Reading life

Reading Inspiration – November

The Art of Asking – Amanda Palmer

What the Cover Says:  Imagine standing on a box in the middle of a busy city, dressed as a white-faced bride, and silently using your eyes to ask people for money. Or touring Europe in a punk cabaret band, and finding a place to sleep each night by reaching out to strangers on Twitter. For Amanda Palmer, actions like these have gone beyond satisfying her basic needs for food and shelter – they’ve taught her how to turn strangers into friends, build communities, and discover her own giving impulses. And because she had learned how to ask, she was able to go to the world to ask for the money to make a new album and tour with it, and to raise over a million dollars in a month.  In the New York Times bestseller The Art of Asking, Palmer expands upon her popular TED talk to reveal how ordinary people, those of us without thousands of Twitter followers and adoring fans, can use these same principles in our own lives.

Why I Read It: This was a Rebel Book Club read from last year that I never got around to reading.

What I Thought:  This is a slightly strange book to read – it’s autobiographical but not linear and it took a little getting used to jumping around – but it’s incredibly powerful, nonetheless.    I’ve never had much issue asking for help; my problem has always been recognising when I need help.  I was reading this at a difficult time and it inspired me to reach out and tell people I was hurting.  You know what?  I felt so much better for it.  This is a tale of an interesting woman and one that delivers an important message,

Emotional Agility – Susan David PhD

What the Cover Says: Every day we speak around 16,000 words – but inside our minds we create tens of thousands more. Thoughts such as ‘I’m not spending enough time with my children’ or ‘I’m not good enough to present my work’ can seem to be unshakable facts. In reality, they’re the judgemental opinions of our inner voice.  Drawing on more than twenty years of academic research, consulting, and her own experiences overcoming adversity, Susan David PhD, a psychologist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, has pioneered a new way to enable us to make peace with our inner self, achieve our most valued goals, make real change, and live life to the fullest.  Susan David has found that emotionally agile people experience the same stresses and setbacks as anyone else. The difference is the emotionally agile know how to unhook themselves from unhelpful patterns, and how to create values-based success with better habits and behaviours.  Emotional Agility describes a new way of living and relating to yourself and the world around you. Become aware of your true nature, learn to face your emotions with acceptance and generosity, act according to your deepest values, and flourish.

Why I Read It:  I went to see Susan speak at a How To: Academy event.  The theme of emotional agility resonated strongly with my coaching approach and I wanted to find out more.

What I Thought:  I loved this book.  Susan’s approach is very much aligned to what I have been learning recently.  Here are a couple of my key takeaways but I highly recommend you read this one!

Think of your emotions as data not directions; what are your emotions telling you about what’s going on?

  • Understanding your emotions as a source of information, not as directions for how you have to respond
  • “Let go of unrealistic dead people’s goals [such a good phrase!] by accepting that being alive sometimes means getting hurt, failing, being stressed and making mistakes.”  It’s okay to be human!
  • Knowing your ‘why’ in life, connecting with your values, is a powerful tool to guide you through challenges, shed tension and get back into flow.

How to be an Imperfectionist – Stephen Guise

What the Cover Says:  From an early age, kids are taught to color inside the lines, and any color that strays outside the lines is considered to be a mistake that must be avoided.  Perfectionism is a naturally limiting mindset.  Imperfectionism, however, frees us to live outside the lines, where possibilities are infinite, mistakes are allowed, and self-judgment is minimal.  The old way to approach perfectionism was to inspire people to “let go” of their need for perfection and hope they could do it.  The new way is to show people how simple but highly strategic “mini actions” can empower them to gradually and effortlessly “let go” of perfectionism.  This book applies the science of behavior modification directly to the roots of perfectionism, resulting in a new and superior method for change.  Imperfectionists aren’t so ironic as to have perfect lives: they’re just happier, healthier, and more productive at doing what matters.

Why I Read It: This was recommended by a friend of mine over at The Well and it sounded like it might be helpful!

What I Thought:  Well, I’m not quite a reformed perfectionist but I’m a little bit more imperfectionist than I was!  This book is full of practical tips to help overcome perfectionism.  My favourite is the idea of mini-habits, asking yourself “what is the smallest thing I can do towards my goal right now?” and doing that, the equivalent of one press-up.  Highly recommended for anyone with perfectionist tendencies!

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

What the Cover Says:  The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire – neither Offred’s nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.  Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful vision of the future gives full rein to Margaret Atwood’s irony, wit and astute perception.

Why I Read It:  I hadn’t really heard of this book until it was turned into a TV series this summer #guiltyfeminist!  I was absolutely gripped, although I found the content to disturbing to watch one more than one episode at a time.  Season One is available on Amazon Prime (some later episodes are still available at Channel 4)

What I Thought:  I loved the TV series and I loved the book, which is unusual for me – I normally prefer the book.  The book was written in 1984 and is very much of that time and so feels very different to the TV show.  The writing is vivid and evocative.  The concept is brutal and harrowing but I couldn’t put this down.  It’s definitely not an easy read but a brilliant one and one with alarming resonance for today’s America (for more on this, I highly recommend this episode of The Guilty Feminist podcast).


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