Hello friends! Happy Friday! How are you?
Today I thought I would do something little different. A summer book report.
I know….I don’t often write about what books I’m reading. Unless, of course I find that a particular book has made a profound change in my life. But even thought I haven’t always shared about it on my blog, books and reading are a big part of my life….I find that reading is equal parts quiet refuge and soul-stirring inspiration. And since this summer’s reading list has been no exception, I thought I might share all this literary goodness with you.
I started this summer reading essentialism by Greg McKeown as it was highly recommended by Emily P. Freeman. According to Amazon this book is about “getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.”
I’m putting this book in the category of books that are important to read but that aren’t necessarily enjoyable. Discipline, discernment, elimination…words, in my opinion, that so totally do not speak to living the creative, inspired life that I want to live. But yet, at its core, this book was helpful for me to see how much time I often spend distracted and chasing the wrong things that actually lead me away from the life I so want to live. So yeah…maybe not my favorite book of all time, but it was worth the read.
So if essentialism was the quinoa or bran muffin of my summer reading, The Happiness Dare by Jennifer Dukes Lee was like perfectly ripe summer peaches. Fragrant, delicious, sweet and juicy…pure joy.
I have been a follower of Jennifer and her blog for a few years now. As a subscriber, I accepted an invitation to be part of Jennifer’s pre-launch book team and had the opportunity to read an advance copy of her book. I so enjoyed being part of this group and especially the conversations with the other members of the team. So many brave, beautiful souls in that group all with the same goal…to find the lasting happiness that can only be found in God. The thing is, I consider myself to be a fairly upbeat, optimistic person in general. But in reading Jennifer’s inspired words – seeing the gospel through the lens of happiness – it brought an entirely new meaning to what it means to be happy. I also learned a bit more about myself. why, as a ‘thinker’, letting my to-do list be the boss of me makes me so decidedly UNhappy. And why the daily practice of photography, my attempts to find the joy and magic in my ordinary life, brings so much happiness into my life.
But my summer reading hasn’t all been ‘health food’ so to speak. In addition to aforementioned books, this summer I also took the opportunity to read just for pleasure…just for escape. So while we were on vacation I indulged in the novel by Mary Kay Andrews, beach town. I have read several novels of hers, almost always on vacation, and they always prove to be lovely companions to long plane rides, beach chairs, and quiet afternoons. beach town was no different…a sweet story. Romance without smut. Great setting. Easy to put down and pick up without having to really think about where I left off. Because who wants to really think on vacation?? One review called beach town “a perfect fit for the romance lover’s beach bag.” Which is exactly what it was.
So while I was reading a romance novel, my girl was reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Several times during the course of our vacation she would say to me, “Oh you have to hear this…” I think it really spoke to her at this particular time in her life…a life sort of in transition as she navigates young-adulthood. After we got back from vacation, Kelsey left it with me before heading home. I read it in approximately 3.7 days. Devoured it more like it. This book is so positive and uplifting. A reminder of what living a creative life really means. An encouragement to let go of comparison and hustle. A reality check about fear. Permission to continuing doing what I love doing for joy of doing it, not for need of any external reward. I needed this book. It was a like a giant smooch from the universe with a little shove saying “now get out there and make some damn art already!”
Currently, I am reading Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist. I have a few of her other books as well, and there is something so comforting about the way she writes. So warm and familiar. Like I’m sitting down chatting with a friend. In this book, I find myself nodding a lot. Wiping away big fat tears at her story. Mostly because I recognize myself in her desire to live a life of meaning and connection in a culture that celebrates hustle and busyness.
Also on my nightstand, started but not finished, is The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It is a story about “the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.” My friend Carol recommended it to me and typically I love these kinds of fables – allegorical tales about life and self-discovery. But I will tell you, there is something so deeply personal to me in Santiago’s story. I don’t know…it’s like it scares me to read what happens to him because either a) I feel like I’ve already been through that particular challenge and it’s too painful to relive it, or b) reading about his next set of obstacles to overcome causes me to fear what obstacles might lie ahead in my own journey. But I’m not one to give up (either on life or a book), so I’m going to try to pick it back up…hoping maybe a little time and distance will give me a fresh perspective.
At any rate, with summer winding down, I’m looking forward cozy mornings with my coffee and a good book. I’ve got a couple of books on order that I’m looking forward to diving into, but if you’ve read anything lately that you loved, I’m always open to recommendations!
Hope you all have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!