What kind of reader are you? Do you pick up one book at a time and read it cover-to-cover, or are you eternally picking at a few books at the same time? I used to be the first type. I read one book at a time, and almost entirely fiction. Then I got further into my education and just didn’t have time for much leisure reading. At the same time I discovered audiobooks and got an e-reader, so my reading style evolved. For example, I am currently reading 3 books: I’m listening to a non-fiction book about the Great Depression while I commute, picking at a psychology/self-help book about my son’s Myers-Briggs type, and just starting an e-book about Vietnam. On top of that, I’m half done with a children’s book in French that I have picked at for a couple years, and I read half of a book on pioneers before I had to return it to the library. I’ve also been reading some (clean) fanfiction when I just need something fluffy in my downtime. I’ve completed 42 books so far in 2018. It’s a far cry from the 100 I was hoping to read this year, but there’s still time to squeeze in a few more. Here are a few of the highlights.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey – I like classic novels. I have a big list of classic novels everyone should read, and I’ve been picking at it for years. I dreaded this one because I’ve seen at least parts of the movie, and I was afraid it would be creepy. It’s not, and Kesey’s use of language is evocative. I ended up really enjoying the book.
Dune by Frank Herbert – Another off the classic list. It reminded me a lot of Star Wars (or should I say Star Wars is reminiscent of this book, since it was published first). It’s sci-fi, but not in an over-the-top nerdy way. I plan on working my way through the rest of the series and watching the movie some time.
I also read/listen to a lot of John Grisham legal thrillers and Debbie Macomber romances (again, clean), and this year I had my first taste of the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming.
As an historian, naturally I read a lot of history and biography/memoirs. This year I’ve read about the Romanov family, the modern first ladies, and the power of creativity. There have been a number of psychology/self-help books on my list this year, too.
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero – This was a fun one. Sincero spent years digging through self-help books and attending seminars, and this book is the concentrated knowledge of her experiences. It’s snarky and funny, and not at all pretentious. My one disappointment with this book is Sincero’s take on spirituality. Early in the book she says that the sooner we accept spirituality’s role in our lives, the sooner we can get past ourselves and start living the life we want. I thought, “yay! A funny, sarcastic self-help book that will also encourage my faith!” But alas, I was wrong. Sincero’s version of spirituality basically has God in the role of cosmic bartender, just waiting to open the tap for you once you have the right way of asking. It totally strips God of his power and all-knowing nature and makes us the authority in the universe. I just can’t devalue the creator of the universe like that.
But there was still so much good in this book. The most powerful part for me was the chapter on the things we say about ourselves. I came to realize that there were a number of things I said about who I was (I will never be a runner, I have bad knees, etc.) that once served a purpose. I started saying that I have bad knees to protect myself physically. But it also became an excuse in my life when it became part of my identity. I have been practicing a new identity. Now I tell myself, “I am a fit chick, and I’m getting stronger every day.” This reminds me that although I’m not where I want to be, I am making progress. It also helps me make good choices, because I identify as a fit chick, so I eat like a fit chick, read like a fit chick, and am committed to my workouts like a fit chick. It has been a very helpful part of my fitness transformation this year.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg – After reading You are a Badass, this book came up as a recommendation. I listened to it on my library’s audio and ebook app, and I loved it so much that I bought a paper copy as well. If you’ve ever watched shows like Brain Games, where they explore the ways the human mind works, you will enjoy this book. Duhigg explores the physical/psychological workings of the human mind, specifically how we develop habits, and what we can do to alter our habits into practices that will be more beneficial.
There are fascinating stories in this book about advertising, retailers tracking spending habits, and what happens to people who lose their memories (spoiler alert: even when conscious memories are gone, habits and personality traits hold on and can be used to benefit the patients).
As far as practical application is concerned, this book taught me to look at my habits differently. When I feel stuck in a rut, I no longer just look at the behavior I want to change, but at what happens to trigger the behavior. Then I make a conscious decision to use that trigger to spark something different. It hasn’t revolutionized my world yet, but it certainly has created new awareness.
So that’s what I’ve been reading this year. How about you? Have you read anything great lately? Leave a comment with your recommendations!