Book Review: Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott

anne lamottMy latest book recommendation for anyone who, basically, knows how to read: Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott.

It’s a bit hard to describe exactly why you, specifically, may need to read this book. But I’m assuming:

  1. Each one of us needs to work on our soul in some way, at least some of the time
  2. Prayer, broadly defined, is a good way to do that, and
  3. Lamott has a magical way of explaining the ways and hows that prayer works for her, and may work for you.

Not a finance book

Help Thanks Wow does not speak to the traditional themes of Bankers Anonymous.

Except in this sense:

Money and finance can be a source of emotional stress for many people. What’s blocking us from realizing our goals may not be the actual dollars in our bank account, but something far less rational.

And also, in this other sense.

I find Lamott’s forgiveness of failure and pain an inspiration.[1] Her acceptance is a helpful tonic for my otherwise competitive, rational mind.

I kind of have this sense that finance – in all of its aspects – would be a lot more pleasant for everyone involved if it wasn’t so damned rational and competitive.

But it is.[2]

So I try with Bankers Anonymous to make finance more pleasant to engage with, through clear explanations and a tiny bit of humor.

Lamott as a guide to writing

My value proposition for readers of Bankers Anonymous has been to offer thoughts on finance to a general audience of educated people.

My major self-interested reason to launch the Bankers Anonymous blog was to learn how to write for a general audience of educated people.

That’s been the trade-off. You get to learn about finance. I get to learn about writing.

I mention this because I first discovered Anne Lamott through her well-known Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing And Life, which is a totally awesome guide to both topics.[3]

Could you use a good cry?

I really appreciate a book more if – like a good wedding – it makes me cry.

One of the hazards of reading Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers in public is that, as the hammer of her prose hits your emotion-bone, you feel that ache in your adam’s apple and an inadvertent welling in the lower eyelids. Once in a restaurant, and then later, waiting at the gate to board a plane back to Texas, I put the book down, blinking rapidly in a lame pretense that the air had suddenly become dusty.

Lamott celebrates her weaknesses as proud life tattoos. You find yourself drawn in by her admitted flaws, and then possibly admitting those same flaws in yourself. She’s wickedly funny about herself, which takes the venom out of noticing that you yourself are a flawed person.

Looking for some grace

Lamott is a real 12-stepper. I am merely a “recovering banker” inspired metaphorically by 12-steppers.

Whether you are a real 12-stepper, or just a flawed person trying to step clumsily around your own ego to find some grace, Help Thanks Wow can put you in the right frame of mind.

Are you willing to take a risk and ask for help? What’s holding you back? Do you understand just how lucky you are? Could you feel beloved today? Did you notice, I mean really notice and give thanks, for the incredible miracle that you’re still alive? These are all questions I’m asking myself, today, after finishing Help Thanks Wow.


Please see All Bankers Anonymous book reviews in one place!

Please see related posts:

Book Review of Peace and Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Book Review of Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes by Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich

It’s A Wonderful Life: A Failed Banker Origin Story

Help Thanks Wow

Bird by Bird:

[1] My attempt to wrestle with forgiveness of failure and pain is addressed here.

[2] Ironically, the worst finance book of all time, Peace and Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach, is an attempt to make personal finance less rational and more emotionally accessible. Ban Breathnach fails miserably in the attempt. Its 10 times longer than Lamott’s book, has nothing useful to say about personal finance, plenty of terrible ideas, a cringe-worthy writing style, and its dull-as-toast boring. Other than that though, it’s a nice try.

[3] And presumably a guide to writing without using clichéd phrases like ‘totally awesome.”

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Public Speaking


I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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