Reading Challenge 2014

Books 2014

I feel like a broken record, but can someone please tell me how it’s September 24th? How is that possible? Does time move at warp speed as soon as you’re finished university? Don’t tell me the answer to that, I actually don’t want to know. Somehow it’s been more than 9 months since I set my goals + feelings for the year, including my reading goal for 2014. It doesn’t seem possible how quickly this year has gone by, and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down either.

I’m happy to report that I’ve stuck to my reading challenge as much as was humanly possible for me this year. Having a full time job for the majority of the year put a tiny cramp in my reading style, though I do still read quite a bit. In 2013 I read 75 books, but I was travelling or working a not very demanding job for most of the year so I knew that 2014 would pose some more challenges to my reading life. But I was hopeful I could overcome them! (Sadly yes, I am that serious about my reading. You have to be if you love to read as much as I do, and if you want to read an absurd number of books every year!)

On my last post about reading, a friend left a comment asking when I read. The answer is: when I’m eating, when I have nothing to do at work, when I have a break, when I need to commute somewhere, before bed, while stretching, while brushing my teeth, and if it’s a really good book…. then when I’d normally be surfing the internet or writing. I don’t watch much TV – maybe about 3 hours per week – and messing around on the computer and reading are my two favourite pastimes so I spend a lot of time doing one of the two.

I stay accountable to my goals by religiously logging my books on Goodreads, putting books on hold through OverDrive so I always have a new exciting book to read, and of course sharing my favourites here every few months on the blog.

So where do I stand?

Books 2014 2

I’ve got 27 books to go before January 1, 2015. That number seems a tad high, especially since according to GoodReads I’m 6 books behind schedule to complete this goal. But the good news is, the challenge has already been a success for me! It always is, no matter what the outcome. I discovered some authors I love (Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Elin Hilderbrand) and read some really wonderful books. I’ll read at least 50 books this year, which feels like a major accomplishment my first year as a full time employee. It proves that I can do it, despite what all the naysayers always say (abundance 4ever!). I’m not giving up on the goal of 75, but everything from here on out feels like icing on the cake. Wish me luck!

You can read about how I read so many books for free here, and see my favourite book recommendations of 2014 so far here. You can also add me on GoodReads here, I love to see what other people are reading!

Inspiration | August 15

DSC_4742

Don’t ask me how I wasn’t obsessed with this song when it was popular but I just wasn’t. I am now though!

I revisited this post, 31 Things I’ve Learned in 31 Years and I still love it.

This illustrated John Green quote about how creativity is about making gifts for people is so great.

Super awesome advice from Marie Forleo this week (like every week) about what to do if you’re feeling jealous.

Some extremely awesome tips on getting paid as a creative.

Elise’s tips to her 22-year-old self.

I watched The Spectacular Now this week and it made me happy and sad and it made me feel lots of feelings.

An old article, but a great one – Photography: 10 Things NOT to DO.

An Instagram account I’ve been loving lately: @scottborrero, who takes absolutely gorgeous travel photos.

***

It’s a long weekend here in Korea, but unfortunately the weather is a little gloomy. I’m planning to make the most of it by getting my first manicure since 12th grade, going to see The Fault in Our Stars (and subsequently losing 5 pounds of water weight through my eyeballs), and hopefully doing a little day trip of some kind. It should be good! I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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.

***

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.

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.

***

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!