The Best I’ve Read This Year: Non-Fiction

Non_Fiction

I like to read a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction. I tend to read a couple books at one time, generally keeping one non-fiction around on my bedside table for regular installments of reality in between more gripping novels.

These four non-fiction books, however, held my entire literary attention from beginning to end. No need to take a break for a more exciting plotline — these authors know how to write a deeply personal, interesting, and thought-provoking narrative. All four will definitely be taking their place on the reread list sometime soon.

Thinking Out Loud by Anna Quindlen

This collection of articles and essays by Anna Quindlen was the first book I read this year. I love her voice, a combination of sentimental and poetic with down-to-earth, very real and sometimes sarcastic comments. Her strong voice and sense of self is clear throughout.

One of my favorite quotes from the book: “I don’t want to be perfect or fabulous or amazing. I just want to be good enough with a little relaxing time left over.”

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I know, I know — I just posted about Brene Brown! When will the obsession end? Answer: never. I jumped on the Brene Brown train at the beginning of this year and my love for her writing just keeps picking up steam. This book is the perfect summation of everything she talks about surrounding vulnerability, empathy and living a full life  — Recommended to anyone who wants to improve their understanding of their families, friends and selves.

Carry On Warrior by Glennon Doyle

I started this collection of short personal stories and essays on a cross-country plane ride and couldn’t stop reading! I finished just as the plane touched down back in Portland. An emotional, touching and often hilarious read. With plenty of humor and an incredible lack of self-pity, Glennon frankly writes about her struggles with drugs, alcohol, motherhood, marriage, and more. An inspiring and honest look at life that really made me reflect on my own personal journey.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Another book by an amazing woman author (I am actually just realizing how woman-author dominated this list is — maybe I should give male authored non-fiction a chance?). It was fascinating to read a bit more about Tina’s rise to fame in the comedy world, written with her signature self-deprecating and witty sense of humor. If you have a free afternoon or two, it’s a quick, satisfying, and hilarious read.

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The Best I’ve Read This Year: Online

I like the end of the year. I love how the business world slows down a bit as we all scatter to our holiday family nests. My favorite way to spend these winter days is taking long walks with my mom and the family dogs, cooking special meals in the kitchen, deep sleeps in my childhood bed, and curled up by the fire reading.

I also love taking the end of the year as an opportunity to look back and reflect. I’m starting this reflection process with the best things I’ve read, heard and seen this year — through a variety of mediums.

To begin: the three online articles that most affected me in 2013… the ones I’ve gone back to for re-reading and deep thinking.

My Pursuit of the Art of Living by Leo Babuta on his blog ZenHabits

I first read this post at a time this year when I was feeling especially frustrated and scattered. It seemed like I was trying to do too many things at once, and somehow failing at all of them. The simplicity and beauty of this post really resonated with me.

I too have been trying lately to practice the art of living. Most difficult for me is patience and remaining present in the moment. But, as Leo points out, the most important is being okay with imperfection, to always aim for compassion and treasure curiosity. He acknowledges that when we try to be present, we need to accept failure as part of the process. That alone will make such a big difference.

How Real Do We Want to Be? by Andrea Scher on her blog Superhero Journal

Andrea’s writing is so personal and perfectly casual — I love her honesty and vulnerability in this post. This is pertinent to me as a businessperson (especially as my company’s “brand ambassador”) but also just as a person existing in the online universe. A good question to continue to ask myself as I put more and more of myself out into the world. How real can I be? How real do I want to be?

The Living Continuum by Kelsey Brown on her blog Happy Yolks

I don’t often have the opportunity to read articles written by my peers: women in their early twenties. Maybe that’s why I loved this post by Kelsey so much — I’ve read it several times a month every since I first came across it at the beginning of summer. I love how her writing reads like poetry, how she so perfectly merges food blog and personal writing, and how she really strikes at the heart of how it sometimes feels to be a woman.

More than anything, this post reminds me of something that I know in my heart but don’t always employ: that in times of stress, the best way to keep self-criticism at bay is to be in nature.

More of my Best Read this year coming tomorrow. Next up… Non-Fiction Books.

Cultivating Empathy

In this animated short, Dr. Brené Brown talks about the difference between sympathy and empathy.

Brené Brown has already made a big impact on me (I reviewed The Gifts of Imperfection here, and Daring Greatly was also amazing), but I like the format of the video — focusing on just one idea.

While watching the video, I thought first of my own personal support network, and how lucky I am to have people who will climb down into the “empathy hole” with me when I am down. My friends and family are so willing to just let me feel what I feel without judgement or advice.

My second thought was about the entrepreneurial community that I have experienced here in Portland. Erika and I have been so lucky to meet many great advisors who have taught us so much. I’ve always felt though, that we could have stronger relationships with fellow young entrepreneurs and company owners.

It’s easy to put on a happy face and try to impress another company owner with how great things are going. It’s hard to turn to another entrepreneur (often one you’ve just recently met) and tell them what’s not going so well. Maybe fundraising has been difficult, maybe we just had a product failure, maybe our work relationships have been a bit strained — these are difficult things to share.

We are afraid of being the little fox in the video, deep in a vulnerable hole, while our new goat friend calls down to us sympathetically. We don’t want to be pitied, we want to be understood.

It’s hard to get down on someone else’s level. Problem-solving tendencies can come out in those of us who solve problems all day. When someone confides in me their emotional struggles, I immediately want to fix the issue — just out of habit. I want to make the problem feel smaller — either by being humorous (make the problem a joke) or rational (put the problem in perspective, i.e. “cheer up, it’s not that bad!”).

But as Brené points out, true empathy cannot begin with a statement at starts with “At least…”. Rarely can a response make something better — what makes something better is connection.

This short was a good wake up call for me to try to infuse the culture around me, both personally and professionally, with a little more daily vulnerability and conscious empathy.

Creativity: Door Closes, Window Opens

After fitful stops and starts, a variety of approaches, and lots of halfhearted effort, the Wild Friends Podcast has been officially retired.

We started our podcast with great intentions and a lot of ambition, but, as it turns out, podcasts are challenging. I also learned that in a rare hour of free time during the week that I’m feeling energized, chatty, and full of interesting ideas, the last thing I want to do is sit in my house and talk into a microphone.

For a while, Erika and I would try to podcast, but we never settled into a schedule or a routine. We’d guilt ourselves and each other out for not wanting to podcast, or not having any “good ideas” or not wanting to retell a story that the other had already heard for the purpose of an invisible audience. For how little we actually podcasted, we sure agonized over it a lot.

So, after over year of this, a couple weeks ago, Erika asked a really good question: “Why are we still podcasting?”

After all, we have real social media advertising via Instagram and Facebook that does a lot more for the company than our podcast. We have a recipe and photo blog that brings us a lot more personal satisfaction. None of these things cause us any anxiety or stress in production — in fact, we enjoy them! This just wasn’t true for podcasting.

So, we stopped! It was just that easy. Suddenly, I found myself with free space in my mind to pursue a new creative project that would be much more fulfilling.

So now I have my own personal blog — compiling all my more “thoughtful” written pieces from our company blog (which I have archived below).

I thought that a writing-focused blog deserved a separate place to be on the outskirts of the Wild Friends social media list, to encourage me to think deeply and reflect.

As one creative project fades, another takes it place.