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Hey advisors, we're reading too: FP staff book recommendations for quarantine

Social distancing can be stressful as it is, let us make the recommendations for a change.

At Financial Planning, we’re used to asking advisors to share their favorite books on a variety of subjects — but now it’s our turn. We asked our team to submit a few selections from their very own quarantine reading lists to help those looking to add a few tomes to theirs.

Whether you’re looking for titles you can learn from or an escape into page-turning thrillers, we’ve got you covered.

Click through the list to learn more.

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“Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies” by Jared Diamond
Andrew Welsch, Senior Editor, On Wall Street
Stuck in our quarantined homes, the historically curious among us may be pondering the impact germs have had on human history. This may be an opportune moment to appreciate the big role that small microbes have had on our world.

A good place to get started is with this monumental Pulitzer Prize winning book by evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond. He presents a convincing case that environmental factors were critical in the development of civilization, particularly the availability of domesticable plants and animals. Though the book is long, Diamond is an engaging writer. Halfway through it, you'll find yourself going on at length with friends and family about the yields of particular types of grains and why horses and chickens have been such better companions for humankind than zebras and ostriches.

Of course, not all of history can be boiled down to environmental factors. But taking a long view can yield fresh insights. Plus, it'll make you look at your next bowl of pasta very differently.
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“A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe
Tobias Salinger, Senior Editor, Financial Planning
I first read the succinct Defoe's chronicle of an outbreak of the Great Bubonic Plague in London in the 1660s several years ago. At that time, I couldn't help but notice how the suffering led to a greater appreciation for life and the joys that we can sometimes take for granted. While I would never hope for anyone to go through disease or trauma, I could see that there was a sense of perspective on how precious life can really be.

Now that we are in the middle of the pandemic, I greatly wish we could have avoided learning such lessons during this public health crisis. But, in escaping to the past in order to examine it, we can see how one city made it through a terrible time and how the human spirit can sustain itself through this horrible virus as well.
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“Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” by David Quammen
Paola Peralta, Reporter, Financial Planning
This book found its way into my collection through a college class taken years ago, long before we’d even considered the possibility of another pandemic. David Quammen tells the story of AIDS and its origins in a new voice, from the jungles of Central Africa, the rooftops of Bangladesh, and the caves of southern China to the laboratories where researchers work in space suits to study lethal viruses.

What sets this book apart is that it reads like a mystery tale, full of mayhem and clues and questions. It’s the perfect book to keep readers new to the subject engaged and entertained while navigating such a complex topic. Throughout the book Quammen alludes to the Next Big One — the next big pandemic — and he poses the same questions then that we’re grappling with now: what will it look like? From which innocent host animal will it emerge? Will we be ready?
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“Normal People” by Sally Rooney
Maddy Perkins, Managing Editor, Operations and Innovation, Financial Planning
It's not directly-related to what we're all experiencing in quarantine, per se, but revisiting my favorite book of 2019, Sally Rooney's "Normal People," has been comforting to me during this time. I think we are all taking stock of the strange complexities that make up human relationships as we attempt to find closeness with each other without actually being close.

Rooney's novel tells the story of Irish star-crossed-sometimes-lovers-sometimes-friends Marianne and Connell who share an intense relationship throughout adolescence and early adulthood. Their connection is forged against the backdrop of growing up in a post-2008 world; forcing them to grapple with class, identity, privilege, power and depression as they confide in — and occasionally detach — from each other. As we no doubt face a new era of economic and even existential uncertainty, I find myself drawn to stories like these that remind us of the importance of how our most intimate relationships shape and affect us during difficult and punishing times.
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“Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage” by Alfred Lansing
Chelsea Emery, Editor-in-Chief, Financial Planning
At a time we are consumed with worry about the health of loved ones, it has helped me to reread this beautifully written and reported account of Ernest Shackleton's voyage to Antarctica in the early 1900s. After setting sail in 1914, the ship became trapped in ice and the sailors were marooned in subzero temperatures for almost 500 days. The author's depiction of courage, teamwork, sharing, support and individual leadership is not only gripping, it is an inspiration.
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“A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
Andrew Welsch, Senior Editor, On Wall Street
Ever think of walking the entire Appalachian Trail? Me neither. But author Bill Bryson attempted it and you can read his droll take on what's like trying to trek through more than 2,100 miles of forest, meadows and mountains. Bryson's prose is delightful, and you'll find at times yourself mesmerized by his descriptions of natural beauty and laughing at bear encounters. Even if we can't get out in the woods on a group hike right now, I promise you'll get something out of the book.
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"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho
Jessica Mathews, Associate Editor, Financial Planning
If anyone else has found themselves entirely and utterly alone for the past two weeks, you may have realized (like me) that there has rarely been a better opportunity for self-reflection. Even if you've read it multiple times before, It's a good time to pull out Paulo Coelho's short tale. It's a quick read, but a beautifully-told story to remind us that the journey to achieving our dreams is just as important as they are. It's both a stark reminder of how a passing acquaintance can change the course of our lives as well as a cautionary tale of what we stand to lose by settling for less than what we are capable of.
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"A Long Petal of the Sea" by Isabel Allende
Jessica Mathews, Associate Editor, Financial Planning
Allende lived through the horrific dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, and her writing is a powerful depiction of how people cope with tragedy and immense human suffering. In the novel, you follow two refugees who flee to Chile amid the brutal Spanish Civil War. It's a story of unswaying human character but also of the deep joy and importance found in small gestures or brief encounters. Allende's characters are alive on every page, and they make loss, friendship and sacrifice feel very personal.
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“Most Wanted” by Rae Carson
Ryan Neal, Technology Editor, Financial Planning
A year before Disney re-launched the Star Wars franchise in 2015 with "The Force Awakens," Lucasfilm rocked the fandom by announcing that it wanted a clean slate for the fictional lore. As of April 25, 2014, only the first six movies and "The Clone Wars" animated television show counted as the "official" Star Wars story. The 36 years' worth of books, comic books and video games known as the Expanded Universe was stricken from the canon and renamed "Star Wars Legends."

I decided at the time to renew my hobby as a Star Wars completist — which had lapsed upon entering high school — by consuming every piece of Star Wars media in the "new canon." You're welcome, Disney shareholders.

I didn't realize how much more difficult this already Sisyphean task would be as an adult and have fallen nearly two years behind, but coronavirus quarantine has provided a new hope. So in my quest to complete the canon, I am reading "Most Wanted," a prequel tie-in novel to the under-rated spin-off movie, "Solo: A Star Wars story." It's the story of a young Han Solo struggling to survive in the criminal underworld of his home planet, Corellia. Sure it's intended for teenagers, but with no new movies or episodes of "The Mandalorian" coming anytime soon, it's a welcome escape out of my one-bedroom apartment into a galaxy far, far away.
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“Blood Oil: Tyrants, Violence, and the Rules that Run the World” by Leif Wenar
Ann Marsh, Senior Editor, Financial Planning
Our global economy’s impeccably choreographed supply chain fills our lives with ease and instantaneous delight to such an extent that we are collectively numb to the harm it does. To buy oil and minerals, we fund tyrants, who grab and hold onto power by murdering their citizens and spreading religious extremism that inevitably splashes back on us. Wenar, a political philosopher, argues, that we can break free of this double-bind through the passage of a series of surprisingly straightforward trade laws. Wenar invokes the leap forward humanity took in the late 18th century, when it began outlawing the Atlantic slave trade, motivated by the simple acknowledgment that it was morally abhorrent. We can collectively take such a stand in our generation, he argues, by turning off the ignition on the central motor that drives much of harm being committed against the planet, and ourselves, today.
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“Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah Harari
Andrew Shilling, Associate Editor, Investment Advisor Group
How did we get here? What sets us apart from the rest of the rest of the animal kingdom? And why does social distancing feel so wrong to many of us? These are probably questions of which many of us think we have answers, but for some breadth and context, the first of so far three books in the series from Yubal Noah Harari may be one place to start. Harari tells our story — Homo sapiens sapiens — in a way that’s easy to read and digest, reminding many of us where we come from and the things that sets us apart from our predecessors. If you are interested in learning more about the dawn of man, agriculture and even corporations, this is one page-turner that you won’t be able to put down. You may even learn to enjoy the solitude.
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“Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
Paola Peralta, Reporter, Financial Planning
Not as relevant to our present day situation, but nothing passes the time like a good murder mystery novel. Hawkins manages to tell a thrilling and exciting story through the eyes of a woman who's on the outside always looking in — a feeling I’m sure many of us can relate too, although most of us are on the inside always looking out these days. Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning, to the point where she feels like she knows all of the families living in the homes she passes personally. After witnessing something shocking, Rachel has a responsibility to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
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“Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics and Politics” by Reinhold Niebuhr
Ann Marsh, Senior Editor, Financial Planning
While an individual can approach personal moral enlightenment, humans in groups will continue to commit atrocities, writes Reinhold Niebuhr, a protestant theologian and author of the Serenity Prayer recited in twelve step recovery meetings worldwide. It’s no coincidence that Niebuhr published this seminal book in 1932, between the two world wars. Despite his pessimism, Niebuhr also sounds a rational argument — one enshrined in his famous and practical prayer which begins, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change” — that it’s our duty to bring about as much social good as possible, even in a world shaped by our species’ seemingly insurmountable failings. Should our global response to the current pandemic be robust and effective, I’m sure Niebuhr would have been delighted to be proved wrong.