Book Club 2014

Book Club | November + December

Book Club November and December >> Life In Limbo

And setting new goals and thinking about the year ahead at this time of year, as well as looking back on the one that’s ended. I’ll be bringing a lot of that to the blog over the next couple weeks. For now though, here are my last 4 favourite books of the 75 (!) I managed to read this year.

Not That Kind of GirlI love Lena Dunham and her work on Girls, but I’ve never read anything she’s written until this book. I wasn’t familiar with the (silly) controversy surrounding the book which I’ll not link to here due to its silliness, and I’m glad that didn’t affect my reading of it whatsoever. I thought the essays were very well-written, relatable, funny sometimes, poignant others. One paragraph she wrote about her relationship with her boyfriend still haunts me in the very best possible way.

The Slight Edge / Yes! The major idea of this book is that by doing small actions every single day, you can build up significant results as long as you stick with it. It’s a simple idea but I’ve noticed the truth of it in my own life every time I think I’ll be able to continue doing a small habit for a long time and it ends up falling away. I love this idea of doing something small every day, or most days, and not breaking the chain.

The Happiness AdvantageHappiness is good for you! I knew that, but this book was a great reminder. The book is written by a happiness scientist and there’s a lot of awesome research packed into a not-very-long book. After reading, I finally started keeping a gratitude journal and it’s been one of my very favourite new habits.

Essays in LoveThis book was recommended to me by a new friend as one of her favourite books. It chronicles the story of one couple from their first meeting to their breakup. It’s so completely spot on in so many parts and so many things he wrote about were completely recognizable. It tackles the concept of love from a philosophical perspective, bringing in ideas you wouldn’t normally associate with falling in love, but it’s done in a really fascinating way. Note: for some reason, this book has two titles.

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So, those are the last four of my favourite books read in 2014. I probably won’t write a roundup of my favourites of the favourites (I imagine that would be a bit redundant) but you can see all the ones I loved this year right here.

As always, you can see all the books I’ve read and plan to read on GoodReads. Also, if you have any great book recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below.

You can also see my favourite books of 2013 here.

Here’s to 2015 being as good of a year for reading (and life!) as 2014 was!

How I’m Giving More Meaningful Gifts This Holiday Season

How to Give More Meaningful Gifts This Holiday Season >> Life In Limbo

This is my first Christmas away from home, which has helped me to get a little creative with gift-giving. I can’t just go to the mall and then wrap something up – I have to think about shipping and timing more than I’ve ever had to before. It’s a good thing though, as I’ve had to think more intentionally about what I want to give people this holiday season and what is important to me. I realized that when I am faced with getting a great gift for someone, there are two major ideas I tend to turn to:

1. Give an experience:

Happiness research backs me up on this – spending money on experiences rather than things offers the most return on your dollar investment in terms of enjoyment. These days it’s getting harder to buy someone an interesting thing, especially since most people buy themselves the things they want or are trying to get rid of their extraneous belongings. Gifting an activity is a wonderful way to sidestep all those concerns while still showing your care and thought for the person you’re giving to.

Some experiences that are fun to give (and receive!): tickets to a concert, play, or sports game, vouchers for the spa or an interesting fitness class, a gift certificate for a cooking class or workshop, or a night out at a nice restaurant. If price is a concern, look for local events happening in your community through smaller theatres, restaurants and other small businesses and you’ll be more likely to find something in your price range.

2. Give a book: 

Books are the best of both worlds – they’re a physical object, yes, but they also offer the reader a whole experience, perspective, and set of new ideas. Books are my favourite type of thing to both give because you’re able to be so thoughtful and generous while spending as much or as little as you can afford. I believe that a book that meant a lot to someone is one of the more special presents you could ever receive. Plus, the gift-giver will usually write a personal message on the inside flap, and how great is it to grow a personalized library!?

Some books I would give this year:

Non-fiction: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, Thrive by Ariana Huffington, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Adulting by Kelly Brown Williams, The Defining Decade by Meg Jay, The Promise of a Pencil by Adam Braun, Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott.

Fiction: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

Note: I have read and would personally recommend all of the above books. They are all among my favourites of the books that I read this year. You can see all my favourite books and recommendations right here.

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This week on the podcast, Laura and I are discussing giving great gifts. We touch on the two themes I’ve just mentioned, but also talk a lot more about where to turn if the occasion calls for a special object (spoiler: it’s Etsy!). We also have a conversation about ways we can give back at this time of year to charities and organizations in our communities and worldwide. In my humble opinion, it’s a great episode and I’m proud to share it with you. Have a listen on our blog or by subscribing to the show on iTunes.

What are your favourite things to give as gifts? What will you be buying for those on your list this year? 

Book Club | September + October

My Favourite Books of September + October >> Life In Limbo

I’m only 3 books behind on my 2014 reading goal for the year! With just over two months to go, I think I might actually make it. I’ve been reading some really great books lately but these ones are my stand-out favourites.

School of Essential IngredientsThis one was meant to be. It was recommended by one of my favourite authors but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Then, an English bookstore near me was having a closing sale and I ended up finding this one tucked away on an upper shelf. I absolutely loved it. The book tells the stories of different people who come together for a cooking class and it was lovely to read. I’m a sucker for food descriptions and stories that stick in your head and this book had plenty of both.

The Rosie ProjectI whipped through this book so fast, because it was funny and so well done. The protagonist is very socially awkward (it’s hinted he is probably on the autism spectrum) – which is not in itself funny, but he is also smart and fascinating and completely hilarious. The way it’s written is wonderful, because the character is your classic unreliable narrator so you’re realizing things when he isn’t, which is both fun and funny. It’s a love story, and you are rooting for him every single step of the way. The premise is that he makes an elaborate questionnaire to find himself the perfect wife, and then Rosie happens.

Bridges of Madison CountyGah. This is a perfect little novella. It’s a beautiful love story that I cried while reading, what more is there to say? The friend who recommended it to me said that some people don’t like this book, but I can’t see how. It’s so beautifully written and based on a true story (I can’t decide if that makes it better or worse, emotionally).

Help Thanks WowAnother short book but packed full of wisdom. The idea is that help, thanks and wow are the only three prayers you need. The book is not overly religious despite the word prayer – but it has this kind of down-to-earth, realistic spirituality that I really resonated with. Anne Lamott is a wonderful writer and it shows through here as well. She just elaborates on each prayer one at a time and ends with amen – it’s simple, accessible, easy, powerful.

This Is The Story of a Happy MarriageI listened to this as an audiobook and it was not what I had been expecting but I loved it. I really like Ann Patchett as both a writer and a person and it was fascinating to get to know her more through her personal essays (narrated by the author herself!). I cried at the one about her grandmother and found inspiration in the ones about her writing and marriage and travels and friendships.

We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesThis book was recommended by Parnassus Books (the bookstore owned by Ann Patchett, see above!) by Patchett herself, with the caption:“This will be the All Nashville Reads book for 2014, and my best book of 2013.  Don’t talk about it, don’t read the reviews, just read the book.  It’s brilliant.”  I second that. Don’t read the reviews or the back of the book, just start reading it without knowing anything about it. I did, and it was so awesome to start figuring things out on my own. It’s so touching and well-written and it’s also such a page turner, I couldn’t put it down.

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The last two months were so awesome for reading. I started listening to more audiobooks which has been such a happy decision for me. It means I can do twice as much reading and digest twice as many ideas! (Yes, I know I’m obsessed.)

As always, you can see all the books I’ve read and plan to read on GoodReads. Also, if you have any great book recommendations for me, I’d love to hear them! Let me know in the comments below.

You can see my favourite books so far this year here, and my favourite books of 2013 here.

Reading Challenge 2014

Books 2014

I feel like a broken record, but can someone please tell me how it’s September 24th? How is that possible? Does time move at warp speed as soon as you’re finished university? Don’t tell me the answer to that, I actually don’t want to know. Somehow it’s been more than 9 months since I set my goals + feelings for the year, including my reading goal for 2014. It doesn’t seem possible how quickly this year has gone by, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down either.

I’m happy to report that I’ve stuck to my reading challenge as much as was humanly possible for me this year. Having a full time job for the majority of the year put a tiny cramp in my reading style, though I do still read quite a bit. In 2013 I read 75 books, but I was travelling or working a not very demanding job for most of the year so I knew that 2014 would pose some more challenges to my reading life. But I was hopeful I could overcome them! (Sadly yes, I am that serious about my reading. You have to be if you love to read as much as I do, and if you want to read an absurd number of books every year!)

On my last post about reading, a friend left a comment asking when I read. The answer is: when I’m eating, when I have nothing to do at work, when I have a break, when I need to commute somewhere, before bed, while stretching, while brushing my teeth, and if it’s a really good book…. then when I’d normally be surfing the internet or writing. I don’t watch much TV – maybe about 3 hours per week – and messing around on the computer and reading are my two favourite pastimes so I spend a lot of time doing one of the two.

I stay accountable to my goals by religiously logging my books on Goodreads, putting books on hold through OverDrive so I always have a new exciting book to read, and of course sharing my favourites here every few months on the blog.

So where do I stand?

Books 2014 2

I’ve got 27 books to go before January 1, 2015. That number seems a tad high, especially since according to GoodReads I’m 6 books behind schedule to complete this goal. But the good news is, the challenge has already been a success for me! It always is, no matter what the outcome. I discovered some authors I love (Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Elin Hilderbrand) and read some really wonderful books. I’ll read at least 50 books this year, which feels like a major accomplishment my first year as a full time employee. It proves that I can do it, despite what all the naysayers always say (abundance 4ever!). I’m not giving up on the goal of 75, but everything from here on out feels like icing on the cake. Wish me luck!

You can read about how I read so many books for free here, and see my favourite book recommendations of 2014 so far here. You can also add me on GoodReads here, I love to see what other people are reading!

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