Each year, I curate a list of books from my unreasonably long Amazon book list, which is a culmination of finds years in the making. I choose books that align with the lifestyle I want to create, the skills I want to learn, and the people I look up to. It's typically a blend of educational non-fiction, biography or personal memoir, historical fiction, and the occasional motivational piece.
As well, below I've listed the publications I'll be keeping up with this year.
A quarterly magazine exploring the limitless possibilities of creative businesses and the innovative ideas of today’s doers & makers.
Quarterly published print-only, more than 120 pages of curated content dedicated to the beauty and culture of specialty coffee.
A quarterly magazine celebrating food, farm, family and craft through writing, photography and the arts, both fine and domestic.
Why I'm reading this: At the suggestion of a dear friend who knows my affinity for homesteading and desire for slower living, I picked this to be my first book of 2017. The theme of a solo, young woman leaving a comfy career in design for the hard-earned farm life gives me hope that when I do decide to take the plunge, I'll know that not only am I not alone, but that I'm totally capable of achieving my dreams.
Author Jenna Woginrich is mistress of her one-woman farm and is well known for her essays on the mud and mess, the beautiful and tragic, the grime and passion that accompany homesteading. In Cold Antler Farm, her fifth book, she draws our attention to the flow and cycle not of the calendar year, but of the ancient agricultural year: holidays, celebrations, seasonal touchstones, and astronomical events that mark sacred turning points in the seasons.
Shelved: March 2017
Why I'm reading this: Elizabeth Gilbert captured my attention in The Signature of All Things after I had a rocky experience with Eat, Pray, Love. Just the cover words alone: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR is everything to me. As someone who lives and breathes creative problem solving and design thinking, I am still riddled with the fear of expressing the "hidden jewels" inside my ingenuity. I'm hoping this book inspires me to relinquish that fear.
With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us.
Shelved: March 2017
Why I'm reading this: In February, the board and staff of Mahila Partnership (that means me!) are meeting for our annual board retreat in Washington, D.C. We have a lot to celebrate - in the past year, we've created a number of programs, updated our website and branding, brought in new board members, fundraised, responded to Hurricane Matthew, saw the first harvest following the 2015 Nepal earthquake in the communities we serve, and so much more. This book is a part of our team book club, which will be discussed at the board retreat.
How do we change? Gretchen Rubin's answer: through habits. Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. It takes work to make a habit, but once that habit is set, we can harness the energy of habits to build happier, stronger, more productive lives. So if habits are a key to change, then what we really need to know is: How do we change our habits? Better than Before answers that question. It presents a practical, concrete framework to allow readers to understand their habits—and to change them for good.
Completed: February 2017
Why I'm reading this: After beginning and subsequently abandoning six books on this list, I found myself panicking. Did I no longer like reading? Was I becoming so addicted to technology that books bored me? Cue the eye-rolls and tiny violins. I dipped into my now dwindled bookshelf and pulled out a book with the most perfect subject matter: historical fiction; female protagonist; politically objective but present; love story.
In Anchee Min's previous three books she returned again and again to the devastating experience of the Cultural Revolution, which defined her youth. Here, in this slim but powerful novel, she gives us a moving story that goes closer to the core of that experience tha anything she has written before, and brilliantly delineates the psychological and sexual perversion of those times. Ultimately, WILD GINGER has the clean lines of a parable, the poignancy of of a coming-of-age novel, the sexiness of a French blue movie, and the sadness of a truly tragic love story.
Completed: March 2017
Why I'm reading this: Historical fiction is by far my favorite genre of entertainment reading. World War II is one of the times in recent history that I find most interesting, as communities all over the world experienced such varying degrees of a war that rocked the entire world. This book is a departure from my first two books of the year - both non-fiction - to give me inspiration of the goodness that resides in all of us.
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Why I'm reading this: When the Frida Kahlo exhibit opened at the Dali Museum in St Pete, I was surprised by how little I knew about Frida. She's an iconic female role model both artistically and for her perseverance through great tragedy. I look forward to learning more about her, adding to my growing list of female role models.
The intimate life of artist Frida Kahlo is wonderfully revealed in the illustrated journal she kept during her last 10 years. This passionate and at times surprising record contains the artist's thoughts, poems, and dreams; many reflecting her stormy relationship with her husband, artist Diego Rivera, along with 70 mesmerising watercolour illustrations. The text entries in brightly coloured inks make the journal as captivating to look at as it is to read. Her writing reveals the artist's political sensibilities, recollections of her childhood, and her enormous courage in the face of more than thirty-five operations to correct injuries she had sustained in an accident at the age of eighteen.
Why I'm reading this: My obsession with with show, Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime is based largely on its expert film-making (though the second season has me feeling some type of way) and solid performances across the whole cast. The story intrigues me but the writers don't seem to want to give anything away just yet. The few nuggets we received in the second season left me hungry for what is actually happening. I'm going straight to the source to see where the inspiration for the show came from - and what's possible for future seasons.
It’s America in 1962. Slavery is legal once again. The few Jews who still survive hide under assumed names. In San Francisco, the I Ching is as common as the Yellow Pages. All because some twenty years earlier the United States lost a war—and is now occupied by Nazi Germany and Japan. This harrowing, Hugo Award–winning novel is the work that established Philip K. Dick as an innovator in science fiction while breaking the barrier between science fiction and the serious novel of ideas. In it Dick offers a haunting vision of history as a nightmare from which it may just be possible to wake.
Why I'm reading this: This book was first introduced to me by a dear friend, but upon flipping through it, I realized I wasn't ready yet.
I'm ready now.
Salt is a journey through warmth and sharpness. This collection of poetry explores the realities of multiple identities, language, diasporic life & pain, the self, community, healing, celebration, and love.
Why I'm reading this: Someone close to me brought this book into my home and it's been here since - I can't stop picking it up and thumbing through it from time to time. As I downsize, minimize, and being to live a life of conscious consumerism, I can't think of a better time to learn the proper way to tidy up.
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).
Completed: June 2017
Why I'm reading this: Paris draws me like no other place on this planet. My family is French, my mother attempted to speak French in our home, and she instilled a wonder and mystery in my soul for the city of light. I began to get my Paris fix from Lindsey Tramuta via her blog: Lost in Cheeseland, a couple years ago and have been addicted since. Lindsey not only inspired me to keep yearning for Paris, but her poignant quips from her Parisian days and her down-to-earth photos of what are already Vogue-worthy experiences have ignited a fiery confidence in me to chase my own dreams as a traveler, writer, photographer, and culture-lover.
The city long-adored for its medieval beauty, old-timey brasseries, and corner cafés has even more to offer today. In the last few years, a flood of new ideas and creative locals has infused a once-static, traditional city with a new open-minded sensibility and energy. Journalist Lindsey Tramuta offers detailed insight into the rapidly evolving worlds of food, wine, pastry, coffee, beer, fashion, and design in the delightful city of Paris. Tramuta puts the spotlight on the new trends and people that are making France’s capital a more whimsical, creative, vibrant, and curious place to explore than its classical reputation might suggest. With hundreds of striking photographs that capture this fresh, animated spirit, The New Paris shows us the storied City of Light as never before.
Why I'm reading this: This blog and its Instagram companion are evolving to be my desired full-time "job", if you could call it such. Being a content creator and curator, storyteller and influencer, artist and authentic human are the means (and conditions) by which I want to exist. This book was suggested to me by a fellow influencer and close friend as an "easy but applicable read." This book looks like it's going to be a powerhouse not just for taking your Instagram to next level, but even more so upgrading your self-expression to new, professional heights.
With over three million Instagram fans, Aimee Song knows a thing or two about taking the perfect Instagram photo. And Instagram is so much more than a platform for pretty pictures. It’s the fastest-growing social media network with an engaged community, a major marketing tool for brands, a place where Beyoncé drops her albums, and a hub where products can be bought with a simple double tap. Including everything from fashion, travel, food, décor, and more, Aimee includes insider tips on curating a gorgeous feed and growing an audience.
Why I'm reading this: I didn't get a chance to see the movie in theatres, so instead I'd like to read the book first. A period-era historical fiction / coming of age novel centered on a young female protagonist? Now you're speaking my language. As well, Saoirse Ronan is a powerful actress and each of the roles she's chosen in her career have been some of my favorite performances.
Colm Tóibín's spare portrayal of this contemplative girl is achingly lovely, and every sentence rings with truth. Readers will find themselves swept across the Atlantic with Eilis to a boarding house in Brooklyn where she painstakingly adapts to a new life, reinventing herself and her surroundings in the letters she writes home. Just as she begins to settle in with the help of a new love, tragedy calls her home to Enniscorthy, and her separate lives suddenly and painfully merge into one. Tóibín's haunted heroine glows on the page, unforgettably and lovingly rendered, and her story reflects the lives of so many others exiled from home.
Why I'm reading this: If you haven't yet seen Simon Sinek's famous TEDTalk: Start with why, How great leaders inspire action - you probably have no idea why I'd want to read what is seemingly a children's book. Browsing around Oxford Exchange in Tampa, I stumbled upon this book and put it down to pages in. I didn't want to spoil it. I wanted to own it.
This unique and delightful little book makes the point that together is better in a quite unexpected way. Simon Sinek, bestselling author of Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, blends the wisdom he has gathered from around the world with a heartwarming, richly illustrated original fable.
Why I'm reading this: I don't think anyone who knows me at all would say that I'm a politically vocal or interested person. I'm about ready to come clean to my friends and my family that I'm actually extremely politically minded and intentional, I just don't prefer to have that be a part of my identity. This book is among those that predicts rather than pre-dates our modern world.
It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America. Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.
Why I'm reading this: When I started making my own nut milk at home instead of buying it from the store, something strange clicked inside my brain. I kept thinking "what else can I make instead of buying?" I took a look at my purchases and realized that a ton of my money was going to kombucha. After doing a ton of research and speaking with friends who already ferment (one of which suggested this book), I am ready to take the plunge and start fermenting my own foods.
After a foreword by Michael Pollan, Katz ("Wild Fermentation") explores the scientific basis of fermentation, then gives details for creating everything from yogurts to prosciutto to wines, beer, and kombucha. He emphasizes how fermentation influenced human development. Used to preserve food, it affected human biology so that humans could eat foods that would be poisonous otherwise, and it had an impact on global human culture as a reflection of indigenous cultural identity. There is a generous photo section of tools, containers, and processes; along with fascinating electron microscope photos of bacteria, which convey a sense of wonder at the unseen world of fermentation.
Why I'm reading this: Christmas of 2014, I asked my friends and family to replace what they might have gifted me with their favorite book. I received so many wonderful books, including this one, from my mother. It was one of the first, if not the first Christmas we truly spent as friends in I was a young girl. I've waited all this time and this is the year to read it.
A haunting tale of romantic self-deception, The Return of the Native focuses on mismatched lovers who see in each other only what they want to see, and decidedly not what is actually there. A stew of curdled love and conflicting emotions can only boil over into tragedy, and the book’s darkly ironic ending marks it as both a classically Victorian novel and a forerunner of the modernist fiction that followed it.
Why I'm reading this: My friend Mari suggested we start a duo book club and choose a book we could read together for the month of July. While I'm not exactly up-to-date on what books are coming out or what books have already been read by everybody, this book has been on my list and seemed like a perfect summer read.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France―a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
Completed: June 2017
Why I'm reading this: To be honest, someone I love dearly and whose sense of style I adore has been adamant that I read this book. Having attempted twice in my life (once more recently, I'll admit) to get into this read, I think it may deserve a third go. It's a strange one, but I'm assured that even the physical book itself is part of the story. I'm interest to see what I'll find.
Had the Blair Witch Project been a book instead of a film, and had it been written by, say, Nabokov at his most playful, revised by Stephen King at his most cerebral, and typeset by the futurist editors of Blast at their most avant-garde, the result might have been something like House of Leaves. Mark Z Danielewski's first novel has a lot going on: notably the discovery of a pseudoacademic monograph called the Navidson Record, written by a blind man named Zampano, about a nonexistent documentary film--which itself is about a photojournalist who finds a house that has supernatural, surreal qualities. (The inner dimensions, for example, are measurably larger than the outer ones.) In addition to this Russian-doll layering of narrators, Danielewski packs in poems, scientific lists, collages, Polaroids, appendices of fake correspondence and "various quotes," single lines of prose placed any which way on the page, cross-out passages, and so on.