Books on My Holiday Wish List

If you know me, or have been reading this blog for awhile, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that my holiday wish list is filled with books. (There are also many coffee-related products, but I digress.) People ask me all the time what I’m reading, so I thought it might be fun to share a few books from my wish list. Note that not all of these are new releases. (I hope someone tells my husband to check out this blog!)

The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity

Louise DeSalvo

From Amazon: The Art of Slow Writing is the antidote to self-help books that preach the idea of fast-writing, finishing a novel a year, and quick revisions. DeSalvo makes a case that more mature writing often develops over a longer period of time and offers tips and techniques to train the creative process in this new experience.

I think this book might be suited more toward fiction writers (which I am not!), but an editor friend recommended it so highly that I want to read it.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

Amy Cuddy

From Amazon: By accessing our personal power, we can achieve "presence," the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we're making on others and instead adjust the impression we've been making on ourselves.

I’ve been a wee-bit Amy Cuddy obsessed since seeing her TED Talk. (Power poses, anyone?) I cannot wait to get my hands on this book and soak in every word. Calm is something I’m working hard to achieve as my business grows quickly — a good problem to have, I realize.

Born to Run

Bruce Springsteen

From Amazon: Born to Run will be revelatory for anyone who has ever enjoyed Bruce Springsteen, but this book is much more than a legendary rock star’s memoir. This is a book for workers and dreamers, parents and children, lovers and loners, artists, freaks, or anyone who has ever wanted to be baptized in the holy river of rock and roll.

I get it: You love Bruce, or you don’t. I happen to love him. I’ve seen him in concert 19 times and can’t wait to go again. His lyrics soothe me, and I hope the same is true of this book!

Small Great Things

Jodi Picoult

From Amazon: With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

Jodi Picoult has been one of my favorite fiction writers. She takes research seriously, and it shows in her writing, and she tackles social issues in her books, which I love. I haven’t read one of her books in a few years, so I’m curious if this book is as good as her others were for me.

The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed Our Minds

Michael Lewis

From Amazon: The Undoing Project is about a compelling collaboration between two men who have the dimensions of great literary figures. They became heroes in the university and on the battlefield―both had important careers in the Israeli military―and their research was deeply linked to their extraordinary life experiences. Amos Tversky was a brilliant, self-confident warrior and extrovert, the center of rapt attention in any room; Kahneman, a fugitive from the Nazis in his childhood, was an introvert whose questing self-doubt was the seedbed of his ideas. They became one of the greatest partnerships in the history of science, working together so closely that they couldn’t remember whose brain originated which ideas, or who should claim credit. They flipped a coin to decide the lead authorship on the first paper they wrote, and simply alternated thereafter.

I love, love, love Michael Lewis and his writing. I will read just about anything he writes, even if it’s a topic I might generally not be interested in. Can’t wait to dig into this one.

Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

Kate Clifford Lawson

From Amazon: In Rosemary, Kate Clifford Larson uses newly uncovered sources to bring Rosemary Kennedy’s story to light. Young Rosemary comes alive as a sweet, lively girl adored by her siblings. But Larson also reveals the often desperate and duplicitous arrangements the Kennedys made to keep her away from home as she became increasingly difficult in her early twenties, culminating in Joe’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomized at age twenty-three and the family’s complicity in keeping the secret.

Why am I so obsessed with the Kennedys? I don’t know, but I sure am. It boggles my mind that Rosemary was treated the way she was — by her own father, no less.

As you can see, my reading taste is all over the place. What books are on your holiday wish list? Let me know in the comments. I’m always looking for book recommendations!

Off The Shelf - August

Check out what I’ve been reading lately. I’ve been soaking up summer with my family, so it’s an abbreviated Off the Shelf this month. I’ll be back to three books in September  — promise. 

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy?
Raj Raghunathan
The premise of this book is simple yet fascinating: Could the same traits that drive your career success also be keeping you from being happier?
Raghunathan breaks down the science of happiness before getting into how to achieve happiness and/or be happier, and he includes exercises in each chapter to do so. I found this book both engaging and compelling — because it makes perfect sense! As a business owner, I like control. In “real life,” trying to control everything is a recipe for disaster. As a business owner, I like to be in charge. In “real life,” I have a partnership. But this book teaches readers that we can take those qualities that are positive in our business life and use them to build a happy and fulfilling life.
Rather than “chasing” happiness, it makes more sense to do those things that we like and that we’re good at. Those things make us happy. Again, this is not rocket science, but If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? is a great read for any entrepreneur.
Rocket Boys
Homer Hickam
My book club read this memoir a few months ago and I really enjoyed it. In 1957, when Homer “Sonny” Hickam was 14 years old, he and a couple buddies decided to build rockets after seeing Sputnik. Homer saw them as a way out of Coalwood, a dying, West Virginia, mining town where boys, frankly, were expected to work in those mines. His father, superintendent of the mine, was a 100-percent company man. The town relied upon the mine for its vitality in a way that’s difficult to wrap our heads around today. (As an aside, one of my nephews visited my husband and me this summer and we took him on a coal mining tour in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. He was (and we were) amazed by what that life must have been like for miners: dark, dusty, cold, dangerous.) Sonny’s mother and his science teacher encouraged him to pursue rocket building. His father, like most of the town, was much more interested in the high school boys’ football team. Eventually people start to become interested and the boys earn the nickname “Rocket Boys” throughout Coalwood. More and more people become interested in what the Rocket Boys are doing. Throughout the memoir, it’s clear what small-town life was like, in Coalwood and in towns like it throughout the country. Spoiler alert: Sonny does get out of Coalwood. He went on to become an engineer at NASA.
What have you been reading this summer? Anything to share? I’m always looking for recommendations.


Off the Shelf: May Edition

Each month we’ll do a book roundup of some of my recent reads, including two business book and one other book. Check out what I read this month!

Work Your Wealth: 9 Steps to Making Smarter Money Choices with Your Money

Mary Beth Storjorhann, CFP

Let’s just cut to the chase: The best part of this book in my opinion is that, unlike just about every other bit of money advice you hear, Mary Beth does not say you have to cut out daily lattes to save $X per year. (Can I get an “Amen” on that?) Instead, her advice on this point, and throughout, is to personalize the money process for you. In other words, instead of your money controlling you, you’re learning to control your money.

Mary Beth’s tone is real and matter-of-fact but her advice is, and the nine steps are, so practical and seemingly easy to implement that this money book is not overwhelming. So often talking about money (or even thinking about it) causes anxiety. That’s not the case with this book. You don’t walk away from reading this book with a sense of dread about money mistakes you’ve made — or worrying that you’ll be working until you’re 90 in order to have enough. Instead you feel like you can actually do this (and it won’t be awful to make any necessary changes to get where you want to be).

Work Your Wealth covers all of the usual suspects when it comes to money and personal finance books: goals, budgeting, debt, investing, retirement planning, credit. It does so, though, in a way that is not condescending and but again, personalizes the process for you. Mary Beth asks what money represents to you so that you can set goals that are appropriate to you. My retirement dreams likely aren’t the same as yours, so our daily, weekly, and annual money decisions won’t be the same. Mary Beth’s encouragement is to make a money plan that will make you happy.

The book includes solid examples with real-life situations and numbers, all presented in an easy-to-understand manner. Complicated terms and concepts are presented in a way that non-finance people like me can understand and, just as important, in a way that is not boring. Mary Beth stresses the importance of tracking your financial progress and why you need to invest — now — both financially and in yourself.

Side note for those of us who are creatives, solopreneurs, and small business owners: Mary Beth includes advice specific to those of us with variable incomes, particularly when it comes to “lifestyle inflation.” I love this, too, because I think sometimes we’re forgotten in money and finance books.

Mary Beth Storjorhann takes the stress out of thinking about your financial future. After reading Work Your Wealth, you’ll feel positive about where you’re headed (and how you’ll get there). Turns out talking about money doesn’t have to be so intimidating after all.

The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion

Elle Luna

This was another one of those books where I had heard so much hype and so many positive reviews that I expected to be disappointed. I definitely was not. This book is everything “they” say it is. I can so easily see why this book, which started as an essay, resonated with so many people that it grew organically into something much, much bigger. The author writes that “these pages are a pep talk,” and they truly are. It’s up to each of us to figure out our own answers, but the content of this book is certainly a road map to follow as we think about our own Should and Must on our own journey.

She lays out in Part I the definitions of each, and the differences between them. She then offers what I consider the crux of the book, in two separate sentences: “Choosing Must is the greatest thing we can do with our lives,” followed later by “But if Must is so great, why don’t we choose it every day?” Yes! We are conditioned, really, by Should. Should is a part of everyday life. And then there’s this: Must is scary! To actually do that thing that is our calling? Yikes. Then you add to that that it takes hard work and time to deal with Should, and it’s easy to see why most people never make it happen. So there we are: at the crossroads of Should and Must. We let life dictate why we aren’t pursuing our Must: We can’t make a living pursuing it. It’s not the right time.

One of the big takeaways for me came early in the book. The author was talking about how she loved painting when she was younger but hadn’t painted in so long. When, as an adult, she painted, the joy returned. That really struck me: Our creativity stays within us even when we aren’t practicing it. For her, that meant painting. For some it’s writing. For others, drawing. For others, singing. Whatever it is, we need it let it out and reclaim the joy that results in practicing it! Find your Must  — whatever it is — and claim it, friends! As Elle says, honor who you are.

The Royal We

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Why are Americans so fascinated by British royalty? I have no idea, but I definitely am. This is the first adult novel by Heather and Jessica, whom you may know as the Fug Girls (and if you don’t, you should; they are hilariously fantastic!), and it doesn’t disappoint. The book opens the day before Bex (Rebecca Porter) marries Prince Nicholas of Wales, future King of England, and the parallels are clearly drawn to Will and Kate from the get-go. The book is told from Rebecca’s point of view, showing how it must feel to live life under the microscope once she and Nick are “found out.” The plot is fairly predictable for those who know anything about the real Will and Kate, and the supporting characters somewhat recognizable: the ornery younger brother Freddie, the cold and stuffy father Richard, the aristocratic friend-since-childhood who thinks Bex isn’t good enough Bea, the sister who seems to grab a lot of attention Lacey. But reading along, via time jumps to the past and back, as the American commoner and the future king get to know one another as friends, fall in love, and dream of their life together is just plain fun. Of course, it isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are the tabloids, of course. And there are Nick’s ex-girlfriends, who travel in the same social circles and are thus still around more often than Bex would like. There are the inner workings of the royal family, which are beyond complicated (as one might imagine). And of course, there is the fact that Nick will one day be king, like it or not. His life has been planned out already, and Bex really is, in a way, “filling a position,” as Bea calls it early on in the book, rather than becoming the wife of the love of her life. The authors say they were inspired by Will and Kate, and in thinking about what happens after the prince kisses the girl at the end of the fairy tale. There’s a big difference between being a girlfriend and being a member of the royal family. One Amazon review I saw before reading this book talked about being in a fishbowl where everyone can see everything you do, from all sides, at all times.

The Royal We is a fun and entertaining read. Perfect for sitting on the beach or on the deck this summer! One last note about this book: I assume it goes without saying that I adored the character of Gaz? And not just because he was named after a font (Garamond)! This makes me regret not studying abroad in college even more. (Truly, it’s my one and only real regret in my life, but if I could have a friend named after a font, which I just don’t know would happen in the good ol’ USA, that would be awesome.)

What books have you been reading lately?