I'll admit I read a few shorter books this month to bring me closer to my goal for the year. (In my defence, December is a crazy time of year in terms of workload so the more pressure I could take off myself in advance, the better.) But I also started plenty that I didn't even bother finishing (something I'm learning to do more and more).
And in all of that, there was only one shining star.
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I read every single day, sometimes just for a few minutes and sometimes for hours. I’m regularly asked for recommendations, so I thought I’d start sharing what I’m reading each month.
My hope is that I can encourage you to bring more books into your life, and to make it easier to find books you’ll enjoy. Check back every month for more reviews.
1 book: Well, I won't be getting that time back
2 books: Not my cup of tea
3 books: Yup, that'll do nicely
4 books: Thoroughly enjoyed
5 books: One of the best things I've ever read
I think anyone who writes a book is a damn hero. My personal opinions of the content are just that – personal opinions. If something didn't float my boat, I still applaud the author. Their discipline and determination amazes me.
OK, on with the show.
For the month of November 2019, I curled up in my book nook with 9 different books. Here they are.
Book #83 of 2019: "The Untethered Soul" by Michael A. Singer
Started: 27/10/2019 Finished: 3/11/2019
It's hard to sum up but it's based on the premise that you are not your body. Neither are you your thoughts or emotions, so you should simply detach from human experience and observe it.
The intention, I assume, is to avoid pain and getting tangled up in things that distract us, disturb us, and disrupt our lives. But it left me feeling cold.
Whether or not you believe in this "observer" role, and the idea that it is eternal and not of this world, the fact remains that you're living a human experience. To deny or suppress thoughts and feelings is, as far as I'm concerned, to deny (human) life itself.
And while you could argue that you'd only switch off the bad feelings, the truth is that sometimes our biggest lessons come from our deepest struggles. And some happiness turns out to be hollow.
Choosing what to feel is, to me, just as problematic as choosing not to feel at all.
Removing thought and feeling from our experience leaves us no better off than animals... or sociopaths.
Rating: 2 books. An interesting theory with potentially dangerous consequences if executed
Book #84 of 2019: "24/6" by Tiffany Shlain
Started: 3/11/2019 Finished: 5/11/2019
If you've been following for a while you'll know I've been drastically reducing the amount of time I spend on social media. So this book about the benefits of completely switching off from screens for one full day a week intrigued me.
Truth be told, I felt it could have been a lot shorter. And it suffers from the same affliction so many books and blog posts do these days – it spends an awful lot of time trying to convince you to do the thing it's suggesting. (Dear authors everywhere: If I'm reading what you've written, it's because I'm already convinced.)
Other than that it's an exercise I believe has many benefits and I'm giving serious consideration to implementing it in my own life. I especially appreciated the alternative list of things to do, as well as how to predict and fix the most common sticking points (like needing sat nav, or wanting to take photos).
Rating: 3 books. If you're serious about reducing screen time, this is worth a read
Book #85 of 2019: "If I Live To Be 100" by Neenah Ellis
Started: 5/11/2019 Finished: 7/11/2019
The author outlines some of the many interviews she's done with centenarians and, while their stories are varied and fascinating, it failed to hold my full attention.
I suppose I expected some searing insight or a common thread, or at least some sense of progression to a place of deeper understanding.
Instead the main focus of the book seemed to be the author's initial frustration and then growing satisfaction with her interview skills.
Rating: 2 books. Interesting stories that seem to go nowhere
Book #86 of 2019: "Keep Going" by Austin Kleon
Started: 9/11/2019 Finished: 9/11/2019
Superb. Read it in one sitting (though, it's pretty short so that's easily done).
While Kleon's work is mainly aimed at creatives, anyone can benefit from this book. Full of pearls of wisdom on the benefits of being persistent, if you don't walk away from this one ready to rock your world, you haven't been reading it right.
Rating: 5 books. Simple steps for stubbornly chasing your dreams
Pro tip: I’m often asked how I manage to read so much. One of my tricks is to include shorter books like this that can be read in one or two sittings.
Book #87 of 2019: "Instagram Secrets" by Jeremy McGilvrey
Started: 9/11/2019 Finished: 10/11/2019
Truth be told, I only stuck with this one because anything related to social media floats my boat. I geek out about all things algorithm.
But suffice it to say that I looked up the author's business Instagram handle (which he plugs multiple times) to find it no longer exists... nor does his personal profile. Both have been deleted, either by Instagram or by the author himself.
Given that he recommends the use of bots (and, specifically, the software he himself owns), I wouldn't at all be surprised if it were the former.
Unless you know the world of social media marketing pretty well, it might be hard to sift through and sort the sound advice from the stuff that goes squarely against Instagram's terms of service.
Rating: 2 books. This book is basically an ad for the author's (since deleted) Instagram account and his against-terms-of-service software
Book #88 of 2019: "Be More Unicorn" by Joanna Gray
Started: 15/11/2019 Finished: 15/11/2019
A very quick read about re-discovering the sparkle in your life.
Borrowing from old legends about unicorns, the author shares how we can use this mythical beast's best qualities to bring a little magic to our own world.
It's a whimsical look at keeping childhood delight alive, but it's not going to change your world.
Rating: 3 books. Fun, but the holographic cover is the best thing about it
Book #89 of 2019: "What To Do When There's Too Much To Do" by Laura Stack
Started: 9/11/2019 Finished: 16/11/2019
In this one, the author promises that if you follow her advice you'll be able to claw back 90 minutes of your day. That's probably not an exaggeration if you're diligent in its application and aren't already pretty organised.
Several elements appear to be borrowed from David Allen's "Getting Things Done" system. (Though, in fairness, if you're going to borrow any productivity system, that's a good one to go for.)
Some of the advice is a little dated but, overall, it's a decent book.
Rating: 3 books. A solid read with practical, useful advice
Book #90 of 2019: "What The F*@# Should I Do With My Life?" by Zach Golden
Started: 16/11/2019 Finished: 17/11/2019
Hilarious and incredibly irreverent (even I winced in parts), nonetheless this one fails to deliver on its promise of "answers to life's big question".
Instead, it's simply a list of fifty jobs and what's wrong with each and every one of them.
Highly amusing, but deeply disappointing.
Rating: 3 books. Good for a laugh (unless you're easily offended)... but little else
Book #91 of 2019: "Start" by John Acuff
Started: 21/11/2019 Finished: 30/11/2019
This is the first of his books I've read and I'd heard great things (especially about "Quitter" ) so my hopes were high.
Most of the way through, though, I was pretty disappointed. While I knew it wasn't completely devoid of practical application, there seemed to be little in the way of advice apart from the well-worn "do the hard thing" wisdom.
I was wrong.
I'm glad I saw this one through to the end because the final pages really tie everything together.
Rating: 4 books. A rousing call to arms with a pretty clear roadmap
Not the best month overall so I'm hoping things will improve and I'll be able to end the year on a high note. Only 9 books to go now before I hit my Goodreads goal of 100.
Then I suspect I'll be taking it a LOT easier on the reading in 2020.
Do you think you'll read more or fewer books next year?