Read - December + January

What I Read Last Month :: December and January

It’s time for a “here’s what I read last month post!” And actually – it’s a “here’s what I read the last TWO months” post.  With everything being so in flux at the start of the year, I never got around to sharing my December booklist until it was so late in the month, that I decided it would be better just to wait to combine it with January’s now. Although there is no shortage of things to keep me busy when at home in the new house these days, I have thankfully had some quality reading time while traveling and picked up a few new books over Christmas which always makes me happy!  

Something which I never realized before, but have come to find out, is that an inordinate number of people set goals or resolutions related to reading more.  My husband, my sister, and a few friends have all mentioned that this is something they aspire to do this year and it sounded like fun to me 🙂 So I decided to add “read one book per week” to my 19 for 2019 list of resolutions for this year – and so far so good!

Here’s what I read in December and January ::

5 Simple Steps for Taking Your Marriage From Good to Great
Terri Orbach, Ph.D.

The title of this book was an obstacle for me to overcome prior to getting started because I am generally leery of books or lists which formulaically oversimplify big and complex things such as marriage into “five simple steps…”  However, I had read positive reviews or saw this one referenced somewhere at some point and thus decided to pick it up anyway.  And it was quite interesting – as many experts will tell you, longitudinal studies are extremely useful when it comes to determining key success factors for something like marriage and Dr. Terri Orbach’s work following married couples (and continuing on after divorce where applicable) over 22 years is unprecedented in scope and depth.  Although the steps that she outlines are simple to understand, they are of course much more challenging to practice in real life despite her practical recommendations and exercises.  All in all, I think I have a lot of improvement opportunities when it comes to being a wife, but I am committed to figuring it out!  I liked this book a lot and appreciated her stance which is that “it’s not the big events that make couples unhappy but instead the seemingly minor everyday challenges.  Most couples are elated, optimistic, and filled with overwhelming happiness at the beginning of their relationship.  But over time, the small and constant bumps in the road seem to wear down their happiness… [but the strategies she developed] help couples navigate through the most common minefields of marriage… taking a marriage from mediocrity to greatness.”  

The Horse and His Boy
C.S. Lewis

I have probably proclaimed my love for all things C.S. Lewis in the past, but I will take this opportunity to do so again. I am absolutely enthralled by his writing – whether fiction or otherwise.  While on the cruise and living out of luggage for so long, I had to be choosy about what to pack so I brought along the complete collection of The Chronicles of Narniaand started off where I left off last with The Horse and His Boywhich was one of my favorites about two children and two talking horses all on a journey to get to Narnia, where they feel they belong, despite not having been there yet.  I especially loved Aslan’s identity being revealed to the main character Shasta – which brought to light something I have seen to be true so often in my own life – quite often those things that we perceive to be negatives, setbacks, or failures are actually all part of a bigger picture leading us to our true purpose.

Prince Caspian
C.S. Lewis

Another one of The Chronicles of Narniawhich was fun to read and the perfect continuation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobeas the children return to Narnia.  Although only a 1 year has passed in their time, over 1000 years have gone by in Narnian time and the kingdom has fallen into bad hands with many skeptical of the “stories” of Old Narnia.  Highly recommended for anyone who enjoyed this book’s predecessor.  

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
C.S. Lewis

And this was the last of The Chronicles of Narniafor now and unfortunately my least favorite of the bunch thus far (two more to go!).  It seemed to drag on with seemingly unconnected stories although I did love the part about Eustace becoming a dragon and later redeemed by Aslan himself.  

Atomic Habits
James Clear

This was my first book of the new year and one that I had been eagerly anticipating in light of my insatiable appetite for learning about all things habit related.  The strategies and ideas that Clear outlines are tangible and practical and he presents a compelling argument for the exponential power of habits.  As he says, “changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.  We all deal with setbacks but in the long run, the quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.”  For anyone who is interesting in learning about building a routine or working on resolutions, this book provides an excellent, accessible, and applicable overview.

Drive
Daniel H. Pink

Although this book technically belongs to the business genre (of which I am not always a huge fan) I picked it because of my interest in the somewhat controversial topic of motivation.  Throughout Drive, Daniel Pink argues for a shift from an extrinsic, rewards/punishment based approach to building intrinsic, inherent satisfaction with a task or job in and of itself through ample autonomy, gaining mastery, and finding purpose.  He illustrates the efficacy of such a shift with countless examples of highly innovative and leading companies who have moved away from contingent motivation and allow for more freedom for employees to become creative and engaged.  It was a great book illustrating our need to engage in self-directed goals where we can do something we deem to be important.  It was more theoretical than directive which was fine by me, but for someone who wanted actual guidelines, there is a section on ways to apply the research and ideas that Pink describes throughout the book.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Marie Kondo

I have been very interested and honestly afraid of this book for almost two years now!  I knew enough about her philosophy and technique to question whether it might be too extreme for me as an abundance lover with little desire for a true minimalistic or ascetic lifestyle.  However, with the new home and so much more storage space I know that there is a reasonable risk of accumulating too much.  And I really do enjoy clearing clutter.  So I took the plunge – the book seems a bit over the top at certain point in terms of the life changing claims that it makes and all Kondo’s talking to inanimate objects however I devoured the book in a little over a day and am now two weeks into my own KonMari project.  And as crazy as it seems – I am experiencing some inner change as I struggle to determine what “sparks joy” and not feeling guilty about the things that I am sending onto someone else.  It’s been hard to part with some of the things which have literally never been used or those which still have the tags on, but it’s forcing me to think more carefully about compulsive shopping and my spending habits overall which is actually life changing!

Eat the Yolks
Liz Wolfe

I often listen to and enjoy the Balanced Bites podcast of which Liz Wolfe is one of the two parts.  I appreciate her sense of humor (she actually reminds me a lot of one of my best friends Valerie) which makes reading such technical nutritional research more accessible and entertaining.  The aim of the book is to dispel the “common sense,” long and widely accepted nutritional myths that have shaped the way that we think about, eat, farm, and manufacture our food.  She is an NTP and reading this book only served to make me even more excited to start my upcoming Nutritional Therapy program, however I would highly recommend this book to literally anyone interested in improving their health and nutrition.  It’s evidenced based and thorough but actually a fun read.  

The Relationship Cure
John M. Gottman, Ph.D. and Joan DeClaire

I’ve read a lot of Dr. Gottman’s work on marriage in the past and was pleasantly surprised to see how much new information was included in this book.  Although much of his research has been focused on martial relationships, this one was very much intended to provide insight and applications for all types of relationships by improving communication and genuine connection.  It builds upon some of his findings related to emotional bids for connection and provides a lot of information around how and why negative patterns form and how to address them.  It was an overwhelming book in terms of all the recommended exercises and homework outlined, but probably the best I have ever seen or read on communication anywhere.  I’ll be working on applying his recommendations indefinitely.  

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