Social distancing? 15 books to read in quarantine

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Working from home doesn’t have to mean all work all the time — financial advisors are entitled to a break during stressful times, too.

With planners all over the country working from home in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, filling the day with stimulating activity is more important now than ever, and Financial Planning might have a solution.

We asked advisors, wealth management executives and industry experts for their book recommendations. What has been keeping them entertained in the midst of a crisis? These reads have served as a much-needed distraction and a reminder that better times are on the horizon.

Click through the list to learn more.

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“In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex” by Nathaniel Philbrick
Blaine Townsend, head of ESG Investing at Bailard
“In The Heart of the Sea” is the real-life story that inspired Herman Melville to write “Moby Dick”. In addition to being a gripping tale, the book helped crystallize my thinking on fossil fuel free investing, which at the time was in its infancy. The book led to further research on the rise and fall of the whaling industry, which I found very analogous to the global pursuit of oil in the 2000s.

So while the book certainly touched on economics in a broad sense, it did not focus on any of the traditional financial metrics that you might read in classics from investment guru Benjamin Graham. The book led me down a path that elevated my conversations with wealth management clients looking to avoid investments in the oil and gas industry for a host of social and environmental reasons.
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“We Fed an Island” by Chef Jose Andres
Rob Freedman, head of marketing, Team Hewins
As he recounts the efforts taken by himself and countless others in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, it reminded me that when something like a natural disaster or COVID-19 outbreak happens, you manage the stress by following your proven processes and procedures. You increase your communication with teammates, you open up yourself to out-of-the-box solutions and pull together. The book reminds us, marketers and communicators, to meet the needs of diverse audiences and the importance of communicating in a responsive and responsible way.
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“Why We're Polarized” by Ezra Klein
Anton Honikman, CEO, MyVest
Klein explores the roots of the extreme identity politics that drives our polarization today. I find this particularly fascinating in the time of a pandemic, which affects all of us independent of our tribe. It also reminds us to take advantage of a crisis to bring us closer together.
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“When Life Breaks” by Dr. Tanzania Davis-Black
Zaneilia Harris, CFP, President Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group
I like this book because Davis-Black takes us on a journey in which she explains how she grew personally from the pain of her divorce from her best friend, to building a healthy relationship with her sons and ex.
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“The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown
Matt Cooper, president, Beacon Pointe Advisors
It’s the story of overcoming incredible odds during one of the bleakest times of U.S. history, the Great Depression at the time of the dust bowl. The book chronicles one young man’s journey from being abandoned by his family to joining the University of Washington crew team and winning a gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

In many ways it makes the current state of affairs look not so tough.
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“Great Fool: Zen Master Ryokan; Poems, Letters, and Other Writings” by Zen Master Ryokan
George Kinder, Founder of The Kinder Institute of Life Planning
Zen master Ryokan Taigu was probably the greatest of all the Zen poets and one of the top three or four Zen Masters. A contemporary of William Blake (one of my other favorite historic figures and authors), he teaches me humility and simplicity. He gave up the world to live in a one room barren hut and brought joy to everyone who encountered him, especially children. Great fool, indeed! Simplicity is something we all are challenged to master right now.
The wartime speeches of Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address
Doug Regan, co-chairman, Cresset Partners
The speeches are a reminder of what leadership sounds like. And a reminder that we’ve gotten through hard times before and we can do it again.
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“Van Gogh and Japan” by Louis van Tilborgh
George Kinder, Founder of The Kinder Institute of Life Planning
Vincent Van Gogh, who based most of his own work on Japanese art, has long been thought of as a popular artist and a madman. I think of him instead as one of the five greatest artists the world has ever seen and more of a saint than a madman. His love of two of the world’s other greatest artists, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige, and his intuitive understanding of the school of Mahayana Buddhism, known as Zen, is extraordinary. And of course his great passion for truth and beauty and creative action are all-inspiring.
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“Younger Next Year” by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge
Marty Bicknell, CEO, Mariner Wealth Advisors
This was a great read and very insightful on how to stay healthy and young as we age. A must-read for any 50-plus year old.
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“Paris in the Present Tense” by Mark Helprin
Jamie McLaughlin, founder, J. H. McLaughlin & Co.
The protean Helprin is a great storyteller, journalist and political commentator. In modern-day Paris, Helprin weaves a tale around his protagonist Jules Lacour who wrestles with a series of improbable events that test his principles.
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“India: A History from the Earliest Civilizations to the Boom of the Twenty-First Century” by John Keay
Michael Nathanson, CEO, The Colony Group
I’m very interested in the BRIC countries as some of the key countries whose growth and policies have had, and continue to have, the greatest impact on the world. The events of the past few weeks certainly bear that out.

This book is remarkable in its ability to describe thousands of years of history in a single volume.
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"What's the Deal with Social Security for Women?" by Marica Mantell
Jonathan Satovsky, CEO and founder at Satovsky Asset Management
Drawing on the author's expertise and sharing women’s personal stories, "What’s The Deal With Social Security for Women?" opens the door on how Social Security works regardless of your (or a client’s) life's journey. It's for you if you’re married, divorced, widowed, or single. It will take some of the mystery out of this complex yet critical income source. As many will be forced into early retirement (or contemplating it) as a result of the virus crisis this book can help readers avoid key mistakes.
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“You are a Badass at Making Money” by Jen Sincero
Stephanie Anderson, Wealth Advisor, CWS at Pulse Financial Services
This book, though primarily geared toward women, conveys principles and practices that apply to everyone. Our behavior with money is driven by our attitude. Jen Sincero does a wonderful job of gut-checking the reader and providing techniques to move beyond thoughts/feelings about money that are unhealthy or limiting. This book not only provides some financial clarity, it provides motivation and accountability as well.
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“Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris
Rich Whitworth, Head of Business Consulting, Cetera
The second book of a great set of three, “Theodore Rex” by Edmund Morris chronicles Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency and describes how he led the nation through the assassination of William McKinley, construction of the Panama Canal and creation of the National Parks System. A master orator from the bully pulpit and champion of individual and environmental rights, Roosevelt’s leadership inspired people to think beyond themselves and embrace a newly industrialized nation full of limitless possibilities.
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“The Areas of My Expertise” by John Hodgman
Stephanie Dearmont, president, Watch Hill Advisors
I try to focus on my clients’ accounts and the markets amid the ongoing volatility and depressing virus statistics, but I need to take a break occasionally and think about something else. As the cover proclaims, Hodgeman’s book includes matters historical, hobo matters (my personal favorite), utopia, what will happen in the future and most other subjects. All of which are gleefully made up by the author, and somehow make me laugh out loud after reading just a few lines. I could really use that “future” bit right now.
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