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! 

 

Book Club: January + February

Book Club 2017: January + February >> 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.

My reading life took a bit of a back seat in February as I focused on some new career opportunities and – let’s be honest here – watched way too much TV in the evenings rather than curling up with a book. For that reason, it’s been good motivation (and lots of fun) to be part of a book club again: so far we’ve read Homegoing and The Happiness Equation, and this weekend we’re meeting to discuss Sapiens. All three have been great, and it’s always nice to deepen my love of reading by joining a group to talk more about books!

I read several good books over the past couple months and thoroughly enjoyed all of them! To keep things short, I’ll just mention my top 4 recommendations here, but you can always follow along on Goodreads.

Book Club 2017: January + February >> Life In Limbo

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

It’s no secret that I love Mark’s writing – he’s made many an appearance in my inspiration posts. I listened to his new book as an audio book at the very beginning of the year and really enjoyed it. He always shares a lot of interesting and counter-intuitive ideas that I haven’t heard many other places before, and his book was no exception. I really like how realistic and practical he is, which sets his book apart from other self-help stuff. Don’t let the aggressive tone of the title put you off (he explains more about why he uses the F word so much here) – despite the impression the cover gives, it contains lots of helpful advice and perspective shifts for just about anyone (aka: not just white, male entrepreneurs).

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

I’ve read many a book about World War II, but never one quite like this one. I think what I liked best about it is how the author really takes her time telling the story, in the sense that the book spans several years worth of time for the characters. She doesn’t really skip over parts, nor does the book describe details in excess, so what results is this really beautiful depiction of their lives, each getting its due but not lingering. Any section of the book could have easily been its own novel because it was so interesting and rich, but instead she weaves them together to do something even more evocative: show characters who are not solely defined by their experiences during the war. So many books about wars are only about that brief moment in the characters’ lives – in this book, she puts the characters fully into context, so you experience along with them the slow creeping up of the war and the growing hatred of that era. Getting to ‘know them’ before the travails of war is also a powerful narrative tool, because you get a true sense of the indignity and horror of ordinary people being ripped from their lives. Oh, and it’s a beautiful love story. This was a terrifying book to be reading right around the time of the U.S. inauguration and in those first scary weeks.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The best thing I can say about Jandy’s books is that they make me physically feel things. Reading them is so much fun that it makes me giddy – it makes me feel like I’m the one falling in love, not the characters. I read I’ll Give You the Sun in December and it made my list of Best Books of 2016, and as soon as I finished it I put this one (her first novel) on hold at the library. What else can I say except that these books are fun, lovely, and highly romantic. I can’t wait for her next one to be released! It’s meant to be coming out in 2017 at some point.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

A chilling thought experiment about what might have happened had the Southern United States not abolished slavery while the Northern States did, had they compromised to avoid the Civil War. It follows the logic that the North was motivated to preserve its human values while the South wanted to preserve its ‘business interests’. It’s pretty sickening to imagine, though it also serves as a stark reminder that history could easily have gone a different way, not to mention the fact that slavery was not abolished particularly long ago, all things considered. It also doesn’t feel all that far-fetched, which is of course appalling and sad. I think it was well-written, even if I disagree somewhat with the idea of a white man writing about the experiences of people of colour – it made me wince a couple of times.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

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

 

Best Books of 2016

Best Books of 2016 >> Life In Limbo

Even though I share my favourite books every couple months here on the blog, it’s fun to look back over my full year of reading and see which ones still stand out and speak to me the most once some time has passed.

All of the books on this list had an impact on me, taught me something, or made me feel stuff. I would recommend any of them to anyone – and have been doing so nonstop! I’ve mentioned some of them in posts this year already, but others are new, and as always you can see the full list of my 2016 reading on my Goodreads profile here.

Fiction

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley: A love letter to man’s best friend – in this case, the author’s lovely dog, Lily.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Three parallel love stories. This book is so romantic and made me giddy with happiness.

One More Thing by B.J. Novak: Endlessly clever, observant, hilarious, satirical short stories. I loved this book.

The Bees by Laline Paull: What it might be like to grow up in the caste system of a beehive. Such a cool idea! It’s basically a dystopian novel based on the real science and biology of bees.

The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate: A majestic gorilla grows up in a heartbreaking zoo in a strip mall off the highway.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: Pride & Prejudice, if it took place in Cincinnati in 2016. (How do I love thee Curtis Sittenfeld? Let me count the ways…)

Slade House by David Mitchell: Creepy, clever, kept me up at night.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: One of my very favourites of the year! A historical novel set during WW2

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez: The stories of several Latin American families living in Delaware, trying to make lives for themselves in a brand-new place.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: An absolutely brilliant telling of several generations of one family, from the very beginnings of slavery in Ghana to the present day in America.

Best Books of 2016 >> Life In Limbo

Non-fiction

How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky: Advice about finding true love, being a creative person, and building the life you want to live.

Shrill by Lindy West: Brilliant essays about feminism, love, body size, and comedy.

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick: How to grow to love the place you live, no matter where in the world that is.

I Need Your Love – Is That True? by Byron Katie: Four simple questions to help you work through any difficult thoughts or beliefs.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton: A memoir about finding love again, both for herself and for her husband. Their relationship ultimately ended, but there was still so much to learn from her story.

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero: Personal development for cool people.

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett: A love letter to the author’s best friend. There should be a different word for this kind of friendship: kindred spirit? Soulmate? Person?


What are the best books that you read this year? Let me know your favourites and recommendations!

You can see all of my book recommendation posts here, and you can see what I’m reading over on Instagram.