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.

Abundance Ideas / 01

DSC_2091At the start of the year, I chose abundance as my word for 2014. I did this last year with the word reach, and it served me well – I did, in fact, do a lot of reaching last year. I like the idea of choosing a word to focus on, one that can act as a lens through which you try to see your life and the world around you. I am 100% sure that abundance was the right word for me this year. It has come up again and again, in many different forms and contexts over these past four months.

So far I’ve learned that abundance is about choosing the third alternative instead of getting stuck in either/or, black-and-white thinking. It’s about looking for other options. It’s about practicing gratitude every single day. It’s about being amazed by the magic and opportunities and synchronicity we encounter in our everyday lives. It’s often about stepping back and looking at the big picture instead of getting caught up in petty details. It’s the opposite of being panicky or feeling like there is never enough time or money or love or friends.

IMG_3088When I chose abundance as my word, I didn’t know that four months later I’d be writing about it from a foreign country, a world away from where I was (physically and in some ways emotionally) when I chose it. The decision to move to Korea felt like the abundant choice. Instead of feeling like there weren’t enough jobs and I wouldn’t be making enough money and I wouldn’t be able to travel for a few years and I’d never have adventures again (I am dramatic), I zoomed out. I found a choice that allowed for abundance. Now I have travel, I have money, I have my own apartment that I don’t pay for, I have independence and freedom and lots of time to do the things I love. I chose the third alternative and I have so much faith that it was the right choice for me. I just hope that in the future I’ll be able to step back and look for that choice instead of feeling small and scared and boxed in.

DSC_2587Here are some of the thoughts on abundance that I’ve stumbled across so far in 2014. I’ve shared some of them before in my weekly inspiration posts, but they bear repeating.

From Seth Godin:

Here’s conventional wisdom: Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.

In fact, it actually works like this: Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.

“I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.” -Erica Cook

Also from Seth Godin:

If you’re spending a lot of time worrying about musical chairs, it’s almost impossible to be generous and connected. If you’ve got one eye on the lookout for when the music will stop and which chair you’re going to grab, it’s inevitable that you’re not really focusing on the amazing people you’re with. On the other hand, once you stop playing that game, it seems as though new chairs just keep materializing.

Thinking differently about time, priorities, and having enough hours in the day.

Abundance bowls: for Winter and Spring.

Marie Forleo is all about abundant thinking. One of her favourite mantras is “There’s always more _______ where that came from,” whether it’s money or love or creative content. You can hear more of her thoughts on the subject here and here.

The Art of Possibility by Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander. A truly wonderful book about thinking about the big picture and shifting your perspective to one of abundance.

I’ve been reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and it’s a game-changer. The ideas have really been resonating with me. She specifically writes: “The opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough. I am enough.” She says that to combat scarcity we need to cultivate a sense of enough, of worthiness, of sufficiency. This post describes her ideas a bit more in depth. Even though she uses the word abundance differently than I do, her definition of “enough” feels very close to what I define as “abundance”. For me, abundance is about appreciating the little things, being happy with what you have, and recognizing the true abundance of your situation by practicing gratitude. It’s not about striving or constantly needing more. So maybe we mean the same thing, or maybe both concepts (sufficiency and abundance) are necessary for a happy life. I’m not sure yet, but I do know that it’s fascinating.

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A third of the way through the year, and I’ve only discovered the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abundance (and by extension the concepts of enough, scarcity, lack, gratitude and happiness for that matter). I’m planning and hoping to keep learning about this idea, all the while cultivating lots of feelings of abundance in my life. So far, so good.

You can read more about why I chose the word abundance here, and you can see my thoughts on my word for 2013 here.