The Family Firm Blog


Posted by Stephen Daly on 10/25/15 12:00 AM
Stephen Daly


A popular item with many of our clients are updates on what the staff at the Family Firm have been reading. As you will see, our collective interests go well beyond the realm of finance and financial planning!


“Sapiens”, by Yuval Noah Hariri. This book reviews and analyzes the history of our species. In the genre of Guns, Germs and Steel (which I read many years ago). I feel there are lots of fresh insights and this book has already given me quite a few “aha” moments. Highly recommended.

“Finders Keepers”, by Stephen King. Part 2 of yet another Stephen King trilogy…but I confess to the guilty pleasures in these well-paced stories. Note this is crime drama, not horror.

“The Bone Clocks”, by David Mitchell. I loved reading Cloud Atlas some years ago…and even though it was made into a rather forgettable movie with Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, I still admire the author’s creativity and complex structures. I wish I could say that Bone Clocks rose to the level of Cloud Atlas, but to me, it came up short. I would still highly recommend Cloud Atlas to anyone wanting a more challenging novel!

I am a member of the website Goodreads and also recommend that as a way to connect with fellow readers and (occasionally) the authors themselves.


I am reading a book called “Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Really Hard”.

I’m reading this for insight into two big questions that I am currently concerned with: How do you change investor behavior so they seek out advisors who act in their best interests (fiduciary advisors)? And correspondingly, how do you change advisor/broker behavior so they chose to do the things required of fiduciary advisors and act in the investor’s best interest?

This book, written by brothers Dan & Chip Heath, each a university professor, explores the emotional and rational components of behavior change. The emotional part is like an elephant, huge and, when inspired, unstoppable. The rational part is the rider of the elephant… analytical, logical. You must have both components, moving in the same direction, to effect change, be it large or small scale. The authors describe fascinating and moving examples of change that have, unwittingly, these two features.


I just finished “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman. It is a fun, fast, fantasy read with beautiful imagery. If you like “Harry Potter”, this is a good one for you!

Currently, I am reading “Holy Cow” by Sarah MacDonald. I am using it to live vicariously through the author to explore living in a foreign country – India. It is a great memoir and is providing me with a deeper view of the India and its culture. It is also laugh out loud funny at times.

One more to recommend, is “Free Range Kids” by Lenore Skenazy. This is a really helpful book as my son, Wyatt (8), is wanting to explore more on his own and helped me to learn more about letting him.


I’m not a fan of reading electronically - I like the feel of a book in my hand - so I usually get my books from the library. Mary Malgoire recently enjoyed and recommended to me, “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Since I had to place a hold on it at the library and wait for a copy, I checked out the Heath brother’s newer book, “Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work”. I’m only 46 pages into but am already finding it very interesting. The premise of the book is to show how our decisions are made, why many decisions may be flawed from the beginning and why we can’t see it, and the four-step process to make better choices. Only 46 pages in, and I’m fully engaged in it.

Prior to starting Decisive, I read “The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House”, by Kate Andersen Brower. The author had interviews with an extensive number of members of the White House staff. The history covered ranges from the Kennedys to the Obamas. These are intimate stories from the people who served the first families.

The staff appears very respectful and professional, and some form very warm and personal relationships with the families they serve. The interviews are conducted with staff in so many different occupations, from maids, butlers, and cooks, to the doormen, engineers, florists and those who walked the dogs. There are some dramatic, funny and heartwarming stories. It’s an intriguing look into life in the White House.

The stories aren’t recounted as gossip, but more as facts and perspective, keeping as much respect for the families they served as the White House staff feel they should. There are definitely some engaging tales about some of the first families. Intertwined with these, I found it interesting to see how they obtain their jobs and how many generations have been employed, which first families were the warmest, how the staff handled changes by election and the more sudden changes by assassination and resignation, and how they care day by day for this very large residence and its occupants. It’s a fascinating look into a life you don’t see when you tour the White House.


“The First Twenty Minutes” by Gretchen Reynolds. Reynolds is a health and fitness writer for the New York Times. Her book explores some very interesting research that shows the tremendous physical and also psychological benefits that can be obtained with even a moderate amount of exercise.

For me, the most interesting highlights were the effects that exercise has in boosting our ability to learn new things and stave off cognitive decline as we age.

“Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics” by Richard Thaler. Thaler walks us through the history of the development of the field of behavior economics. This was a fascinating book that sheds light on the reasons why humans do things in both finance and in life, that are totally counter to what an economist, or “rational decision maker” would expect us to do.