What I Learned Reading 55 Books This Year

 

Don’t let anybody tell you that reading is for children and the elderly.  It is my firm conviction that you can devour dozens of books annually even while in your prime earning years.  I’m one of the busiest working moms I know and I indulged in 55 scrumptious titles this year alone.  (It’s December 11th as I write this.)

How I Read 55 Books in One Year

How did I accomplish that as a working mother with a toddler who runs a virtual bed-and-breakfast out of my home half the year… who also researched and wrote her own 300-page book?  The answer lies in Audible and Kindle.  Kindle allowed me to read on planes and airports when my son slept during our travels.  Audible allowed me to “read” during our many hundreds of trips up and down the mountainous valley we live in.  If you want to read dozens of books this year without losing the few precious hours you have for a social life and family, this is the only way I can see it getting done.

I didn’t read these books with the goal of reading 55 books.  Some took me a single day (The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz) and some took weeks (Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas).  It just so happened that I devoured books at about the pace of one per week.  In the list below, I don’t include books I haven’t yet finished such as Seth Speaks, The Beauty Myth, The Love Dare, Your Baby And Child,  The Autobiography of Malcolm X, You Are The Placebo or Love and Respect.  Moral of that story: when books don’t have an Audible version, it’s very hard to make it through them for me.

What I Learned Reading 55 Books This Year

Reading Is Writing

martin-luther-bookI’ve dreamt of becoming a writer since I was a little girl.  I reacted to things I saw as painful or unfair in the world around me by picking up a pencil and scribbling my feelings down.  I’ve never been a *good* writer, in my opinion. But I’ve always respected the craft and had the urge to change the world with the pen.

What’s more, as I read, I learned what I loved to read.  I learned that as a writer, I don’t want to be long-winded, cerebral, or disorganized.

My Vocabulary Improved

After the birth of my son, I totally felt braindead for a period.  I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t find words that should have been really simple to recollect.  When inundating myself with books (and none of these are particularly esoteric or technical) I found that words I wanted were coming very readily to my lips.  I was elated to finally convey simple things in every day conversation that had been dumbed down for years prior.  For instance, in a conversation with my sister yesterday I said, “I’m impervious to her barbs,” instead of, “I don’t let it affect me”.  They mean the same thing, but one really caught the essence of my defense mechanism against a specific vitriol-spewing entity in our lives.

In addition, I found that while I wrote in my own book and on this blog, I used a thesaurus less than a dozen times… this entire year.  I found that by immersing myself daily in books, my mind was warmed up and primed for excellence of expression.

All The Bestsellers Quote One Another…

Grit, Brain Rules, The Willpower Instinct, Mindset, and more.  I keep hearing about these books as I’m reading others, especially non-fiction.  I don’t think it’s because authors are unoriginal, per se.  I believe the reason I keep hearing about the authors or books I’ve already read in other books is because these non-fiction books are all using the same scientific advances in their work.  In addition, I read a lot on self-improvement and recovery, so I tend to hear some of the same studies repeated time and time again.  I don’t mind it because I have a terrible memory and this indeed helps me to remember studies that are, truly, revolutionary in their findings and shaping science and psychology as we speak.

I Went Back in Time…

I went back in time with my 55 books this year.  Some of them took me back to historic places we must honor in our collective consciousness forever, such as Bonhoeffer and Man’s Search For Meaning.  Others took me back to places I’ve left but return to as I continue to write about and unpack them, such as Brain Over Binge and Life Without Ed.

There are other books that I’ve loved for years and am committed to re-reading every 6 months or so.  These books are James Altucher’s Choose Yourself, Alison Armstrong’s Understanding Women, and Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ and Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.  These four books have, without question, shaped the person I am indefinitely.  In my gratitude to the books, their authors, and myself; I will honor these books by reading and rereading them every year.

Rereading books brings me back into my own recent history.  I remember the struggles or triumphs that were front and center in my life the last time I read the book.  The brain does something amazing when you reread your favorite books.  You sometimes even remember the person who was sitting across from you in the airport terminal as you read.

Most importantly, I gain valuable perspective on what events actually make history, and what big events were more insignificant than I could have known…

I Reread My Favorite Books

Here are the reasons I constantly go back to those four titles.

1.  Choose Yourself

  1. Choose Yourself is like my everyday self-love Bible and it’s one of the brilliant James’ greatest contributions to the world.  As I was in the infancy of my recovery from an eating disorder, Choose Yourself helped nourish my soul and gave me powerful, simple tools to get my head back into the game of life.  To this day, I periodically practice James’ tool of writing down ten ideas related to one topic.  I generally stretch my idea muscle before going to dinner or on a date so that my mind is warmed up and ready to engage in high level conversation.  (I despise small talk.  I’ve been known to cry and hug people before even giving them my name.)  If I’m ever feeling socially anxious or self-loathing, I pick up Choose Yourself.

2.  Understanding Woman

Understanding Women is another timeless, radically awesome book that I’ve sent to (no exaggeration) almost 20 people in my life.  It’s only available on Audible and it’s one of the most powerful talks I’ve ever heard (less than five hours, or about the equivalent of a 150 page book.)  Alison discusses some of the most fundamental differences in the sexes in a way that honors them both.  Her description of men as hunters and women as gatherers goes way far beyond any description I’ve read previously and has enlightened me both from a scientific standpoint and equally in my compassion for both sexes.  Some of the terms she uses have become commonplace in my personal vocabulary, such as “Rage Monster”, “Petty Offense File”, “Single Focus” (referring to how men see the world) “Diffuse Awareness” (a more complex version of multi-tasking) and “Transition Ritual” noting how women have to become a girl after being around men and masculine environments all day.  Armstrong’s works pair extremely well with David Deida’s The Way of The Superior Man and Enlightened Sex.

3.  The Case For Christ

The Case For Christ is a journey a former agnostic took to disprove the person and supposed deity of Jesus Christ.  The writer and formal journalist, Lee Strobel, has a knack for writing in a clear, organized, sensible manner that takes otherwise tedious topics (I’m not scientifically minded nor data-driven) and makes them palatable.  This book was monumental in my own decision to become a follower of Christ.

4.  Lean In

I never expect to enjoy Lean In as much as I do but of all the feminist books I’ve read, this one has the most practical and amusing stories.  And forgive the term, but it’s not “militant”.  It’s straightforward, dignified, and well-researched without being heavy.  Kind of how I imagine Sheryl is in real life!  I listen to this book both to pump me up about being a working mom, and also to motivate me to be the boss babe that Sheryl is.

I Fell In Love

I fell deeply in love with characters and ideas in the books I read this year.  I discovered at least two more books this year that I will be rereading annually for a long time.  The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.  I’m also considering reading How To Win Friends and Influence People annually, as I have for the past couple years, because it’s a great book for developing awareness of the people around you and their feelings.  It is a compassion building book for me, not merely a book about how to make sales in the professional world.  Although, I love it because it’s both!

Finding new books that rock my world and visibly change my way of thinking and viewing the world is the reason I read.  I fall in love with characters.  I fall in love with ideas.  I fall in love with my own evolution.

I Armored Up To Face Hardship in My Life…

While dealing with a narcissistic family member, a kink in my relationship, a doubt in my faith, a longing to laugh, and the desire to become a better mother; books met me every need.  They’re my truest friends, to be sure.

When I encountered spiritual warfare I leaned on the Lee Strobel books and other spiritual pieces.  When I considered carefully whether I should vote Hilary, Trump, or a third party I read the more political pieces.  When my son began throwing temper tantrums I leaned on the parenting books to great effect.

There’s no question you can ask that a book won’t answer.  There’s no mood that’s too silly, too sour, or too sad that a book won’t meet you where you are and sustain you there for as long as you need.

When you look at this list of books, you look directly into my heart.  In a sense, there’s no better way of understanding me today than to look at the books I’ve read this year.

I Read 55 Books This Year, And Here They Are:

  1. The Whole-Brain Child by Tina Payne Bryson & Daniel J. Siegel
  2. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
  3. I Hate You- Don’t Leave Me by Hal Straus and Jerold J. Kreisman
  4. Brain Over Binge by Kathryn Hansen
  5. The Surrender Experiment by Michael A. Singer
  6. Leadership & Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute
  7. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz
  8. Dating Greatly by Brené Brown
  9. Scorched Earth by Michael Savage
  10. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  11. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
  12. Bossypants by Tina Fey
  13. Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett
  14. The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
  15. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  16. Zero to One by Blake Masters & Peter Thiel
  17. Influence by Robert B. Cialdidni
  18. The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
  19. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  20. Parenting with Love and Logic by Robin Forest
  21. Grit by Angela Duckworth
  22. Minset by Carol Dweck
  23. Rethinking Narcissim by Craig Malkin
  24. Should I Stay or Should I Go by Ramani Durvasula
  25. On Killing by Dave Grossman
  26. Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
  27. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
  28. Enlightenment, Marriage, and the Dark Side by David Deida
  29. Contagious by Jonah Berger
  30. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D
  31. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
  32. Come as You Are by Emily Nagostki
  33. 9 Covert Ways to Outsmart a Narcissist by Jamie Keller
  34. The Narcissist You Know by Joseph Burgo
  35. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  36. Where Good Ideas Come Fom by Steven Johnson
  37. Bold by Steven Kotler and Peter H. Diamandis
  38. 1984 by George Orwell
  39. How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  40. Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
  41. God’s Outrageous Claims by Lee Strobel
  42. The Martin by Andy Weir
  43. The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel
  44. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  45. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
  46. Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  47. Winning Him without Words by Lynn Donovan and Dineen Miller
  48. The Good Body by Eve Ensler
  49. Life without Ed by Thom Rutledge and Jenni Schaefer
  50. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  51. Lean In by Sheryl Sanderg
  52. Understanding Women by Alison Armstrong
  53. Enlightented Sex by David Deida
  54. Choose Yourself by James Altucher **I read this every year and always will!
  55. Travels with Baby by Shelly Rivoli
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