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Beach Reading

Volume XIV, Number 1 Spring 2017

If you are on a quest to understand the wealthy family with its myriad challenges, many of which outsiders struggle even to fathom, then stock up on these books. With diligent effort you can also use these books to manage your own psychology and impact your family’s psychology. Some readers are motivated by an eagerness to understand the book topic more deeply in ways that reflect on their own lives, while others seek understanding of family members and circumstances. The most fortunate readers are those who seek to take action based on new understanding gleaned from fiction and non-fiction alike. Everyone loves stories. Your reason for reading is a private pursuit. It can inform your journey in ways too personal for anyone else to describe. So, go for it, get your hands on these books and enjoy!

Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss by Frances Stroh

The ultimate cautionary tale, Stroh tells her story of experiencing and witnessing

the absolute demise of her family’s once-strong, thriving Forbes 400 business. The Stroh Brewing Company was founded in Detroit in 1850. By 1984, well managed for over a century, it had become the largest private beer fortune in America. During the years when Frances Stroh was growing up, estimates of the family fortune were $700 million. However, it was not too big to fail. Along with the destruction of the family business, Stroh details the destruction of her own nuclear and extended family. It is almost too much to take in all at once. She herself is only a few years younger than I am, and it was heartbreaking to wonder how so many missteps could rule the day with no one to inject common sense or stop anyone from his or her mistakes. Though it seems this book would have to be a depressing tale, what saves it from that unlovable fate is Stroh’s talent. Though we watch Stroh spiral downward along with the business and the family, she gets a great education (an asset no one can ever take away from her), has periods of brilliance in her life and success as an installation artist, and she ultimately finds her way as a talented writer. Her book is a compelling read, and ends with the hope that though she has lost everything by the standards of the world, she is clearly a survivor and well equipped with plenty of tools to build a meaningful and productive life. This autobiography is a solid step.

Tom Benson: A Billionaire’s Journey by Kathy Finn

Tom Benson’s working class beginnings would not have foretold his dramatic rise

through smart business decisions to become the wealthiest man in Louisiana. He parlayed his chance to sell cars into a business empire including banks, real estate, and the New Orleans Saints. In terms of money alone, his story is the great American success

adventure. As with all wealthy individuals, his actions, private and public, have been amplified by his growing fortune. Finn’s exploration of Tom Benson and his journey is as insightful as it is fascinating because Finn addresses the many mysteries in Benson’s life that have inspired curiosity. Finn wasn’t content to let the mysteries be mysteries. She delves into the how and the why of Benson’s actions. She connects the dots of Benson’s private life, explaining challenges he was unprepared to meet well. For instance, what parent, having grown up with practically nothing, would be prepared to raise their children in a wealthy environment, with absolutely no experience of the typical resources and lifestyle choices? Who would be prepared for the isolation that financial wealth can bring? Who would understand Benson’s defensiveness regarding his self-made status? Finn provides tremendous depth in this biography by showing how these challenges have played out for Tom Benson. Her willingness to tackle the tough questions, and the understanding she develops and imparts to the reader, make this story a useful treasure to read.

Two Sons and Forty Years by Robert Moon

For at least a decade I have wanted someone to write a novel like this! There are so many

non-fiction books now about the challenges of wealth, and their numbers seem to multiply exponentially every year. Though the wealth dilemmas and tests come up in other novels, they are rarely central themes. So, at long last, Robert Moon has written his story with multiple interwoven plots, intrigue, and relationship dynamics that are familiar to the world of wealthy families. His main character is a pastor who wrestles with decisions most of us can only try to imagine. Two Sons and Forty Years is an engaging read. Within the first few pages I was caught up in the story, which centers on the pastor’s congregation and many business and financial concerns represented in this community. Though the pastor’s first instinct is to keep business concerns at bay, he does gather the courage to wade into the difficult challenges unfolding in his world and shows us his spiritual perspective as he works through all of it. Author Robert Moon is clearly unafraid of tough dilemmas and strained relationships. What is striking in this book is that the business dealings in the story and the affected family relationships are common in society, yet rarely addressed in Christian writing and preaching. In addition to the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the main story, Moon weaves many plots into his novel, so the environment is rich with intrigue. As I made my way through the story, I found myself wondering how the challenges could successfully resolve, and was relieved to find the ending satisfying.

We all know that reading has the potential to enrich us. These three excellent authors make us forget that there is any effort in the act of reading. All three books are hard to put down, one of the great measures of writing success. Take time in the coming months to learn, grow, and enjoy!

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