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: March, April & May

Book Club March, April and May >> 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!

I’m playing a bit of catch-up, because I was travelling from March to late July of this year. You can see my favourite books from June and July here.

1. Yes Please by Amy Poehler

I adored this book. I had liked Amy in a vague way before reading this (note: but I had never seen Parks & Recreation!), but afterwards I not only loved her, but I admired her and respected her for her wisdom and grace. She is a smart, down-to-earth, beautiful soul who has so much great advice to share with us. This advice includes the Mantra Of 2015 (“Good for her, not for me”), and this: “Ambivalence is key. You have to care about your work but not about the result. You have to care about how good you are and how good you feel, but not about how good people think you are or how good people think you look.”

2. Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein

I read this after it was recommended in 10% Happier (a book about meditation). Going to Pieces is an introduction to zen Buddhism mixed with Western psychotherapy, so it talks a lot about the practice of non-attachment and letting go. All these months later I don’t remember many specifics from the book, but I remember really liking it (and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads!). I liked that it laid out Buddhist principles in a simple way and that the author was honest about experiences from his own life, including the ones at 10 day silent meditation retreats.

3. Essentialism by Greg McKeown

I remember reading this on my phone from the Kindle app on a park bench in Bangkok’s Lumphini Park. I read it quickly, and enjoyed the basic premise: less but better. It’s geared more towards work situations (taking on fewer, better projects) than possessions, but the basic principles are pretty universal. I found it refreshing to read sentences like “I can’t have it all or do it all”, “Only a few things really matter”, and “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will”. I always like to be reminded of these kinds of important ideas so I can be more intentional in my life, so for that reason I liked the book a lot.

4. In The Woods by Tana French

I don’t usually read murder mysteries, but this book blew me away. I picked up my copy from a book exchange at a cute little restaurant on Koh Chang, brought it along with me to Koh Mak, and promptly devoured it in about a day. It’s relatively long, but is the very definition of a page turner and goes by so quickly. I found it to be creepy, compelling, and very readable. I loved watching the mystery get solved step by step, and the behind-the-scenes look at a police investigation. Based on this book, I am currently reading her Faithful Place and a couple weeks ago I tore through Broken Harbour.

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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.”

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You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

Book Club: January & February

Book Club 2015: January and February >> Life In Limbo

Last year, I posted my favourite books here on the blog every couple months. In 2015 I’ll be doing the same, choosing the books that inspired me or spoke to me the most, and sharing a little bit about them here. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile!

1. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

I read this one in a mini-book club with a friend of mine, which was the motivation I needed to finally get into this book. I’d tried twice before to read it and never quite got into it despite adoring all of David Mitchell’s work. But this time around once I got past a certain number of pages I was completely hooked, so if like me you find the first few chapters a bit dry just stay with it because it is oh-so-worth-it. It’s a historical novel which is not always my thing, but the book is so beautifully written and very clever and so captivating. There are parts that made me gasp, other parts I just wanted to read out loud because it was so lovely, and the ending was gorgeous. It’s very literary, but it ends up being an adventure story as well. Highly recommend.

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A friend of mine has the best taste ever in books and has introduced me to many of my favourites (including this one and this one), so when I saw him post on Facebook that Station Eleven was probably the best book he’d read ever, I put it on my list instantly. I just read it last week and it was completely compelling and frankly, terrifying. It’s a story about the world as we know it ending (in a way that seems quite honestly far too plausible for comfort) and what comes after. It’s also stories about people, and how we all affect each other in ways we don’t know, and about the importance of art and the unimportance of so many other things, and human nature. It caught me up to the point where I sometimes wanted to stop reading because it made me feel so nervous, but it is incredibly good.

3. A Path Appears by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

I’ve written about an idea from this book before and had tons of impassioned conversations about it, so it’s safe to say that it left an impression on me. I watched this powerful interview with the authors on MarieTV which made me interested in their approach to giving and international aid. Their approach is really down-to-earth and practical, encouraging giving in ways that seem to really cut to the chase and get to the real heart of problems, especially taking more early-childhood or proactive approaches. They recommend several awesome organizations that are doing great work and profile lots of people doing amazing things to give back more into the world. It’s a really fantastic book.

4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Would you believe that I’ve never read Austen? I’ve tried halfheartedly a couple times but I always thought her books seemed stuffy and old and a bit irrelevant. But a good friend of mine whose taste I trust made a strong case for these novels so I finally picked up Sense and Sensibility and oh man am I a convert. Turns out Austen is hilarious and on point and completely relevant to my life today – yes, really. Her writing is clever and witty and while the language is old, the ideas and the studies of human behaviour are just as helpful today as I’m sure they were when they were written. My new favourite thing is to identify men that are “Such a Willoughby!!”. It’s really fun. If you’re me. I’m planning to read Emma next.

You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.