2015 Reads

Can you believe we are already in the final days of 2015? I’m thankful for many things that occurred this year, including how many books I was able to read: 52! My goal was 30, but it was surprisingly easy to surpass that number (which I consider impressive, but clearly varies person to person). I avoided my phone, reduced overall screen time and started bringing a book with me whenever I left the house. There are dozens of instances where I opt for a book instead of opening up a social network for the millionth time that day, or just sitting there absent-mindedly flipping through magazines in waiting rooms.

My toddler decided he can’t fall asleep unless I’m sitting in his bedroom, which became a blessing in disguise as I easily consume 50+ pages each night — after reading him his books first, of course. 🙂

This year was filled with nonfiction and a few novels sprinkled throughout. Goodreads provides a fun “My Year in Books” rundown of how many pages I read (14,874), the average length of the books (286 pages), and my average rating (3.7 stars). Screenshot of the review:

goodreads

My favorite book of 2015 is a toss up between “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche. Both of the aforementioned books ignited a passionate transformation of my life and how I view the world — the ultimate goal of reading, I think.

What was the best book you read in 2015? Do you set a reading goal for the New Year?

 

What I’m Reading Wednesday: Wild Mind

wildmindThis past week I read “Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life” by Natalie Goldberg. I fell in love with Natalie’s voice with “Writing Down the Bones” earlier this year and had to check out the sequel.

Wild Mind is a collection of essays about the life of a writer. Most of the essays are about 3-4 pages in length and include a “try this” section at the end of each topic so you can apply what you read with a short writing prompt.

I love when an author is so fired up about writing that it becomes infectious to read. Each time I read a section from this book I became inspired to put it down and get some words onto my own page.

Writing is a lonely profession. We live inside our own mind for long stretches of time, usually secluded from distractions, and it’s refreshing to learn I’m not alone; other writers struggle with the same problems I do. It’s all in how you decide to overcome those obstacles and if you’re able to follow through with your passion.

Natalie emphasizes the importance of continuing to write even when you’d rather not, or when your inner editor is screaming at you — just keep writing. She says that like athletes in training, writers must use their writing “muscles” over and over without ceasing.

My favorite quotes from the book:

“A writer must be willing to sit at the bottom of the pit, commit herself to stay there, and let all the wild animals approach, even call them up, then face them, write them down, and not run away.”

“Let some of the good writing go. Don’t worry. There’ll be lots of it over time. You can’t use all of it. Be generous and allow some of it to lie fallow. What a relief! We can’t write well and let it go.”

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

Now I’m moving on to “My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga. What are you reading this week?

What I’m Reading Wednesday: Start

I just finished reading Jon Acuff’s newest book “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters.” It was a recommendation on my Goodreads profile and I’m glad I decided to give it a go.

start

First, I have to mention the cover of this book is kind of embarrassing. It gets the point across, but the whole “punch fear in the face” statement is a bit weird to have strangers looking at when reading in public.

It was a quick read because of the author’s enthusiasm — it really jumps off the page! Acuff uses a blend of motivation, personal experience and research to encourage the reader to pursue their passion.

Acuff describes his personal experience of wanting to become a writer, and that information was valuable to me since writing is my passion as well. The information is applicable to anyone, no matter what career is your dream.

Some takeaways from Start:

  • Our willpower is strongest in the morning, so if you start by crossing off a task it will create a snowball effect for the rest of the day.
  • Start by claiming just 30 minutes in your day to REALLY pursue your dream. He recommends waking up at 5:30 to do this, or whenever you’re sure to not be interrupted.
  • You have to be brutally realistic about your present circumstances and wildly unrealistic about your future circumstances.
  • Admit that you can’t possibly get it all done, and some work beats no work.
  • In order to really believe it’s not all about you, you have to believe that everyone is more interesting than you. Instead of spending time trying to be interesting, invest more time being interested.

Those points may seem like common sense, but it was inspiring for me to read and I realized I need to pour a significantly larger amount of energy into my passions to make them a reality.

One of my favorite quotes from this book:

“You will work harder at something you love than at something you like. You will work harder than you have ever worked when you start chasing a dream. You will hustle and grind and sweat and push and pull. You will get up earlier and go to bed later. But that’s okay.”

Next on my reading list is “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg. I’ll post my final thoughts next week.

What are you reading? Let me know in the comments!

Favorite Books on Writing

Lately I’ve read some great books on writing and it led me to make a list of my favorites so far. I highly recommend the following four titles for anyone who could use some writing inspiration!

birdbybirdBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
This was the first book I read on the topic of a writer’s lifestyle and it didn’t disappoint. I’ve read several of Lamott’s books and when one of my Goodreads friends posted a review of Bird by Bird, I had to get my hands on a copy. It’s a relatively short read (237 pages) and I finished it in one evening, hanging onto every word. Lamott’s writing style may not be for everyone, but I love her conversational tone and emotional honesty.

Favorite quote: “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.”

onwritingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
I’m not a huge fan of Stephen King’s work, but there’s no denying the man has an enviable work ethic. King has published more than 50 books — that’s insane! As the title suggests, the book is part memoir, part writing advice. He made a point of mentioning all the rejections he collected in his early days as a writer, and I was inspired by his ability to use those rejections as a decision to work even harder instead of becoming discouraged.
This book should be a must read for every writer.

Favorite quote: “Writing is not life, but I think that sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

writingdownbonesWriting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
I’d never heard of Natalie Goldberg before having this book recommended to me. Let me just say that I wanted to highlight and take notes throughout this whole book. It was inspiring, her words were incredibly encouraging, and I know I’ll pick this book up again and again. She has several other books about writing that I’m eager to check out next!

Favorite quote: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

zenZen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing immediately jumps off the page. His passion for the craft reignites my own flame and that is my ultimate goal when reading books like this. He urges writers to get serious and stretch out of the comfort zone. I particularly liked his advice to write down the nouns bouncing around in your mind. A list like: “The Meadow. The Toy Chest. The Monster” would then become a prompt for a story.

Favorite quote: “You grow ravenous. You run fevers. You know exhilarations. You can’t sleep at night, because your best-creature ideas want out and turn you in your bed. It is a grand way to live.”

Have you read any of these books? Any not on this list that you think I should check out? Leave a comment and let me know!