I wanted to love The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper, but thought it was just okay. I've really been enjoying reading memoirs over the last few years, so maybe my expectations were too high and I think I was expecting something different from this. Overall I liked Harper's stories from the ER and some of her commentary about the nature of hospitals. But I was hoping to get more insight into her and read more about her personal story. For me that would have made this book more compelling.
I recently picked up The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and enjoyed this novel. It's a multi-generational family saga that looks at racial identity, family and privilege. The book kept me engaged until the very end to find out what happened, it was thought provoking and felt timeless.
Untamed by Glennon Doyle was my first introduction to this author. I really liked this book, it was compelling and had many highlight-worthy insights that I'm sure I'll return back to. This was intimate, honest, messy and hopeful. At times it felt a little preachy to me, but it was well written and her personal stories were interwoven nicely and I think I might have been feeling some of the immediacy and intensity of her words, which ultimately created an inspiring and incredibly empowering read. I put this book down feeling "zoomed out" - the world is messy - but the point isn't just to change that, the point is to pull deep down from your own soul and exist beautifully in it.
I started Searching For Sunday by the late Rachel Held Evans last year after learning about her through The Liturgists Podcast. It must've stopped feeling relevant to me, so I put it down but picked it up again recently and finished it. I'm glad I did, this was a good memoir about wrestling with organized religion and Evans' journey to ultimately rediscover her faith and find a place again in church. She realizes that none of it is clean and simple - it's messy and complicated, but that's sort of the point of it. Anyone who has been cynical about religion or wrestled with ideas of faith and community will connect with this one.
I actually started Man's Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl last year and just got around to finishing it. This book can be found on many must-read lists, and I wanted to be sure to read this one after reading The Choice, which was probably the best book I read last year (and an especially humbling read during the pandemic).
Frankl talks about his time in Nazi concentration camps and his exploration into what truly drives humans, which isn't pleasure, but meaning. Most people will be inspired by reading this book, it certainly stands the test of time.
I read Parenting Without Power Struggles by Susan Stiffelman after I saw it recommended on Janet Lansbury's website (she doesn't know it, but I consider her my parenting mentor). This had some good tips and will be something I go back and reference, I'm glad I read it.
Deep Work by Cal Newport was a quick read and a nice reminder about what type of work will continue to be more and more valuable in the 21st century. The book lays out strategies for achieving deep work, and I was surprised to realize as I was reading how often I don't notice my preference for swapping out deep, thoughtful work with shallow activities.
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It allows you to master complicated information, produce better work and ultimately feel more fulfilled.
I see more and more remote-first companies making a case that deep work and ultimate productivity can be achieved best outside of an office (or especially not in an open office plan). This is a good company read or for anyone who's looking to gain better results and more progress in less time in their life and career.
After reading the book about President Biden, I figured I'd follow it up and learn more about VP Kamala Harris by reading her memoir The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. I also didn't know much about her so this was super informative.
This book came out before the 2020 election, and maybe because of that, much of it felt a little like a stump speech to me. I didn't mind too much though and I enjoyed this quick read.
I picked up Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now by Evan Osnos as I admittedly didn't know much about President Biden and wanted to learn more. I appreciated Osnos' writing style and that he did a pretty good job revealing many sides of Biden. What I liked most about this book was that it helped me understand how Biden got to where he is, I liked having the background. I also now have a better understanding of what Biden will do as President. It was worth the quick read.
I've spent the last 3-4 months reading about 3 books on and off and not finishing any of them. When Barack Obama's book A Promised Land released in November, I grabbed it and finally finished a book to wrap up 2020.
I loved this book and am so glad I took the time to read it (it was long, for me at least). This is the first volume of I think a two-part memoir by the former President. It was a beautifully written account of Obama's journey from his beginning interests in politics through his first term as President.
Obama is reflective and introspective, offering an intimate, 'day-in-the-life' view of the Presidency. His story is accessible, inspiring, funny and informative and is a great historical recount of his time in office and I look forward to reading part two.
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