Not to say I wasn’t a good student. I graduated with honors and a 4.0 before heading off to college, but reading never came to me like an easy breezy after-school activity. For fun. You know?
Somewhere around the ripe age of 30, I picked up a book called Scary Close. I’d just gotten into or out of a relationship (it was all bad and very short-lived so I can’t exactly pin point the placement), and I remembered a friend saying this was his favorite book he’d ever read. At the time, the only book I’d read for fun at that point was Eat, Pray, Love – yet another memoir I picked up after a previous breakup. (Okay, and Harry Potter.)
There’s a reoccurring theme here. Apparently I seek 1) an escape and/or 2) self help when sad, and that’s very okay. Here are my favorite books in varying categories if you need inspo, a creative jolt or something to pass the time at 35,000 ft.
This book is filled with lessons of a lifetime, all somehow tightly wrapped up into 322 pages of darkness and light all the same. My yoga teacher wrote this beautiful story from the pages of her profound life. From losing her best friend in a car accident in Costa Rica and, at the very same moment, turning incredibly ill in Aruba herself, Rachels voices how imperative it is to love fiercely and grieve deeply through our lifetime. It’s true that what we resist persists. Rachel taught me that whether it’s pain, anxiety, fear, or loss, “Don’t fight it. Experience it. Feel it all. Lean into it. Surrender to it. Breath into it fully. Open your arms wide and welcome it all. Let go. It will lead you to the light.”
Jed spent 16 months riding his bike from Oregon to Patagonia on a quest for a life with no regrets. I couldn’t wait to read his book. I found myself in an airport bookstore at 6am one morning, and I was stoked to find this book staring me in the face. It opens with the following: “I have learned this for certain: if discontent is your disease, travel is medicine. It resensitizes. It opens you up to see outside the patterns you follow. Because new places require new learning. It forces your childlike self back into action.” YES. My favorite book from 2019 is all about saying yes to adventure, getting along with all walks of life and a relatable love/frustration with South America.
“The journey to heart-led leadership covers only 18 inches, the distance from your head to your heart.” I love the poetic way that Tommy Spaulding discusses leadership philosophy and love-driven results. When you take the 18 inch journey to heart-led leadership, you will define and redefine who you are. It transcends numbers and spreadsheets. Success is about building hearts, not resumes. Love is not only the key to a fulfilling career but also a catalyst for continued success in business. If you want a feel-good book with a lot of life-changing take-homes, read this now.
This is the single best book on relationships EVER. After finishing the book, I told myself I’d read it once a year as a refresher. Did that happen? No. But seeing as 2020 is the year of my wedding, there is no time like the present! Donald Miller is all about dropping the act and finding true intimacy. This book resonated so deeply with me because at the time that I read it, I’d just gotten out of a relationship with a guy who didn’t know true intimacy. He never really showed me who he was, a “relationship” filled with too many layers and zero vulnerability. This book shows us how freedom rings when we stop acting and start loving.
I’m pretty sure Fox 2000 is already in the midst of making this book into a screenplay THANK GOD. I know movies are never as good as the book because we all dream up different versions of the literature in our heads, and it never ever plays out waaa waaa. HOWEVER, thinking about the sheer amount of dreamy outdoor scenes from the marsh makes me giddy to get to theaters…and this is my formal acceptance to play the role of Kya. The innocence and imagery are crazy beautiful here, but more than anything, I found myself rooting for Kya. I found myself in Kya. She goes to the beat of her own drum. She doesn’t conform. She takes The Road Les(s) Traveled always.
I need everyone to pick up a copy of this brilliant book ASAP. And then I dare you not to be inspired. It’s impossible! The immense lessons on creativity and leaning into fear are the best party favors a reader could ever ask for. I read this book on my Kindle app and found myself taking screenshots of basically every single page for inspo. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts out of many. “In order to live this way – free to create, free to explore – you must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement, which I hope you will learn to cultivate. Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting as though the world owes you anything whatsoever. No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that merely by being here, you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own. Defending yourself as a creative person begins by defining yourself. It begins when you declare your intent. Stand up tall and say it aloud, whatever it is: I am a writer. I am a singer. I am an actor. I am a gardener. I am a dancer. I am an inventor. I am a photographer. I am a chef. I am a designer. Speak it. Let it know you’re there. Hearing this announcement, your soul will mobilize accordingly.”
I don’t know which book made me shed more tears – this one or To Love and Let Go. My ugly cry on various planes was REAL. When Breath Becomes Air is a beautiful memoir of Dr. Author Paul Kalanithi’s life and his battle with metastatic lung cancer. He takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster with him, and I found myself going from frustration, hope to sadness in mere minutes. To paraphrase the introduction by Abraham Verghese (as the book was posthumously published) – to read this book is to feel that Dr. Kalanithi still lives with enormous power to influence the lives of others even though he is gone. The book made me think about human mortality and become increasingly aware of how unfair and uncertain life is. Moral of the story: live every damn day.
I’d recommend this book to anyone, but I’d especially recommend it to those who have anything to do with bringing people together – teachers of any kind, wedding planners, CEO, managers, priests, corporate event planners, etc. This book will take you though imperative steps on why and how we gather – because it matters. It will teach you how to exclude well, and while that may sound harsh, over-inclusion is a symptom of deeper problems and a lack of commitment to your guests. The Art of Gathering forever altered the way I look at my next meeting, LimitLes trip, and dinner party. Like so many other books on this list, the real-world applications are there for the taking.
Honorable mentions: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding, The Bucket List
Currently reading: Educated by Tara Westover