Top 5 Books I’ve Read in the Last 365 Days
Picked among 100+ readings.
My reading list currently has over 60 entries. Which means two things. First, I’m a pretty organized reader. Second, the books I start reading better be good, or I’ll drop them and move on to the next one. I have no time to waste.
Reading has played a large part in creating the person I am today. I read both fiction and non-fiction, and I’m a pretty picky reader. I don’t keep track of my reading — because my main goal is to actually read rather than reach scores or anything — but I know I read at least 100 books a year.
Five of them have recently had a great impact on my mind and/or changed my life. Following are the best of my last 365 days of reading.
1. A book about writing a book
Being a writer is my childhood dream. I grew up with books, and I always knew I wanted to write them. I tried, many times, but I failed, every time. Because I didn’t have the keys, the understanding, the experience. I am getting better now. When I started reading this book, I had just committed to writing 1,000 words a day for my novel.
Anne Lamott’s words resonated with me, encouraged me, and showed me that this is a difficult but joyful process. If you’re passionate about reading or interested in the writing life, I can’t recommend this book enough. Here are my three favorite quotes:
“The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. […] Get it all down. Let it pour out of you onto the page. Write an incredibly shitty, self-indulgent, whiny, mewling first draft. Then take out as many of the excesses as you can.”
“Characters should not serve as pawns for some plot you’ve dreamed up. Any plot you impose on your characters will be onomatopoetic: PLOT. I say don’t worry about plot. Worry about the characters.”
“You need your broccoli in order to write well. Otherwise you’re going to sit down in the morning and have only your rational mind to guide you. Then, if you’re having a bad day, you’re going to crash and burn within half an hour. You’ll give up, and maybe even get up, which is worse because a lot of us know that if we just sit there long enough, in whatever shape, we may end up being surprised.”
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott*
[*none of the links are affiliated]
2. A worthwhile classic
You’ve probably heard of this one. It’s been on my reading list for a good couple of years, but I had never read it. I was afraid I’d stumble upon something trite. When I finally decided to give it a chance, I found it deeply inspiring. It covers many different topics, all of which boil down to finding balance through the mind, body, and soul. Being at peace is a hell of a full-time job, and this book could very well help you.
“We do not live in this moment. We, in fact, try desperately to get out of it — by thinking, doing, talking, worrying, remembering, hoping, whatever.”
“It’s human being, not human doing, for a reason.”
“Kierkegaard believed that sitting still was a kind of breeding ground for illness. But walking, movement, to him was almost sacred. It cleansed the soul and cleared the mind in a way that primed his explorations as a philosopher. […] (He) tells the story of a morning when he was driven from his house in a state of despair and frustration —illness, in his words. After an hour and a half, he was finally at peace”
Stillness is the Key: An Ancient Strategy for Modern Life, by Ryan Holiday
3. A glimpse into sober living
It’s been over a month now since I’ve been drinking alcohol. I’ve only made two exceptions, and it was only one glass each time.
I had no problem with alcohol, but I was tired of it being the default choice at every opportunity. The beer at the end of the day, the glass of champagne for occasions, the cocktail for evenings with friends… At the same time, I was beginning to dislike the sensation induced by alcohol.
I stumbled upon this book, written by a former hangover subscriber, and found it deeply inspiring. I felt surrounded by a new tribe, and at the same time, it provided a lot of advice on how to start a sober life without falling into a monk's life. I didn’t take a single drop for over 30 days, and I couldn’t feel better. Then, when I made exceptions, it was fully conscious.
Whether you’re sober, curious, or teetotal, you’ll find plenty of information here. It’s not brainwashing, but a simple breakthrough into sober living that brings a non-monastic view of life without alcohol.
“Identify that emotion, understand what thoughts are creating that emotion, and then redirect to thoughts that create a different emotional experience for you. Instead of numbing and distracting yourself, what would it be like to be alive for your whole life? The good, the bad, the better, and the amazing?”
“One of the biggest problems we face when it comes to making changes around alcohol harm is the fact that alcohol has been so normalized and ingrained in society that we’re at the point where you are considered abnormal if you don’t drink.”
The Sober Girl Society Handbook, by Millie Gooch
4. One of the few novels that transported me like when I was a child
I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction lately. First of all, because my list is mostly non-fiction, but also because I’m having a hard time recapturing that feeling I used to get when I read novels as a child, that feeling of being transported to another world. The magic didn’t seem to work anymore.
And then I came across this one. The Beach has been adapted into a movie with Leonardo Di Caprio. I tried to watch it, interrupted it to do something, and never went back. Not that the movie is bad, it’s just that I’m not a movie buff. The book, on the other hand, is amazing. It grabbed me and didn’t let go. I found myself there, surrounded by those characters, on that beach, and I read it in very few sittings.
No quotes in this one, but a great dose of happiness: the simple pleasure of reading while turning the pages faster and faster.
The Beach, by Alex Garland
5. A book for those who can read French
I think I like this book because it resonates with the great Emptiness that I feel very often, and that I am slowly learning to tame.
I’ve been wondering for a long time if I should include it or not because it’s in French. Only in French. I’m sorry about that because it’s really a gem. At least, in my opinion, because most critics say it’s useless. Rather, I think it’s sweet and focused on something very mundane and yet at the heart of our lives: ordinary life. Pretty empty yet full of life.
Adèle Van Reeth depicts the ordinary through a not ordinary portrait of life. Here are some quotes I translated myself. At least, if you can’t read the book, you’ll get a glimpse of my favorite passages.
“The taste of those empty hours that only solitude allows.”
“mid-morning and mid-afternoon with no hope of interruption other than the fridge door opening on an already full stomach”
“I sighed as I went on with my story and ended up putting my shoes back on to run around the field.”
La vie ordinaire, by Adèle Van Reeth