What I’m Reading Lately

I have a stack of my own To-Be-Read books and an even taller stack waiting for me at the library, but I am only reading four at the moment. I just noticed that that three out of four authors are of Irish heritage…interesting!

Although I’ve been reading Colm Toibin’s The Master for several nights, I didn’t realize until last night that it’s about Henry James. It is beautiful: poetic and imaginative, and told by a true Irish storyteller. Have you had the opportunity to read anything by this author? Last year, I read his book Nora Webster and fell in love with the characters, the Irish landscape and style of speaking, the sad story, and her strong, surviving spirit.

David Whyte‘s The Heart Aroused has been on my unread bookshelf for a few years. Since it’s about corporate America, and I don’t have any experience in that arena, at first glance it seems a bit irrelevant to my life. But since I love all of David Whyte’s writing–poetry and prose–and once I dug into it, I realized the message is for all of us. The subtitle is “Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America”. David works with large companies, focusing on “the conversational nature of leadership. If you haven’t already, listen to his TED Talk “A Lyrical Bridge Between the Past, Present, and Future”.

John O Donahue left this world too soon. A friend of David Whyte’s, everything he wrote was pointing his readers toward beauty, imagination, curiosity, and wonder. His book Walking in Wonder was published posthumously and contains talks he gave. I don’t want to miss one word this man left for us! However, if you like his work, then read my favorite book of his Beauty: The Invisible Embrace .

This is Marketing is Seth Godin’s latest book and everything he writes is something every business owner, entrepreneur, and worker in today’s economy needs to read. Seth has always thought and spoken outside the box and his ideas might take a while too assimilate. He speaks much on generosity, doing good work, picking yourself, and shipping your work ( as opposed to perfectionistic procrastination.)

The Gown (Book Review)

When I first spotted The Gown by Jennifer Robson at our local Barnes and Noble, I knew I had to read it. I assumed it was about the royal wedding and would center around the royal family. Instead, the focus is on two women, Ann and Miriam, who are embroiderers in the Normal Hartnell fashion house, as well as Ann’s granddaughter, Heather, who, years later, discovers that these two worked on Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown.

This is one of those books where the story switches between past (1947) and present (2016). I honestly didn’t think Heather or the switch between times was necessary. There wasn’t much of a mystery to unravel, and I felt that the fact that Heather’s mother knew nothing about her own mother, Ann’s, history a bit too convenient and far-fetched. I would’ve preferred to read more about Ann and Miriam than to read of the granddaughter’s thoughts and discoveries, but maybe there wasn’t enough material to fill a novel otherwise.

Aside from this, the two main characters had enough depth and vibrance to their personalities to keep me invested in their story. The description of their work at Hartnell’s fascinated me, and provided them with a way to slip into a world of luxury and beauty, in sharp contrast to their stark, post-war, rationed existence. Within these pages you will read of a blossoming love story and a brutal betrayal, of healing, friendship, and the resilience of women in the face of hardship.

I recommend this book to readers who enjoy wartime or post-war fiction, anything to do with England, art, or fashion.

 

How to Follow Through and Finish (What I’m Learning)

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Do you have one of those creative brains that goes at the speed of light? Are you constantly coming up with new ideas for yourself and everyone around you? A business idea, an exercise plan, a new hobby to start, an online course to take, a skill to learn, a project to tackle, another book to read, and on and on.

The books on my nightstand are a good example. I have at least a dozen started, plus a few on my Kindle. And I don’t just have books on my nightstand, they’re inside my nightstand and on top of my dresser in stacks. I’m never sure which is the right one to start or if I’ll wish I had that certain one right at my fingertips. Heaven forbid I have to actually go downstairs to the library to search for a book I’m thinking about; better to have all the books in my room and be able to start it the minute I think about it.

Because of my love of starting things, I have about three different courses started on Lynda.com (to be fair to myself I have finished about five this year) and a watercolor course from an Australian artist that I started in January and haven’t returned to since February.

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I am so close to finishing up my aromatherapy certification, but have a few loose ends to tie up and a bit more to study for the exam. Now would be a good time to sign up for a free four-day Aromatherapy summit next week, right? Um, no, but I did anyway.

Yeah, I love starting things, brainstorming new ideas, trying something new. I love dreaming about the possibility of whatever it is and the excitement that comes with starting. But I don’t admire other people who don’t follow through and I don’t admire myself for dragging my heels about finishing or dropping the ball on a project altogether.

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Follow through, follow through. These two words have been following me around for over month now, like a toddler at my heels, whining for attention. I took a good look at my life and wrote down all the places I need to finish something. Things I need to and actually want to finish! And I asked myself what was my problem? Why don’t I finish things?

Since I’d heard about John Acuff’s book Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done, I decided to purchase the Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done and find out what he had to say on the topic. I wanted to learn about the causes and the solutions to this huge and common problem.

Here’s what he had to say: perfection causes most of us to quit before we start. If we can’t do it perfectly, we won’t even try. Sounds dumb, right? But it’s true! Like, if I can’t blog every single day of the week, with beautiful pictures and amazing content, I should just give up. But you know that sets us up for failure. Acuff recommends cutting your goal in half. This way the feeling of success of meeting a goal will spur you on to something else.

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Also, we get it into our heads that we have to do all the things. The truth is, if we are going to really focus on finishing one thing, something else might have to take a backseat for a while. Maybe I have to not vacuum as often, or get together with friends less often or miss watching the latest Netflix series if I want to finish up my aromatherapy certification soon.

He also talks about how the lie of having to do everything ourselves instead of asking for help delays the finish. Perhaps I would get the labels printed sooner for the new natural body care products I’m selling if I would accept Alan’s help rather than learning Photoshop now and doing it myself.

Learning what is holding me back and figuring out how to move forward is what I need to follow through and finish. The message and tips within this book were super helpful: I am already making progress on the stuff I was procrastinating over. In the past week, I was able to cross off three items off my Bullet Journal To-Do list. Finish is a short, funny, and super helpful read, so if you’re like me and have a tough time finishing, go get this book!

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

What I’m Reading Lately

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Hello from the Finger Lakes! This cool and sunny sweater weather we’re enjoying these past few days is my favorite. The sun going down earlier means more time for books, which I always welcome! Right now, I have a great stack of books that I’m either reading through or about to start and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Tom Asacker was interviewed in this episode of Todd Henry’s The Accidental Creative Podcast last year when he talked about the stories we tell ourselves, how they can limit us, and what we can do about it. His book is I am Keats: Escape Your Mind and Free Your Self*. You know that voice in your head that says things like, “Who do you think you are to …” you fill in the blank. Well, that’s you telling yourself a story, a limiting story. Tom Asacker addresses this voice in your head.

Speaking of that voice in your head, in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Anne Lamott talks about that voice, the things that distract and how to focus on your writing, in addition to many hilarious, poignant, and very real stories from her own life with words. If you write at all, it’s good to read books that describe other writers’ experiences, paths that led to writing, and how they deal with distraction, loneliness, failure, and success. I picked up a copy at my local used bookstore and am nearly finished reading it. I recommend this if you take an interest in writing!

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko  has been on my TBR list for such a long time! I finally placed a hold at the library and am looking forward to diving in. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover!?

I included poetry because I always have at least one collection going. David Whyte’s The Bell and the Blackbird was published earlier this year and I am slowly working my way through it. His way with words brings me to tears, in a good way. He writes with such depth and tenderness, clarity and boldness, delving into the difficult, the painful, as well as the joyful seasons of life. My particular favorites so far have been his poems to the late Irish poet John O’ Donahue as well as his poem to beloved poet Mary Oliver. If you haven’t read David Whyte’s poetry or essays yet, what are you waiting for?

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl was a random book purchase, simply because I was intrigued by the title. My life has been anything but leisurely, especially since I’ve started a business, but I still want to know how to waste a day right when I get a spare one!

Parker Palmer’s A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life has also been on my TBR for several years. After going through so many transitions and finding my way forward, I need to hear the wisdom of someone older and wiser that myself. Maybe the truths within the pages will assist me as I seek to connect the pieces and make sense of the journey. Look for more about this when I finish reading it.

Lastly, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time is a book I placed on hold at the library after a recent bout with depression and extreme anxiety. This book sounded, well, up! And hopeful and like maybe there are actions that I can take, habits that I can form, ideas I haven’t thought of, that will help me reduce these symptoms and live with more positivity and calm. I’m about a third of the way through already; the writing is clear, the material easy-to-understand, and best of all, there are practical helps I can implement. I’m looking forward to reading the rest!

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Alright, that’s it for now! What have you been reading lately? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

* This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through one of the links here, it benefits me in a very small way at no extra cost to you!

This Day is Ready For You (Book Reviews)

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I recently read The Day Is Ready for You by Alison Malee. This delightful collection of poetry is fresh, sharp and fiery. Emotion sings from every page. Sometimes they are angry, at others singing a tender love song. Sometimes full of everyday life and then they soar into possibility. Sometimes all in the same poem.

Most of the poems’ subjects focus on relationships: all the highs and lows and newness and mundane. Others have to do with being a woman or how life seems from her perspective. She has a definite rhythm and voice that distills life in a perspicacious manner all her own.

Get this book, poetry people! Get it if you don’t think you’re a poetry person. I highly recommend it.

*I received an e-copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest and fair review.

Mystery and Poetry, Two Constant Companions

Since my seventh birthday, I have pretty much been addicted to mysteries. My mom’s friends, Pat and Judy, gave me a couple of Nancy Drew mysteries that year and my mind was opened to the scary, thrilling, who-done-it genre and I’ve never looked back. Sure, I’ve read some disappointing ones full of boring characters or convoluted plots that made me yawn, but, overall, I’ve found mysteries to be soothing and reassuring that no matter what is wrong in the world, by the end of the book, the odd little detective will have solved it and I can go to sleep confident that right triumphs.

I received Louise Penny’s latest book, Glass Houses, as a birthday gift this past year and I just finished it on Sunday. Her series is a little bit cozy, but only on the edges. It has all the depth of a novel, because she goes deep with her characters and most of them carry on from book to book. If you haven’t read her books yet, this is the year to give them a try. Three Pines is an imaginary village outside of Montreal, full of lovable, quirky people that you will want to read more about. No matter what evil they come up against, the townspeople live their unique lives and pull together when they’re needed. This story has to do with a hooded figure showing up in Three Pines, the drug trade in Montreal, and, of course, a murder. That’s all I’m saying. Read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

The other genre I’ve always kept close to me is poetry. I’ve got a poetry book or two going at all times…and so should you. Poetry is for everyone. If you don’t think so, maybe you need to keep looking. Mary Oliver, anyone? I just finished reading (again) Everything Is Waiting for You by David Whyte. Do you ever get days where life seems too much? Where emotions are overwhelming and tears break out for the smallest reason? Maybe it’s my Italian blood, or because I’m an HSP/ INFJ, or because I’ve been through lots of change in my life the past few years, but this happens often. On those days, I read poetry. Something elegant, simple and deep that speaks to the heart of sadness, the edge of elation, down to the bottom and all the way to the top of the emotional gamut. Thank you, David Whyte for breaking open your soul and writing down what spills out. I suggest you, dear reader, get one of his poetry collections and let it sink in. You need it, I’m telling you.

So, what are some of your favorite genres? What are you reading right now?

Educated, (Book Review)

When I started reading Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, I was expecting a story about a homeschooler–an unschooled, perhaps. Within a few pages I realized my error; this was no homeschooling family she belonged to.

Tara was born into and raised in a very dysfunctional and dangerous environment within a large family ruled by fear of their mentally ill father. As she described her experiences out in the wilderness of Utah, her and other family members’ scrapes with death, how her father treated them, and how she perceived these experiences, I just shook my head. This was her normal.

She was indoctrinated to think anything else was “of the devil” or “worldly”, due to her father’s mix of Mormonism and mental illness. I kept wanting her mother to stand up to him, but she rarely did. I cheered when Tara finally escaped in her late teens to attend college, and couldn’t believe it each time she returned to her family home over and over again. Her education outside of her home life, over time, had enough of an effect that she came to view life, religion and the meaning of family differently, but I don’t know if any education could ever erase the effect of those deep roots of shame, guilt, neglect, abuse that she suffered.

I am thankful Tara was able to share her story with the world, that she could find enough courage within herself to walk away from everything she knew and start again. If you haven’t already, you will hear a lot about Educated this year. I suggest you pick up a copy and read it for yourself.

* I was given a free e-copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are completely my own.