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  • Plot: W. Lee Radcliffe's second edition of his TSP Investing Strategies is a book that will appeal only to a highly specific audience, that of government employees and military personnel who qualify for enrollment in the U.S. government's Thrift Savings Plan, but he has mastered his niche. With his own research into market habits and much explanatory number-crunching, Radcliff demystifies this investment opportunity that he calls "one of the greatest mechanisms through which to build wealth in the world". With a thoroughness uncommon to many investment guides, Radcliffe walks readers through the basics of TSP -- as well as some of the arcana -- before presenting six flexible, detailed strategies for investment, all targeted toward the idea of building the kind of wealth that results in financial independence.

    Prose/Style: Radcliffe's prose is mostly clear, though sentences can run long and tend toward density, especially when he's chasing one of his many hypothetical investment scenarios. The book is repetitive by design, a virtue when it comes to communicating complex information but likely a cause of frustration for some readers. His decision to sidebar some examples, and to break chapters up into clearly labeled sections, makes the dry material more approachable. Unlike many investment guides, Radcliffe writes as a serious number-cruncher rather than as a cheerleader or rainmaker; while his scrupulousness results in sound advice, but the prose has little of the salesman's kick common to this genre.

    Originality: Page after page, example after example, Radcliffe runs his own numbers, crafts his own examples, and coins his own clarifying terminology, such as the "The Thrift Van
    Winkle™ approach to long-term investing."

    Character Development: Two crucial factors separate Radcliffe's work from most investment guides. First is his exhaustive thoroughness, which is certain to engender trust in readers even as it might overwhelm them. Fortunately, Radcliffe divides his chapters into clearly labeled sections that readers can approach in a modular fashion, focusing on what matters to them. Second, Radcliffe's investment strategies are often flexible, and he accommodates and addresses a wide variety of readers' needs (the need to invest for college, six different approaches for investing in real estate). He tailors his strategies to account for readers' personal level of comfort with risk and repeats crucial information in multiple places, ensuring that readers who skim over material not targeted to their particular interests will still likely encounter it. All of this makes TSP Investing Strategies a somewhat difficult read but a highly effective guide.

    Blurb: With this updated second edition, W. Lee Radcliffe cements his position as the Bill James or Nate Silver of investing through the Thrift Savings Plan available to government workers and military personnel. He's mastered the numbers, tested data and outcomes, goes further into the weeds than you might want to follow, but emerges with clear-eyed and persuasive analysis of how complex systems truly function. His six TSP investment strategies are flexible, thoroughly detailed, and easy to understand.

  • Mind Management, Not Time Management

    by David Kadavy

    Rating: 8.50

    Idea: Kadavy's Mind Management, Not Time Management asserts that a culture of "busyness" stymies creative thinking.  Drawing on his own experience as a writer who has had to discover his own "Creative Sweet Spot," Kadavy persuasively assails common standards for productivity, instead advocating "a cohesive and flexible system for managing creative energy." He offers clear, practical advice for the creation of unique individual systems, while examining creative cycles, the mental states of creative work, and his own "Four Stages of Creativity." All the while, he packs his chapters with insights from his own life and from the cream of the crop of thinkers on creativity.

    Prose: Kadavy's clear, engaging, shapely prose stands as this work’s strongest asset. The author proves adept at fresh coinages and illuminating metaphor. His style is inviting without sacrificing depth or thoroughness. Even the chapters that concern his own work crafting podcasts and newsletters pass breezily, with enough insights and memorable descriptions to discourage skimming. The text contains few typos or ambiguities.

    Originality: Kadavy draws deeply from previous books about creativity, and passages about Michelangelo or Paul McCartney are overly familiar. Still, Kadavy never relies on truisms or received wisdom, and he continually contributes new ideas to his subject, such as the distinction between "grippy" and "slippy" tools or his contention that a "Passive Genius" lurks in the subconscious. Also, the author applies all of this thinking about creativity to his own life, ensuring an original perspective.

    Character/Execution: Sharply written and dedicated to practical advice, Mind Management, Not Time Management makes a clean, clear case that individuals in creative fields benefit from fresh approaches to productivity.

    Blurb: Kadavy's Mind Management, Not Time Management bursts with practical strategies for establishing work habits attuned to the workings of the creative mind, all laid out with clarity and persuasive power. 

  • Kicking Financial Ass

    by Paul Christopher Dumont

    Rating: 8.00

    Idea: This illuminating guide to money management asserts that individuals can achieve financial freedom through better awareness, small lifestyle changes, and a reframing of perspective.

    Prose: Dumont writes with a clear understanding of his target audience. His voice is calm, compassionate, and never condescending.

    Originality: Money management guides are common, but Dumont’s work stands out through its combined focus on the practical with the more philosophical. Notably, he urges readers to contemplate the true value of material possessions and to practice mindful gratitude regardless of one’s financial fitness.

    Character/Execution: Dumont’s handbook provides clear-eyed, fact-based advice for millennials learning to manage their funds, while also underscoring that there’s much more to life than a fat bank account.

  • Productive Intuition: Connecting to the Subtle

    by AdaPia d'Errico

    Rating: 8.00

    Idea: Productive Intuition is a wise and grounded guide for readers seeking to center themselves, redefine notions of fulfillment, and pursue a greater sense of internal harmony.

    Prose: Prose is direct, inviting, and instructive without resorting to platitudes or dogmatic language.

    Originality: The author takes a unique approach to self-improvement via the book's direct focus on mindful awareness as pursued through creativity, observation, and faith in the power of intuition.

    Character/Execution: The author provides an engaging mix of metaphysical insights and psychology to assist readers in better understanding their needs and deficits. Exercises are thoughtfully envisioned and readily accessible.

  • Idea: Simon provides a cogent, thoughtful guide for readers seeking to improve their relationship with and handle management of their financial resources.

    Prose/Style: This work is written in an even, engaging prose style, while the text effectively integrates charts, lists, and well-organized sub-sections within each chapter.

    Originality: Books on money management are common, but Simon brings a sense of compassion and practicality to his guidance, understanding that each individual's circumstance is different--but that all can benefit from reframing their thinking and understanding their money mindsets.

    Character Development/Execution: Simon ultimately provides a handbook for readers who are not only looking for a concrete set of tools for managing money, but who are open to self-reflection.

  • Idea: Being a great manager can mean a happier, more successful, and productive workforce, Monroe asserts in this fine tuned guide. With clear expertise, the author lays out the ways to lead responsibility, fairly, and honorably.

    Prose: Monroe’s prose is candid and good humored, nicely mirroring the text’s emphasis on humility, self-awareness, and personal accountability.

    Originality: It’s a rarity for a self-help book to call out the dick managers of the world. Monroe excels at cutting to the chase and urging readers to better their leadership skills, while also offering compassion and understanding to those who recognize themselves in the title.

    Execution: Frustrated employees may wish they could get their managers to read this book. Monroe offers a concrete set of real-world skills for both recovering dick managers and employees learning to better make their needs and concerns known.