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!

Links I Love

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Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank.

What can I say about these past two weeks except “I NEED A VACATION!!!” OK, deep breath and moving on…Happy Mother’s Day to all the mamas! I plan to enjoy the day out away from kids and chores, and not being a taxi service. Alan and I are going to take a picnic lunch (he’s making me sushi!) with us and stop at a few wineries for tastings and to enjoy the views of whatever lakes we end up at.

So, what have I found interesting and inspiring this week? Several great podcast episodes, plus one new-to-me podcast.

First, here is a podcast that I love because it gives me ideas and inspiration for my self-care and home decor Etsy shop and local business, Delicata House. Etsy Success Podcast features a different successful Etsy shop owner each episode who presents solutions and ideas and shares her or his own story.

One of my favorite episodes from a few months back featured the owner of Betsy Farmer Designs, a jewelry shop, sharing her tips on excellent customer service. Check it out on SoundCloud or iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Second, Anne Bogel had a super fun episode of What Should I Read Next where she interviewed a young woman from New Zealand who now lives in Bath in the UK. Since I want to visit both New Zealand and the UK, I was thoroughly absorbed in their conversation. And the books they discussed had me breaking my “read ten, buy one” rule and adding to my TBR list.

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Third, also through Anne Bogel’s podcast, I was introduced to another podcast which I am thrilled to have connected to. It’s called Reading Women and the two young women who host it are committed to interviewing authors who are women and discussing books written by women. One of the latest episodes is an interview with Chibundu Onuzo, author of Welcome to Lagos: A Novel. This was a fascinating, intelligent, and upbeat conversation that left me wondering why I haven’t already read this novel and the others she’s written. (Sad fact: I hadn’t heard of her until now. Happy fact: the whole reason this podcast exists.) I’m now in the middle of the episode with Maggie O’ Farrell, author of I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death and This Must Be the Place: A novel which I’m loving as well.

And, finally, since my last post focused on inspiration, it’s a subject that is staying with me this week, so here is a post on living inspired on Medium. Look for the great Jack London quote about not waiting to be inspired.

OK, cheers to the weekend and to all the mothers in our world!

 

Bookaholic Problems (What I’m Reading Now)

Two days ago, as I was salivating over the prospect of purchasing another few books, I stopped my searching and took a breath, grabbed myself by the shoulders–metaphorically speaking–and gave myself a shake.

“You have a lot of books on your library shelves and on your nightstand that have yet to be read. You don’t need one more book, nor do you deserve one until you’ve read at least ten.”

Ugh, I pouted. I didn’t want to hear it. But it was true; I did have plenty of reading material on hand to keep me busy for quite a while.

Soooo, I decided to go on a book buying diet of sorts. I will allow myself one book purchase for every ten books I read. It will make me read more because I can never stop wondering what that book will be like.

Here is the list of books I’m either reading or will be starting very soon…

On Writing by Stephen King. Ok, I am not really a King fan. Sorry to disappoint all of you who are. He has the ability to tell great stories, but after reading 11/22/63 and being downright furious with the ending, not to mention the excess of words (it went on forever), I probably won’t be reading his fiction any time soon. But several people recommended On Writing, and it’s not an overlong book, so I’m reading it.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I haven’t read this, but Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs Darcy has recommended it and it’s rare that I don’t value her opinion. It sounds like a bit of sci-fi (post-apocalyptic) with Shakespeare thrown in.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott is another book about writing that I’ve been wanting to read for a while. I picked up a copy last summer at a local used bookstore and it’s been sitting inside my nightstand cubby just waiting to be read. Yesterday, I read the introduction, which made me laugh more than once and be completely intrigued about Anne’s life, this book, and other books she’s written. How have I not read her before this?

Sin: Selected Poems of Forugh Farrokhzad is a collection of poetry from the Iranian poet I read about in Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel, which I reviewed here. Her story so interested me that I wanted to understand her a little more through her actual writings.

Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon will be a short, motivating kick in the pants, if it’s anything like his book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. I’m looking forward to this one.

Crave Radiance: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010 by Elizabeth Alexander was a Christmas present I received a couple of years ago. If I remember her story correctly, she became a poet as a means to work through her grief after her husband’s disappearance and presumed death while out sailing.

Autumn: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) by Ali Smith is another book I’ve heard Anne Bogel talk about on her podcast What Should I Read Next (highly reccomended). I have the Audible version, so I’ll be listening while sewing or painting, driving, or making dinner.

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is a classic I might’ve read as a teen, but I honestly can’t remember. I purchased the Audible version with Juliet Stevenson narrating.

The House of the Spirits: A Novel by Isabelle Allende was another book I picked up last year at a local used bookstore. I heard her interviewed on Just the Right Book with Roxanne Coady (another highly recommended podcast) and fell in love with her as she shared about her life and writing.

The Mussorgsky Riddle by Daron Kennedy is a book that Alan purchased for me last year when he was at a book convention. It’s different from the categories I usually reach for, which is a good thing. Listening to Pictures at an Exhibition is very helpful to understand some of the references. Anyway, I’m about halfway through and it’s getting to the point where I want to know what happens next. There’s a kid with autism, a psychic who can enter his imaginary world, a missing, possibly murdered teen girl, a witch and other fantasy characters.

Hey, I would love to hear about what you’ve been reading lately. Please share in the comments. Thanks!

   

Links I Love

Here is where I will share a few links of podcast episodes, blog posts, websites, TED talks, new books, etc. that I favorite each week. Refresh your imagination and fill up your inspiration tank. Happy weekend!

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Srini Rao’s The Unmistakable Creative Podcast is definitely on the top of my new favorites. (It’s not a new podcast, but one I just started listening to.) I’ve been inspired to think differently and encouraged on my nontraditional path of living creatively.

The first one I listened to is with Michael Ellsberg, author of The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful and The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever, both which I ordered second-hand copies of as soon as I finished listening. Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever isn’t really about spending, but it is about investing, about taking a risk and being willing to live differently in order to have a meaningful life. I sent this one to my son, an Uber-creative person in the hope that he listens too.

The second one is with Kate Swoboda: The Courage Habit. She is the author of a book by that title as well as a life coach who has a training program for other life coaches. In this podcast, Kate talks with Srini about facing our fears and acknowledging they exist, but not letting them run our lives. You need to hear this! I can’t wait to read her book.

In honor of National Poetry Day, here are two blogs that are pure poetry:

Caliath.com is poetry blog from a fellow WordPresser. I’m so glad I found it! This poem is a lovely pick.

David Whyte just released a new collection of poetry: The Bell and the BlackbirdI can’t wait until my copy arrives! Also, view David’s TED talk here.

And lastly, two posts on the importance of poetry: Why Poetry is Necessary by Elizabeth Alexander and How Poetry Can Change Lives by John Burnside.

 

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.

Song of a Captive Bird (Book Review)

When I requested this book, Song of a Captive Bird, by Jasmin Darznik, from NetGalley, I knew I’d be in for a reading adventure. I know nothing about Iranian poets, past or present, and not much about Iranian history or culture. Because this was about a poet from Iran, Forugh Farrokhzad, who was also a woman drew me to it–that and the title. The book read a bit like a movie, opening with a mysterious and violent scene that became clear as the story continued and the cultural traditions and expectations were explained.

As it takes place in the fifties and sixties, in a land very far away and different from my own, there was much to be discovered about the way people lived and thought about life in general, and about women, in particular. Forugh suffered at the hands of men–her father, her husband, her lovers, and a male-dominated publishing industry. Her suffering marked her, but her resilience and independent spirit shaped her into who she became. Again and again she defies cultural expectations and pioneers a path for herself and women after her with the words she writes, her work in film, and the way she lives. The poetry that is woven into the chapters is exquisite; I savored the lines and felt closer to the woman whose story was being told.

In addition to learning a bit about Iranian women struggling to become respected and independent during that time period, I learned something of the struggle for Iranians to own their oil and of the violent political turmoil of those days. To me, Forugh is a symbol of progress, of the artistic voice that speaks in every culture and time period, and of every woman working toward being respected and heard with equality.

Reading this book stirred up a desire to read Iranian poetry, of which I am unfamiliar. If you’re like me and know little to nothing about Iranian history and culture, and particularly, Iranian poetry, then I recommend you read this story and start your own journey of discovery.

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.