“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
2019 was the year of reading (in addition to traveling of course). Before high school, I used to be an absolute book worm. You could not pull me away from books on road trips, by the pool, when it was time for dinner, or even during class that I found the content to be boring in (oops). Once I started high school, I was balancing AP/Honors classes and Varsity/club swimming so I was only sleeping 5 hours a night before morning practice and had little to no free time.
Then college came around, and we all know that story. Group projects, club meetings and studying all day, partying at night, too hungover on the weekends to read a book. Where is brunch? Did someone say darty? You get the picture.
So when I started my “big girl” job in mid-2018, I promised myself that I would pick up reading again, at least one book per month. One of my favorite quotes is by George R.R. Martin: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” This cannot be more true. I have so many lives and stories from books I have read intertwined with those of my own life, and it makes my memory that much more colorful. I have the lessons they learned in my story, because I took the time to read theirs. Books connect us and teach us lessons we didn’t know we needed to learn.
Long story short, I took this goal to the next level. I not only met the goal but exceeded it, and that has everything to do with the fantastic authors who wrote the books I chose to read, and me setting reading each week as a priority, similar to a water, sleep and mediation goal (2020 goal sneak peek!!).
FYI I read a lot of self improvement books this year because as some may know, 2019 was a struggle for me in many ways and I needed to learn how to change my perspective and control my thoughts. With that being said, let’s talk these books already!
Quick sidebar: Do you ever read a book so good that you hug the book to your chest afterwards, almost as a metaphorical hug to all the characters that just touched your life in the story written on the pages within? Just me? Okay well I do this every time I finish a good book and whenever I pick up said book again to reminisce in that story and those good memories it gave me.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
One of my all-time favorite books in the history of all books. Dramatic, right? Well I am not kidding. If you are a young woman, or a woman at any age, and you haven’t read this book….drop everything, get on Amazon and order this book to start reading right away. It is a coming of age novel about the March sisters, with an focus on Jo March’s life. She is wild, confident, demanding, creative, a dreamer, and unwilling to conform to the expectations of a young lady at that time in history. She wants to write her own story, forge her own path and create a legacy in this work for herself. My favorite quote from this book is from Jo’s mother to Jo: “How could someone with so many extraordinary gifts expect to live an ordinary life.” If you cannot tell, I adore her character and relate to her on emotional levels we can get into another time.
My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
This is another one of those “get your ass to the bookstore and buy this immediately” type of books. If you want to face your fears and be inspired to tackle them one day at a time, then read this book. It is a story of a woman who loses her job in the Recession and instead of getting a new job right away, she spends the year doing something that scares her every day, sometimes little and sometimes big. And she obviously writes a book about it because it is inspiring and awesome. She is inspired to do this by her new found role model, Eleanor Roosevelt, which I mean, c’mon. DUH. She was incredible. You will be taken on a journey to fearlessness with Noelle, but also learn from cool fun facts about Eleanor, which you can whip out at your next night of trivia.
Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
Brene Brown is an angel on this Earth. Braving the Wilderness is learning about true belonging, and your connection with others. I will leave you with some of my favorite lessons:
- “You are only free when you realize that you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” – Maya Angelou
- The five elements to BRAVING the Wilderness are : Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgmental, Generosity
- “Today I live by a few simple rules:
- I am doing the best I can.
- I will allow myself to be seen.
- Go further. Don’t be afraid. Put it all out there. Don’t leave anything on the floor.
- I will not be a mystery to my daughter…I will share my stories with her..She will know she’s not alone in that wilderness.“
- “We try to beat vulnerability to the punch by imagining the worse or feeling nothing in hopes that the “other shoe won’t drop.” It is called foreboding joy. The only way to combat foreboding joy is gratitude.”
- “I have come to the conclusion that the way we engage in social media is like fire – you can use them to keep yourself warm and nourished, or you can burn down the barn. It all depends on your intentions, expectations and reality-checking skills.”
Okay so there are 15 of these….I am not going to write about all of them, just the few that changed my life (and I do not say that lightly) and the few that I would absolutely recommend to others.
- Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
- Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
- A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- Rising Strong by Brene Brown
- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
- Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
- Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen
- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
- Is everyone hanging out without me? by Mindy Kaling
- the perks of being a wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
This is the best book I have read in the self development category, hands down. This book gets you motivated and gives you the tools to change your life. Best of all, you finally feel like you are not alone in how you feel and the fucked up thoughts you tell yourself every day. This book will help you change your perspective and change your mindset so you can start telling yourself the truth, dammit. The title may sound strange but it will all make sense once you read it. She starts each chapter with a lie that she believed to be true at some point in her life, then debunks that lie with lessons from her own life stories and gives you the tools to do the same. She is spunky and fun and she is straight up transparent, even in the most embarrassing and shameful parts of her life (in her opinion). That takes guts, and courage, and some big cajonas. I gifted this book to several of my friends for Christmas and I wish I could buy every woman I know this book. Buy it, read, it, love it, then change your life.
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
This was a timely book at the end of the year as I start a new role and leave a very tough year and a half behind. Liz tells her story of her travels through Italy, India and Indonesia on her path to find a better relationship with God. Religion is never something I have explored before and to be honest, I have no idea what I do and don’t beleive in. But I do know that when I was in Asia, I felt close to God. So now I have become curious. People dedicate their lives to a being they never see or hear. That has to mean something. Liz finds this meaning on her journey for a year. Here are some of the best tools for fighting depression and guilt to finally feel love and acceptance for yourself and your decsions (I am still working on it):
- “God dwells within you, as you.”
- A promise to your mind and spirit: “I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.”
- A promise to your well-being: “I love you. I will never leave you . I will always take care of you.”
- “What if your life belongs to you?” – The most ground breaking question of all. No guilt, no shame, no negative self thoughts, no anxiety for your choices. Just you living your life and accepting and loving yourself for who you are. Imagine that as a concept.
Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates
This is Melinda Gates’ first book and damn, is it good. It is an in-depth look at the work that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation does to help lift up women in poverty through family planning, access to birth control, education, and so much more. It is heart-wrenching to know that this pain and suffering for women still exists in our world today, and it is our duty lift up the women in the margins in order to give a better chance to future generations. In addition to the work they are doing, Melinda also provides a look into her own life, and the lessons she has learned from a woman in her position about what we can do in the business world to lift up women, including in the US. Some of my favorite quotes include:
- “When you lift up women, you lift up humanity.”
- “Sometimes the best thing a mother can do for her children is to not have another child.”
- “There is something empowering about being asked, it signals ‘your life matters.'”
- “Maybe my best self is not my polished self. Maybe my best self is when I am open enough to say more about my doubts and anxieties, admit my mistakes and confess when I am feeling down. Then people can feel more comfortable with their own mess and that is certainly an easier culture to live in.”
- “Today in the US, we are sending daughters to a work place that was designed for our dads, set up on the assumption that they would have partners who agreed to stay at home and do the unpaid work of caring for a family and tending to a house. Today it is true for almost no one, except for one specific group. The high executive men whose wives do stay at home and in turn they might not understand the people who work below them.”
- “The only way out is through” – Robert Frost
A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
This a book about failing enthusiastically and asking radical questions to come up with groundbreaking ideas. Warren Berger gives the tools, lessons and questions to ask in the work place in order to foster creativity and allow people to grow. He encourages companies to let employees challenge the status quo and embrace failure as lessons learned, without punishment. He also digs into questioning your own purpose and motivation. My favorite quote from the book is “Is there something else you might want to want besides what you have been told to want?” This shook me to my core. My entire life I have been told to do well in school, get the best job, make a lot of money, buy a house, have a nice car, have kids, blah blah. The things that I have enjoyed the most, are the things that people told me I shouldn’t spend money on or shouldn’t do on my own. I am starting to do the things that no one told me to want, but that actually bring me joy. Question everything and do not settle just because it is what has always been done before, or just because it is what someone told you was best for you.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
This is a glorious read about a therapist’s perspective of several of her patients, while she is also going through therapy herself. It is a journey through self understanding and coming face to face with the single thing that is holding you back – yourself. I went back to therapy in 2019, so this was a comical story to read and think about what my therapist probably thinks of me, while also reading it and going “hey, I am going to bring up this quote in my next session because it relates to how I feel.” I thoroughly enjoyed this book – it had me laughing out loud, crying, and stopping in my tracks at how simple, but mind-blowing some of the lessons are.
One of my favorite lessons is the Holland Story: “If you spend all of your time being upset and obsessed with the fact that you never made it to Italy, you will never enjoy and experience the benefits of living in Holland. Instead of staying in the hotel and complaining, go out and explore the country and enjoy the tulips and windmills.” This is a lesson I have carried with me since reading this book and is one I need to focus on every single day. Be present, be grateful, be patient.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” If you are in business, read this book. If you doubt the power of consumer research behind marketing, read this book. If you are trying to understand yourself better, read this book. Simon teaches his theory of looking at the way you sell/market yourself or your business from the Inside Out. Start with the end in mind and determine why you do what you do. Then figure out how you do it, then what you do. You must know your why in order to be successful, especially when it comes to marketing and sales. If you don’t want to read the book, at least watch this video.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
This is another great hit of Brene’s. She can do no wrong. This one is about fighting in the arena and the process of standing back up on your feet once you have been knocked down. Two great takeaways from this book are the following:
- “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback,” meaning that if you are sitting in the stands judging me for my actions and decisions and saying you could do it better while also not actually doing anything, then keep your opinions to yourself.
- Starting a conversation about your perception of a situation with “The story I am making up” grants the other person the space to share their perspective. It does not pin the fault on the other person, but instead opens up the space for vulnerability and understanding.
- Bonus: Watch this video about empathy to understand how to be there for people in need – you don’t need to fix the problem, you just need to be there to listen.
Alright, let’s wrap this up already
Read at least 1-2 of these books and you will see what I mean. They are not only great autors and storytellers, but they give you the tools to change your mindset for the better TODAY. As my dad always tells me, “Change your minset, change your life.” I am currently working to change mine. Are you?
If any of you want to chat with me about these books in more detail, feel free to reach out. I am continuing my 1 book / month goal into 2020 and will plan to write a review blurb about each one every month! Feel free to join my Book Club, Party of 1 🙂