Book Club 2017

Book Club: November & December

I love to read, and I love to talk about the books I like best with other people. Every couple months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading in real time at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

Book Club: November + December >> Life In Limbo

2017 was SUCH a great reading year. It seems like every year when I tackle this big goal, I end up getting even more out of it than I did the year before. What a gift it is, to be able to access the minds of so many incredible thinkers and storytellers, to be able to soak up new ideas, to see through new eyes. There’s a reason it’s my all-time favourite hobby! I gain so much, both practically-speaking and in my soul.

This December I actually started a second book club in addition to the one I’m already a part of. It was such a treat to have yet another space to discuss great books with like-minded people and I’m excited to continue with both throughout 2018. I realize that I’m a giant nerd, but these are the things that make me happy, so that’s reason enough for me!

Here are the four books I liked best from the past couple months of reading:

Book Club: November + December >> Life In Limbo

The End of Absence by Michael Harris

After being blown away by his book Solitude, I got this one out of the library and read it right away. It was actually his first book in this ‘series’ of sorts about being hyper-connected, and the lack of space, absence, and breathing room in our lives lately due to technology. The book focuses primarily on the fact that we are the last generation to have grown up with one foot in each world: the offline world and the online Internet world, and perhaps the last generation to see the fundamental value of the world before technology (a pretty radical idea, these days). His argument is that something will have been lost to us collectively once everyone in the world is fully plugged in, and that we may begin to forget the merits and the beauty of the simpler, natural world. Although I preferred Solitude, this one was also excellent and won the Governor General’s literary award in 2014.

The Wisdom of Sundays by Oprah Winfrey

My friend Laura got this for me as an early Christmas present, and it was such a treat to read! I love and respect Oprah so greatly, and am so impressed by what she has done on Super Soul Sunday with presenting spirituality in such an approachable and modern way. The show – and now the podcast – has had a big impact on my relationship with my spirituality and personal development. This book is laid out with quotes from her various interviews with thought leaders and teachers on Super Soul, along with beautiful photos of her property in California where they film the episodes. It’s stunning in so many ways, and I’m keeping it out on my coffee table to remind me of what I truly value.

The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King

This book humbled me in reminding me of how privileged I am, and how little I know about the history of Native people in North America. My uncle, who is a member of a First Nations band, has recently been delving deeper into this history and educating himself and others on the cultural and social implications of the colonialism and suffering that we have collectively and consistently inflicted on Native people since our ancestors first set foot in North America. It’s a powerful and painful read, but Thomas King is such a talented writer that he manages to somehow bring humour and levity to these serious and upsetting topics. I have been recommending this one to anyone I meet who shows even the most passing interest in social justice.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

I really, really loved this novel, which was one of the last things I read in 2017. I was also so excited to see that it made Barack Obama’s list of his favourite books of the year – great minds think alike, am I right?! The story is a familiar one of refugees and immigration, but it’s made unique because of the novel’s use of magical realism and whimsical story-telling style. I also particularly liked how the author never tells us which war-torn country the protagonists are from, and doesn’t let the book fall into using any clichés. It takes you on the journey alongside the characters in a beautiful and sometimes jarring way, humanizes the idea of a “refugee”, and does an incredible job of making its point. Highly recommended.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations!

Book Club: September + October

I love to read, and I love to talk about the books I like best with other people. Every couple months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading in real time at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

Book Club: September + October >> Life In Limbo

I’m a little late with sharing these, but it’s been a great few months for reading. I’m actually – surprisingly – ahead on my reading goal for the year, which is usually not the case at the “eleventh hour” most years! I’ve been on a real streak lately, ever since my two weeks of powerhouse reading in New York City this summer.

My goals for the rest of the year are to read more books that absorb me, that I can’t put down, which means: more fiction! I’m excited to start tackling this list of books.

Here are my favourite four books out of what I read in September and October:

Book Club: September + October >> Life In Limbo

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

I love everything that Brené does, and this book is probably my favourite she’s written. Inspired by the current political and cultural climate (especially in the U.S.) she’s using her career of research on shame and vulnerability to reframe our society’s current problems of hate, disconnection, and anger. There are so many great concepts in this book, but my favourite is to resist any conversation that uses dehumanizing language of any kind, or in which you are either “with us or against us”. She encourages us to move in, because “it’s hard to hate people up close.” In an age of what feels like crazy, emotional, limbic conversations, this book was a breath of fresh air. If you want a glimpse of what the book’s about, I would recommend watching the Facebook Live she did after Charlottesville, and her interview on MarieTV.

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

This book was like reading a love letter to books, and it made my heart sing. The author is now the editor of the New York Times Book Review, but this memoir tells the story of her life, through the books she was reading at the time, since when she was a French exchange student in high school. “Bob” refers to her “book of books”, the simple notebook where she keeps a record of every book she’s read since she was young. My favourite passage, that I am so grateful to have read:

“Well into adulthood, I would chastise myself over not settling on a hobby and just reading instead. Everyone else had a passion; where was mine? How much happier I would have been to know that reading was itself a passion. Nobody treated it that way, and it didn’t occur to me to think otherwise.” 

Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis

What would happen if dogs were given human consciousness? This book is more philosophical than it is funny, kind of dark, pretty poignant. The best part of reading it was that it’s set, for the most part, in the part of Toronto where I live! My street is even mentioned at one point. It’s such a fun treat to read books set in places that you are familiar with – whether it’s somewhere you’ve traveled or somewhere you’ve lived. The more time I spend in Toronto, the more I love it, so reading this gave me another layer of appreciation for my neighbourhood and my life.

Solitude by Michael Harris

Reading this book felt like taking a really deep breath and coming home to myself. It’s about the importance of solitude, and how it’s being increasingly erased in our world of constant connection and stimulation. The author talks about his experiments with trying to find more solitude in his own life, and how difficult it has actually become to find it – how it’s looked down on by others or resisted mightily when you try to take it for yourself. It was an amazing reminder of the kinds of things that I value and find important. I’m excited to read his other book, which won the Governor General’s award, called The End of Absence.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations!

Book Club: Summer 2017

I love to read, and I love to talk about the books I like best with other people. Every couple months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading in real time at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

Book Club: Summer 2017 >> Life In Limbo

This summer was a great one for reading! I finally came out of my reading slump and ended up flying through so many books this summer that I did a double-take when I saw how many books I’d read in July alone. I decided to put the last 4 months together and pull my favourites from the past few months. Yay! So much good stuff to read.

Book Club: Summer 2017 >> Life In Limbo

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner

This was the first thing I read on vacation – I borrowed it from Katie as soon as I landed in New York and was promptly swept away on an Italian getaway. This books spans several generations and moves (almost too) quickly through them, but happily you love each new set of characters as much as the last. It’s a long book, but I also didn’t want it to end. Also: can I visit this fictional island?! My heart is broken that it doesn’t exist.

Just Kids by Patti Smith

This was our book club’s pick for August and damn, was it good. I came away feeling so inspired to make things just for the sake of it, to stay focused and committed to your work, and to love the hell out of your friends. Patti Smith is an amazing writer, and she writes so beautifully about her friendship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This is one of Seth Godin’s favourite books, which is what brought it to my attention at first. Our discussion during book club was all about art, friendship, meaning, and finding community. So good!

Wabi Sabi Welcome by Julie Pointer Adams

The basic premise of this book is that you can entertain imperfectly, and it can be beautiful. She emphasizes that the most important thing is gathering often with your favourite people, no matter what that looks like. The book is also full of absolutely gorgeous photographs from different places around the world that embody wabi-sabi entertaining: Japan, Denmark, California, France and Italy. The photos are not polished or staged, just perfectly imperfect in and of themselves. It felt like such a refreshing (and approachable) way to bring people together.

Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer

A journalist tries to improve his memory and ends up winning the U.S. Memory Championship one year later. In this book, he tells the whole story while also explaining lots of practical techniques for improving your own memory. My friend Laura recently tested me almost a month after first reading this book, and I could remember a whole grocery list of random items that I’d memorized in a memory palace, verbatim. It’s not hard, and so fun! My social insurance number now lives in my childhood bedroom (in my mind). Highly recommend: fun and helpful at the same time.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations!

Book Club: March + April

Book Club: March & April 2017 >> Life In Limbo

I love to read, and I love to talk about the books I like best with other people. Every couple months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading in real time at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

I had a great conversation this week with my friend Katie about reading slumps. Are you in one? I know for a fact I was in one for the past few months and my reading life (my precious reading life!) took a serious hit. We developed a great strategy for getting out of one, if you happen to be in one yourself:

  1. Ask your friends for recommendations
  2. Go to the library and choose whatever looks good
  3. Stop reading a book if you don’t like it
  4. Read what you actually like, not what you think you’re supposed to like.
  5. Re-read Austin Kleon’s reading rules

And voila! I cured myself this week with a one-two punch of my book club pick for this month (a fast, easy, fun read) and Commonwealth, which I’m devouring. It feels so good to be back in the groove, and I resolved to make June a month of reading. If you’re looking for something good to read this month, may I recommend one of the following?

Book Club: March & April 2017 >> Life In Limbo

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

This was my pick for book club when it was my turn to choose the book and I’m so happy I did! I might not have ever gotten around to reading it (it’s rather long) had I not had our book club meeting to hold me accountable. That said, since reading it I’ve recommended it to everyone who will sit still long enough to listen to me. The tagline is totally accurate – it’s a brief history of humankind – and it’s told in such a compelling and matter-of-fact way that it’s a really enjoyable read. I love the way it presents the facts without much nostalgia or romance: it made me feel very, very small in the best possible way. Highly recommended for those who are interested in humans, history, and big ideas.

The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz

I finally got around to reading this one in March – it had been on my list for years. It’s a short book but contains quite a few interesting concepts about relationships and love that I’ve kept with me ever since reading it. These were my top 2 takeaways:

  1. If you want a dog but you have a cat, stop trying to change the cat into a dog and go get a dog instead.
  2. Keep your “kitchen” stocked all by yourself. If you don’t, you’ll wind up desperate and eat whatever stale pizza comes your way.

These might seem like simple ideas, but they’re much easier said than done! I have been guilty of both of these habits in past relationships. Very helpful stuff if you can remember to put it into practice.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This book and Homegoing were nominated in the same category in the Goodreads choice awards and having read both I was pretty surprised that this one won. Having said that, this was still an interesting and important book. Growing up, the author thought that the Underground Railroad was an actual bonafide railroad with trains and stops, so this book contains his imaginings of what that may have looked like, without being fantastical in any way. The story is harrowing and sad and hard to read (as of course narratives about slavery usually are) and brings up some interesting questions. Not my favourite, but still a good read.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

loved this one and especially loved the discussions it brought up both in my book club and with other friends who had also read it. Having lived in Korea for a while, it was so interesting to read a book set there. It was cool to recognize aspects of the culture that I had noticed while there, as well as learn more about family life and customs that I would never have seen since I was a foreigner. The story is about a woman who decides to become a vegetarian, and the implications that the choice causes within her family. It’s also about a lot more than that, but I don’t want to say more without giving parts away! It’s a fast read but an intense one.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations! 

 

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