Last year, I did something I’ve wanted to do since I was in elementary school: I joined a book club.
Okay, the book club consisted of two people. One of them being me. The other being my husband.
But still. We met. We read (Gloria Steinam’s My Life On The Road, fyi). We discussed.
It was a freaking book club, okay??
Whether it’s multi-colored lists posted on Instagram Stories or conversations IRL, one of the most popular, most reoccurring resolutions I tend to see within my community is something so simple it feels almost silly:
Read. More. Books.
Unlike goals attached to career, success, physicality, or relationships, reading more book is one of the most non-labor-intensive goals you can achieve. All you need is basic elementary school level comprehension skills, and you’re good to go. You don’t need to invest tons of money, you don’t need help from anyone or anyTHING else – heck, you don’t even need to do anything besides literally turning a PAGE to see signs of success!
So why don’t we do it? Why, if reaching goals is so gratifying, don’t we pick up the damn book and turn the page?
Some hypotheses (and solutions) I’ve drawn:
PROBLEM: Carrying around a book. When I lived in Los Angeles, this was no excuse for not reading more books. I had a portable storage device – aka a car. I was able to lock my latest page-turner in the glove compartment, stash it under my seat, or throw it in my trunk for later. But now that I’m in NYC and walk, cab, or take the subway everywhere, my backpack space is precious. Plus, like almost everyone else…I’m a little too tethered to my phone.
SOLUTION: Read on your phone or device. If you’re short on space or don’t want to literally add to your load, “reading more” is as easy as hitting Download. I know, I know, it’s not a physical BOOK – but your goal is to read more books, not possess more books, right? I LOVE physical books – underlining, dogearing, and making sweet notes from my husband or long-ass to-do lists my makeshift bookmarks. But I also know that sometimes it’s more important to focus on the goal and not get so hung up on the ins and outs of how we get there.
PROBLEM: Reading without a goal in mind. Sometimes we think more about WHAT we’re going to read instead of WHY we’re going to read. But reading just to read is like watching a movie just to watch a movie: eventually, you’ll just zone out.
SOLUTION: Get clear on what you want your takeaways or experience to be. Do you like to learn, escape, think, discuss…or a combo of these things? We all read for different reasons. Think of the books you love most. How are they structured? How do they “sound?” Why did you love them so much? Choosing a genre isn’t enough: go one step further and look into things like the voice used (is it in first or third person? narrative or ___?) and how the book is structured.
PROBLEM: Finishing the damn thing. (there’s a that’s what she said joke somewhere in here.)
SOLUTION: Cut yourself some slack. What are you most likely to finish? Are you even concerned with finishing? Does “reading a book” = “finishing a book” to you? If so, cool – but then you need to choose books you’re likely to finish. Look at how the book is structured. Is it super short? Broken up into bite-sized bits or spread out over an arc? Do you prefer shorter reads, or do you like a long, winding story? Do some research, ask your local bookstore employees (they work there because they love books, after all!), and choose a read that’s not only a genre or topic you’re interested in, but a style and structure that resonates.
And…this might be a controversial stance…but if you get honest and you’re not really that tied to finishing a book, don’t let that stop you from picking it up altogether. I personally am VERY tied to finishing novels and memoirs, books I read to escape or empathize – but not research-driven or self-improvement-style books I’m reading to learn something from. That doesn’t mean I like them any less, I’ve just gotten what I need at the time and can come back later. No shame in that game!
If you’re like me and looking to up your literary game this year, grab a friend, sibling, or significant other and start your own two-person book club. Need some suggestions? Here are five books written by women I freaking can’t wait to read this year – plus two that haven’t even come out yet! – that you might like, too:
Braving The Wilderness by Brené BrownHigh priestess Brené is at it again. This time, she’s talking about what it means to truly belong – in our communities, in our organizations, in our culture – in an age of increased polarization. Brené’s style is thoughtful and witty – personal where it needs to be and academic where it needs to be. I just love her and cannot wait to dive into this one. GET IT HERE
The Power Of Meaning by Emily Esfahani SmithI first found Emily Esfahani Smith’s work last summer in Quartz. After going down the rabbit hole that is Google, I loved how most of her writing centered around the notions of success, fame, and true fulfillment. She draws on historic and literary examples as well as extensive research to answer her One Big Question: if a happy life is a meaningful life, then how do we create meaning? I’ve already started The Power Of Meaning and I’m in love. GET IT HERE
200 Women Who Will Change The Way You See The World by Geoff Blackwell + Ruth Hobday, Photography by Kieran Scott
This stunning book is half coffee table piece de resistance, half interview series. Coupled with gorgeous photography, this book features some of the most inspiring interviews from some of the most game-changing women in all fields. GET IT HERE
Extreme YOU by Sarah Robb O’Hagen
Sarah Robb O’Hagan has seen it all. From climbing the corporate ladder at places like Virgina Atlantic and Nike to becoming the CEO of Flywheel and formerly Equinox (yep, where I teach classes), she’s seen it all. Although we never got to meet in person while she was with Equinox (hi, Sarah!), I always heard wonderful things about this Wonder Woman…which is why I was THRILLED when I learned she was releasing a book sharing her badassery with us all. In Extreme YOU, Sarah dives in and digs deep on what it means to be an “Extremer” by developing ALL parts of yourself – quirks included – to hone your potential and lead a life of greatness. GET IT HERE
It’s Messy: On Boys, Boobs, and Badass Women by Amanda de Cadenet
Amanda de Cadenet was one of my main role models in my twenties when The Conversation launched, and continues to be a HUGE source of motivation and empowerment for me now (I even got to speak on a panel she led back in 2015 at SXSW). I’ve always admired her ability to connect with others, to ask the kinds of questions that exist between the lines, and to tap into the down-to-earth, beautifully flawed humanity of everyone she interviews. In It’s Messy, she’s shining that same kind of light onto herself, proving that our experiences as women are way more universal than separate. GET IT HERE
Feeling overachiever-y? Put these two on your reading list for later in the year when they launch:
Give A Sh*t: Do Good. Live Better. Save The Planet by Ashlee Piper
Ashlee has been featured on WANT multiple! times! and is a bona-fide badass in the eco-friendly space. You’d be cray not to sign up for pre-order.
On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff
Jen has been a dear friend of mine for years now and is one of my absolute favorite writers. SO excited to see this beautiful piece of work she’s been manifesting come into existence. You can bet I’ll be sharing more about this when it’s share-able – for now, keep your eyes peeled.
What books are you looking foeard to reading this year? I’m always looking for new, exciting, fascinating books to add to my shelf (or my newly downloaded reading app)…tell me what you’re loving! Also, can I join your book club?
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