This Christmas, my brother and I participated in a very 21st century version of the ritualistic exchanging of Christmas lists by sharing our Amazon shopping lists. Correction, I exchanged with him a modified Amazon shopping list because my actual wish list includes the shampoo I regularly reorder and at least 16 things I’m saving for my spring musical, and none of those things are good Christmas gifts. My brother’s list was helpful, but not, because all the items on it were great gift ideas, but none of them were available before Christmas. So I ended up getting him a book, a highly reviewed book, that consequently ended up on many end of 2018 recommended reading lists. If you’re looking for his good read, you might try Factfulness by Hans Rosling.
My wish list included two books of which he generously decided not to choose between and instead bought me both. I brought them home with me, and subsequently charged through both of them, soaking up every nugget of insight I could, and certain that somewhere buried between their covers was the secret to making 2019 the best year ever. To clarify, I’m not generally a “self-help” book lover, but both of these books generated a TON of buzz this year, and while public opinion is not always a sure sign of life altering literary nirvana, for whatever reason, I was drawn to these titles.
The mark of a good self-help book, I think, is that when you finish the book you’re excited about whatever premise the author was trying to sell you. By that standard, I can tell you that both of these books left me, if not jumping up and down excited, refreshed by the life philosophy they were promoting. I took from each at least a handful of goodness that I immediately could apply to my own life, not because I was going to make some dramatic life change (as required by many life gurus) but because I was already doing many of the things, and simply needed to shift my perspective about why they were right, acceptable, desirable, and good.
Whether you’re heading into this new year full tilt, bursting with excitement for all the possibilities to come, or you limped into the new year desperate to find something better in the 365 days ahead, I think these books have the potential to inspire something better in 2019. Read them, mark them up, reflect on them, write about them, quote them on post it notes, take the parts you need, skip the parts you don’t. If you’re pumped for 2019, let them keep that energy going. If you’re needing a push to get the new year on track, consider yourself pushed.
Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis
I didn’t know who Rachel Hollis was before I read this book. After looking her up, I discovered that she founded thechicsite.com, which is right on par with other women focused, inspiration based, milennial mommy blogger content. So, fair warning, if that kind of stuff bothers you…don’t read the book!
Fair warning #2, if people’s memoirs bother you…particularly memoirs of people who struggled, but then became successful, and use that struggle and eventual success to try to motivate others to get through their own struggle and find success…don’t read this book! I was actually shocked by the number of people who panned this book on Amazon and Goodreads because they thought it felt like a big humble brag about the things she overcame to become successful. I’m not sure what else you’re asking for in a memoir/self-help book. Would you like the author to write about her struggles and then tell you there is no hope because she never overcame them? If you don’t like the way she handles her problems, then don’t handle yours that way. Also, don’t knock the problems she has because they’re not your problems, and don’t pretend like her problems are lesser than yours because she has reached success and you’re still working on it.
Those two fair warnings aside, let me tell you why I liked the book! Each chapter begins with a lie that the author believed about herself and then a few choices anecdotes about how that impacted her life. It ends with a bulleted list of what worked for her in learning to look past the lie. The key takeaway, I think, is that they are things that worked for her, not universal truths that will work for every person, but within many of the chapters I found myself finding at least some truth in either her story or in the ways she strove to rise above. I found the structure to be incredibly reader friendly and approachable. There are twenty lies in the book, and each is developed enough to get a good flavor for what the heart of the issue is/was without getting overly philosophical or turning back on itself six times like I often feel about life guru kinds of books.
Also, if you want the kind of book that’s going to give you four dozen quotes to write on post-it notes to sprinkle throughout your home, work space, bathroom mirror, and day planner, this book has got you covered. Feel like the badass you are when you remember, “Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.” Reset your perspective on social media this year when you think about, “Comparison is the death of joy, and the only person you need to be better than is the person you were yesterday.” Bounce back from a bad day by telling yourself, “Your dream is worth fighting for, and while you’re not in control of what life throws at you, you are in control of the fight.” Do the thing that scares you this year and remember that, “The only thing worse than giving up is wishing that you hadn’t.” Take a good look at the clutter in your home, office, relationships, and commitments through the lens of, “There’s not one thing in your life that you’re not allowing to be there.”
I didn’t know who Rachel Hollis was before reading her book, but reading her book left me feeling like I’d been invited over to the author’s house for a cup of coffee, and she just filled me in about her life and the adventure it’s been. I recognized that her story wasn’t many people’s. She’s had some advantages others have not…but she’s also faced some things others have not also. I didn’t resent her for either one of those things, which was kind of the point of the book! Stop resenting others circumstances. Stop resenting your own circumstances. Make the most of the season you’re in, even if that season is a trying time. Fight for what you want, even when others don’t understand why. Fail, get up, fail again. Laugh until you cry. Sob until you’re out of tears. Then girl, wash your face!
The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
There are going to be people who don’t like this book because either A.) The language about giving a fuck or not giving a fuck will get old OR B.) It says in 200 pages what could probably have been said in 150. Having read a variety of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I can tell you there are actually at least a dozen other reasons that people repeatedly give for not liking the book, but having embraced the author’s philosophy, I don’t give a fuck about those reviews and reasons!
In the first part of the book, the author lays out the philosophy for not giving an…f*** (my grandma reads this blog you know!). The idea is basically this, we all care about a lot of things, and we give a lot of energy and time to things that don’t deserve our energy and time. This is, often times, inevitable because we allow society, our friends, the media, etc. to dictate what things we value and how we measure those values. The subtle art of not giving an f*** is not about not caring about anything, it’s about getting back to the things that you should care about, and measuring those values accurately.
The second half of the book is a series of strategies and ideals that the author believes will help lead readers to a better value system, and to eventually giving f***s about the right kinds of things. They are presented as kind of counterintuitive approaches, but as I considered the principles in my own life, I could find areas in my own life where they are either at work, or where they should be at work, and they began to feel kind of intuitive in their own right.
One of the best things about the book is how these ideas are presented in an extremely blunt style. I find the typical self help author to be a bit like a cheerleader who is occasionally condescending as they make improving your life sound as easy as closing your eyes, thinking hard about it and clicking your heels together. Manson admits that the changes in the book, while simple in concept are exceptionally difficult in practice. He gives his readers permission to screw up the process…a lot, which is honestly the best most of us can hope to do if we’re making a genuine effort. Mess it up. Try again. Do better. Care about the right things…don’t give an f*** about the rest!
If you’ve got a book that’s changed your life, I want to hear about it. If you read one of these two and thought it was either world altering or complete garbage, you can let me know that too. Drop me a comment below. In the meantime…