books

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.

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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: 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!

Lately | December

This is a snapshot of my life in December 2014. You can see all my Lately posts here.

Lately December >> Life In Limbo

Trying out a trial of Spotify Premium and loving it.

Listening to Tenerife Sea and this remix of Thinking Out Loud. (Basically, Ed Sheeran.) Oh, and Pop Danthology.

Watching House of Cards and The Mindy Project whenever I feel like watching an episode of something.

Eating a lot of homemade pad thai after my mom and I finally found a bottle of the sauce, cheese and crackers, and clementines.

Looking forward to my vacation in Boracay!

Adding some lovely things to my wishlist to save up for.

Keeping a gratitude journal and it’s like my own little book of lovely.

Learning as much Spanish as I can through Memrise and Duolingo.

Playing Serial and Dear Sugar Radio with hearts in my eyes.

Drinking a ton of tea and hot water with lemon.

Wanting to see this movie and this movie ASAP. I also can’t wait for Girls Season 4.

Loving Buffer and Snapchat.

Proud of my year in reading.

Wearing lots of cozy sweaters and my wooden prayer beads that mom bought for me.

Sad to be away from home this Christmas. It’s really hard. But:

Grateful (very) for FaceTime to keep me in touch with my loved ones.

Wishing you a very happy holiday week. Hope there is lots of mulled wine and cozy fireplaces and good books ahead for you.

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