By Mia Kitner

Reading a good book can lower your stress and improve your focus, and studies have shown that the habit can improve your short-term and long-term memory. While these benefits have probably been known for some time now, we still struggle to find the time to read more.

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With the holidays fast approaching, many of us begin to think about our New Year’s resolutions. For me, it has steadily been to read more books. I have always enjoyed reading, and anyone in my family would tell you I always have a book with me everywhere I go. I just love books, from the old ones with their crinkled and yellow pages to the new ones with their crispiness and fresh smell. Books are, for me, an object of beauty, and in their pages are stories that remain to be discovered.

In the spirit of the season, we conducted a small survey in the office to get a little insight into what we all read at home. The genres varied, and below are our most memorable reads of 2017. All synopses are provided by the publishers.

Allen’s Pick: Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia by Paul Gionfriddo

Why I chose this book: “Tremendous respect for the author, Paul Gionfriddo. This book provides great insight into the frustrations and trials families struck by mental health illness are going through.”

Synopsis: Paul Gionfriddo’s son Tim is one of the “6 percent”―an American with serious mental illness. He is also one of the half million homeless people with serious mental illnesses in desperate need of help yet underserved or ignored by our health and social-service systems.

In this moving, detailed, clear-eyed exposé, Gionfriddo describes how Tim and others like him come to live on the street. Gionfriddo takes stock of the numerous injustices that kept his son from realizing his potential from the time Tim first began to show symptoms of schizophrenia to the inadequate educational supports he received growing up.

Losing Tim shows that people with mental illness become homeless as a result not of bad choices but of bad policy. As a former state policymaker, Gionfriddo concludes with recommendations for reforming America’s ailing approach to mental health.

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Steve’s Pick: Get Wise to Your Advisor: How to Reach Your Investment Goals Without Getting Ripped Off by Steven D. Lockshin

Why I chose this book: “Something about it resonated with me.”

Synopsis: The financial services world is changing. Technology is enabling an automated approach to investing that should bring down the cost of commodity services. No longer do you have to fund the lifestyle of a broker or advisor to have him tell you how to diversify or where to find the next investment that cannot be missed. This book will provide the tools for calculators that tell you most of what you need to know; from how much insurance you need to have to how you should diversify.

This book will provide a better understanding of your investment decisions. But, we all cannot be do-it-yourselfers. Advisors serve as an important resource for consumers when they are both capable and understand their duty to serve you, the customer, first. To complement their moral station, they must have the skills to deliver appropriate advice. The book, much like the company Mr. Lockshin founded, will simplify standards for consumers and audit advisors to those standards.


Gary Glanz’s Pick: Living Clean: The Journey Continues by Unknown Author

Why I chose this book: “For me personally, life is about living well and being at peace. Doing the right thing for the right reasons is a way of life, and this particular book showcases how to live a life of integrity and humility. Those values help lead my life.”

Synopsis: “Each time we surrender, we find once more that the desperation that drives us to our knees fuels the passion that carries us forward. When hope manifests into reality, our lives change. Our experience affirms what we believe, and belief grows into faith. When our faith grows into knowledge, the program that we once struggled to practice has become part of who we are. We find here what we were looking for all along, connection to others, connection to a Higher Power, connection to the world around us and, most surprising of all, connection to ourselves.” – Author

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Gary Gonzalez’s Pick: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Why I chose this book: “It’s a compelling story about community bonds, self-sacrifice, and the strength of human compassion in the midst of unfathomable challenges for humanity.”

Synopsis: Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them, they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.


Stacy’s Pick: The Man Who Invented Christmas (Movie Tie-In): Includes Charles Dickens’s Classic A Christmas Carol: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford

Why I chose this book: “The book provides insight into the author’s own struggles and all of the challenges he had to overcome to become one of the greatest authors of his time.”

Synopsis: As uplifting as the tale of Scrooge itself, this is the story of how Charles Dickens revived the signal holiday of the Western world. Soon to be a major motion picture.

Just before Christmas in 1843, a debt-ridden and dispirited Charles Dickens wrote a small book he hoped would keep his creditors at bay. His publisher turned it down, so Dickens used what little money he had to put out A Christmas Carol himself. He worried it might be the end of his career as a novelist.

The book immediately caused a sensation. And it breathed new life into a holiday that had fallen into disfavor, undermined by lingering Puritanism and the cold modernity of the Industrial Revolution. It was a harsh and dreary age, in desperate need of spiritual renewal, ready to embrace a book that ended with blessings for one and all.


My Pick: A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman

Why I chose this book: “Being the perpetual reader and lover of books that I am, I am a member of a book club. This was the first book we read, but it was the most memorable one too. This is one of those books you read and remember forever. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.”

Synopsis: Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered on his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior, there is a story and a sadness. So, when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about us. If you are looking for a good book to read, please feel free to begin with our list, and if you are interested in keeping track of the books you’ve read and getting recommendations based on them, is a great (free) tool. I personally started using it, and it may well be the key to reaching my literary goal next year.

From all of us here at Northstar, we wish you happy reading and the warmest holiday wishes!

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