Like so many others, after my first few months of university I realized that I hadn’t read for pleasure
as much as I used to at all. So, ashamed, I set myself what I thought was a very modest resolution of reading 20 books in 2014.
I read 10.
So in 2015 I tried again. This time, I was even more “realistic.” I would try for 12, or, a measly book a month.
I read 8, and one of those was an audiobook so it doesn’t really count, does it?
This is going to sound cheesy, but reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic really changed my life in ways I don’t quite know how to quantify. Suffice it to say, I read that book at just the right moment in my life to shift my perspective towards “creative living.”
Beyond what it did for my perspective, though, I liked that it did something for me, period. I think I had forgotten that reading is not about numbers and it’s not about getting the right authors under your belt (if I told a serious literature snob that Elizabeth freaking Gilbert had changed my life they might sprain an ocular muscle rolling their eyes so hard). Reading can make you feel alive, make you question things, ease your pain, open new doors. It can be informative, it can be hysterical, it can be moving. Reading isn’t a chore that you do for the sake of doing or so that you can “say” you’ve done it. It can have utility – profound personal utility.
All that to say, I fell in love with reading again. With reading what I want to read, and reading it slowly, savoring each word without hurry, as I do.
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
So… I did it. I embraced this new concept of I’ll-read-what-I-want and climbed aboard the EPL train. This book took the stay-at-home-mom world by storm a few years ago, and then there was the typical backlash that ensued and I allowed that backlash to shape my feelings for it for too long. I scoffed, but now I’m not so sure why. Sure, I can’t stand behind this book entirely. She says stupid things plenty of times (e.g. her ruminations on depression and medication made me cringe). But as I’m becoming more and more taken with the memoir genre, I’m realizing that saying stupid things is part of the deal when it comes to the best ones. The more honest and authentic, the more stupid things there will be. Indeed, I’ve written what I’ll call aspirationally memoirical pieces on here, and they are littered with evidence of my many faults, flaws, and blind spots. So, I took the evidence of Liz Gilbert’s own faults, flaws, and blind spots in stride – the book is better for them. Reading her take on faith and love and divinity, so different from anything I have ever seen or experienced, made me want to be a better person. Hell, it made me want to meditate. (Note: still cannot even sit still for longer than 30 seconds. Updates to come).
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
I felt like I could have read this book forever. When Cheryl reached the end of her hike and lovingly touched the Bridge of the Gods, I wanted her to cross it, to keep going through Washington, feeling like she belonged on the trail and fearing for her if she strayed from it (get it? You get it.)
But of course, the point of her journey was not to escape into the woods and become a hermit. It was to take a break from the world so she could find her own place within it, and we know she ended up doing just fine.
Paris, My Sweet by Amy Thomas
This book was as light, fluffy, and easy to swallow as the Parisian pastries she was writing about. It never delved too deep, but I loved reading about her expat foibles and charming bike rides nonetheless. A frothy delight, gone in a second, perfect for armchair traveling.
Bonus: Amy Thomas is (or was) a blogger!
Almost Somewhere by Suzanne Roberts
In a blurb? Three women walk through the woods and meet a lot of strange men, hurt their knees, scare off bears, and learn to trust each other.
This book described a type of female friendship that is foreign and stressful to me. They are competitive about everything. Everything! Who can hike the fastest, who can flirt the most, who can go the longest without showering. It doesn’t even make sense! If they can find ways to be weird about with each other, they will. Suzanne is writing the book with 20 years of hindsight, and peppers in since-learned wisdom throughout the story, heightening the irony of their bizarre interpersonal struggles. It is heartening that after 28 days on the trail together their bonds noticeably strengthened. I mean, they had to. I don’t think they would have made it, otherwise.
Do you have any favorite memoirs or travel pieces you’d like to share? I can’t seem to stop eating them up.
What else have you all been reading?