Book Club: January + February

Book Club 2017: January + February >> Life In Limbo

I love to read, and I love to talk about the books I like best with other people. Every couple months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading in real time at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

My reading life took a bit of a back seat in February as I focused on some new career opportunities and – let’s be honest here – watched way too much TV in the evenings rather than curling up with a book. For that reason, it’s been good motivation (and lots of fun) to be part of a book club again: so far we’ve read Homegoing and The Happiness Equation, and this weekend we’re meeting to discuss Sapiens. All three have been great, and it’s always nice to deepen my love of reading by joining a group to talk more about books!

I read several good books over the past couple months and thoroughly enjoyed all of them! To keep things short, I’ll just mention my top 4 recommendations here, but you can always follow along on Goodreads.

Book Club 2017: January + February >> Life In Limbo

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

It’s no secret that I love Mark’s writing – he’s made many an appearance in my inspiration posts. I listened to his new book as an audio book at the very beginning of the year and really enjoyed it. He always shares a lot of interesting and counter-intuitive ideas that I haven’t heard many other places before, and his book was no exception. I really like how realistic and practical he is, which sets his book apart from other self-help stuff. Don’t let the aggressive tone of the title put you off (he explains more about why he uses the F word so much here) – despite the impression the cover gives, it contains lots of helpful advice and perspective shifts for just about anyone (aka: not just white, male entrepreneurs).

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

I’ve read many a book about World War II, but never one quite like this one. I think what I liked best about it is how the author really takes her time telling the story, in the sense that the book spans several years worth of time for the characters. She doesn’t really skip over parts, nor does the book describe details in excess, so what results is this really beautiful depiction of their lives, each getting its due but not lingering. Any section of the book could have easily been its own novel because it was so interesting and rich, but instead she weaves them together to do something even more evocative: show characters who are not solely defined by their experiences during the war. So many books about wars are only about that brief moment in the characters’ lives – in this book, she puts the characters fully into context, so you experience along with them the slow creeping up of the war and the growing hatred of that era. Getting to ‘know them’ before the travails of war is also a powerful narrative tool, because you get a true sense of the indignity and horror of ordinary people being ripped from their lives. Oh, and it’s a beautiful love story. This was a terrifying book to be reading right around the time of the U.S. inauguration and in those first scary weeks.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The best thing I can say about Jandy’s books is that they make me physically feel things. Reading them is so much fun that it makes me giddy – it makes me feel like I’m the one falling in love, not the characters. I read I’ll Give You the Sun in December and it made my list of Best Books of 2016, and as soon as I finished it I put this one (her first novel) on hold at the library. What else can I say except that these books are fun, lovely, and highly romantic. I can’t wait for her next one to be released! It’s meant to be coming out in 2017 at some point.

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters

A chilling thought experiment about what might have happened had the Southern United States not abolished slavery while the Northern States did, had they compromised to avoid the Civil War. It follows the logic that the North was motivated to preserve its human values while the South wanted to preserve its ‘business interests’. It’s pretty sickening to imagine, though it also serves as a stark reminder that history could easily have gone a different way, not to mention the fact that slavery was not abolished particularly long ago, all things considered. It also doesn’t feel all that far-fetched, which is of course appalling and sad. I think it was well-written, even if I disagree somewhat with the idea of a white man writing about the experiences of people of colour – it made me wince a couple of times.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations! 

 

Best Books of 2016

Best Books of 2016 >> Life In Limbo

Even though I share my favourite books every couple months here on the blog, it’s fun to look back over my full year of reading and see which ones still stand out and speak to me the most once some time has passed.

All of the books on this list had an impact on me, taught me something, or made me feel stuff. I would recommend any of them to anyone – and have been doing so nonstop! I’ve mentioned some of them in posts this year already, but others are new, and as always you can see the full list of my 2016 reading on my Goodreads profile here.

Fiction

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley: A love letter to man’s best friend – in this case, the author’s lovely dog, Lily.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: Three parallel love stories. This book is so romantic and made me giddy with happiness.

One More Thing by B.J. Novak: Endlessly clever, observant, hilarious, satirical short stories. I loved this book.

The Bees by Laline Paull: What it might be like to grow up in the caste system of a beehive. Such a cool idea! It’s basically a dystopian novel based on the real science and biology of bees.

The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate: A majestic gorilla grows up in a heartbreaking zoo in a strip mall off the highway.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: Pride & Prejudice, if it took place in Cincinnati in 2016. (How do I love thee Curtis Sittenfeld? Let me count the ways…)

Slade House by David Mitchell: Creepy, clever, kept me up at night.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: One of my very favourites of the year! A historical novel set during WW2

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez: The stories of several Latin American families living in Delaware, trying to make lives for themselves in a brand-new place.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: An absolutely brilliant telling of several generations of one family, from the very beginnings of slavery in Ghana to the present day in America.

Best Books of 2016 >> Life In Limbo

Non-fiction

How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky: Advice about finding true love, being a creative person, and building the life you want to live.

Shrill by Lindy West: Brilliant essays about feminism, love, body size, and comedy.

This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick: How to grow to love the place you live, no matter where in the world that is.

I Need Your Love – Is That True? by Byron Katie: Four simple questions to help you work through any difficult thoughts or beliefs.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton: A memoir about finding love again, both for herself and for her husband. Their relationship ultimately ended, but there was still so much to learn from her story.

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero: Personal development for cool people.

Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett: A love letter to the author’s best friend. There should be a different word for this kind of friendship: kindred spirit? Soulmate? Person?


What are the best books that you read this year? Let me know your favourites and recommendations!

You can see all of my book recommendation posts here, and you can see what I’m reading over on Instagram.

 

Book Club: November + December

Book Club November + December >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

Yay! I met my 2016 reading goal and then some, and we still have a couple days left to go before the new year. That makes four years running that I’ve hit my goal, and this year I actually read more books than ever before, which is very exciting. For 2017, I’m setting the same goal of reading 75 books and here’s hoping I’ll surpass it again.

People often seem baffled at how I can read so much, but for me it’s not so hard. 75 books is about a book and a half each week, which, when I’m reading good stuff, is not hard for me to do – it doesn’t take tremendous willpower or require major sacrifices in my life whatsoever. When I’m reading something amazing, I’ll gladly tote a book around with me wherever I go, and read at every chance I get. Whenever I don’t feel like reading or my progress through a book is slow, I can tell that I don’t really love what I’m reading and that I should probably get my hands on something I’m really excited about.

Here are my favourite books from the last couple months of this year. Fun side note: it was really hard to narrow it down to just four, which is always a great sign. Fun side note #2: how cool is it that these covers complement each other?!

Book Club: November & December >> Life In Limbo

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero

For me, this one brings together all the best ideas in personal development and delivers them in a tidy and extremely inspiring package. If you want to talk about limiting beliefs, manifesting, how to make more money, motivation, mindfulness, and more, this is the book for you. Plus it’s surprisingly practical and down-to-earth, all while encouraging you to take charge of your life in a big way. I loved it and got a lot out of it, and can’t wait for her new book which is being published in April.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

The title alone is so evocative, and the story is so powerful. Just like HomegoingThe Book of Unknown Americans does what good fiction should: make big, looming, difficult, painful topics human, relatable, accessible and real to the reader. It’s the story of several Latin American families who wind up living in the same little apartment complex in Delaware (of all places). It’s about their struggles, their love stories, their traditions, their language, their challenges and their heartbreak. It was fun for me to read because of all the Spanish sprinkled throughout, and because I could learn more about the culture of Mexico and many other South American countries.

How to Be a Person in the World by Heather Havrilesky

Having never really read the Ask Polly column, I was in for a real treat when I finally got this one from the library. It’s amazing! I love her! I wouldn’t stop talking about her and the advice she gives for days! Yes, I am super late to the party, but I am so happy to be here at all. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m borderline obsessed with the Dear Sugar column and all things Cheryl Strayed. And now, having read Ask Polly, it’s as if I’ve added a new member to my wise, wonderful inner board of directors that I can consult as needed. Everything Havrilesky writes feels true and honest, and best of all: it is helpful.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyazi

Gyazi manages to distill hundreds of years of life – both its humanity and its horrors – into just 300 pages. It’s about the lineage of two parallel families, the descendants of two sisters born in Ghana. One sister is kidnapped and sent to America as a slave, while the other marries a British commander and her family remains in Ghana. Each chapter is the story of the son or daughter of the character before, a little snapshot of each of their lives, loves and struggles. I usually find it hard to learn about history because it seems so flat and far away, but bringing each generation to life in this way makes the whole story personal and far more powerful.


You can see all my book recommendation blog posts here.

What’s the best thing you’ve read lately? Tell me your recommendations! 

 

Book Club: September + October

Book Club September and October 2016 >> Life In Limbo

I absolutely love to read, and I love to share the books I like best with other people. Every few months here on the blog I choose my favourites from what I’ve read lately and write about them. As always, you can see everything I’m reading on my Goodreads profile. You can also check out what I’m reading at #stephlovestoread on Instagram.

Life changes fast, man! When I wrote my last post in this series, life looked a lot different than it does today. Just a couple months later and I live in a new city, in my own apartment, and am learning new things every single day. During this big transition, I watched a lot of TV, but I also happily read some truly excellent books! Here are my faves from the past couple months.

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