Yeste said.

"What else is there to say?"

"I loved your father very dearly, that you know, but this you did not know: when we were very young, not yet twenty, we saw, with our own eyes, an exhibition by the Corsican Wizard, Bastia."

"I know of no wizards."

"It is the rank beyond master in swordsmanship," Yeste said. "Bastia was the last man so designated. Long before your birth, he died at sea. There have been no wizards since, and you would never in this world have beaten him. But I tell you this: he would never in this world have beaten you."

Tingles then; tingles now.

Flash Boys

Probably the best book I read this month, it's a story about Billions have been made fractions of a penny at a time. It tells the story of how high-frequency trading has radically altered the face of the stock market in the last ten years. HFT is a massively profitable endeavor for the major players. The problem? The profits have come entirely at the expense of the average investor.

The best chapters in Flash Boys follow Brad Katsuyama and his rag-tag group of outliers as they try to reestablish a fair system in which stocks can be traded. Lewis excels at painting the characters as a group of outside-the-fray vigilantes, and manages to tell a riveting story--no small job considering that most of the major events happen in millionths of a second. 

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

A personal finance classic, Rich Dad, Poor Dad gives (what is now established as) commonplace investment advice told through the framing device of the author's two 'Dads'. One, his biological father, is a University professor who leads a good life but who is always struggling for money. The second, his friends biological father, has only an eighth grade education, but grows to be one of the wealthiest men in Hawaii.

The author spends the meat of the book expounding on his Dads' conflicting financial philosophies and synthesizing them in to a handful of financial rules to live by. The most important?

  1. Always buy assets (things that generate income like property, businesses, etc.), not liabilities.
  2. There is a system in place that punishes 'Rat Race' money managers. Every financial decision you make should work toward changing the rules of the game in your favorf.
    • This is the situation for those in lower income brackets:Job (providing income) is less than expenses (taxes, food, rent, clothes)No Assets, No Liabilities
    • Compare that situation to the wealthy: Assets (stocks, bonds, notes, intellectual property) are greater than income (from job). No Liabilities.

  3. Work to Learn, don't work for money.

Personal finance aficionados might find the advice mundane, but for wealths and wealths of people out there, it is not common sense. While the tenets might not suit every reader, the book is a great launching point toward changing your financial attitude.