Reading is one of the things I’ve let slide since having kids. I grew up a voracious reader. My face was ALWAYS in a book. It’s something I very much enjoy, and I realized in a minor breakdown (over the losing of myself that inevitably happens once you start trying to keep other little humans alive) that not reading wasn’t working for me. A part of me was shriveling up and threatening to run away if I didn’t somehow figure out a way to add reading back into my life. So, last summer I decided I was going to try my hardest to not collapse and turn on Netflix every night. I instead dedicated a few evenings a week to watering that shriveled up passion of mine to see if it would come back to life.
I’ve read a number of good books since the summer. Here are four of my favorites, plus a handful of other honorable mentions:
1776, by David McCullough.
I have no idea why I decided to pick this one up first. None. But I highly recommend it. I knew George Washington was an incredible leader, but I didn’t realize just how high the cards were stacked against him when took the reigns of the Revolutionary Army. Of course, I have the luxury of hindsight, knowing just how spectacularly successful this “grand experiment” would prove to be even a couple hundred years down the road. Understanding the insurmountable struggles faced by the United States in that first year makes me even more proud of my heritage and gives me greater resolve to do my part in addressing the struggles of our day.
Pretty Happy, by Kate Hudson.
I saw a friend of mine post a picture of this book on Instagram and it piqued my interest. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my body and how working out, eating, leisure, etc…affects it in light of some changes I’ve noticed in the past few years. (Hello, 36! I’m suddenly thinking about aging. I can’t decide how I feel about that…) This book provides a surprisingly refreshing framework for how to view wellness. Hudson talks about her own journey of becoming more mindful, grateful, and healthy – as she calls it “body smart” – and provides tools to help the reader along on their own journey. She bases her theory of health on four pillars of practice: cultivate an intuitive relationship with your body, eating well, awaken your body, and the miracle of mindfulness. I appreciate that she does give specifics about what she does to keep herself healthy, but not in a prescriptive way. I didn’t walk away from it feeling like I needed to do everything Kate Hudson does so I can have her body, but I did walk away from it with some pretty useful tools for how to think about health in a more holistic way. The book does have a ton of pictures of Kate Hudson, which is somewhat inspiring, but at times it felt like overkill especially when the book insists its point isn’t to inspire you to want to look like Kate Hudson…
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
I picked this one up from the library on a whim because of the cover. I’m a sucker for anything tomato red. I’m so glad the story was as intriguing as the cover design. I don’t usually go for sci-fi, but this one pulled me in from the start. It’s a wonderful story of contentment and exploring the “what-ifs” of life decisions – through metaphysics, multiple dimensions and time travel (of sorts.) I couldn’t put this one down, and I came away from it with a greater sense of gratitude for the life I have now. As my boys are getting older and more independent, I’m starting to explore options for what to do with my time when they don’t need me every minute. I’ve had a few breakdowns along the way where it seems the opportunity for the professional life I want has passed me by, wondering what would have happened had I made difference decisions in the past. This book gave me the surprising gift of perspective and gratefulness for the sweet life that our family has built, and I didn’t even have to enter a time travel machine to get to that place – just curl up with a good book for a weekend.
Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton
I don’t know where to start with this one! I haven’t followed Glennon’s blog, Momastery, but I’ve read a handful of her posts that have popped up on my social media feeds over the past few years. This book is a memoir of her marriage, but she goes into so much more than that. She talks about alcoholism, depression, mental illness, bulimia, infidelity, yoga, blogging, family, and so much more. Her explanation of being a preteen girl, realizing that who she was becoming wasn’t what the world wanted and expected her to become resonated so clearly with my own experience. The process she went through to break free from the persona she created to conform to the world’s expectations for her was an inspiration to explore my own baggage related to feeling simultaneously not enough and too much. It also made me want to look each preteen girl I know in the eye and explain just how amazing they are. I cried ugly tears while reading this book, and came away so refreshed and emboldened.
Some other good books I’ve read since the summer…
–Nutshell – Easy, quick and entertaining, but nothing to write a blog post about. 😉
–The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love her. The book was good, but not my favorite. It did inspire me to be more curious about the natural world – but this inspiration comes more from her book Big Magic, where she describes the creative process that led her to write The Signature of All Things.
–The Wonder – I read this one in a weekend. Super interesting from a historical stand point.
–Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace, by Ann Lamott – I hesitate to not have any book by Ann Lamott listed as a favorite because ALL her books are my favorites. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t surprised by its impact? Whatever the explanation, this collection of essays is well worth a read.
-I’ve been thinking a lot about end of life issues over the past months, and these two books have given me a lot of food for thought. There’s probably enough in them to reflect on in a whole other post…When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi and Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande.
What good books have you been reading lately? I’d love to add some new ones to my list!