Summer’s passing – too fast, I’m afraid, but hopefully you still have time to take a vacation or a few extra moments off-line.
When I was a kid, summer was about the art of being bored – as I waited for Mom to finish the dreaded vacuuming so we could go to the beach – and yes, I helped sometimes. I filled my time with reading from my jumbo list of great books: Gone with the Wind, Anna Karenina, Anne Frank, measuring the success of my days by what I had read.
These days, boredom is a thing of the past, but I’m still reading, intoxicated by what’s available through the library, and trying to read ten books at a time (don’t do this!).
Along the way, I screen out many “must read” management books, recommended by on-line business prophets. And I discover gems in obscure places – like the library’s on-line card catalogue).
I choose different books to read based on my many moods. Sometimes I want ideas for how to be productive, and other times I need to laugh away our national political circus.
Here are five options to pick from, depending on what best fits your mood.
Looking for easy engagement that doesn’t tax you?
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
I was enchanted by The Art of Racing in the Rain, with its furry, four-legged narrator Enzo, so it was easy to become absorbed in Garth Stein’s A Sudden Light. This time the narrator, progeny of one of the Northwest’s infamous timber baron families, is fourteen. With straightforward curiosity and wisdom that belies his years, he shares his journey to discover the secret truth about his family and to claim his heritage.
The book’s part mystery, part Northwest lore, part coming of age, and completely charming.
Wanting a way to become more thoughtful and productive?
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Of the many leadership books I skim, this one’s a keeper, provocative, timely and worthy of a real read. Newport argues that our busy, technology-filled age is increasingly driving us towards a style of work that’s fast-paced, tactical and superficial. Yet, he asserts, our most satisfying, creative, and game-changing work (“deep work”) takes time, focus and sustained periods of concentration. And who has the attention for that? If always-got-too-much-to-do better-let-someone-else-do-the-thinking-for-me is a national disorder, this book’s a possible antidote. (I plan to blog more about this book!)
Feeling like laughing?
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
Normally, you’d never laugh at someone who is mentally ill, but this book breaks that rule. One, it’s written by someone who is mentally ill; two, it’s very funny; and three, it gives you a peak into a world that many of us would rather avoid. Jenny Lawson is wickedly funny as she shares her foibles and unique ways of looking at the world. She’s a very clever writer, not afraid to share the peculiar details of her life, while inviting us to think, as we laugh, about what it is to live with mental illness. I happen to strongly believe that normal is overrated, which made this book particularly appealing to me.
Looking for fashion ideas and ready for some benign voyeurism?
The Truth about Style by Tracy London
This suggestion is mostly a chick-read for those of us who closet our passion for style while secretly delighting at watching make-overs and before-and-after shots. In today’s fashion magazines, style is about making some scary-gaunt-humanoid-teenager look uber-gorgeous – with little applicability to women I know. But London shows us how style can apply to real people. Not only that, but she shares her own story about struggling with body image and severe, humiliating psoriasis growing up – an unlikely beginning for someone who would become a celebrated fashion stylist in later years. She shares the stories of her clients – how they’ve been challenged by their bodies, their work, life, or limited means. Seeing them shine shows what style can do – although sorry, Stacy, but you’re still not going to get this woman-with-an-aching-back into those beautiful heels.
Searching to make sense out of life?
Very occasionally, I encounter a book that is a life-changer. This book is one of those.
Drawn from the diaries of a remarkable Jewish woman who, like fellow Amsterdam resident Anne Frank, did not survive the Holocaust, this book is about the triumph of faith over fear and hatred. Which is why I think it’s important and timely. If the word “faith” evokes pictures of a simplistic attachment to religious dogma for you, Etty’s faith may give you a new understanding of the word. She did not come to God lightly. Born of deep soul-searching and self-awareness, her faith consisted of deep principals that were tested in one of history’s worst cauldron’s of barbarity as the Nazi’s “Final Solution” consumed her country.
Remarkably, the book is neither a bummer nor a positive-thinking manifesto – but a tribute to a human spirit that could enable us to deliberately and courageously choose to live from that which is highest and best within us.