Since 2008 I’ve been keeping track of all the books I’ve read. Prior to 2008, any book list I might have created or kept would have been pretty short. Over the past seven years I’ve read 211 books, which means I’ve spent hours upon hours in my mind with people and characters and places and stories that are usually real and occasionally made up. Here’s a look at my favorite reads from 2014:
The Book That Made Me Cry: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Des Moines Public Library does a series called AViD, where authors come to town to discuss their latest best seller. I’ve been to many AViD lectures but the one I missed was Cheryl Strayed. I am still kicking myself for this because I could have gone, I just hadn’t read her book yet and thought I was too busy at work or something silly like that. Anyway, Wild was one of my favorite reads of 2014. This book touched me in many ways. I could relate to a lot of her personal stories and struggles and the part about her mother’s death really impacted me. I could barely read that passage because my eyes were so teary. Another passage that really spoke to me in the book was when Strayed notes “fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.” I keep reminding myself of that whenever I feel afraid to do something. If you love books about perseverance, adventure, and growth, Wild would be a great book for you. In case you’re wondering, no, I don’t plan to see the movie. When I really love a book I rarely want to watch its adaptation on the big screen.
The Book That I’ll Read Again: The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan.
I received this book for my birthday in June but resisted the temptation to read it until August when I was on vacation. Do you ever do this – keep a book you know you’ll love for vacations? This is a book of short stories and essays – some fiction and some actual accounts of the author’s life. Keegan was a student at Yale and was already a very successful writer when she passed away, just days after she graduated. Every essay and story I read in this book made me marvel at her talent and I couldn’t help but wonder about her future as a writer had her life not been tragically cut short by a car accident. This is one of those books that I’ve given to friends and know I’ll pick up again when I want something short, sweet, and thought provoking to read.
The Book That Surprised Me: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
For me, this was a classic “don’t judge a book by its cover” lesson. I was tasked to read Tracy’s book for a team building and personal growth exercise at Drake. When I saw it I couldn’t help but wonder if it was just another self-help book that regurgitated what every other “here’s how you be your best every day” book has ever told me. To a certain extent, I’m sure that is true but I actually found most of his advice very easy to implement and quite helpful. I have adopted the concept of “eating that frog” in the workplace – I do the hardest task first, sometimes bite by bite and sometimes all at once. I found that when I tackle the task that’s most dreadful up front, I am more productive and feel better about myself. I also have a new way to prioritize tasks and I really think my performance at work has improved! This is a very easy read and could be finished in one sitting.
The Book That Made Me Feel Normal: Quiet by Susan Cain
Let me preface this by saying I’m not a fan of describing things as normal but there’s really no other way to relay how this book made me feel. Quiet examines introversion and extroversion from a cultural perspective. When I was younger, I associated introverts with people who weren’t outgoing, didn’t like being around others, or people who didn’t like to talk very much. I am outgoing; I could not thrive as a wellness professional and group exercise instructor if I weren’t outgoing. So much of what I do involves talking to people and getting up in front of groups to motivate and educate. While I like to talk to people, I actually prefer listening. I’ve always preferred listening, actually. I enjoy being around others, ideally in small groups or one-on-one settings. My restorative niche, a term Cain uses to describe where we go or what we do when we need energy, is being by myself, it always has been.
There were so many stories and studies in this book that I related to. Apparently introverts are more sensitive to loud noises, are more likely to apologize when there is no need, and are quick to assume they’ve done something wrong when someone is upset. The other day I was driving and I heard someone honking. I’m not sure who they were honking at but after my initial jolt due to the loud noise I immediately thought I had done something to upset them. Cain cited that introverts don’t take as many risks or before doing something they think about the risks much more than extroverts. I went horseback riding for the first time earlier this month. When I was deciding whether or not to ride the horse, many things went through my mind. My first thought was “what if I get hurt and can’t exercise at my conference tomorrow?” followed by the more extreme “what if I end up like Christopher Reeve; he became paralyzed riding a horse.” For many people that might sound ridiculous but it’s just how my brain works and how I make decisions. After less than a minute deliberating in my mind regarding the horse, I decided to get on and I loved it!
Whether you think you’re an introvert, an extrovert, or somewhere in between, an ambivert according to Quiet, or an outgoing introvert as I proudly describe myself, I highly recommend this book! Introverts have a lot to contribute and we live in a society where the traits of extroverts tend to be more highly valued. Introverts unite!
The Book That Changed My Perspective: Minimalism by Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus
I only liked the way this book was written but I loved the way it motivated me to minimize the clutter in my life. When I reflect on 2014, I feel so much lighter in regards to the things that were taking up unnecessary physical and emotional space. It made me put all the stuff (another term I generally don’t care for) in my life in perspective. I am more than the things I own, the house I live in, or the title I hold in the workplace. This is another quick read – I read it riding the ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC, but I recommend you actually read one chapter a week so you can really focus on each dimension of wellness.
I’m excited for more reading adventures in 2015 and have a few books on my must read list. The one I’m most excited to read is Louis Zamperini’s Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In. What was the best book you read this year? Share below in the comments or on my Facebook page!