John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to email@example.com.
One of my resolutions is to read a lot more in 2017. I feel the need to lose myself in entertainment that isn’t on the screen. I don’t even want to use a Kindle, just old-fashioned books that I can touch and feel and mark up. Can you recommend any of your favorites? And I don’t care what the subject is, fiction or nonfiction. Be reminded that I’m a young (kinda) woman. I love this question and I love your spirit of adventure. Here’s a variety of titles to choose from. Eclectic, but that might be right up your alley.
There is a writer named Amor Towles who writes novels of manners. Buy his first editions because they will be valuable someday. His second book, A Gentleman in Moscow, is set in the city’s Metropol Hotel. If you stay with it for 50 pages or so, you’ll be transported. As for the author, I knew both of his parents; I’ve thought this gene pool should produce someone very special. And it did.
For mysteries, thrillers that are fresh, snarky and irreverent, try any of the Virgil Flowers novels by John Sandford. And the British thriller writer John Lawton has a hero who is the son of a lord but works as a police detective during the blitz in London in the early 1940s. Lawton will get you hooked. Great plotting and sexy, too.
If you’ve never read George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle, you’re missing a classic. In my view, it’s one of the best novels of the 20th century. Higgins is the model for so many mystery writers who followed him, including Elmore Leonard, another great.
Two last suggestions: Jane Gardam’s novel Old Filth. (The protagonist’s nickname is an acronym that means “Failed in London? Try Hong Kong.”) Gardam is an extraordinary creator of characters, and you will wonder at her use of language and surprises of plot. Lastly, something off the beaten path, a thriller with a big heart, a very clever mystery… Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.
I lost a dear grandfather recently, and a few friends of mine lost close relatives, all during the holiday season. Why does it seem that a new year brings a lot of sadness with it? I never noticed this until the last few years. Or am I just depressed? You’re probably not depressed. Unfortunately, it’s one of the many downsides to growing up. Loss and mourning is all part of this process.
As far as the seasonal blues are concerned, you’d be surprised how many people view the holidays with dread. Memories of happy childhoods, tough childhoods, early darkness, relationships challenged: Shall I go on? And it’s true that so many deaths occur at the very end and beginning of a year. The spirit seems to hang on until certain dates kick in—Christmas, New Year’s. Beginnings and ends. People hang on until benchmarks, then let go.
So how do you deal with grief and the mourning process, particularly when you’re young? The busier you are, the less you will be dragged down. Immerse yourself in work and your hobbies and your friendships. At these times, we need to be surrounded by life. Get involved with a nonprofit you care about, take dance classes, make sure you exercise. Find someone to love you and who you can love. We all need the touch of real hands, not virtual ones. It’s our ticket out of grief.
I’m a young lawyer. I want to be a rainmaker, someone who brings in a lot of business. But I have a dilemma and I can’t ask any of the partners about it. I’ve been approached by someone pretty friendly with my parents. He’s in the real estate business, a developer and, I believe, really rich. The fees for doing his legal work could be enormous. But he’s a very tough man, crude and demanding. Very difficult. “I’ll give you a lot of business,” he told me. “But I’ll be the most important person in your life, and you can expect my calls any day of the week and any time. Get it?” What should I do? In my profession, the “800-pound gorilla” client can own you, not the other way around. Beware the 800-pound gorilla. You have to be able to turn down business, even if the dollar signs are compelling. You cannot compromise your ethics. Bullies need to be taught a lesson and be told that they cannot treat people this way.
It’s tough to turn down immediate benefits to you. But it’s a mirage. Sooner or later, the 800-pound gorilla always leaves us. They’ll go through lawyers like poop through a goose.
You’ll feel good about yourself for turning him down. It would have eventually ended badly, and the lessons you learned from it will serve you well. As for your parents’ friendship with him, just tell your father, “It’s OK, Dad, to tell your buddy, ‘My kid’s young. He’ll learn about the world; let’s have a martini.’ ” They’ll stay friends, and you’ll be free from a relationship that could have been a disaster.