Book Club

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.

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!

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.

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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.

22 Before 22: Start a Book Club

On my list of 22 before 22 goals, I’ll admit that I had a few favourites. Create a podcast, become a penpal, make cinnamon buns, start a book club. I’ve been wishing that I had a book club for ages, and I’ve tried with my friends – but we’ve had a couple false starts. This time, though, it actually materialized! We made a Facebook thread, chose a book, read it, met and discussed it for over an hour (the time flew – we are very book nerdy).

Sure, only about a third of the people we invited to participate could find the time (it was a 600 page book, after all), but I think we all hope that it will grow each month, especially if we choose shorter books. But even if it stays to us four pictured + a good friend calling in on speakerphone to participate (!!), I’ll be thrilled.

My favourite part of having a book club is being able to read a book at the same time my friends are reading it. This is a very novel experience for me (no pun intended), I think the last time I read a book in tandem with other people was probably Catcher in the Rye in tenth grade! It’s so fun to talk about what part everyone is at, what they thought of a particular scene, discuss thoughts about characters, etc. It is really fun!

And then, of course, the actual meeting was so great. We have two English literature students in the group, who are quite adept at picking up on things and making connections. Our talk illuminated lots of things for me, and made me think about things I hadn’t even noticed while reading. Discussing the book made me appreciate and understand it so much more.

The first book we read was The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. It was my first time reading Murakami, and I really enjoyed the book. It’s a little quirky, weird, and fantastical, but a very good read.

Our next book is going to be Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant. Apparently it, too, is a little quirky, and I can’t wait to start it.

So there you have it: my idea of fun. I’m thrilled that I can cross this one off my list, and enjoy the rest of the books that are coming my way!

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