What I’m Reading in Non Fiction: The Gifts of Imperfection

I read a lot of fiction. In fact, I read almost entirely fiction, but I do try to read a variety of styles and genres. Then, I made a goal at the beginning of this year to not only spend more time reading, but to read things that will inspire me – including email newsletters and my Twitter feed-  but most importantly, books.

I’ve tried, and failed, a few times so far this year to read non-fiction books that I thought would help me to be more positive and grateful. They were books that I picked up but couldn’t get into. These books, which shall remain titleless, were dry. I had to force myself to read them and found my eyes growing heavy after only a few pages. I hate to not finish a book, but there are too many good books out there to spend my time forcing myself to read ones I don’t enjoy!

Then, I found Brené Brown. Full disclosure, I found her through Oprah. She was featured on a two-part episode of Super Soul Sunday, a show I happen to enjoy. I didn’t expect to be moved, but I was.

Fundamentally, Brené Brown is a researcher specializing in vulnerability and shame. If I had known this before seeing her on Super Soul Sunday, I probably wouldn’t have picked up her books. Who wants to read about shame??!

The_Gifts_of_Imperfection_Book_-_Brene_BrownI watched the first episode with Brené Brown on Super Soul Sunday, and after the second, I knew I HAD to read her books.

First, I picked up The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who you Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. She talks about embracing our imperfections, and offers guideposts to living wholeheartedly. 

Here is a paragraph that points to what is at the heart of The Gifts of Imperfection: When we can let go of what other people think … we gain access to our worthiness – the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend  a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing and proving. p 23

I think this is something a lot of us can relate to. This is not my typical reading, but so much of what she says just hit me over the head!

What I love about Brené Brown is that I never feel as though she is some lofty, Ph.D talking down to me. After watching her on Oprah (and eventually her TED talks as well) I had her straightforward, Texan voice in my head as I was reading.

Here are just a few highlights from The Gifts of Imperfection:

  •  Brown says Wholehearted living is a process, a journey. We must decide every day to be our authentic selves. We must practice courage, compassion and connection in our daily lives.
  •  My first “aha” came on page 14 when she writes: “…I’ve learned that playing down the exciting stuff doesn’t take the pain away when it doesn’t happen. It does, however, minimize the joy when it does.”
    I am always downplaying the good things in my life, then find myself frustrated when others don’t seem excited when good things happen for me. How can they be excited when I’m the one downplaying it! Enjoy and celebrate the good things, and when things don’t go your way you can share in the bad as well.
  • “Practicing self-love means learning how to trust ourselves, to treat ourselves with respect and to be kind and affectionate toward ourselves. This is a tall order given how hard most of us are on ourselves.” p 27.
    Self-talk is something I am working on so this really hit home for me.
  • “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are.” p 50
    We live in a society that wants us to conform. Her first guidepost is, Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What Other People Think. She quotes e.e. cummings, who wrote: “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human can fight – and never stop fighting.”
  • My favorite is guidepost #6 Cultivating Creativity: Letting go of Comparison. On Super Soul Sunday, Brene Brown said: “Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame.” As a writer, I can relate to this one on a very personal level. She expands on this in her book, saying “There’s no such thing as creative people, and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”
    YES!! As a writer, I know this to be true!

I don’t believe I can really do this book justice in one blog post, I truly can’t recommend it enough.

I’m now reading her latest book, Daring Greatly. If you have read her work, I would love to hear from you! If you haven’t read any of her books, I encourage you to check her out on YouTube and see what you think!

For more information or to purchase Brené Brown’s books, visit her website, BreneBrown.com

You can also follow her blog, Ordinary Courage

Here is a clip from Brené Brown on Super Soul Sunday:

Rereading Books: Do you Do it?

Last week, I stumbled upon the 101 Books Blog that posed an interesting question: Will you read a book more than once? (Click Here to read the original post.)

As someone who tries to read as much as possible, it isn’t often I go back and read a book I’ve already read. There are too many new books on my to-read list! A book has to be pretty special for me to take the time to read it again. But there are a few exceptions.

We all have books that move us, and sometimes reading them once just isn’t enough. I have a few favorites which I have read multiple times, and would read again. There is something to be said about reliving a story you love and discovering things you may have missed the first time around. Reading a book a second or third time can feel like visiting an old friend.

The book that stands as the one I have reread the most times (at least three) is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. I can’t get enough of her language, and I feel inspired by her prose each time I read it.

I’ve also read The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Neffenegger for a second time, which is also among the ranks of my favorite books of all time. Sometimes, in my excitement, I read a book too quickly and reading it a second time provides insight.

photo(2)I’m also a fan of rereading classics, particularly those books from adolescence. I have children’s books on my shelf that I have revisited as an adult, like Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, and a favorite of mine growing up, The BFG by Roald Dahl. Some of the stories I’ve read again as an adult are very different from the versions we were told as children, for example The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Both are very different from the movie versions we all watched growing up.

One of my reading challenges for myself this year is to read  books that were assigned reading in school when I hadn’t yet fully developed the appreciation for them. I just recently reread The Giver by Lois Lowry and it was a completely different experience from the first time I read it more than a decade ago. I am looking forward to reading The Great Gatsby again before the movie comes out this summer.

Will you read a book more than once? What books have you read more than once?

Audiobooks: The Same as Reading?

It is a goal of mine this year to fit in as much reading time as I possibly can. I bring a book (or my Kindle) with me just about everywhere I go, so that if I find myself with ten extra minutes, I can spend it reading rather than mindlessly reading my Facebook feed or playing games on my phone. I’ve been trying to turn off the TV earlier to allow more time for reading before bed. And, I’ve started listening to audiobooks.

I tried listening to an audiobook for the first time when I finally started reading the Harry Potter series two summers ago. I had been lugging around these heavy hardcover books for a while and decided to try listening to the series on CD during a long road trip.

I was skeptical at first, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy listening to a book as much as I enjoy reading one and thought I would be too focused on the road to absorb a book. But truly, listening to a book on CD while driving isn’t much different from listening to music or a morning radio talk show. In fact, I was surprised to find that when listening to an audiobook, the scenes play out in my mind just as they do when I’m reading.

I got away from audiobooks for a while, but recently felt the pull to try them again as winter set-in and my long commute is often made even longer by slippery, snow-covered roads this time of year. Listening to an audio book on my commute allows me to get in a whole extra hour of reading every day!

Of course this brings about the debate: is listening to an audiobook the same as reading?

There is something to be said for hearing a book read aloud, and hearing the magic of the words coming to life – particularly if the audiobook is read by the author. But just like with e-readers, I miss being able to pick up a pencil and underline a passage I like, or thumb through the pages to reread a section that struck me. I have considered getting a hard copy as a companion to the audiobook for these reasons.

I have been borrowing books on CD from my local library, but with downloadable apps and MP3 audio books, there is no limit to the ways you can listen to a book, whether its during your commute, on your lunch break or while you’re doing housework.

I’m curious to know what experiences other avid readers have had with audiobooks. Did you love it? Hate it? If you’ve never listened to an audiobook, are you willing to give it a try?

The End of Your Life Book Club, Will Schwalbe

“What are you reading?”

It’s the question writer Will Schwalbe asks his mother throughout her treatment for pancreatic cancer. It is a question that one can’t necessarily ask these days, for one can’t be sure someone is reading anything at all.

end of your life book clubBut in The End of Your Life Book Club, Will and his mother start a two-person book club that brings them together as they face the end of her life. Over the two years of her treatment, the books they read ignite conversations about life, faith, courage, gratitude and so much more. The books allow them to talk about things happening in their own lives, and help them to talk about death.

Schwalbe writes, “That’s one of the things books do. They help us talk. But they also give us something we can talk about when we don’t want to talk about ourselves.”

The books they read are wide-ranging, from popular to classic, and include mysteries and poetry.

Will’s mother is not an ordinary woman. We learn about the extraordinary life of Mary Anne who has a passion for helping others, and is devoted to helping refugees. She takes her love of books to new heights in her determination to build a library in Afghanistan where resources are so limited.

“She never wavered in her conviction that books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you chose – electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio – is the grandest entertainment, and also how you take part in the human conversation. Mom taught me that you can make a difference in the world and that books really do matter: they’re how we know what we need to do in life, and how we tell others.”
Page 326

With Mary Anne’s diagnosis, reader’s know how the book is going to end. But that didn’t stop me from crying openly at the end.

In the beginning, I found myself anxious and slightly impatient, not with the book itself but with my own eagerness to read so many of the books mentioned in The End of your Life Book Club. Readers, never fear, there is an alphabetized list of the authors, books, plays, poems and stories discussed and mentioned throughout. You will not have a shortage of things to read once you have finished this book.

The End of Your Life Book Club isn’t a book about death, it is about life and the life lessons we learn not only from the books we read but the conversations which are inspired by the books we read. I was left with a renewed belief in the transformative power of reading; the power of books to give us experiences we might not have otherwise experienced, to show us settings that feel like places we visited in another lifetime or wish to someday visit, and introduce us to characters who come to feel like old friends.

The Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman

I was drawn to this book because of the moral dilemma at its core: Could a couple who couldn’t have children of their own really take in a child whom they found in a boat washed up on their shore without regard for the family that might be searching for her?

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans is the story of Tom Sherbourne, a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the coast of Australia, and his wife Isabelle who has suffered two miscarriages and a stillbirth. When they discover a boat washed up on the shore carrying a dead man and a baby who is very much alive and healthy, they make a decision to keep the child and claim her as their own. Their decision comes into question when they discover the child’s mother is still alive and searching for her missing husband and daughter. But Isabelle is desperate for a family, and when Tom sees how happy the baby makes her, he doesn’t report the incident, going against his duties as a lighthouse keeper. Instead, he buries the body of the man in the boat, and with it, he buries the truth.

The island is an ideal setting for the novel – a cocoon where the Sherbournes can safely keep their secret and live as a normal family.

When they finally leave the island for the first time in two years and head back to the mainland, they finally hear the story of the man and baby who went missing two years ago and the woman who is still desperately searching for her family, clinging to the hope they are still alive.

Tom and Isabelle must decide if they will reveal the secret they’ve harbored for the past two years. Keeping their secret means keeping a child from it’s mother, leaving a woman a lost soul with questions she will never have answered. Revealing the truth means they will surely lose their daughter Lucy, and with it, their only chance at having a family of their own.

This novel kept me turning the pages. What made the story so compelling was that everyone had a stake in the outcome; not only the Sherbournes, but also the daughter they wanted so badly they’d do anything to keep her, and the mother who wanted her child back. It is an impossible situation of mistakes and their consequences, one where there don’t seem to be any right answers.

The book is not without its faults. The beginning is bogged down with backstory, the middle is drawn out, and some awkward prose throughout the novel is distracting, though somewhat forgivable, for a debut novel. Ultimately, the story is an interesting and thought-provoking read.

Do not look to this book expecting a happy ending, as there are no easy answers in this emotionally-charged novel. What you will find is a haunting story that may break your heart.

A Reflection in Books: What I Read in 2012

As I look back at 2012, I realize it wasn’t a good reading year for me. Planning a wedding took up much of my free time for most of the year, at least that’s my excuse, but I’m still surprised by the unusually short list of books I read this year. I may have forgotten one or two along the way, and I didn’t include rereads, such as Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, one of my favorite books of all time, which I read for the third time a few weeks back.

 

Here is a look back at what I read in 2012:

 

War horseWar Horse – Michael Marpurgo

The first book I read in 2012. “War Horse” is based on a true story about a horse named Warrior. It tells the story of Joey  a horse purchased by the Army for service in World War I France and the attempts of young Albert, his previous owner, to bring him safely home. A touching story.

 

 

 

 

 

extremely loudExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer

This is not a story about September 11th, but a story of the aftermath of tragedy, living with loss and the search for answers. Nine-year-old Oskar Schell discovers a key in a vase that belonged to his father who died on 9/11. He believes his father left the key for him as a clue and he searches all around New York for information about the key. The joy in this story is in the people Oskar meets on his journey. It is heartwrenchingly sad, very emotional, but powerful, I couldn’t stop thinking about Oskar long after I put this book down. I saw the movie version and cried like a baby.

 

 

HungerGamesTrilogyStackedThe Hunger Games, Catching Fire and  Mockingjay -Suzanne Collins

I was skeptical of the Hunger Games series, as I am with most overly-hyped series, (i.e. Twilight) I expected nothing more than a mildly entertaining read, however, the entire series is suspenseful and interesting. For those who may be skeptical as I was, or who may think it’s no good because it’s categorized as young-adult lit, I encourage you to give the books a try.

 

chill factor The SwitchThe Switch  and Chill Factor – Sandra Brown

Mystery thrillers, these selections were a little out of the norm for me. However, they were both entertaining, page turners.

 

 

 

 

second-glance-lgSecond Glance – Jodi Picoult
Second Glance is a ghost-story in that the plot is based on mysterious happenings in a small Vermont town that begin when a developer is slated to build a strip mall on an ancient Abenaki Indian burial ground. But at its heart, Second Glance is ultimately a story of love and family.

Though the paranormal subject matter strays from Picoult’s typical topics, her story is still compelling, her characters in-depth (despite the number of them) This book may require a bit of patience on the part of readers.

Ultimately, Second Glance was a fun, interesting, read. Just don’t bring it to the beach and expect to whip through it in a day or two.

 


WildWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
 – Cheryl Strayed

A memoir of an amateur hiking 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail and coming to terms with the path her life has taken. Told in a voice that is blatantly honest, it is, at times, funny, and raw – particularly in the sections where she talks about her mother’s death.

 

 

 
winter garden'Winter Garden – Kristin Hannah

I turned to this book expecting an easy yet engrossing read which I have come to expect from Hannah. It was a much darker book than I expected, telling two parallel stories, one of two sisters in the present, and one in the past of their mother’s life which the sisters know nothing about. In this book, Hannah shifts from contemporary issues to take on the past, specifically, Leningrad during World War II. Hannah’s story set in the present is not as strong as the story set in the past, but it is an interesting book nonetheless, and the story will haunt you after you have put the book down.

 

 

 

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

The Light Between Oceans – M.L Stedman

A lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the coast of Australia, and his wife who cannot bear children discover a boat washed up on the shore carrying a dead man and a baby who is miraculously alive. They decide to keep the child and claim her as their own. Their decision comes into question when they discover the child’s mother is still alive and searching for her missing husband and daughter. I’ll be reflecting more on this book, check back for a more in-depth review.

 

 

 

Age of MiraclesAge of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

This may be my favorite book that I read this year. The Age of Miracles is a coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of an altered world: the earth’s rotation has suddenly begun to slow. I will also be a more in-depth review of this book in an upcoming post.

 

 

 

 

 

If I have a New Year’s resolution, it is to read more in 2013! What was the best book you read this year?

Ways to Celebrate National Book Month


Book lovers unite! October is National Book Month!

No matter how busy life gets, I believe we are never too busy to find time to read. Read on your lunch break, read for twenty minutes before bed, read while you wait at the doctor’s office this cold and flu season!

There is still time to celebrate National Book Month. Here are a few ways to celebrate before the month comes to a close:

Visit a Used Book Store
One of my favorite places to find a good book is in a used book store. It’s budget-friendly, and you’ll find everything from the classics, to romance novels, to modern-day bestsellers and more than likely, you’ll find entire shelves dedicated to Danielle Steele, Steven King and other authors who have penned dozens of published works.

Take a trip to the local library
Yes, they do still exist! Brick and mortar buildings that loan good old fashioned printed books! Wander in and browse the shelves for something that catches your eye. It’s free!

Try an Audio Book
Think you don’t have time to read? Try listening to an audio book on your daily commute. I was skeptical at first, and while it’s different from reading a printed or electronic book, it’s still a great way to fit some reading time into your day!

Share the Experience
While reading is typically a solo endeavor, it can be fun to get other book lovers involved in your reading experience. Join a book club! If that sounds too ambitious, pick a book and partner up with a friend. You can get together to share your thoughts before, during and after your read.

Get the Family Involved
Designate an evening or an afternoon where everyone in the household must turn off all electronic devices (with the exception of e-readers) and read a book, then discuss afterward. Read to your children. Take a family trip to the library where everyone has to borrow one book.

What will you do to celebrate National Book Month? Get reading and enjoy!

October is National Book Month!

October is known for many things – the weather turning colder, leaves changing color. Most of us know October is Breast Cancer Awareness month as pink ribbons appear and everything from sweatshirts to yogurt sport pink colors in honor of those who have survived the disease, those still fighting and those who have lost their battle against breast cancer.

But did you know October is also National Book Month? With temperatures dropping, it’s great time to get cozy with some hot apple cider – my favorite – and a good read!

Celebrate by finally picking up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Support your local bookstore or library with a good old fashioned printed and bound book or download something new on your e-reader.

I’m looking for my next read and can’t decide if I should go for a literary classic in honor of  National Book Month or pick up something a bit more modern.

If you’re looking for some ideas, here are a few titles on my list of books to read:

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin –
A family tries to recover after the death of the youngest child, a  journalist in Iraq.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt –
A moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miss Timmins’ School for Girls by Nayana Currimbhoy –
Cultures clash, love blooms, and a teacher is murdered in this novel about a sheltered young woman in 1970s India teaching at a British-run boarding school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson –
A young man moves up in Kim Jong-il’s power structure and then becomes a rival of the dictator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What will you be reading during National Book Month?