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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.

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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.

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. 

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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. 

The Happy Life Manifesto!

Today I’d like to share with you my very first e-book. Calling it an e-book might be a little generous, because it’s less than 20 pages long, but it’s a mini book I’m distributing electronically, so e-book it is!

This mini book/manifesto is a collection of my favourite quotes, thoughts, and ruminations on happiness. I (obviously) still have a lot to learn about being happy, so this is not meant to be a “step-by-step guide” from an expert’s perspective. I’m nowhere near an expert! I simply wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned and epiphanies I’ve had that have slowly taken me from sad to glad. Think of this book like a conversation with someone who cares: I’m trying to share in the hopes that what has helped me on my journey may be able to help you in some small way.

You can get a free copy of The Happy Life Manifesto by joining my monthly newsletter here! The download link will be sent your way as soon as you enter your email. Thanks, as always, for your support!

Resources

I mention a few people/ideas in my little bibliography. I want to give them their due here.

  1. Gretchen Rubin
  2. Tara Whitney
  3. Marie Forleo

Thanks

As always, thanks for your support. I am really proud of this project, as well as the podcast that I recently started. But I’m not sure I would have been confident enough to pursue either one if not for the love and support of my family, friends, and all the wonderful readers that stop by here and leave great comments. Thank you!

Please leave comments on the book here, or email me! I’d love to hear your feedback. Thanks for reading.

My First Book!

This as a crazy moment. You should have seen me at the Post Office, picking up my slimmer-than-expected brown cardboard package, practically beaming with delight as I thrust my delivery notice at the bored cashier. I held it together until I got home, I definitely didn’t hyperventilate at the crosswalk or anything (okay, so I did. In a good way.), and then did a happy dance in my apartment. Cause it’s just cute, right?

This is the first book I wrote myself. It was a labour of love. And sometimes hate. There were times (they were usually way past my bedtime times) where I couldn’t express how much I resented my pre-November self who decided to take this project on. Other times, those 1667 daily words whizzed by – but those times were rare. But being able to hold a bound copy of my work, flip through and look at my words (half of which I no longer remember writing)…it makes it all worth it.

I printed a “proof copy” from CreateSpaceNaNoWriMo winners get 5 free copies of their novel, but only after paying for a proof copy – and guess what? I didn’t double and triple check the file, so my book showed up missing the last few pages. Let me emphasize: this was because of my own stupidity. CreateSpace couldn’t have been easier to use. So I’ve now uploaded the right file and will probably order another copy in the future.

How do you think my name looks in print? I’m hoping this won’t be the last time I author a real, tangible book. A belated thank you to everyone who egged me on during that crazy writing month – I’m thrilled it helped me get to this point. Thrilled, I say!

Have a happy Tuesday. xo.

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