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Books I read in February 2021

Updated: Jun 15, 2022

I definitely read less in February in comparison to January 2021, because I was having fun writing things for my blog and learning how to build a website. This girl is learning useful new things in London Lockdown Round 3 ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Anyway, these February reads left me thinking twice and with lots of questions after. The books are in the order I read them throughout the month, and not necessarily my ranking of best to worst. Some books did make me go "hmmm?๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜’" and others made me go "woaaah!! ๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคฉ" so, here are the books I read in Feb.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyoshi (1997)

When you look at books for entrepreneurs, this book always comes out as one of the top recommendations. I had very mixed feelings when I finished reading this book though. Some points I agree with are

  1. The current school system isn't teaching students how to survive with practical skills in the real world. The school system (at least when I was still in primary & high school) focused on training obedience and rule-following in the students, not creativity. By not nurturing and encouraging creativity, schools discourage the growth of artists, entertainers, creators and entrepreneurs etc, and we need them in the world!

  2. The importance of having a learning mindset and observation skills. Know a little about a lot and learn quickly. Whatever stage in life, this is a crucial skill.

  3. Work to learn and having the discipline to endure through situations you are not comfortable with if it helps you to learn (He talks about how he hates public speaking and talking to people because he is shy, so he got a job in sales, where you HAVE TO talk in public and talk to people who may reject you.)

  4. Surrounding yourself with smart people. Iron sharpens iron, so if you're around smart people, theoretically, you should also get smarter lol.

  5. Kids need to know how money works from an early age. Financial literacy and money management skills should be taught early and this is something not taught in schools.

  6. Building generational wealth for your children to inherit, instead of leaving them with debt.

What I didn't particularly like in the book is that

  • It felt kinda like he was saying people who are poor and remain poor is their own fault. The book doesn't acknowledge that privilege and other factors like race, gender and opportunities such as getting mentorship make it easier for some people to get out of a cycle of poverty. It's not impossible, but it is so much more difficult for women, especially women of colour if you consider the ethnicity and gender pay gap to get out of poverty. I feel like he wrote this book with his male privilege, and this book fails to acknowledge societal structures which hinder others from accessing and building wealth the same way he did. I noted that this book was written in 1997 (i.e. 20+ years ago) and a lot of things has changed since then so I think a reader of this era should keep this in mind.

  • It felt kinda like he was saying Rich people shouldn't have to pay more taxes because they were able to figure out the loopholes that allow them a way out of having to pay taxes and build up their wealth. In the book, the message suggested is that if rich people can figure out the tax loops and build their wealth, then poor people should learn how to do it too (again, privilege). I felt this is a very American/Western and individualistic way of thinking. Perhaps it's because I was raised in a collectivist culture, so I have no qualms with the idea that if I earn more, I'll be taxed more, and that tax money will go to fund other necessities needed by the community, such as free healthcare and education, which is the case in Tonga. However, the message I interpreted from the book is "Tax is bad for the rich. Don't tax the rich. Avoid getting taxed if you're rich", so this doesn't sit well with me. If you also look at egalitarian countries (most Nordic countries), the wealthy pay more taxes to keep the income inequality gap lower, which also links to lower crime rates. But like I said, this is a very "American" book and feels as opportunistic and individualistic as it gets, but maybe that's just me ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

  • There was a part in the book where he talks about willing to do whatever it takes to learn how to get rich. Which I partly agree with. There is an onus on you to learn if you want to make money, however, I think it should also be within your means and ability to do so. He talks about buying business books on financial management or going to $500 seminars to learn about real estate, or $400 training workshops to learn about investing or something etc. Imagine if you're a single mum or come from a low-income family though. The way you spend $400-$500 is different depending on your situation, even if you want to learn to make money. Again, this book was in 1997, and thankfully, now there are many free online resources people can learn from, but this point kinda felt out of touch to me.

  • He lists Donald Trump as his hero in the last few chapters. That was it for me. Nope. Hell no. Donald Trump is a vile, racist, sexist, crude, rude, orange little man, and why one would idolize and hero-worship him is beyond me. When I read that Donald Trump was his hero in the last few chapters, it clicked to me why I felt off about the book the whole time, but hey, again, maybe that's just me. You read and decide for yourself.

Clever Girl Finance by Bola Sokunbi (2019) 

This book was such a refreshing restart and so much more palatable after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. No mixed feelings after reading this one. Bola Sokunbi, the author, is a Nigerian woman, and I loved that she explained money and finances in an easier and more relatable way, especially in comparison to the first book above.

One thing I loved is that she acknowledges challenges and obstacles specific to women, especially to women in patriarchal societies, which makes it more difficult for them to make, save and invest money.

For example, in patriarchal societies, it is common for men to be the main breadwinner of the family, and women are commonly stay-home mums or they can bring secondary income, which is sometimes less than what their husband/male partner brings. If their husband suddenly dies, or throw them divorce papers, women are most likely to be left with the shorter end of the stick financially and will still be expected to care for the children and fulfil family obligations etc.

For instance, think of Tonga, where the majority of seasonal workers are still men. They go off to NZ and Australia for work and send money to their wives in Tonga, who will be looking after the kids and family etc. Every once in a while though, you hear that some of these men ran off with someone else and will never be coming back to Tonga. Those poor wives and kids in Tonga will no longer have any reliable income, especially if the remittances were the only thing they had. Those are real-life examples of cases that happen in Tonga, and it's not like the government has child support or welfare benefit systems to help out. So, more than ever, women need to know how to make their own money, manage their own money and be able to survive without relying on anyone.

I really do think that this book was more useful and practical than the book above, as it also shared tips on different ways to pay off debts, saving money, budgeting and side hustle ideas for small businesses. Just reading this book made me solidify the fact that women, especially young women, need to learn how to make and manage their own money. Don't rely on someone else for money, and spend your money wisely when you're still young.

One thing I also noticed when I was looking through business/entrepreneurial book recommendation lists is that majority of the authors tend to be male and usually white.

I'm not male, and I'm not white. I want to read books written by women in the business/entrepreneurial field, and even better if they are women of colour. This is why I preferred reading Clever Girl Finance over Rich Dad, Poor Dad because I can relate to it better.

I definitely wish I read this book in my early 20's, as I was spending money recklessly back then. Like I said earlier, this book is easy to understand, so it would be good for kids (ages 11+) or teens to read and start learning about money early. No doubt, this book would be on my top to-read list for 2021.

We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by Adrienne Maree Brown (2020)

I came across an Instagram page called "Pasifika Virtual Book Club", and this book was one of the recommended reads on that page. This is one of those books that you have to read slowly and in reflection, but overall, I enjoyed reading this book, and it was a fairly short read.

The author mentions she wrote this book in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, at a time where the leadership in the US and their handling of the pandemic was egregious. From what I understood, this book is her reflections, learnings, unlearning and observations of the world around her at a time that is challenging for everyone, particularly in a visibly politically divided USA.

The main message I got from the book is understanding the power of language and words. Language is emotionally charged, and the choice of words you use can be harmful or impactful, depending on context and delivery, and I think that's an important reminder.

Another point I picked up is the ease with which we can make and pass judgements on others, due to the instantaneous connection and rapid speed of information shared through the internet and social media. With that kind of speed, it's easy to #cancel people i.e. the rise of the #CancelCulture. When I read this, it reminded me of when Tonga Twitter blew up last year over Tongan Language week when someone involved in youth work in Tonga tweeted it shouldn't be called Tonga Language week because that initiative wasn't started in Tonga but in New Zealand ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. I didn't see the point, nor did I agree with that person's tweet, because the point of Tongan Language week is to celebrate the beauty of the language and culture, regardless of where you are in the world. Anyway, the backlash this person received was intense and yeah, I thought that was an example of an attempt to instigate the #cancelculture on that person in a Tongan context.

Going back to the point of the importance of words and language, clarity and intention around the language we use should be something we need to be consistently and constantly mindful of. This doesn't mean to talk or communicate in a way that beats around the bush or walking around eggshells but disagreeing with someone or an idea can be done in a way that doesn't have to be confrontative and aggressive. Of course, this is never easy but in any exchange, the focus should be on learning, unlearning, seeing the different perspectives and asking questions before coming to a conclusion or judgement. We tend to forget that the world doesn't exist in two split even sides, and there are many grey areas between the gaps. It takes courage and compassion to be able to step back and be willing to see the bigger picture and understand the complex underlying nuances. It takes even bigger courage to admit you were wrong, to acknowledge the wrongs, to heal from it, to learn from it and to do better.

I saw a quote that said, "No two people will understand one book in the same way". The fragility and delicacy around words and language and the impact it has is what I picked up the most. However, I think if another person would read this book, the message they would take away will be different from mine. This book really does make you think, so this is another book I would highly recommend for my 2021 read list.

You can't hurt me by David Groggins (2018)

This book also pops up on a lot of recommended reads for mental resilience and overcoming adversities. I thought it was interesting but also some parts of the book I couldn't relate to, like pushing your body physically to the point of breakdown to overcome personal goals. That's a no from me personally, because I know my broken old body well. If I stand up too quickly or even move wrong, my knees and back will crack, so you know I'm not gonna push it. ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚. But I suppose I can understand why people would label this book as inspiring, and to be fair, this was a good read.

The start of the book covered his challenging childhood. He describes the struggles of growing up in a home with an abusive father. They were well-off and had money from his father's businesses, and what outsiders saw was a successful and happy family. Behind closed doors though, his father treated his mother like a slave and was emotionally, physically and mentally abusive towards her and cheated on her often too. The one time she reported his abuse to the police, they basically laughed at her and didn't believe her because they were friends with her husband and know him as a "good guy". Obviously, the husband really beat her up after that incident, and the son was afraid his mother would kill herself to escape the violence. When his mother finally decided to leave his abusive father, it was no doubt a difficult choice and it was not without risk. His mother decided to flee with the two children while his father was still at work, otherwise, he would have killed her. She basically ran with her children and the clothes on their backs, because everything was in her husband's name. She had to rebuild everything from zero, and they struggled in poverty for a long time.

In the beginning chapters, he also mentions his insecurities as a kid that shaped him. Things like being poor, being overweight, being from a broken home, being unable to read and write properly at school, and being subject to racism as a kid. These were factors that kept being a reminding force to him of why he had to become a somebody and prove to people, and to himself, that he is worthy.

A lot of the rest of the book details his military experiences and the intensive physical challenges people have to undergo to become a US Navy seal officer. He had to carry his pain from his past as fuel and motivation to reach his goals, and it seemed like it was never enough for him. He emphasised the idea that if you can think it, you can do it, which I do agree is an important lesson, to an extent. In the book, he describes how he kept pushing and training his body to beat record after record, and challenge after challenge. Just as much as it was a physical challenge, there was an element of mental toughness there as well.

I dunno if it's because of my perspective as a cautious female, but I found his constant pushing himself and his body as reckless, and not personally inspiring to me. He pushed himself to the point of physical breakdown, and there were so many things wrong with his body because of overextension and overtraining. He kept training even when he felt sick, and hardly ever took any proper rest, because he seemed to think rest is for the weak. Even if his body felt pain, he trained his brain to shut that down and ignore that pain. I couldn't really relate to that, because the purpose of pain in the body is to warn the brain something could be wrong, and if you keep ignoring pain, it will become chronic and a bigger issue later on. So, his description of pushing through and ignoring pain just screamed toxic masculinity to me, which is the idea that men have to continue to comply with certain cultural/societal expectations to prove their manliness. You know how they say "Boys shouldn't cry. Boys should always be strong". It doesn't always have to be that way.

It annoyed me as well when he talked about his physical illnesses and heart problems, and the American doctors misdiagnosed him twice, and he had to get surgery twice, because of the wrong initial diagnosis. I wasn't annoyed at him, but more so at the doctors he mentions in the book. They assumed he has a strong body and no issues in his medical history and no previous problems, so they didn't diagnose him properly that first time. If those doctors did their job properly in the first place, and if he took better care of himself in the first place, maybe he wouldn't have been that hurt.

Yes, he does overcome many physical challenges which are gratifying for him, but I felt it was also masochistic. The book does tend to focus a lot on physical toughness and it viscerally describes the physical torture he puts himself through. Training his body to withstand icy cold water. Training his body for a marathon across a desert. Training his body for a pull-up world record until the skin on the palms of his hands were raw, bloody and peeling. Yoooo, the descriptions were vivid, and my body was in pain reading about it and imagining it.

Other than his tough childhood, he doesn't really mention any emotional and psychological challenges in his adulthood, and only kinda briefly mentions he got divorced twice. It would have been interesting to read about his relationships with women and get an emotional insight because the start of the book has graphic explanations of the abuse his own mother went through at the hands of his father. Did seeing that first hand affect his own relationships? The physical achievements he accomplishes is impressive and mind-boggling because no normal person would push that hard. Is that a coping mechanism? Is that his defence mechanism? Those are some questions I had while reading the book.

The title of the book is "You can't hurt me" and it feels more like you can't hurt him physically because of what he's been able to put his body through. It is an impressive biography though, no lie, and as I said, this was a good read.


That's it for February reads. I hope I can read more in March than I did in Feb. My personal goal for this year is to read a minimum of 4 books per month.

Anyway, lemme know if there were any books on the list that seemed interesting to you. Tu'a 'ofa atu!

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