Four books that helped me grow in 2018

Four books that helped me grow in 2018

the book of joyThe Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

This is an absolutely beautiful book by two of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time, and, so charming: they are close, loving friends! The book is a conversation that took place over several days between the two on how Christianity and Buddhism handle the stress and strain of daily living. Many of the principles of the two beliefs are essentially the same, and it helped me to realign religion with the spiritual tenants that I hold to be personally to be true for me. Also, these men, who have endured and seen more than many could imagine, have retained a strong sense of faith and joy, it is impossible to not be inspired by them:

“Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.” -Desmond Tutu

Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

As I wrote in my post on Bird by Bird, I haven’t always been an Anne Lamott fan, however this book converted me. I believe that Grace is the core of spirituality, that we are forgiven and loved regardless of who we are or what we have done, and that we owe that same forgiveness to each other, is the bedrock of everything else. So when I spotted this title available on my Libby App, I decided to give Lamott’s writing another try, which I can only say was a moment of pure serendipity. Her chapters detail some of the hardest moments of her life: the death of her best friend, her strained relationship with her parents, extreme highs and lows of her spiritual journey, and above all, seeing the humor in it all. Anne Lamott writes with nothing to hide, and this book made me want to be braver, more resilient, and more at peace with the beautiful and heartbreaking experience that it is to be human.

 

Duckworth, Angela 05.2018
Cover image shown with permission by Scribner from Simon & Schuster

Grit by Angela Duckworth

I read (and wrote) about this book last spring and found it really encouraging as it gave examples on the values of hard work over natural talent. Duckworth’s argument is that not only is hard, consistent work vastly more important than being talented, but also that the experience of overcoming hardship is one of the greatest determinants of potential success. It also reminded me that if I really want something, I need to work at it, and making mistakes along the way is part of the process of becoming great.

“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another. Angela Duckworth

 

Why Buddhism is True by Robert Wright

Mindfulness is an essential principle of Buddhist philosophy, and this book is an excellent discourse on the science and psychology of mindfulness and how it helps the human mind fight issues such as depression, anger and greed. Robert Wright is not a Buddhist and the book doesn’t focus on the more spiritual tenants of Buddhism such as Nirvana or reincarnation, but really on the values of meditation practice and examining ones thoughts, emotions and actions without judgement. This book encouraged me to focus more on my meditation practice, which has helped me to maintain better control over my emotions, the words I choose, and how I react in stressful moments. It’s always a work in progress, but I believe I have grown, maybe just a little, through meditation and mindfulness. At the very least it’s been an extremely refreshing and empowering journey.

These books were all so special to me, what are some books that have really impacted your life recently?

Have a Fancy Friday and a wonderful weekend!

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

EleanorOliphant
Cover image provided with permission from Penguin Random House Canada

From the outside Eleanor appears to be okay, maybe even completely fine. Sure, she is socially awkward, has no verbal filter, is unable to be anything but completely literal, and her closest friend is a plant, but none of this seems to really bother Eleanor, as she puts it:

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”

Once we start digging through the layers of Eleanor, we begin to see that she is far from fine. However, as the shroud of her heartbreaking past and the mystery around it begins to fall, Eleanor learns about herself and develops meaningful relationships. She meets Raymond, her office IT guy, and through her friendship with him she saves Sammy, an older man who falls in the street. Even though Raymond and Sammy are a little confused by Eleanor initially, they see the kindness in her and open their friendship and families to her, giving Eleanor a chance to experience loving relationships, perhaps for the first time.

This book is about trauma, but even with everything stacked against her, Eleanor is a true heroine; she is brave, kind, someone you simply cannot stop rooting for. Despite the sad parts, Eleanor is unwittingly hilarious, I loved the depictions of her experiencing something for the first time, such as dancing in public:

“I found myself not thinking about anything, sort of like how the vodka worked, but different, because I was with people and I was singing. YMCA! YMCA! Arms in the air, mimicking the letters – what a marvelous idea! Who knew dancing could be so logical?

During the next free-form jigging section, I started to wonder why the band was singing about, presumably, the Young Men’s Christian Association, but then, from my very limited exposure to popular music, people did seem to sing about umbrellas and fire-starting and Emily Brontë novels, so, I supposed, why not a gender and faith-based youth organization?”

I DIED.

This novel was so endearing, funny, and sweet, I loved it from start to finish. Learning about Eleanor opens us up to understanding people who are different, even if they are off-putting and strange, and in this way the book reminded me a lot of A Man Called Ove. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys quirky and like-able characters, character-driven story-lines, or someone who enjoys cheering for the under-dog.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Published: May 9, 2017

I read this as: A library book

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