Book Club | July & August

Book Club J+A

Great news! I’m now officially only 6 books behind schedule for my 2014 reading goal, 2 better than I was at my last check-in. I’m catching up slowly but surely, and lately I’ve been loving reading more than ever. I’m really trying to prioritize it this year, because it really is an activity that enriches me – in a hundred different ways – more than anything else does.

In July and August I was loving lighter, summery books mainly, fun stuff I could read on the beach. I made it a goal to read “braver” in 2014 (ie. read slightly more intellectual novels that challenge me), and I think I have been overall, but in summer I want to read light-hearted things! That being said, there were a few very poignant, wonderful books from the last few months. You can see my favourites from the rest of this year right here.

The Vacationers / Earlier this year, I read and loved a novel by Maria Semple, and in the last couple months I read and loved two books that had praise from her on their front covers. I don’t know if that’s just smart marketing, or if there’s really something to it, but all I know is that I think I like this genre a lot: well-written novels about strong, interesting, wonderful, imperfect women who for the most part lead very ordinary lives. They’re modern books, keenly observant, smart, and relatable. This one was a light, easy read about a family vacation in Mallorca with an interesting band of characters. It wasn’t particularly ground-breaking, but I enjoyed it a lot.

Of Mice and Men / Wow. This was my first time reading Steinbeck, and I was really, genuinely impressed. I remarked afterward to a friend that a lesser writer would have made this story into a full length novel, but I think it says something that he was able to keep it short (it’s less than 200 pages) and yet so evocative that it practically sears itself into your memory. Some of the scenes are so vivid in my brain that it’s like I watched a movie of the book instead of reading it. It’s a simple story but it manages to be a tense thriller. It’s also so well crafted and perfectly set up, in that there were things I completely didn’t see coming but that made so much sense in retrospect. I think there’s a reason it’s a classic.

The Blue Bistro / This was my first time reading Elin Hilderbrand, who I only discovered from this list of the 29 Best Books of Summer 2014. Guess what, I’m a huge fan! Her novels are all set on Nantucket island, which just sounds like the ideal summer destination, and this novel made me desperately want to “summer” there and eat and/or work at this fictional restaurant every night of the week. As a foodie, I highly appreciated all the detailed descriptions of delicious food – the book’s first page is the menu, which practically makes your mouth water and totally sets the scene for the book. It’s a love story, and occasionally the main character seemed a bit naive to me, but I loved the whole world of the book. It reminded me of my waitressing days!

Astonish Me / This was the other novel praised by Maria Semple, and I absolutely loved it. I’m fascinated by the world of ballet, and this book was about that world while also being about ordinary life after being a professional ballet dancer. I thought it was interesting and observant.

168 Hours / The subtitle of the book is “you have more time than you think” and by the time I was finished reading the first two chapters, I believed it. The premise of the book is that we all have 168 hours a week, more than enough time to accomplish anything we want to. She writes about people who get an absurd amount of things done in a week – sleeping 8 hours a night, reading, exercising, spending time with their families, working, volunteering, pursuing hobbies – and I found those case studies so inspiring. The book talks about tracking where you actually spend time, figuring out how you would ideally want to spend your time, and then being strategic about fitting things in, including automating some things and minimizing or ignoring others. I came away with lots of inspiration and practical ideas.

Eleanor & Park / I flew through this book in only a day or two, because it was so wonderful. It’s a beautiful novel about two teenagers falling in love, but I wouldn’t really call it a young adult novel just because of the characters’ ages. It was smart and funny, poignant and compelling. It’s just a great love story that really swept me up without being fluffy. The characters have real problems and insecurities, but they fumble through and it’s pretty beautiful to watch them. I can’t wait to read Rainbow Rowell’s other books.


I’ve been reading some really awesome books lately and I’m excited for the rest of my 2014 in reading!

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.

Book Club | May & June

Book Club M + J

I’m now 8 books behind on my reading goal for the year, and sadly over the last few weeks I’ve only been slowing down! What with all the big changes happening in my life, reading has taken a major backseat. Reading is one of the things that makes me happiest, and always makes me feel like I have all the time in the world (even if I can only read for 15 minutes), but it’s always the thing that’s the first to go when things get stressful. Really, it should be the other way around, and I’m going to try to work on that going forward.

This year, in the spirit of my reading goal, I’m sharing my favourite books every month or so here on the blog. You can see my favourites from the first four months of the year right here.

Daring Greatly / This Spring, I really fell in love with Brené Brown’s ideas and writing. Her TED talks on shame and vulnerability piqued my interest, and I immediately wanted to read this book, which is her most recent. Her talks touch on many of the book’s main points, but the amount of details, quotes and funny and touching anecdotes she includes makes it more than worth a read. I resonate so strongly with her perspectives on things, they feel intuitive and just strike a chord with me. Plus, while her writing style is funny and self-deprecating, it’s also serious and passionate when she’s discussing important ideas. I highlighted a bunch of quotes while reading, but one of my favourites that really sums it up is:

“Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.”

The Promise of a Pencil / I decided to read this book after watching Marie Forleo’s interview with the author Adam Braun. I found the story of his journey inspiring, and his approach very accessible and down-to-earth. Braun is the founder of the global education charity Pencils of Promise, which builds schools and trains teachers by working with local communities all around the world. He builds each chapter around a mantra he’s developed or adopted that guides him in living his life. I liked all of the mantras, but some of my favourites were: “why be normal”, “do the small things that make others feel big”, “stay guided by your values, not your necessities”, and “make your life a story worth telling”. The book is Braun’s autobiography, but it includes a lot of wonderful ideas and perspectives, and I personally found it incredibly inspiring. The whole time I was reading it, I felt like I had all this pent-up energy that I wanted to use to go out and do good in the world.

Thrive / I absolutely adored this book, and highlighted something on almost every page. It’s chock full of meaningful quotes, ideas, and reminders about what it means to live a good life. Arianna Huffington’s big idea is that we need a third metric (the first two being money and power) to define success. She suggests that the third metric is made up of wisdom, wellness, wonder, and giving, and the book explores each of those ideas. To make her points, she includes several personal anecdotes and brings in a lot of ideas from other big thinkers. I resonated really strongly with the book and it gave me a lot of food for thought. As I’m sort of in the process of designing my own life, it helps to have a resource like this one for the other metrics I should be striving towards as I seek out a happy and successful life. I highly, highly recommend. There were at least a hundred awesome quotes in this book, but here are just two:

  • “Why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things our eulogy will never cover?”
  •  “Well-being can’t be measured by money or traded in markets. It’s about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and, above all, the strength of our relationships.” -David Cameron

One other note: it was fascinating how much overlap there was between these first three books – they all mentioned vulnerability, synchronicity, the importance of giving and doing good for others, and they all discussed how human connection is so important for happiness. It was great to see so much cohesion across three fairly different books.

Lost Lake / Sarah Addison Allen is one of my very favourite authors, but it took me a while to get around to reading this, her latest book. I think part of me was nervous to read it, since I’ve read all her others at least 3 times each, and I had worries that Lost Lake wouldn’t be as good. Fortunately, I was wrong, and Allen is as wonderful a writer as ever. She wrote a short story called Waking Kate to accompany Lost Lake, which I read first and it sucked me right back into the magical world that all her books create for the reader. If you want to see whether you’d like her style, Waking Kate is available for free as a Kindle single right here. Lost Lake is set at a beautiful old summer resort in the South with a wonderful cast of eccentric characters, a charming little town nearby, and it’s full of breezy, lovely, summery plans and adventures. It’s a bit of a light read, but for me it was so enjoyable.

Paper Towns / Slowly but surely I’m reading all of John Green’s novels, and I’ve been loving them all. This one is set in the suburbs of Florida, and it’s about a boy who loves a girl. All of Green’s books make me feel nostalgic about different times in my life, this one reminded me of when I was in high school in the suburbs, driving around in my mom’s minivan with my friends, sitting out on rooftops, hanging out in basements, and instant messaging my friends all hours of the day and night. I never pulled as many pranks as they do in the book, but I loved it and could relate to it all the same. I can’t say too much about the plot without giving away spoilers, but I loved how Green kind of attacks the 2-dimensional “manic pixie dream girl” idea by forcing his main character to confront the fact that he didn’t know the girl he “loved” almost at all, he just loved the idea of her and what she looked and acted like.


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.

Book Club | March & April

Book Club M+A 2One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to read 75 books, like I did last year. We’re 4 1/2 months into 2014 and I’m currently 6 books behind on that goal, according to my Goodreads page. But it’s okay! As I’ve said before, I knew it would be harder to read as many books this year since for a good chunk of last year I was travelling and/or without a full-time job. When I was preparing to come to Korea and after I first got here, my literary life took a backseat. Happily I’m back to it, and I’ve been reading some seriously good books. In the spirit of my reading goal, I’m sharing my favourite reads on the blog every couple months. You can see my favourites from January & February here.

Turning Pro / I’ve read Steven Pressfield before (at the recommendation of one of my idols, Marie Forleo), specifically The War of Art, and I loved his writing and perspective. If you’re somebody that does any kind of creative work, I think reading The War of Art is a necessity. We all need to learn how to fight resistance and deal with other blocks that stop us from being helpful and doing our best work. Turning Pro runs in a similar vein, but it’s about the moment we start acting like professionals when it comes to the work that we do. Professionals meet their deadlines, get themselves the right equipment, don’t make excuses, and treat whatever it is that they’re doing like it’s serious, meaningful work (because it is!). You can see a great interview between Marie and Steven about this topic here.

Bird by Bird / Anne Lamott writes about writing in such a down-to-earth but inspiring way. She talks about how writing is hard, how all writers struggle with so much self-doubt, how getting yourself to write is a battle, how writing is one of the most wonderful things in the world, how there are many beautiful motives for writing, and how getting published isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She also gives a lot a truly practical, helpful advice for how to get your writing done. This is a book about how to write, but in some ways it’s also about how to live a good life. She writes: “I think this is how we are supposed to be in the world – present and in awe.”

The Art of Possibility / As I was writing this post, I was struck by how much this book was about abundance, so much so that I had to go back and amend my Abundance Ideas post to include it. It’s a wonderful book about changing your paradigm, looking at the big picture, and seeking out the possibility and potential of every person or situation you encounter. Some ideas that really stuck with me:

  • “Who am I being that they are not shining?”
  • “How will I be a contribution today?”
  • “Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view.”
  • “The naysayers pride themselves on their supposed realism.”

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work / An easy read, and a fascinating one. It’s a collection of the daily habits and routines of a huge number of creative people – artists, writers and scientists. I was struck by how many of them had extremely consistent and often rigorous daily habits, allowing little room for variation. A lot of their days were automated so they didn’t have to spend energy making little decisions about what to wear or what to eat. They made time for all the things they thought were important but didn’t waste time on anything unimportant. It surprised me how many of their routines were similar across all types of creativity: they rose relatively early, ate more or less the same thing each day, spent 3-4 hours working solidly on their projects, took long walks, read a lot of books and spent time with their families. Seems like the perfect life to me! It reminded me of that quote from Gustave Flaubert: “Be steady and well-ordered in your life so that you can be fierce and original in your work.”

Looking For Alaska / I absolutely sped through this novel. It’s a pretty sad book and it made me a little angry, but it was so well-written that I didn’t even mind. The premise of kids in boarding school gets me every time, and the book pulled me in really quickly. John Green is such a wonderful writer (and awesome human being) and I’m excited to read the rest of his books. I read The Fault in Our Stars almost a year ago on the plane to Paris and it made me cry and feel all the wonderful nostalgic and perfect feelings, so I have no idea why it took me so long to read another of his books. I’m a huge fan.


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.

PS. See my favourite books of 2013 here!

Book Club | January & February

Book Club J+F

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to read 75 books. I accomplished this goal last year, but I also had a lot more free time (I was traveling without responsibilities for 3 months of it!) and as I’ve written before, I didn’t feel like I was reading “bravely”. In 2014 I want to read challenging books with depth, because those are usually the ones that leave an impression on me. In the spirit of this goal, I’ll be sharing my favourite books every month or so on the blog. 

The Defining DecadeI watched her TED talk and immediately knew I wanted to read the book. First of all, I’m so glad I’m discovering this information about how to make the most of your twenties while I’m actually in my twenties. Her tips are straightforward and smart, and she is not afraid to challenge us twenty-somethings to push ourselves and examine our own limiting beliefs. I find myself bringing up ideas from this book in conversation with others, such as the idea of identity capital or of really mapping out a timeline of the coming years to get a true sense of how much time you have. 

Sisterland / Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favourite authors, and I’ve been looking forward to this book for a few years now. Happily, I wasn’t disappointed one bit. I think her greatest strength is being able to put into words some of the subtle feelings, situations and small details we all experience in our lives. Her ability to do that brings such a realness to her writing and makes it so much more relatable. The premise of this book involves psychic ability which sort of threw me off at first, but of course she’s so talented she can pull it off believably. I also loved this interview she did about the book.

The Remains of the Day / On the surface, it’s a simple story about a longtime English butler going on a road trip across England. This was another very subtle book: it doesn’t hit you over the head with its message, but it rings through clear as day. It’s told in the first person, which is even more interesting because the narrator is a little unreliable and his telling of the story is naturally clouded by his beliefs, judgments and misunderstandings. It’s actually quite a heartbreaking story in the end, but a beautiful novel. 

David and Goliath / I absolutely adore Malcolm Gladwell’s work. He’s unafraid of controversial theories and radical ideas, and I love that his essays always challenge me to consider things differently. This book offers that the way we think about disadvantages and advantages is flawed and limited, and the way we see underdogs is often wrong as well. I zipped through this one, but it was fascinating and enjoyed talking to my family about some of its ideas. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? / I really loved this book. It was very, very funny, often in quiet, clever ways. I liked that it explored misunderstandings and confusion and crossed wires, and that the characters were flawed but self-reflexive and smart. It was thoroughly enjoyable and just a little bit silly. 


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.