Read - February and March

What I Read Last Month :: February and March

“The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind.” 

Elizabeth Hardwick, The Paris Review, interview

I couldn’t agree with Hardwick more and as I get older the more I realize how fortunate I am to have developed a love for reading when I was young.  It is one of my most favorite ways to spend my free time and depending on what it is I’m reading, it can range from feeling purely indulgent to incredibly studious. As I mentioned recently, I am starting my nutritional therapy program soon which I anticipate may negatively impact the amount of time I have for this beloved pastime, but you can bet that I won’t let it go without a fight!  As I was planning for the future and mapping out my available time, reading remains a top priority. 

But until then, I have been reading some mind-blowingly interesting books!  I am not entirely sure if this new shift to bimonthly reading updates will do justice to capture just how fascinating some of these were since some time has passed, but I can assure you I highly recommend a few of these.  Here is what I read in February and March :: 

Daniel Pink

I would argue that probably anyone and everyone would find this book interesting and entertaining.  Pink compiles research from a various fields of study to reveal “the scientific secrets of perfect timing.” His writing style is engaging and the information he presents is fascinating; as he says “we all know timing is everything.  Trouble is, we don’t know much about timing itself.  Our lives present a never-ending stream of ‘when’ decisions – when to change careers, deliver bad news, schedule a class, end a marriage, go for a run, or get serious about a project or a person.  But most of these decisions emanate from a steamy bog of intuition and guesswork.  Timing, we believe, is an art… [however Pink shows] that timing is really a science – an emerging body of multifaceted, multidisciplinary research that offers fresh insights into the human condition and useful guidance on working smarter and living better.”  He dissects the often contradictory axioms about the beginnings, middles, and ends of each experience we have and the seasons of life we go through. Although I have long been aware of divergent chronotypes (“a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology”), who would have known that, there is a “right time” for analytic vs. insight tasks or making an impression or decision which is variable based upon our individual differences? As someone passionate about forever learning how and why we can do things better – this book satisfied my need for rigorous evidence along with providing a plethora of practical advice. 

Invisible Influence
Jonah Berger, Ph.D.

Although I originally settled on psychology as an undergraduate degree with the intention of becoming a clinical or counseling psychologist, I nearly immediately shifted to considering a career in research after starting my first social psychology class. Although in the end I did not go onto pursue either path, social psychology continues to be one of my favorite areas of study and this book brought me back to it.  Berger begins by addressing the fact that although we can often see social influence affecting the behavior of others, we usually do not realize its impact on our own and in the pages that follow he describes countless situations and studies that illustrate how nearly everything from our preferences and choices to our communication and negotiation skills to our values, beliefs, and interests are impacted by others.  Sometimes we choose to follow suit and imitate the behavior of those around us, whereas in other situations we might choose an alternative option in order to distinguish ourselves, and sometimes we go in the exact opposite direction in order to distance ourselves from a particularly undesirable identity.  It’s another very interesting read with mass appeal which is important because as Berger argues by gaining insight into how social influence works, “we can harness its power.  We can avoid its downsides and take advantage of its benefits.  We can maintain our individuality and avoid being swept up in the crowd.  We can have more fulfilling social interactions, be more successful, and use others to help us make better-informed decisions.  By understanding when social influence is beneficial, we can decide when to resist influence and when to embrace it.”

The Hormone Cure
Sara Gottfried, MD

I personally have struggled with a lot of hormonal imbalances over the past few years and have become increasing interested in women’s health consequently.  Although I would argue this book may not be for everyone, it did a great job of presenting the science aspects succinctly while also providing shortcuts to the more tangible and practical actions to take for those who are a bit less nerdy than yours truly.  So much is controlled by the extremely sensitive distribution of our hormones that it is worth learning more about if there is any virtually any aspect of your health you would like to improve. 

Practical Paleo
Diane Sanfilippo

Shocking as it may be that I had never read what has often been called the “Paleo Bible,” this was my first time. Although at this point not much of the information was really new to me, it was extremely well presented in a textbook style fashion and I would highly recommend it to anyone new to the lifestyle. In the first section of the book, Sanfilippo outlines the basics of digestive health and the rationale for the recommendations that Paleo and real foods diets make.  Next she outlines meal plans, along with nutrition and lifestyle suggestions for a variety of different individual needs or goals.  And finally there are ton of insanely delicious recipes – which quite honestly I usually never pay too much attention to when I read similar books, but these not only look enticing but are actually outstanding.

Outer Order, Inner Calm
Gretchen Rubin

OBVIously I had preordered Gretchen Rubin’s newest book Outer Order, Inner Calm in light of my current spring cleaning efforts and of course the fact that I am slightly obsessed with her work in general!  Totally unlike any of her previous books however, this one was more similar in style and format to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. It was a very quick read full of little gems, some of which provide easy wins and others which are have much deeper significance or require some internal shifts.  It was exactly as she had described and although it is valuable, I am more so looking forward to her next “book book.” 

The Anti-Anxiety Diet
Ali Miller

I ordered this one after hearing the author, Ali Miller, interviewed on a podcast. Since I did my first Whole30 way back in 2015, I have known that for me personally, sugar tends to provoke feelings of anxiety. Thus, even in my normal day-to-day I tend to restrict my intake or make exceptions with some intention and consideration of the consequences to potentially follow .  However, especially as I get deeper into learning about the interplay of various hormones and their impact on the body’s chemistry I am particularly interested in the many other ways that diet and lifestyle contribute to our mental health and emotional wellbeing.  Miller does a great job of describing the mechanisms underlying these processes and provides practical steps and recommendations for not only shifting away from things which have been demonstrated to be problematic, but also increasing consumption of nutrients and activities which provide a countermeasure.  

Juliet’s School of Possibilities
Laura Vanderkam

Another preordered book by another one of my favorites! Along with Rubin, Vanderkam is an author I can decidedly say had a transformative effect on the way that I do life.  This book was also extremely different from her work I have been exposed to in the past as it is a short fable on time management.  The voice and message contained within the plot and each character is decidedly Vanderkam’s but it was a different and effective way to present her ideas.   However, after reading The Glitch last year, I thought this one was lacking a bit in terms of originality.  

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Gail Honeyman

WHAT.A.BOOK!!  Although most the reviews highlight its being both humorous and heartbreaking, I tended to feel more of the latter.  It was one that I couldn’t put down until I finished and it brought genuine tears to my eyes multiple times.  I loved Eleanor as a character and was struck by the fact that although many might consider her life as extreme, there are so many people living lives of equal loneliness and with a lack of purpose and still considering it to be “completely fine.”  This is one of the best new novels I have read in a long time and one that has continued to haunt me for weeks now – I could not recommend it more highly!  

What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast
Laura Vanderkam

And lastly, I shifted to “practicality.” This book is actually a printed collection of original e-books by Vanderkam outlining her key principles and strategies for success with morning routines, weekends, and at work based upon her research and interviews with countless high performing professionals. I always like her approach, but struggled to make it through this one, perhaps because it was after “feeling all the feels” with Eleanor Oliphant or possibly because I was also in the middle of a bathroom renovation and tiling my shower at this point in time… If you like business, time management, or self-improvement type of books, you’d probably find this one useful.

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