Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mythopoeic Books, Debt Is Slavery by Michael Mihalik-- Review

I checked today to see which books came in for me from the Mythopoeic awards. The Djinn In The Nightingale's Eye by A.S. Byatt, The Wood Wife by Terri Windling, Briar Rose by Jane Yolen, and Thomas the Rhymer by Ellen Kushner have come in. I started reading Thomas the Rhymer today at lunch time. So far, I am enjoying it. I think Thomas the Rhymer will fall into a special category of fantasy novels, those without violence that are based on wits and trickery like Mary Brown's The Unlikely Ones.

Also, three of the books which I was going to read from Book Lust by Nancy Pearl are here as well, Freedom In Meditation by Patricia Carrington, Ph.D., Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonders by Lawrence Weschler, and The Professor And The Madman by Simon Winchester.

This gives me an awful lot of books to read.

On the train to work, during my commute, I read a thin book called Debt Is Slavery and 9 Other Things I Wish My Dad Had Taught Me About Money by Michael Mihalik. I really like this book because it is not a book by a financial analyst, but a set of offbeat personal philosophical experiences described by an Aerospace Engineer.

This book even contains a disclaimer in the front that says he is not a financial analyst. At the same time, it talks about a number of philosophical ideas about money. The first is that debt and especially credit card debt makes you into a slave.

The start of the book is Michael Mihalik's personal experience with going into deep credit card debt, then pulling himself out of it through hard work, overtime and thrift. He also describes how thrift saved him twice while he was out of work for extended periods. The time gave him to write a novel and go back to school.

It further expounds on ideas like possessions are a prison, and that money is not about happiness but about being free to do what you want with your life. There are descriptions about how it is better to invest in your skills than buy new possessions. There are statements like in 1950 the average size of a family home in the United States was 983 square feet, in 2004 it is 2, 266 square feet, there is an effective increase of size of 131%. This leads to more maintenance, paint, and hassle than in bygone years.

The author, Mihalik calls advertising a "Giant Marketing Machine" whose objective is to get you to buy things which you don't need to keep up with everyone else. There is the classic example of how it is best to buy a new car and keep it until the wheels fall off. This was my grandfathers philosophy, I find it vastly entertaining.

He also talks about how time is more important than money ultimately, you can't buy more time in the world. One of the best ways to control expenses is to equate how much time you have spent acquiring something before you buy it.

The book is quite small and densely written. There are not a lot of extra words. It is 123 pages long but every page tells you something about the authors philosophy.

I really enjoyed this book. It is the kind of book which will not sell a whole lot of copies in a bookstore. However, it is a choice item for a tightwad who will go to the library to check out items that tell them how to preserve their finances. There are a number of books like this. The Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift As A Viable Alternative Lifestyle by Amy Dacycyzn which extremely thrifty people go to the library to check out is another example.

This book will never make the bestseller lists, in fact, it is different enough in its philosophy that it will probably only sell a couple thousand copies. But, some people may find it quite useful.

We get part of our funding from circulation figures. Some of the books which circulate or get used in libraries are different from what is being sold in bookstores.

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