Hello fellow readers!
My first read of the month was Desert Flower by Waris Dirie. The first lines: “A slight sound woke me, and when I opened my eyes, I was staring into the face of a lion. Riveted awake, my eyes stretched wide – very wide – as if to expand enough to contain the animal in front of me. I tried to stand up, but I hadn’t eaten for several days, so my weak legs wobbled and folded beneath me. Collapsing, I slumped back against the tree where I had been resting, sheltered from the African desert sun that becomes so merciless at noon.” Waris Dirie ran away from her oppressive life in the African desert when she was barely in her teens, illiterate and impoverished, with nothing to her name but a tattered shawl. She traveled alone across the dangerous Somali desert to Mogadishu–the first leg of a remarkable journey that would take her to London, where she worked as a house servant; then to nearly every corner of the globe as an internationally renowned fashion model; and ultimately to New York City, where she became a human rights ambassador for the U.N. “Desert Flower” is her extraordinary story. Copyright 1998 Perennial. I was absolutely stunned (and horrified) at parts of this book – at what a child can endure, at what a culture can believe in – and yet, I couldn’t put the book down. (4/5 Stars)
I then picked up The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. The first lines: “When Josey woke up and saw the feathery frost on her windowpane, she smiled. Finally, it was cold enough to wear long coats and tights. It was cold enough for scarves and shirts worn in layers, like camouflage.” This is a story about Josey Cirrini, a 27-year-old woman who lives in the shadows: the shadow of her father, who transformed the town of Bald Slope into a tourist attraction; the shadow of her mother, who won’t allow Josey to live her life for fear that Josie won’t be around to serve her anymore; and finally, the shadow of her child self, who threw such tantrums that the town won’t let her forget. This is Josey’s world – until she wakes up one morning to find Della Lee, a waitress from the wrong side of the tracks, in her closet. From this moment on, Josey’s life changes as she embarks on a journey to find friends, love, and ultimately, herself. (3/5 Stars)
For my quick and fun read while on holiday, I selected Killer (Pretty Little Liars #6) by Sara Shepard. The first lines, “What if, all of a sudden, you could remember every single second of your entire life? And not just the major events everyone remembers – little things, too. Like that you and your best friend first bonded over hating the smell of rubber cement in third-grade art class. Or that the very first time you saw your eight-grade crush, he was walking through the school courtyard, palming a soccer ball in one hand and an iPod Touch in the other.”
This was the November Book Club selection from Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers. Unfortunately, I did not finish it in time for group blog discussion…but I still think it’s a book worth reading!
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. “The days are long, but the years are short,” she realized. “Time is passing, and I’m not focusing enough on the things that really matter.” In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin carves out her place alongside the authors of bestselling memoirs such as “Julie and Julia,” “The Year of Living Biblically,” and “Eat, Pray, Love.” With humor and insight, she chronicles her adventures during the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier.
Rubin didn’t have the option to uproot herself, nor did she really want to; instead she focused on improving her life as it was. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by all manner of experts, from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her–and what didn’t.
Her conclusions are sometimes surprising–she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that “treating” yourself can make you feel worse; that venting bad feelings doesn’t relieve them; that the very smallest of changes can make the biggest difference–and they range from the practical to the profound.
Written with charm and wit, “The Happiness Project” is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.
TO BE READ LIST
Here is a look at what has recently been added to my To Be Read (TBR) list:
Until next month…