I’m poking my head up out of my summer hibernation to give you some holiday reading suggestions. About this time last year I posted ‘what I read in 2014’. It seems like a number of you are interested in what others read, as am I, so here is this year’s instalment. I continue to love that I can carry around an entire library in my iPad mini. Also, the ready accessibility of books for someone who lives in a place which no longer has a book store, and is far away from any place that does, is much appreciated. (Also, our town library is limited.) An ebook does not feel as satisfying as holding an actual book and turning the pages, and I find my eyes tire more quickly, but all in all, it allows me to read more and that makes me happy.
All of my reading this year has been non-fiction. That is my favourite broad category, but my tastes within it are diverse. Life is too short to read books you don’t like, so I started a couple of books and then put them aside as I was just not connecting with the material or writing style. That’s okay. Here are the ones I did finish, in the order I read them, and a comment or two about each one:
Small Victories by Anne Lamott – To start the year I had been saving this new book (hardcover) as a treat. It was enjoyable, but not as enjoyable as other books of hers, in my opinion. Bird by Bird and Stitches were more my cup of tea.
The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. – Listening to Elaine’s talks on YouTube and reading her book (paperback) helped me understand something I had previously only heard in passing. Some of us are highly sensitive beings, both in physical body and spirit. We are often made to feel abnormal with comments like ‘Toughen up’ or ‘Don’t be so sensitive’. The fact is we are sensitive to everything and it is not something we can help. Like most things it has its positive side, and we can manage the challenges very well.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever by Marie Kondo – It isn’t an exaggeration for me to say this book changed my life. It inspired me to have a huge cleanup and what’s more to look at ‘things’ and tidying in a whole different light. I highly recommend this book in its genre.
The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander – A simply gorgeously written, and evocative account, of her husband’s life and the trauma she and their sons faced upon his untimely death. Elizabeth is a poet and her writing has a poetic density to it. At one stage I felt as if I was grieving for my own husband, when he was away on a trip, and I had to stop reading the book until he was safely home again. I highly recommend this book.
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin – I have written in a little more detail about how this book helped me look at the decisions and habits revolved around my 365 Photo Challenge. I did not read it with particular thoughts of changing my habits, but more about understanding why certain things work for me and certain things don’t. Once one understands these things better, it is likely to change a person, and possibly it has, but I enjoyed the book nevertheless.
The Perfect Day Plan: Unlock the secrets of your body clock by Jost Sauer – Ok. This was kind of ‘assigned reading’…from my trainer. Ahem. I will elaborate on this adventure in a future blog post, but about four months ago I embarked on an exercise program with a trainer. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. This book talks through the Chinese philosophy of chi and the body clock and how we can better work with our body clocks to achieve wellness. It was interesting, but I am not dedicating myself to this way of doing things, just keeping it in mind. I actually found that much of what it recommends, I had already gravitated to over the years, and the other ideas were not necessarily ones I found particularly useful.
Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – This book was one that I enjoyed so much, I didn’t want it to end! I loved reading about Elizabeth’s journey through creative endeavours, and recognised many of my own experiences as well. Possibly my favourite book of the year. Loved it. I especially recommend this one for people who pursue the creative life.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown – I kept seeing the author’s name popping up in the media and thought I would investigate her ideas. I first watched a Ted Talk that she gave and enjoyed it. Then I bought the book and started reading. I got a little bogged down about halfway through so I went back and watched her second Ted Talk and that reinvigorated my interest to finish it. I can see why her ideas are hitting a note with people and I liked them, though I did find it hard to maintain interest in the detail. Glad I read it, and Her Ted Talks are very good and funny.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – This was a book I had been meaning to read for years. It is the memoir of her husband’s death and her subsequent grief and mourning the year that followed. It’s hard to say one ‘enjoys’ reading about another person’s pain but it certainly gives context to a lot of behaviours and thoughts we have around the subject of death, grief and mourning. I’m very glad I read it, and if you aren’t bothered too much by this sort of thing, I recommend it. Again, as with Light of the World, I had to put it down for a few days and regain my composure before finishing.
Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust by Victor E. Frankl – This would have been a bit much to read immediately following Didion’s book, however, I did start another book in between the two, which I stopped reading and have now gone back to finish—a book called, The Wife Drought, which will probably be first on my list to finish for 2016, so I’ll tell you about it next year! Meanwhile, Dr. Frankl’s book is a harrowing account of his own and others’ survival of the Holocaust during the first 60% of the book. The last part of the book is his summary of a type of Psychotherapy which he pioneered, called ‘logotherapy’. It is based on helping people find the purpose of their life, which he asserts gives them hope and meaning enough to carry them through the most difficult of times. He died in 1997. I’m very glad I have read this, though, again, not an easy emotional journey at times.
A Gentle and Hard Working Family Man – My final book to finish in 2015, is not one that is commercially available. It was written by a friend of mine. It is the story of her Grandfather who came from Italy to Australia, through his life and eyes. She had foresight enough to interview him over 20 years ago and record many details of life as it was, early last century in both Italy and Australia. The detail in the account made for very interesting reading. My own Grandfather migrated from Italy to the USA in about the same era, so it was particularly interesting to me. She also included lovely old photos. She and her husband put the book together and had it printed and bound as a gift to her family. Isn’t that a nice thing to do?
And speaking of gifts…
I will close with a photo of one of my favourite new things, a gift from a good friend. I mean, how can you not start the morning well when drinking coffee or tea and seeing this? Sending you love for the New Year.