Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Big Impact Books 2015

It's not the easiest thing in the world to read as much as I'd like to these days.  Between homeschooling and having/ feeding five kids, there's not much reading I do just for myself.  True story: when I read The Help several years ago, which for me was a book I quite literally couldn't put down, I kept sneaking into the bathroom to read "just another page or two" because I figured that was the only place I could get some alone time.  Finally, as I sat there on the lid of the closed toilet, Jayna knocked and asked if I was feeling all right.  I realized I'd tiptoed off to the bathroom a couple dozen times that day, and I had to 'fess up.

(**That was the olden days.  These days, everyone barges right in -- because you can unlock the bathroom door with a coin, which is a good or bad thing, depending on who is in there -- or bangs on the door till I come out.)

So it's hard to get time for just reading, but I try to read when I can.  It's what I do rather than watch TV.  So I managed to read several books last year, and while I'm not going to do full reviews of all of them, I thought it would be fun to talk about a few of the ones that had the biggest impact on me.

One of the very first books I read last year, as part of my desire to figure out "enough-ness" was Ruth Soukup's Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life.
This was sort of memoir/ how-to, and I found it very interesting and inspiring.  Some of these "secrets" are "The Good Life Is Not What We Think It Is" and "Contentment Is A Choice" and "Less Stuff Equals More Joy".  I had only just found out who Soukup was when I read this book, but if you've spent much time on this blog, you probably know these are topics that resounded with me.  

It took me most of the year to employ some of these suggestions, but when I think about where I am right now versus where I was a year ago, and the increased sense of satisfaction in my life, I think of this book and am grateful for it.

Honestly, non-fiction is, in general, an easier choice for me these days because it is usually much easier to put down when I need to instead of locking myself in the bathroom to get some reading time.

But the fiction book I read last year that I think I enjoyed the most and also thought about the longest after was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.
The premise, if you haven't read it, is Alice has an accident at the gym and hits her head, and when she comes to, she can't remember anything from the past decade.  So she's baffled by her kids, and can't comprehend why she and her husband, whom she's madly in love with, are separated.  

Matt and I often have a discussion about if we've really changed since we started dating over twenty years ago (gasp!) and how.  While this book was very entertaining, I read it with kind of an ache in my chest, imagining what it would be like for me in Alice's shoes.  As she was remembering their past, I felt like I was reading actual conversations we've had (especially during their home renovation, since we've done that twice).  And while it's very definitely fiction, not a marriage enrichment book, there were some important take-aways.  First off, the details matter in marriage.  It's the little things like the tone you take with each other, the commitment to make time for just your marriage, how you talk about each other in front of friends, and so on.  These are the issues that can end up being make-or-break factors in a marriage. 

And also, it takes both of you to make it work.  At the beginning, Moriarty makes it seem as though the marital strife is all his fault, which of course is how someone who can't remember the past ten years would see it.  But as the story unfolds, she makes a very convincing case for how the marriage was in shambles because of both of them.  Maybe it could even be argued that it was more Alice's fault.  It was a story that stuck with me and challenged my thinking.

I also read Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life's Transitions by Kristen Strong.
Yes, non-fiction again.  Strong's background is that she is the wife of an Air Force officer, and she's moved several times, so I could definitely relate!  She uncovers some biblical truths and closes each chapter with a prayer that had me going, Yup, this is for me!  It's not the kind of book I think you can read just once and be done with, so I recommend buying rather than checking it out of the library.  I will keep going back to it for reference, I'm sure, especially with some of the changes I see coming in the next few years.

I kind of think THE book EVERYONE talked about last year was Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Now, first let me say that after being misguided to a few books because I read just the positive reviews, I started reading the one- and two-start reviews on Amazon, and if I felt like the critiques made sense, I didn't waste my time/ money.  And I have to say, the negative reviews of this book resounded with me to the point that I avoided it for a long time.  

But I finally bought it (the wait at the library was too long), and truth be told, I didn't hate it!  In fact, there are several people I know and love that I want to give it to!  I don't feel like it was truly "life-changing" for me personally because I'd already started employing a sort of "does it spark joy?" mantra in relation to my stuff long before I read it -- and as a result, rather mercilessly purged.

Here's what I liked about it: Kondo doesn't have a prescribed "number" to apply to your stuff.  So many other authors say have this many books, or that many clothes, or whatever.  But Kondo's method is more about what works for you personally -- what truly sparks joy for you.  I'm afraid that some people I know with what I would call hoarding issues/ too much clutter or stuff think it all sparks joy, though... 

The criticisms about the author being, well, crazy are, in my opinion, maybe a misunderstanding.  Maybe.  Maybe it's just me and my tendency to think the wrong things are hilarious, but... I think some of what she says was meant to be funny, but the tone got lost in translation (because the book was originally written in Japanese).  I just read the stuff about socks having feelings, etc., and I laughed and thought, "That's a good one, Marie."  But the gist behind it is, if you want your belongings to treat you well, you need to take care of them.  That makes sense, right?

There are many books I read, and more I'd like to say about them, but this is a start.  So tell me.  What books did you read in 2015 that had the biggest impact on you and why?  What are you reading now?


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