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.

21 Favourite Things

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My birthday is coming up in a couple weeks, which means I’m turning 22, which means I can watch this video even more than I already do. It also means I am feeling a pull to look back on the past year and take stock. If you haven’t already noticed, I’m very fond of taking stock and reflecting and such and etc. I won’t be 22 until the 7th, but since I haven’t been blogging very much lately, I thought I’d start now (also I was just having the most fun ever writing this post, and wanted to share). This list of the 21 favourite things from my 21st year was inspired by Elise. I’ll also be sharing my 21 favourite moments on a future blog post. I just love this idea because it gives me a chance to reflect on all of the wonderful things that happened to me when I was 21 and preserve/remember what made 21 so special. Without further ado, my 21 favourite things this year!

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running. Maybe this is an obvious one, but running has re-appeared in my life this year, and I’m so happy with it. It’s a type of exercise that just vibes so well with my lifestyle, it keeps me sane, it pushes me, it’s interesting, and it makes me feel good.

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toms. These things were glued to my feet all of last summer, and I am already planning much of the same for this coming summer. They don’t work out so well for a Montreal winter, but I could not love them more. I was reluctant to jump on this bandwagon, but they quickly became my all-time favourite shoes. 

avocado toast. Preferably on toasted baguette with garlic aioli and a sprinkle of salt. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

Afterglow appMy favourite photo processing app for iPhone. I got so sick of Instagram filters, and this app is just full of dream filters and features. Amaze. (apparently it is now called Afterlight? whatevs, same difference.)

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salted caramel brownies. ’nuff said, but they’ve become my go-to dessert. Apart from one disastrous batch in which I accidentally scrambled the eggs, they are the most perfect of perfect desserts via smitten kitchen.

8tracks. This website has gotten me through awful study seshes, set the mood, cheered me up, and introduced me to a lot of great new music. It also allowed me to listen to the new Taylor Swift album to my heart’s absolute content and…that’s irreplaceable.

Feedly. Google Reader is going the way of the dodo, but I don’t mind because I never really used it anyways. I did recently get into using Feedly, which is an awesome blog reader that is slick and shiny and integrated on both my browser and my phone and I love it. The list of blogs I wanted to keep up with grew too long to just check every morning from memory, so this was helpful.

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Tiny Beautiful Things. I had a moment with this book. I can’t really explain it, but I just connected really deeply to the stories inside. It’s razor sharp, deep, wise commentary that is just so powerful. Cheryl Strayed is an amazing writer and seems like she must be an amazing person. I really do feel like Tiny Beautiful Things should be required reading for humanity. I reference sections of it if I’m feeling lost. It’s the best.

runny eggs on toast. My new favourite breakfast. Earlier this year it was smoothies, and that lasted a while, but now I’m all about eggs. I cook them using this method, and it has never failed me.

Sarah Addison Allen books. I really just fell in love with this author this year. Her books all take place in the South, which I’ve always been fascinated by because of their fruit trees and debutante society and traditions. The books always have a hint of magic to them, even though they very much take place in the real world. I just really enjoyed all of her writing this year.

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Goji Tarocco Orange Voluspa Candle. Normally candles give me headaches because they’re so perfumey and flowery. This candle just smells fresh and citrusy, and I have yet to shove it under someone’s nose without them loving it. I splurged and bought myself the one in the large glass container, but I also have the tiny version they sell, and it does the job just as well.

my library card. I don’t remember exactly when I got myself my library card, but I do know that this has been the year I used it most. We have an amazing public library downtown Montreal, and I’ve spent many a peaceful afternoon wandering around that place. I’ve also read a ton more than I would have otherwise.

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happy hour. I think this was the summer of happy hours. I have so many great memories of sitting in the late afternoon sun, drinking delicious cocktails and having long conversations with great friends. I can’t wait to do more of the same in a couple months.

Masterchef. I just can’t help myself, I adore any and all Masterchef programs, but especially the ones out of Australia. They do it best and they have the cutest accents of all time so…yeah. I love watching this show while making dinner, it makes me feel really accomplished even when I’m just chopping up sweet potato fries for the third time that week.

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that pink dress. It was a labour of love, for sure, but I am so happy I set myself that challenge and came out on top. And I actually do wear it!

podcasts. This was definitely the year of the podcasts. Disregarding the fact that I created two podcasts this year, I also just fell in love with the medium. My two favourites are the Joy the Baker podcast and This American Life. I love to listen to them while I grocery shop or cook.

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Not pictured: my equally beloved parents and grandparents

my family. Do I get points for being a sentimental sap? Prolly not. But I spent my birthday last year with my family and it was such a beautiful weekend. I’m getting old(er), and I am appreciating my family more and more, and enjoying the time we get to spend together. I felt like I got some quality times with ma loved ones this year, and I want to keep that up in future! Ya!

tacos and sushi. These two food groups (yes, food groups) made up the majority of my food cravings in the past year. I can’t get enough of either of them, in all their incarnations. Perfect food!

Pentel Energel pensMy all-time favourite pen ever, of all time. They are the ultimate!

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the book club. I’m ever-so-happy we threw together a book club with a few of our friends. It’ll be over soon because everyone’s going their separate ways after graduation, but it was a nice thing, and I’m glad we did it. We read some amazing books that I may not have read otherwise, and we talked about them and it was educational and inspiring and great.

“Be about ten times more magnanimous than you believe yourself capable of being. Your life will be a hundred times better for it.” – Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things. I didn’t necessarily have this quote in my head throughout this past year, but I think I have been trying to embody the sentiment. I am trying to move away from being petty and towards being generous. I am trying to move away from criticizing and towards appreciating (in myself and in others). I am trying to act in a way that I’m proud of. I am trying to be true to myself at all times.

This was an incredible year for me. Amazing. So much has happened, both within and without me. Love you, 21!