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Lani’s Summer 2019 Reading Recommendations

A big question for a lot of women with full lives is, how do you make time to read? The most obvious answer is of course, put down your phone! I know I’m not the only one who had fallen into the trap of scrolling through headlines or Instagram for 30 minutes before bed. Put down the phone, pick up a book, and in a few weeks, you’ve read an entire book. And if you are too tired to read the book as I’ve been lately, just go straight to sleep! Waiting for the dentist or your child at karate? Use it as me time and read a book on the Kindle app. But far and away the most game changing suggestion, the only way I could read a book when I had a baby and a 2 year old and a full time business, is Audible. Audible is seriously life-changing. When I think of all the years I spent washing pump parts at 11pm during which I could have been listening to a book, I could cry. Audible literally turned drudgery into me-time. Dishes? See you in half hour! I’ll be listening to my book in the kitchen by myself after the kids go to bed. Like I said, life-changing.

A lot of times we are already reading more than we realize. I had to stop subscribing to so many periodicals so that I had more time to read books. Although I love and miss Vanity Fair sooo much, it is like reading a book every month, which was leaving no room for fiction. I even stopped subscribing to Vogue (fashion gods, strike me down!) because I just had to stop the growing pile of periodicals next to my bed. The only monthly magazine I still receive is Architectural Digest, my guilty pleasure. Yes, I know that US Weekly is supposed to be a guilty pleasure, but how different is reading about houses only a billionaire could afford to furnish? I also read Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion industry newspaper, everyday.

The last step in my book evolution, after discovering Audible and paring down on my periodicals, was to join a book club, a move I considered so serious of a time commitment (pathetic, I know), I hadn’t even belonged to one when I was single and childless. Although my book club had a bit of a rocky start, we have hung on and are now a force to be reckoned with! I’m now guaranteed to read one book a month, plus I’m benefiting from others’ perspectives and suggestions. And of course there is wine, cheese, and good company!

Keep reading for my current suggestions and below that, my analysis of Kindle vs. Audible vs. Paper Book.

Happy Reading!

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Fiction

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The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

I didn’t want to be a jerk but…I pushed hard for my book club to read this one. Have you ever heard about a book and just thought so strongly, I must read that? The story takes place in both (with intertwining characters) Chicago’s gay community of the late 1980’s during the AID’s crisis, and Paris in 2015. Having grown up in Chicago and conducted AIDS education there in 1994, and then spent a semester in Paris during college, there was an obvious draw for me. However, the story and characters are understandable on many levels, especially what happens to us when we move through a trauma without working through its affects. There are a lot of judgment and moral questions here that also make us realize how much we might, but can and should not, judge others for their choices. The central question of The Great Believers is, how do you find goodness in the midst of disaster? We can all use the answer to this question.

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The Book of Essie by Meghan Maclean Weir

The Book of Essie was another book club pick, but not by me. I could not put it down.  The book opens with finding out that a reality-TV evangelical preacher’s daughter is pregnant. The rest of the book is spent figuring out who did it, who knew, and who can be trusted. Except it is so much more fantastical and unpredictable than that. Trust me. If you are having a hard time getting back into reading, you will have no problem finding time to read The Book of Essie. You will want to know what happens next. This is a great book to read all day on the beach or on a long plane ride. You won’t want to be interrupted!

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Educated by Tara Westover

I know, I know, Educated is so last year. I also read Eat, Pray, Love 3 years after everyone else. I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. And while it was not perfect, it was darn good. You have to keep reminding yourself that this story is real, this book is not fiction. Everything in this book actually happened to Tara Westover and her family. Educated is a good reminder that no matter where you come from or what you are told you are supposed to be, it is the light inside you that matters most, not those trying to blow it out. I have a better understanding of human nature after having read Educated.

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Next Up!

 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

So I haven’t actually started this book yet! This one is next up on the list for my book club. It takes place in New York in the year 2000, a time I lived there, and it is called My Year of Rest and Relaxation (a dream!), so I’m pretty excited to read it. I’ve been trying to finish up The Second Mountain so that I can start it, but have been so busy the last few weeks with my mom in the hospital, the kids, and work, I’ve barely read anything. Hoping to turn things around this weekend now that Mr. Real Life Style is back in town!

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Nonfiction/Self-Help

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The Second Mountain by David Brooks

The full concept of this book might be a lot to get into here but let me try to give you the layman’s overview. (Full disclosure: I haven’t finished it yet!) First mountain goals are the ones our culture endorses: to be a success, to make your mark, to experience personal happiness. That is a quote from David Brooks. But this mountain doesn’t actually make people happy. Being self-centered and independent doesn’t make us happy, being other-centered and interdependent does. Time to find and climb the second mountain. But first, the valley. Learning that the valley, the time after you fall or are suddenly knocked off the first mountain, the time when you must work through and discard your ego, has a purpose (to direct you towards your second mountain), gave me great peace of mind and clarity. I’ve already been knocked off my first mountain and been through my own valley, but the book has helped me gain clarity and put into words what I’ve been saying for years, having my life completely fall apart at age 29 was the best thing that ever happened to me. I had everything from the outside but I was miserable. Now I have demands from everyone and everything and I no longer live a so-called “free” life in NYC with weekends in the country, but I have everything that really makes me happy; a loving and connected family and community, and inspiring clients to serve. I’m looking to the book to help me focus even more on my second mountain, how I can serve my family, my community, and even the world at large. I am so much happier living a life of service; empowering women to live their lives fully, raising two rascals, and having a true partner in life, than hanging out in NYC serving myself.

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Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Yes, there are two books by Gretchen Rubin in one reading list (see below). I could have included so many more! In fact, Better than Before references a Gretchen Rubin book I have not read yet quote the concept of constantly, The Four Tendencies. If you listen to Gretchen Rubin’s podcast, Happier (you should), you’ll be familiar with the four tendencies, which explains how people respond to both inner and outer expectations. Once you understand the concept, it will seriously blow your mind. Especially if you are married to someone who is a different tendency than you. In case you are wondering why I’m explaining a different book first, it is because it helps to know which tendency you are before you try to create a habit, therefore Ms. Rubin uses the four tendencies framework throughout the book. For instance, I am an Obliger, which means I respond to outer expectations but not inner ones. Makes perfect sense then that until very recently the only way I would make time to exercise was to book and pay for an expensive boutique exercise class. Then it wasn’t up to me to show up, I had an appointment with someone else and money riding on my exercise session. Those people who can wake up every day at 6am and run 5 miles every day? Upholders. Curse those upholders. Seriously though, there are pros and cons to all four tendencies. Want to know how to create a new habit that is most likely to succeed? Read this book first.

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Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

The title says it all, doesn’t it? When Max (now 7) was a baby, I would drop him off at the nanny share, then spend an hour picking up the house before starting my work day. This is how true the mantra Outer Order, Inner Calm is in my own psyche. And then like all people who want to stay sane and don’t have a full time housekeeper, that habit had to go out the window when the second kid came along. In the contest between sleep and order, sleep had to win. However, now that the kids are 5 and 7, I’m ready to slowly take back my house. Yes, we still have Legos in every room, but I’m now ready to take on the challenge of the small, bothersome areas that have been neglected for years. Outer Order, Inner Calm is not a big system you have to buy into, but rather pages of manageable steps of which you can pick and choose those you are ready to tackle, when you are ready to tackle them. Not only does Ms. Rubin tell you what to do, but she tells you why. “By getting rid of things we don’t use, don’t need, or don’t love, we free our minds (and our shelves) for what we truly value.”

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Juliet’s School of Possibilities by Laura Vanderkam

Sometimes you just need a parable, you know? If you know me IRL or have been reading this blog for a while, you’ve probably heard me recommend Laura Vanderkam’s original time management bible, 168 Hours: You have more time than you think. I’ve also read every other book Ms. Vanderkam has written on time management, some of them twice. I have to say though, I had quite a few aha moments while reading Juliet’s School of Possibilities that I apparently needed to hear in a parable. Lest you think the book is a boring tome about time management, I assure you it is a good (and quite short!) story that illuminates the central issue behind most of our lives, there are only so many hours in the day, it is up to us to prioritize what matters to us. To quote Juliet, Riley’s mentor, “Expectations are infinite. Time is finite. You are always choosing. Choose well.”  I have to confess, this book deals with one of my biggest time management issues. I have a very hard time separating myself from the everyday tasks of life and business to work on long term projects. This book helps you understand what is to be gained in figuring out that balance. Actually, I think it is time to listen to the book again!

 

To Kindle or not to Kindle

So should you download books on an actual Kindle, use the Kindle app, listen on Audible, or actually buy old-fashioned paper books? Of course this answer will be different depending upon a number of factors, but I recommend experimenting to see what works best for you, as well as considering a combination. The Kindle app is a no-brainer because we always have our phones with us, right? You want a new book, you can have it immediately. In fact, a lot of times now when you order a book on Amazon they will deliver the first chapter to your Kindle app so you can start reading before you receive the paper book. I sometimes get books this way that I know I won’t want to keep around or loan to others and want to start immediately.  An actual Kindle can be terrific if you read quickly, like to read many books at once, and travel a lot. One kindle, many books, no internet connection necessary if they are already downloaded.

As stated above, I am a strong believer in Audible. However, I have realized, now that I have a tiny bit of time to read outside of cleaning-up time, that I truly maximize the joy of reading fiction, one of my favorite activities on earth, when I read from a paper book. If I am reading from a paper book, it is the only time in the day I am not multi-tasking. When I’m reading from an electronic device, it still feels like work. Reading from paper, whether it be a magazine or book, is probably the activity in life that fills my bucket the most, to use Max’s first-grade class language. I think recognizing what fills our own buckets the most is an important skill I wish my first grade teacher had taught me!

What about you? What are you reading? Do you use audible? Do you like the Kindle app or prefer paper? Let us know!

 

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Lani Inlander is a personal stylist who has been working with clients who want to feel their best and look put-together every day for over 15 years. You can find her in the Washington, D.C. and New York metropolitan areas. Learn how you can train with Lani to become a personal stylist at The Stylist Studio

You can find Lani Inlander and Real Life Style on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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