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. 

Read This Book: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This post is the first in a new series called Read This Book. As some of you may know, I used to have a separate blog devoted to my literary loves. While I may continue with it at some point, I have since decided to consolidate a bit, and start writing about books on this blog! Stay tuned for upcoming posts in the series.

Photo thanks to redheadedbookchild

Last Tuesday, I came home from school in a good mood. It was a lovely day, bright and happy, with impeccable weather. I suddenly had a thought to go to the nearest Indigo, one of my favourite haunts – ever. I was home though, and quickly becoming a little too comfortable sitting down and relaxing after a long day. I questioned whether I should just stay home.. But something told me I should go. So I did! Was it the magical pull of discovering this book? I’ll never know..

I wandered the first floor for a while, choosing a book or two to peruse. It was just an ordinary trip to the bookstore until I got upstairs: where the Random House/McClelland Stewart Fall Book Preview was taking place! [#nerdalert] Oh boy. I was a bit late, but there were still some empty chairs with thick PowerPoint slide printouts sitting on top of them. I snatched one up as quickly as possible, and parked my booty for the next few hours, sitting in wonder as I was told of book after wonderful book that I simply must read. But it wasn’t until the Random House representative, Jen, stood up and started raving about this book that I got really excited. This is a woman who reads hundreds of books a year, and she’s this passionate about a book? She says it’s the most exciting book since Shadow of the Wind? Well. Those who loved that book as much as I did will understand what happened next.

I practically threw the other books in my hands on the floor (kidding, that would never happen). Ran after a sales rep. Breathlessly managed to ask for: The Night Circus. Raced home and consumed all 387 pages within 48 hours.

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