Stillness is the Key is Ryan Holiday's latest book and while I'm a huge fan of his this is the first book he wrote that I actually read from front to back.
This was a quick and inspiring read, filled with references and stories from historical greats. I must admit that since I'm in the middle of reading other spiritual and religious texts (my rabbit hole on this topic that I still haven't gotten out of), this book felt less important to me as I'm so deep in the weeds of material that's teaching stillness and inner peace. With that said, everyone should try reading at least one of Holiday's books, he's super well read and therefore does a great job at putting together something worth reading.
Holiday says himself in the book that he wrote this as a first step on the journey to wisdom; an introduction to classical thinking and history. He urges everyone to continue on the path of finding wisdom and stillness through other texts and looking inward.
Stillness, according to Holiday, means to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude - exterior and interior - on command.
Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Christianity, Hinduism and more have all gotten people to this stillness, the key to elite performance and a happy life. Holiday references all of these ancient wisdoms, as they all agree that this stillness is what everyone should look to achieve in life.
After I read Love Wins by Rob Bell I had to read another one of his books so picked up What Is the Bible. Bell brings to this book more perspective about the Bible and Christianity that I wish I knew about sooner. But as Bell says, it's never too late to change and develop knew thoughts and beliefs, and something as big as spirituality and historic and religious texts should be constantly wrestled with and questioned with the goal always being personal growth and improvement of the earth.
Rob makes a strong argument for why and how we should look at the Bible in a new way and why it's still relevant and helpful in today's world. One of the key points Bell makes is that the Bible was not created by God, it was created by humans, and you cannot get to the holy without going through the human first. So you have to understand the humans that wrote the book, and its historical context.
Therefore, it's pointless to argue whether the Bible is true or not or whether or not it's the word of God and needs to be followed exactly as written. Yes, people in the Bible quote God and say things are the word of God, but that was their perspective of God in their time..
The Bible was written by real people, in a real world at a point in time in history when real (and terrible) things were happening to them. When we take that into consideration as we read the Bible, we can start to understand it better and actually allow it to be useful to us for growth.
We must ask ourselves, why did these people decide to keep this story alive (at a time when there was no printing press)? What where they trying to get across and could they perhaps be using language and innuendo and humor in strategic ways to be sure this message gets across in the right way and creates change?
I loved this fresh perspective on the Bible and think this is a must read even for those who are not religious or don't believe in God. The Bible is a historical document. It was refreshing learning more about it from this perspective.
I picked up Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell after Pete Holmes recommended it in his book Comedy Sex God as well as Ryan Holiday in his books to read newsletter. This was a great follow up to the insightful and pleasantly surprising commentary about God and the meaning of life from comedian Pete Holmes.
Bell gives a refreshing take on Jesus's story that I've been waiting to hear. Here's a Christian Pastor who's saying, 'yea, some people just are looking at this the wrong way.'
He starts by acknowledging the staggering number of us who have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven while the rest of those who did not accept Christ into their heart will burn in hell forever. Bell says this is misguided and a toxic way to spread the word of God and Christianity.
Instead, Bell hopes to spread a contextualized version of the story that focuses on spreading Jesus's message of love, peace, forgiveness and joy that our world desperately needs to hear. This book is about the meaning of life and why we should be good people - now. His take is that people can find peace and "heaven" and "eternal life" here and now, and alternatively have the chance and choice to live in hell on earth - now.
Bell dives into how and when the Bible mentions the word heaven and hell (a surprisingly few number of times), what the context is around it, how the Hebrew words got translated and what the original words meant to the people at that point in time. It's a quick read and if you haven't read Rob Bell, I'd recommend reading this.
I picked up Comedy Sex God by comedian Pete Holmes after he promoted it on a podcast and was recommended by my favorite person to get book recommendations from, Ryan Holiday.
I liked this book more than I thought I would, and Holmes surprised me with his insightful look into spirituality and religion. I had no idea this book would help me continue down my religion rabbit hole I took last year (see my book reviews from summer of 2018). I'm glad I read this.
Holmes grew up an Evangelical Christian, and tells his story about this upbringing, getting into comedy, falling out of religion and then ending up finding God again just through a different lens. His story is very relatable. I hadn't seen any of his comedy work or shows, but once I read this I watched his latest stand up special and enjoyed it more because I felt I knew him.
I probably would've laughed more at the book if I knew about his comedy beforehand, but because I resonated with the religious content, I was hooked. His podcast You Made it Weird is also great. If it doesn't resonate, I'd suggest reading the book first.
I read Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin by Whitney Bowe after hearing her on the Atomic Moms podcast. If you're looking for better skin and to be all around healthier, this is a decent and informative read, and Bowe even lays out a plan to follow to get there.
I wasn't looking for a specific plan to follow, so I was able to quickly read through some of this. Lately I've been interested in gut health and Whitney shed light into how the body works and how to glow from the inside out. Spoiler alert - everything in the body is connected and the stomach and intestines control much more than you may think. Getting back to basics, plant based foods, less processed foods, moving/exercising and protecting yourself from the sun won't just make you look good but will help you live longer and feel better. If you don't need all the details a book can provide, the Atomic Moms episode is here.
No, I have not read any of the Harry Potter books up to this point (and haven't seen the movies). Blasphemy, I know. I finally wanted to learn what all the fuss was about (plus my almost 5 year old has already been hearing a little about Harry Potter in school), so I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I even watched the movie after!
I enjoyed this children's book, it's a nice coming of age story. It reminded me a little of Matilda. Now I can't say I fully get all the fanfare, but I'm sure I have to read the rest of the books (and maybe I will). I do like to sprinkle in some youth/YA books when I read, so this was enjoyable for me to finally check this book off my list after many years of watching people go crazy over Harry Potter. I'm sure I'll be reading them with my kids once they get a bit older.
As usual, you must read the book before watching the movie! No excuses, don't take literacy for granted and READ!
I read Educated by Tara Westover book in a week (which is fast for me, at least at this point in my life). This was an excellent memoir, I could not put it down.
It was horrifying and beautiful, it reminded me of The Glass Castle. Tara recounts her life living with a survivalist family, her dad convinced that his kids getting a public education would be detrimental.
This was well written and even though Tara's life seems unique, the impact family has on an individual is not. It's also an interesting look at how education can be taken for granted, when juxtaposed with Tara's extreme circumstances. Her story is truly amazing.
I finally finished my first book of 2019, Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen. At the end of last year, my husband and I watched his show on broadway on Netflix (Brian wanted to see it live but any ticket he could find was thousands of dollars, which, even in his eyes was a bit too much).
I've never been a huge Bruce fan, but I married a fan, so since 2009 I've been periodically inundated with all-Bruce-all-day satellite radio, heard some of his stories, and attended 2 of his concerts. (See this blog post I wrote for more about my intro to Bruce by Brian). Even without loving all of his music, there's no doubting Bruce Springsteen stands the test of time and deserves his spot among the rock and roll greats.
After seeing his broadway one-man-show, which was very well done, I felt I had to read the book and get the rest of his story. It look me some time to get through but I really enjoyed this book. A must read for any Bruce fan, and I'd also recommend it to any music fan, even if not a fan of Springsteen's music. His dedication and work ethic, combined with his showmanship has always impressed me.
Springsteen writes the book like a long poem, many parts are really beautiful. I'm glad I stuck it out and got to the end, it was an inspirational read and a sincere and humble look into such a legend. Music aside, this was a well written autobiography.
It's safe to say that if I'm posting a book on this blog, that I liked it because I don't finish books I don't enjoy (and therefore never end up on this site). I read Michelle Obama's Becoming and loved it.
This was a beautifully written memoir. Michelle does such a great job painting the picture of her life, she captivated me from the very first chapter and I couldn't put it down.
The first half of the book was my favorite, where she talked through her childhood, mostly chronologically. When she entered the part of her time as First Lady, it was tactfully written and fun to learn some insight and read anecdotes about her time at the White House.
I'm so glad this story was written and I wish I wasn't done with the book. Michelle writes it in such a way that you feel connected to her - it's very down to earth.
I actually have a better understanding of President Obama's idealism/idealistic nature from the insights I got from this book, and have a better understanding of how Obama got elected for two terms (not that I didn't already know, but this book gave me so many more tangible insights into this fact). And unfortunately that also sheds light on the fact that we really weren't ready for an African American president, and our nation has a lot of fixing to do when it comes to politics (and I say this from a bipartisan standpoint, fully understanding that idealism alone doesn't necessarily get us anywhere).
In the end, you'll see from this book that Michelle is a classy, strong, smart, awesome woman, and it's nice to hear from someone coming out of the White House who is self proclaimed to "not be a politics person." Michelle, you rock.
I picked up another parenting book after hearing about it from Ryan Holiday, The Gift of Failure: How the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed by Jessica Lahey. My oldest son will be entering kindergarten next fall, so I thought this would be a good book to breeze through.
Overall, the message was on point and I appreciated the perspective of Lahey as a teacher and a self proclaimed failure of a parent for over protecting her own kids from failure. Her introduction to the book was my favorite part. She eloquently explained her turning point in parenting and teaching, and explained how we got to where we are today - a world where we have taught our kids to fear failure, and in doing so have blocked the clearest path to their success.
A lot of the book simply had me in agreement, nodding my head at the suggestions because I already try to parent my young kids in a way that gives them as much age-appropriate autonomy as possible. There were also parts of the book I quickly skimmed because it talked about high school years, so I'll re-read as a nice reminder when my kids are a bit older.
If anyone feels they put a lot of time researching, planning and constructing perfectly comfortable lives for their kids, then I'd say this is a must read. There's no parent bashing here, just a clear look at what this loving and well-intentioned type of parenting is doing to our kids, and how we can reframe our approach to raising kids so that they grow up independent, successful, confident and capable.
Literacy is a prerequisite for freedom. Read deeply. Read what matters. Build a reading list. Don't take literacy for granted.