Get Real Life Style's E-Book Your Work-Week Wardrobe with 10 Powerful Pieces. Subscribe to our newsletter:
Media & Human Rights

Lani’s 2021 Reading List (Part 1)

What’s on my reading list? Remember this Instagram post from January and the blog, How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions: Lani’s 5 Tools For You? Tool #5 is to read more by creating a pile of books you really want to read. I swore I was going to read all those books in 2021. We are now more than halfway through 2021.

“How am I doing,” you ask? Well… I have consumed a lot of books–both written and streaming. However, I have only read three in that stack! And the stack has now doubled! How did this happen? Good question! I seem to be incapable of sticking to my reading list, no matter how carefully I craft one. A shiny new book always seems to cross my path and take the place of the one that I was going to read next.

What good books have you read lately? What’s next on your reading list? Let us know in the comments below!

Happy Reading!


How to Murder Your life by Cat Marnell Real Life Style Summer book list

How To Murder Your Life: A Memoir by Cat Marnell

Did you live in NY in the 2000s? Read Lucky Magazine? Work in fashion? Attend the New School? If so, you might also love this book as much as me. On top of that, the author is originally from Bethesda, MD, which is near where I live in DC. However, recreational drugs have never been my thing, and this book is basically about the author’s drug addiction. I highly recommend listening to the author “perform” her own memoir on Audible.

Self Tanner For The Soul by cat Marnell Real Life Style Summer book list

Self Tanner for the Soul by Cat Marnell

Although I still have not finished listening to it, I downloaded Self Tanner for the Soul as soon as I finished How To Murder Your Life. I need to know what happens next! I do know that Cat Marnell turns out all right after listening to the author’s interview on one of my favorite podcasts, Everything is Fine, which is how I learned about the memoirs. I plan to listen to the interview again after I finish both books.

Something that Cannot Die by Paula McLain Real Life Style Summer book list

Something That Cannot Die by Paula McLain

Do you love historical fiction as much as I do? Something That Cannot Die is a fictional retelling of Georgia O’Keefe’s life at 42. Trapped in a marriage with the man who launched her career but is now unfaithful, and creatively stalled, the already famous artist longs for something more. This story, beautifully read by actress Cynthia Nixon, made me appreciate certain freedoms women take for granted in our present time, like solo travel and careers. However, Ms. O’Keefe’s struggle between preserving her relationship with her husband or herself, told in exquisite prose, is timeless.

The Spy Masters How The CIA Directors Shape History and the Future by Chris Whipple Real Life Style Summer book list

The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future by Chris Whipple

You may not believe me that The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future by Chris Whipple was a fun read. It truly was as fun as a book this informative can be. Yes, it was interesting to learn about all of the different directors over the years. But what was really interesting to me was learning how they got there and how the role of the job and the Agency has changed over time. Moreover, it was an interesting lens through which to learn more modern political history.

Ta-Nehisi Coates We Were Eight Years In Power Real Life Style Summer book list

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Where do I start? In We Were Eight Years in Power, author Ta-Nehisi Coates tells the story of the Obama presidency, our racial past, and how the hell Donald Trump happened post-Obama. We Were Eight Years in Power features iconic essays first published in The Atlantic alongside personal narrative and new essays. Beautifully written, Ta-Nehisi Coates speaks truth to power in a book that is not to be missed by anyone participating in the U.S. political process. That means you, voter.


The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett Real Life Style Summer book list

The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett

There is a reason The Vanishing Half was named a best book of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time, NPR, and many more publications. The buzz around this must read novel was not hype.

Did you know that I’m an identical twin? This is her, if you don’t know. Needless to say, I was super fascinated when I heard there was a book out about identical twins in which one manages to live life passing as White, while the other remains Black. Of course there is so much more to this wonderfully written, generation spanning tale.

The Last Painting of Sara De Vos Dominic Smith Real Life Style Summer book list

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel by Dominic Smith

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel combines so many of my passions into one book! This is the book I read during My First “Mommy Sabbatical.” Amusingly, I had picked it up a year or two before, read a few chapters, then put it down. I just wasn’t in the right headspace to read it. Luckily, I knew that it was me, not the book! I have no idea why I decided to ignore my stack and plunge back in this past February. I’m so glad I did. Art History, old New York City, Early Dutch painting, art forgery, Amsterdam, female artists, there is no end to the subjects I find fascinating in this book! Did I mention there is also a romantic plot line?


Atomic Habits An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Bread Bad Ones by James Clear Real Life Style Summer book list

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear

Read this book if you want an exact roadmap to build a good habit or break a bad one, or at least know what has been standing in your way. The Atomic Habits text is easily accessible, while clearly explaining the science behind every habit, good and bad. There is more to be found on James Clear’s website. Of course, I read the whole book, and I still can’t get to bed at 10pm. Although now I know why!

Bored and Brilliant How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self Real Life Style Summer book list

Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self by Manoush Zomorodi

If you know that the constant stimulation of all of those electronic devices is bad for you but want to know why and what they are doing, read this book. If you don’t want to know, or don’t want to make any lasting changes, don’t read this book! I am not what one would call a big consumer of media. In fact, I semi-loathe social media and barely watch any TV or movies. However, I love to work and listen to podcasts and books.

No one needs reminding more than me to “turn off” in order to turn on the most important parts of your brain. After reading this book, I listen to even less media, pick up my phone many fewer times per day, and prioritize time off in my own way. I’m a work in progress, but I do give my brain more room to “just be.” Someone like me needs to see the scientific proof behind the value of rest, relaxation, and leisure in order to make it a priority. Bored and Brilliant delivers.

Brene Brown Dare To Lead Real Life Style Summer book list

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown

I came to a few big conclusions after listening to Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown on Audible. Number one, Real Life Style is a pretty whole hearted place to work! Obviously, creating a positive work environment has been intentional. Secondly, I wished I had read the book on paper because I thought I would have absorbed more of such an important book for any business owner.

A few weeks after finishing this book, I had my first real life test to see if I had absorbed its lessons. As a perfectionist in my work (only for myself, I never expect others to be perfect!), I can have a hard time with critical feedback. I hate the idea of letting others down. Without the paper copy in which to refer back, I was able to follow Brené Brown’s steps for receiving and responding to critical feedback to a satisfying conclusion for all.

I waited to read an email containing critical feedback until I was ready to receive it, I recognized my defense mechanisms as they popped up, and I used the experience as a learning opportunity for everyone involved. If I had not read Dare to Lead, the “shame spiral” (to use Brené Brown’s terminology) would have lasted for weeks and threatened treasured relationships. And the outcome would not have been nearly as productive.

The 5 Am Club by Robin Sharma Real Life Style Summer book list

The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life. by Robin Sharma

Told in a very entertaining parable, the gist of the The 5 AM Club is that if you wake up at 5am every day to exercise, reflect, and learn for twenty minutes each, the world will be your oyster. I have been joking for years that a 5am wake up is the only way to get ahead of my kids and my life.

The lack of alone time during quarantine finally drove this introvert to wake up at 6am. Then I moved to 5am when my kids started in-person school and our day began an hour earlier. Now I will give up anything in life but my time to myself at 5am, including sleep! (See Atomic Habits book section above about failing to get to bed at 10pm every night!)

Although I began reading The 5 AM Club about the same time I began waking up at 5am, it gave me the structure, motivation, and science (more science!) behind why I should stick with my early mornings. Now it is easier to get up than not to get up. I swear! Stay tuned for more about my new morning routine! Will you add The 5 AM Club to your reading list?

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo Real Life Style Summer book list

How to Raise a Reader by Pamela Paul and Maria Russo

Oh, how I wish this book was out when my kids were babies! Written by the Children’s Book Editors of The New York Times Book Review, this may become one of my signature baby gifts and will stay on my yearly reading list for review. How to Raise a Reader advises on how best to read to children at every stage and guide them to read on their own. It also offers incredible reading lists for every reading stage from newborns to teenagers. And, for you sleep deprived parents, it is an easy read with beautiful illustrations. Thank you to my mother-in-law for the book, and thank you to my mother for making me the reader that I am!

Sugarproof Real Life Style Summer book list

Sugarproof: The Hidden Dangers of Sugar That Are Putting Your Child’s Health at Risk and What You Can Do by Michael Goran and Emily Ventura

The bad news? Sugar is everywhere. Even fake sugar is bad for you. Food companies don’t even have to put some ingredients on the label! The good news? There are some workarounds in our processed food world. As scary as some of the facts are, knowledge is power. After Sugarproof presents you with the facts, the book offers two versions of short-term plans to get your family off the sugar merry-go-round. I just finished the book on our recent vacation, so starting one of the plans after all that ice cream (and donuts) is probably not a bad idea! The recipes in the back of the book look delicious. I can’t wait to try them, especially the muffins and crepes. I’ll let you know what my kids say.

The alternate title to this book could have been, “my dad was right all along.” Let me take this opportunity to apologize for all the candy I used to sneak on the way to Hebrew school…

the art of screen time how your family can balance digital media and real life Real Life Style Summer book list

The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life by Anya Kamenetz

Max (9) was so afraid of what I might find in The Art of Screen Time, he tried to take it off my reading list by hiding it from me! The funny thing is, I actually felt much more relaxed about screen time after I read it. Maybe it was because Anya Kamenetz, the education reporter for NPR, offers up many points of view on screen time. For every study that comes to one conclusion, another study comes to a different conclusion.

There is so much the scientists still don’t know. Like the effect of the past year and a half on our children. Kamenetz also summarizes all of her advice very nicely in the last chapter of the book, which is a bonus for harried parents like me who take two months to read the book! The bottom line? Model healthy behavior, talk to your kids at the screen free dinner table, put down your phones, and look them in the eyes when they talk to you. Use technology as a means for connection and learning. And, of course, no screens before bed.

Kid’s Books

Below are selections from book series that I recently read or am currently reading with my 7 and 9 year old boys. Although they read voraciously on their own, I still enjoy reading to them as much as they will let me. The other activities they like to play with me require more energy than I have at the end of the day. Anyone who wants to play basketball with me must really love me!

Are you wondering why Harry Potter is not currently on our reading list? I read all of the books with Max beginning when he was in first grade. Although James has just finished first grade, I feel that he would be better off waiting. I just need to make myself wait! Now I just need to figure out how to get Max to read the books again on his own. He isn’t at the reading stage yet that he understands why you would read a book twice.

the emerald atlas Real Life Style Summer book list

The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning Part 1) by John Stephens

knights vs monsters Real Life Style Summer book list

Knights vs. Monsters by Matt Phelan

little house on the prairie Real Life Style Summer book list

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

the adventurer's guide to successful escapes Real Life Style Summer book list

The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Walbert White

Next Up

Finishing the books I have not yet read in THE PILE!!! I’m too embarrassed to take a new pic to show you much it has grown :).


Real Life Style is a style consulting firm that teaches busy women to wear their power so they can live their lives fully and confidently. Lani Inlander and Kyle Dunphy are based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and serve clients nationwide. We offer personal styling services, an on-demand e-course, corporate services, and training to become a personal stylist.

Once in a while, you can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Mostly, they are happily busy serving their fabulous clients, not hanging out online!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *