Book Club: December 2015

Book Club: December 2015 >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

The last month of 2015 was a huge push for my reading goal. I made use of audio books, read a couple short but powerful books, and took a big stack of interesting books out of the library when I was home for Christmas, because I always read physical books more quickly. But I made it! I actually read 76 books in 2015, which is awesome. My goal for 2016 is 75 again, and I plan to continue these posts every few months to share the ones I liked the most.

Books Club: December 2015 >> Life In Limbo

1. Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

As you probably know, I absolutely adore Cheryl Strayed. I think she’s a beautiful soul with such deep wisdom and compassion, but is also strongly rooted in the real world. I’ve read most of her books a couple times each and listen to her podcast every week. When I heard that she was going to be coming out with a new book of quotations, part of me was disappointed that it wouldn’t be another memoir, or better yet another Tiny Beautiful Things, the other part of me was determined to have it. My boyfriend bought it for me for Christmas and I read it in a day – Christmas day, to be exact. It’s short, but each quotation is so powerful. Most of them I was familiar with, but some really jumped out at me, including this one. It’s a lovely little book that I can see myself reading from at random before meditation or to choose a theme of the day.

2. The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau

I’d been meaning to read this one for a very long time, so I was thrilled to see they had a copy at the library around the corner from my dad’s house. I found the stories inside of other people’s quests (everything from cooking a meal from every country in the world to actually visiting every country in the world) so very inspiring and was left wanting to choose a quest of my own to pursue. The idea hasn’t struck me yet, but after reading this book I definitely have the desire to find one for myself  – something to keep me engaged, on a mission, with a sense of purpose and fun and lightness throughout my everyday life. Awesome concept.

3. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

This was an interesting, at times poignant collection of stories – all told from a different perspective, but all involving the protagonist Eva to some degree. Through these other stories, we get to watch as Eva grows up, has relationships, and becomes an amazing chef but rarely from her perspective. I always need a few pages to adjust to the new narrator and time period – I find the switches to sometimes be jarring, in any book – but I thought all the stories were well-written and often very funny. Each story also centered around one dish or recipe, and I’m a sucker for food description in novels, so I loved that too.

4. All the Money in the World by Laura Vanderkam

This book was so interesting and started not a few conversations about money and how best to spend it. I’m an underbuyer and dislike spending money, but this book was all about how to use your money (however much of it you have) in ways to maximize your happiness. She challenges a lot of budgeting advice, for instance suggesting that penny-pinching on little pleasures like lattes will save you almost nothing when you compare it to moving somewhere cheaper or downsizing to one car. Or, she says that buying anything you want at the grocery store can feel frivolous, but the cost is small if you’re not going out for dinner or ordering in every time you realize you have nothing to eat at home. Lots of interesting ideas and advice, I really enjoyed it.

You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: October & November

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

These past few months I didn’t get quite as much reading done as I normally do. A lot of that was because I was moving to a new place and getting settled in, and a lot of it was because I got stuck on a couple books that seemed to drag on forever. I also didn’t prioritize reading as much as usual, so now I’m 5 books behind on my goal for the year. That’s a shame, but I’m getting back into the habit now. Even with a slower reading pace, I read these few books that I thought were outstanding.

Books October + November >> Life In Limbo

1. Missoula by Jon Krakauer

I really wish this book didn’t have to exist, meaning I wish that the phenomenon of rape wasn’t even an issue that required discussion. But unfortunately, rape is far too common and we need to talk about why and how to fix it. Jon Krakauer (best known for his books Into Thin Air and Into The Wild, both excellent) writes a heartbreaking, infuriating book about the extreme prevalence of sexual assault in just one town in America (though there are hundreds with similar problems). He does an amazing job of humanizing the stories of several victims, and subsequently follows their cases (or lack thereof) through the justice system. It’s horrifying, but very important, and written in a way which honours and fully respects the victims. He did his research and writes with passion and conviction, and I for one am very glad that someone has written such a relevant, human account of this major issue.

2. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is a total genius when it comes to creativity. You can see her talk about the major concepts from this book in an awesome interview here, but I would highly recommend reading the book for yourself – whether or not you consider yourself “a creative person” (according to her, we all are). She talks about taking creative work seriously but lightly, about working hard but with a ton of self-love and compassion, about how to deal with fear and resistance, how it’s okay to just do it for you, separating your passion from a paycheck, and a whole lot more concepts that kind of smack you in the face and lighten your load and make you feel inspired. This book is empowering, but no-nonsense, but wildly spiritual and full of love. I loved it, and I can’t wait to read it again.

3. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

While reading this book, I had this deep sense of being guided gently along my path, that the author was there to answer all my questions and was carefully helping me through the book. I don’t really know how to explain it beyond that, or by saying that this book is incredibly well-written. I never felt confused or adrift (something I often find myself feeling in “highly literary works”), simply compelled and happy to be reading such a well-crafted novel. Middlesex tells the story of one little girl’s family’s past, all the way through her life, to her recognition that she was, in fact, a he (more specifically, an intersex individual), and his current-day reality. It’s nuanced, and not overly serious, and funny, and compassionate, and thoughtful. Really, it was tremendous, it’s no wonder that it won the Pulitzer. It was recommended to me by one of my best friends whose book recommendations are always spot-on (see: the Jonathan Safran Foer last month), so thanks Katie!

4. Fates & Furies by Lauren Groff

I just finished this one, and it was a great read. It outlines the course of one marriage, told from both (fascinating) perspectives. I loved how overarching this story was, I really felt like in a way it made me appreciate all the little things in life, the passage of time, the seasons of life and love, how we can both know and not know so much about another person. I liked the switch in perspectives at the halfway mark and how new things were revealed about the same relationship. I had high expectations for this one (all kinds of bloggers were raving about it and the “Gone Girl-style twist”), and I wasn’t as wowed as I thought I’d be, but I still really liked it and found it fascinating and lovely.


To see how I read so many books for free, check out this post. You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: August & September

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

These last couple months were so lovely, because: a) it was Summer, b) I was at my mom’s quiet, cozy house, tucked away in the forest, and c) I had access to a library again! All of which meant that I got to read a lot and it was wonderful, as you can imagine. Here are my favourites from the last few months.

Book Club August + September >> Life In Limbo

1. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I adore Brené Brown (just look at all the times she’s inspired me over the years) and I was so excited to read her new book. I devoured it, and the whole time I had my laptop open next to me so I could take pages of notes. It gave me ideas and tools to actually use in my real life and relationships, including my personal faves “The story I’m making up is…” and the concept that everyone is doing the best they can. The stories she includes are so powerful and this book is such a helpful resource for anyone trying to live with more courage and integrity.

2. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin

I am also a huge fan of Gretchen Rubin: I have read all her books and listen to her podcast every week. She’s very wise and knowledgeable when it comes to happiness, and all her books have been helpful for me. I loved this one in particular because it discusses how to create habits on the basis of your own personality and nature, and that not every habit strategy works for every person. It’s truly helpful and full of awesome information to make your habits (and therefore your life) better and happier. I found myself passionately talking to friends about the 4 tendencies, and applying her recommended strategies to form my own habits.

For example, I’m a Questioner, so I exploited that element of my personality by researching the best strategies for flossing, and coming up with several compelling reasons to do it (“Because it’s good for me” wasn’t enough. “Because it’s the best way to whiten your teeth and improve the health of your mouth and your overall immune system” was much better.) You can take a free quiz about your tendency here.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

This one was recommended by one of my best friends and I loved it. It’s poignant, it’s sad, it’s full of joy, it tugs at your heartstrings, it’s kind of fantastical, it’s simply beautiful. It’s about a little boy who goes on a kind of scavenger hunt after his father is killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, as well as the history of his family and the stories of all kinds of characters he meets along the way. It also has a satisfying ending, which I think is a tough feat in this kind of story.

4. This Is How Your Lose Her by Junot Díaz

This was a short book, but the connected stories were all powerful and interesting and extremely well-written. It’s a bit sad to watch this guy act like a total trainwreck in all of his romantic relationships, but at times it’s really relatable too. It’s excellent fiction by a great writer, and I’m looking forward to reading his other books. You can read an excerpt of the book here.

You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: June & July

Book Club: June & July >> Life In Limbo

This year, every few months I am choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here on the blog. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

These two months were pretty intense: I was doing my yoga teacher training in wild, wonderful, crazy India, and then I was home with my family again relaxing after a year and a half away. I didn’t do quite as much reading as I normally do but I read some excellent books.

1. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was an amazing book. It was recommended to me by my friend Dylan, who gushed about it and said it was one of the best books he’d read in a very long time. I’d have to agree with him: it is beautifully written, very evocative, and emotional. At its core it is a soaring story of love lost and found, but it also manages to be educational in a vivid way. The book’s protagonist is a young woman who grew up in Nigeria and later moved to the United States. It was fascinating to read about her perspective on the cultural similarities and differences between Africans and African-Americans, and learn more about each. I felt like I walked away more well-informed.

2. Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

To be perfectly honest, at the time of this writing I don’t remember many of the individual stories from this collection BUT I have a feeling they’re the kind of stories that will come back to me at (seemingly) random moments or occur to me as I’m working through some kind of personal problem. This was my first time reading Lorrie Moore – this book was recommended by the blog Cup of Jo – and I really enjoyed her writing. A lot of the stories are written in a “how-to” style (hence the title) that I found very poignant, they were about dark topics but very funny, and most of them were very relatable.

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

At first I didn’t like this book (that I’ve been hearing amazing things about for years) because it was 700 pages long and it felt a little slow, but then I realized that I was incapable of putting it down. I liked the main character’s personality (read: irreverence, temper and sense of humour) and I liked the love story too. At times it felt a little predictable, in that it had every imaginable situation for that particular time period (witches being burnt at the stake! a prison break! recuperation at a French monastery!), but I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself the whole time. It went by quickly, and I think I’ll definitely read the next one in the series.

4. Present Moment, Wonderful Moment by Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a very short book whose subtitle is “mindfulness verses for everyday living”. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a collection of little verses (called “gathas”) to recite silently as you go through your day-to-day activities such as eating, washing dishes, driving. They each come with a little explanation of the purpose of the verse, and sprinkled throughout are tidbits about mindfulness and Buddhism, explained in an accessible and loving way. We found this book in a tiny bookstore in India and it came at exactly the right time. One of my favourites is the title gatha: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Breathing in, I am in the present moment. Breathing out, I know that it is a wonderful moment.”


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.