My Favorite Books in 2020

“ . . . the books we read are more than just things. Somehow they become a part of who we are. A little piece of our soul.” –Mari-Jane Williams

Along with cycling and writing, reading is one of my very favorite things to do. That is why I have enjoyed sharing this annual post with my readers for the past five years. You can check out all of them at these links: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019

I read a lot—66 books in 2020. As the quote from Mari-Jane Williams says above, the books I read become a little piece of my soul. I grow and learn so much through reading. It is one of the ways I continue to self-educate. What a privilege it is to be able to do this throughout life!

I read mostly on Kindle these days. While I love libraries and love the cost savings they allow, as well as the look and feel of physical books, Kindle fits best most of the time during this season of life.

My Kindle is not a fancy one, and the cover is certainly showing some wear. This is my second one, after Logan or his friend Dakota stepped on my first one, already several years old, in 2017.

I have been saddened to notice how the apparently irresistible force of Logan’s phone and the Xbox have pulled him away from reading. I notice this in many of my students, too. I wonder how many read anything long form these days. How many adults do? I know I still have reading friends, and, if you are reading this post, you are likely a reader, too. Maybe you will be inspired to check out one of these titles. I hope so, and I hope those who are under the spell of electronics (I know. I read mostly on Kindle, and I am typing this on my laptop, where I have conveniently recorded my favorite books all year.) can somehow regain a love of reading. Logan used to love to read. Until it became too much work. That makes me sad.

But this is meant not to be a lament for nonreaders but an ode to readers and fuel (“Kindling,” if you will) for their fiery passion for books.

I have included in this post those books I awarded four or five stars on Goodreads. I read almost exclusively nonfiction, albeit a wide range of genres within nonfiction. Some of the categories overlap—especially memoir and personal development or psychology. We can learn and grow so much from reading each other’s stories. Your preferences may differ from mine. That is great. The main thing is to keep reading!

Business/Career

Difference: The one-page method for reimagining your business and reinventing your marketing, by Bernadette Jiwa—This was a short, easy read with simple, yet useful suggestions for creating a business based on empathy. This was the gist of the book—lead with empathy for those we serve. If doing work with purpose is important to you, this book can help

The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5, by Taylor Pearson—I debated about whether to give this book three for four stars. Finally, I decided on four because there was a lot of good information, and there were useful questions and exercises in the book. In general, the book is written for prospective or aspiring entrepreneurs, but there is an odd section that feels like it belongs in a different book. It is a long chapter providing details about how to hire an apprentice. The book explains that apprenticeship is a potential path into entrepreneurship, but this section feels like it was written for established entrepreneurs who may hire others to work in their businesses. Still, the book has value and earned its place in this post.


Getting There: A Book of Mentors
, edited by Gillian Zoe Segal—This was a really good book, full of interesting first-person accounts written or spoken (I’m not sure which.) by people who have achieved big things in a variety of careers. I really liked reading their insights and gained some pearls of wisdom.

Health

Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body, by Jo Marchant—This was an interesting and critical look at how our mind contributes to our well-being. It is written from the perspective of a scientist, not a New Age believer, yet she recognizes a place for mental wellness in physical health.

Deadly Outbreaks: How Medical Detectives Save Lives Threatened by Killer Pandemics, Exotic Viruses, and Drug-Resistant Parasites, by Alexandra Levitt—Although written before the COVID-19 pandemic, I read this book during the early stages of our ongoing pandemic. It told an interesting story about the epidemiology behind solving tough outbreaks. I’m sure the “medical detectives” have been hard at work on this pandemic.

Even Vegans Die: A Practical Guide to Caregiving, Acceptance, and Protecting Your Legacy of Compassion, by Carol J. Adams—This book turned out to be different than I expected, but it deals with an important topic. I guess the subtitle should have been a clue. This book acknowledges that vegans may face guilt and shame if we have health problems. I can relate to the expectation (self-imposed or not) that I should have perfect health and stay effortlessly at a perfect weight, in order to represent vegans well. This is the first public discussion I have read of this issue, and I appreciated the discussion of it that Adams presented. Then the book did become the practical guide the subtitle claims, addressing things like wills and advanced directives. While unpopular, these are topics we should all consider, and Adams’ perspective and experience are useful.

Functional Medicine Coaching: Stories from the Movement That’s Transforming Healthcare, by Sandra Scheinbaum & Elyse L. Wagner—This book seems to have been written to recruit coaching students to the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy, but there is still a lot of great information in it. I have already included some of it in a blog post and probably will in the future, too.

History

Conan Doyle for the Defense: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer, by Margalit Fox—I finished this book on New Year’s Day 2020, and I knew I already had the first addition to My Favorite Books of 2020. Fox does an excellent job of providing general information about Arthur Conan Doyle. I learned that he was much more than the creator of Sherlock Holmes, although that is remarkable enough. This is the true account of his two-decades-long quest to free a wrongly convicted man. I was so fascinated that I decided to purchase the book for my mom for Mother’s Day. She enjoys classic mysteries, and I knew the British element of this story would be of interest, as well. This was a great book to carry into 2020 to start my new list.

Facebook: The Inside Story, by Steven Levy—This was a very long book, and there were times I wondered if I should stick with it, but Levy presents an extensively researched account of Facebook’s history, including his personal exclusive access to inside information and happenings. Part of my reason for reading was to decide how concerned I should be about my privacy in Facebook. To be honest, I haven’t changed anything since reading this book, but at least I feel like my use is less naïve. The origin story and evolution of the company really is quite amazing.

Memoir

Becoming, by Michelle Obama—I read this book for the WSU Common Read Book Selection Committee, and it just happened to come in the midst of the social unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd. Obama covered so many topics—gender, race, socioeconomic status, education. She also shares details of the Obama family life very openly, including what it was like to live and raise children in the White House. It was very informative, and I admired her authenticity.

Contact Wounds: A War Surgeon’s Education, by Jonathan Kaplan—This is the second book, after The Dressing Station, by Jonathan Kaplan, that I read. I think I liked it even better than the first. It chronicles Kaplan’s fascinating career before and after the stories he covers in The Dressing Station. Kaplan chose an unconventional medical career, and he is open about the sacrifices involved, but it is clear that there are also many benefits.


Counting Backwards: A Doctor’s Notes on Anesthesia
, by Henry Jay Przybylo—I learned a lot about the world of anesthesiology. I didn’t realize there was as much potential for self-advocacy with anesthesiology as there apparently is. Dr. Jay, as the author is called, feels deeply that his mission is to alleviate all pain for all patients, to the greatest extent possible.


Cracked, Not Broken: Surviving and Thriving After a Suicide Attempt
, by Kevin Hines—I gave this four stars because the story is so important and told so honestly. The writing is not the highest quality, but it is genuine and told with passion. I heard Hines speak at WSU a few years ago and was quite moved. After surviving a suicide attempt via jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge, Hines has continued to struggle with bipolar disorder with psychotic features, but he is a passionate mental-health and suicide-prevention advocate. His story is important. I highly recommend attending a speaking event where he presents if you have the opportunity.


Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening
, by Manal al-Sharif—This is a very powerful book that shares the story of Manal’s coming of age as a Saudi woman. She transitioned from a traditionally raised Saudi girl to a fundamentalist Muslim to a bold and courageous woman who fought for women’s right to drive. This book touches on many challenging issues and can be hard to read at times because of her history of abuse that she shares, but it is compelling and important.

Downhills Don’t Come Free: One Man’s Bike Ride from Alaska to Mexico, by Jerry Holl—I loved this book. It represents my very favorite genre—what I call personal-growth adventure memoir. Even better, it was cycling specific. Holl’s story of his solo cycling trip from Anchorage to Mexico was so much fun to read and very interesting. His accounts of riding past grizzly bears makes my dog encounters seem pretty mundane. The simple daily journal style was easy to read and rolled readers along on his journey.

The Dressing Station: A Surgeon’s Chronicle of War and Medicine, by Jonathan Kaplan—This is an amazing account of Kaplan’s assorted adventures as a doctor who traveled. He shares his experience in everything from war medicine to cruise ship physician. Quite a fascinating life!

Educated, by Tara Westover—I am late to the party on this one. I purchased this in 2018, but I just read it in May 2020. This is a wonderful book, with so many rich layers of social topics. Westover and two of her seven siblings overcame incredible odds, as members of a Mormon extremist family, to earn PhD’s, despite never having been sent to school as children. Learning to think for herself had a steep price for Westover, but her story is one that can benefit many, through the thought-provoking way she tells it.

E-Squared: Nine Do-It-Yourself Energy Experiments That Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality, by Pam Grout—There were a lot of good reminders about the power of abundance thinking and the Law of Attraction. She proposes nine experiments, and, honestly, I gave them up because I didn’t achieve “success.” Still, there is a lot of good stuff, and I liked reading this book by a fellow Kansan.

The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe—This is a beautifully written book about a topic that could have been depressing but wasn’t. Schwalbe shares his mother’s last years and their journey together through the books they read and discussed. Not only was it a lovely testimony to the power of reading to shape and enhance lives, but it was a wonderful tribute to his mother and almost a guide to facing end of life with grace. A powerful book.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, by Alex Hutchinson—This was a fascinating treatment of the psychological and physiological aspects of endurance. The author shares his personal experience, as well as the stories of many other athletes, plus hard science.

Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner—Weiner presented the history of the FBI and a fairly extensive biography of J. Edgar Hoover in this exhaustively researched book. It is long and dense. To be honest, I skimmed parts, but it was not difficult to read. It was particularly fascinating to read more recent history that I remembered in order to attain a better understanding of what really happened.


Failing Up: How to Take Risks, Aim Higher, and Never Stop Learning
, by Leslie Odom, Jr.—This was a quick, easy and worthwhile read. Odom’s story of his rise to play Aaron Burr in the musical Hamilton is inspirational and instructive. I’m not sure the title really fits, but there are some good lessons in this interesting memoir.


Fast Girl: A Life Spent Running From Madness
, by Suzy Favor Hamilton—I’ll be honest. The writing is not spectacular in this book, but the story is truly unbelievable, and the intention behind the book—illuminating the extreme behaviors that unmanaged bipolar disorder can cause, while removing the stigma and shame associated with mental illness—is a good one. Hamilton’s story is one I will remember. I probably bought this book because I love reading memoirs by endurance athletes, and I did enjoy reading about her running career, but the second half—her life as a high-end Las Vegas escort—was astounding. I can’t imagine how her husband stuck by her through it all. It is one that made me think.


Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin…Every Inch of It
, by Brittany Gibbons—I went back and forth about whether to give this three stars for four stars. I ultimately decided on four stars because of Brittany’s transparency and positive message. She tells the story of how she became an internet celebrity advocating for body acceptance. It is an entertaining, poignant and quick read.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer, by Heather Lende—This is another one where I found myself teetering between three and four stars. I settled on the higher side because, although somewhat depressing, I believe so strongly in Heather Lende’s core message to find the good in every life and situation. She uses the lives and deaths of members of her small Alaska town to illustrate the various lessons she has learned from them, and I like that. Her writing is not depressing. I think the heaviness I felt while reading it was my own.

Girl Unbroken: A Sister’s Harrowing Story of Survival from The Streets of Long Island to the Farms of Idaho, by Regina Calcaterra & Rosie Maloney—What an incredible story! I wasn’t too sure about it at first, but it quickly grew on me, and I loved it, although there was plenty that was hard to read. A family of five kids suffered unthinkable abuse at the hands of their mother. Rosie suffered at the hands of a stepfather and other men, as well. Two of the five teamed up as adults to share their story. It is brave and hopeful and deserves to be witnessed.

The Grace to Race: The Wisdom and Inspiration of the 80-Year-Old World Champion Triathlete Known as the Iron Nun, by Sister Madonna Buder—What an inspiration Sister Madonna is! Like Downhills Don’t Come for Free, this book falls into my very favorite category, personal-growth adventure memoir. Sister Madonna, who is now 90 (https://triathlonmagazine.ca/personalities/sister-madonna-buder-turns-90-today/), shared her fascinating story of personal growth and her unique brand of ministry and mission in this wonderful book.

Notes from a Young Black Chef, by Kwame Onwuachi—I read this for the WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee. Onwuachi tells his courageous story of breaking away from gang life to “hustle” (to use his word) to make it as a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at, and briefly operated, some of the most exclusive fine dining restaurants in the U.S. His perspective is an interesting one worth reading. In the unrest of summer 2020, it was timely.

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, by Mona Hanna-Attisha—I also read this one for WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee. Dr. Mona was the driving force behind breaking open the Flint, Michigan water crisis. In this memoir, she tells the story of the fight against institutionalized racism that had created the problem and threatened to keep Flint in danger because of lead in the water.

Personal Development

Badass Habits: Cultivate the Awareness, Boundaries, and Daily Upgrades You Need to Make Them Stick, by Jen Sincero—I love Jen Sincero’s work. I listened to this one on Audible because I have listened to one of her previous books, and she is just so funny. Humor aside, there is a lot of great material in this book. She has designed it to function like a course, and it makes adopting new, or losing old, habits very manageable. Jen tells it like it is and has a way with words that is uniquely her own.

Beginner’s Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose and Impact Now, by Liz Forkin Bohannon—I read this for the WSU Common Reads Book Selection Committee and probably wouldn’t have chosen it, based on the title. The title just didn’t speak to me, although I can see why it might to college students. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to have a lot of relevance for any age, and it was very well written and quite funny in spots.


Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
, by Chip & Dan Heath—This was an enjoyable read with lots of good suggestions for making better decisions. I gleaned some tips that I have already put to use and will in the future.

The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms, by Danielle LaPorte—There were quite a few good ideas and inspiration in this book. Any time I find inspiration to grow in some way, I get excited.


Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be
, by Rachel Hollis—This is another book where I was late to the party, reading it long after the hype settled, and I accidentally read her subsequent book first, a while back. I wasn’t thoroughly convinced with my four-star rating, but I ultimately settled there because I did pick up several good quotes. Hollis shares 20 lessons she has learned through life. It’s good, but I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would, based on the hype or on Girl, Stop Apologizing.

Psychology

Cringeworthy: The Value of Awkwardness in a Put-Together World, by Melissa Dahl—The best gift of this book was the feeling of “It’s not just me!” that I got when I read about cringe attacks and mind pops. Until that point, to be honest, I was feeling disappointed in the book, but that chapter elevated the book to four stars for me. I wrote a blog post inspired by this chapter because reading that others share these experiences was such a relief to me.


The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better
, by Gretchen Rubin—Although I have read Gretchen Rubin, used her Four Tendencies in my coaching practice and had this book on Kindle for years, I didn’t actually read the book until November 2020. There is so much that makes sense here, and it is a helpful way of trying to understand ourselves and the people around us. I confirmed that I am an Upholder. Only one of the Rebels with whom I live would take the quiz. The other is too much of a Rebel for that. Understanding tendencies helps to depersonalize some behavior.

Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun—This book is hard to categorize. Personal growth? History? Psychology? I’m not sure where it belongs, but I did appreciate it. It left me with some questions. I had not previously thought of myself, as a GenXer, as really being part of a community because of that—one with a unique set of challenges because of when we grew up. I’m still not sure I do. However, it did make me wonder if the angst and searching I have felt so often is generational or if it is just me, as I have always assumed. Maybe it is a little of both. This was an interesting discussion of GenX women at midlife.

True Crime

The Crime of the Century: Richard Speck and the Murders That Shocked a Nation, by Dennis L. Breo—This is one of the best true crime books I have read. It was so thorough in its coverage of a horrific crime and the exhaustive investigation and legal proceedings that followed. The investigators, prosecutor and star witness were clearly the heroes of the book, rather than glorifying the murderer. The victims were treated with respect, and their story was told with dignity. I had heard of this historic crime for years, but I didn’t really know the details until I read this book.

Deliver Us: Three Decades of Murder and Redemption in the Infamous I-45/Texas Killing Fields, by Kathryn Casey—This was a fascinating examination of three decades of murders along I-45 in Texas, between Galveston and Houston. Casey examines these murders from a compassionate perspective and in the hope of generating interest in cold cases.

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” –Annie Dillard

I hope this list of my favorite books from my 2020 reading inspires you to pick up some of them. What was the best book you read in 2020? Let us know in the comments.

I’m excited to launch my special Blossom 2021 Quick Coach Power Sessions. Enter your email address and click the button to sign up to receive a link to schedule your free session.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

I share free daily content on my JustWind Coaching Facebook business page. Click here and “like” it to be sure you it, including more details on my free Blossom 2021 Quick Coach Power Sessions.

If you like this post, please share the link with others you think will enjoy the content I produce. I am working hard to grow my platform to improve my chances at securing a traditional publishing deal for my in-progress book. I would be grateful to you for helping me extend my reach.


JustWind Mindset in the Face of COVID-19

Throughout the surreal developments of the last couple weeks, I have doubted that there is anything of value I can provide—through my writing, through my coaching, through my online presence. I have thought, “Why bother?” because I have felt so overwhelmed by the news on COVID-19, by the abrupt transition to working from home (which I would love, under the right circumstances and with time to prepare and organize), the shock of K-12 school closures, the end of track and other spring sport seasons and the uncertainty and fear of the future. I made a significant investment in a business course just days before everything fell apart, but working on my business in any public way seems both insensitive and futile at this time. Still, I have to believe that we will get through this, that, collectively, we will be okay.

More than any other event that I can recall in my lifetime, it seems that we are all in the same boat. Certainly, some of us have more robust resources to cope. But we are all living this previously unimaginable reality that has so suddenly become ours.

Health and compassion are my themes. My goal is to dwell at the intersection of those two themes and to contribute to their growth in the world. So, how can I best do that in this interrupted life?

For my answer, I return to the roots of my blog that evolved to include my coaching practice and the book I am (still, despite this dramatic change of life) writing: the JustWind mindset. For those who are unfamiliar with the story behind the JustWind name, you can read my original blog post here. To give a brief recap, the concept originated in June 2002, on the last night of Biking Across Kansas, a cross-state bike ride that I love and in which I have participated since 1999. Kansas is windy. That is an undisputed fact. Every BAK has wind, but 2002 was particularly windy (even featuring a severe thunderstorm with 95-mph straight winds that shredded tents). The wind had beaten us up all week, and I was starting to get a cold. On the last evening, as I looked for our bags among those that had been unloaded from the luggage truck, I complained grumpily to my friend David about the wind. He shrugged and gently said, “It’s just wind.”

I had a moment of profound insight: I could choose to be miserable (even doing something I loved—cycling), or I could choose to recognize the challenge for what it was and keep turning the pedals to move forward and stay upright. I realized that I could do this, not just on the bike, but in every aspect of life. It was truly an awakening for me and one that has led to a great deal of (long and protracted and always-evolving) growth for me. Essentially, I realized that we have the power to choose our perspectives, and the ones we choose shape our lives.

I decided that sharing this reminder is the primary value that I can add to the coping strategies for managing the disruption created by this pandemic. I am endeavoring to remember to engage the JustWind mindset as I make my way through these strange days. My effort is imperfect. I have had moments of crisis and extreme agitation. I panicked last week when I had to make a rushed 50-mile round trip to my office, when I heard that I may lose access entirely in this incredibly busy advising season that has suddenly transitioned to phone advising. I yelled at Logan later that evening when he kept throwing a plastic tumbler into the stainless-steel sink, noisily and unsuccessfully trying to land it inside another one (a version of the highly irritating bottle-flipping craze of a few years ago). He persisted when I asked him to stop, and I lost it. But, when I can remember, it helps.

We all have to find our own best ways of handling this, and I suspect that the issues are different for introverts and extroverts, but I will share some of my strategies and hope they help. Please share your own in the comments. We can learn from each other.

My husband Kenny reads COVID-19 news out loud what seems like approximately 23 hours a day. While I agree that it is important to stay informed, this wears on me. I am working primarily at home, Logan’s school is closed, and Kenny is on an indefinite hiatus from his work as a bus driver and groundskeeper for the school district. We are all suddenly together in what feels like a very small house for many hours a day. Logan would be on Xbox nonstop if we would let him. Kenny reads the news out loud to me. While I am working at home, while I am studying my business course, while I am writing (He is sleeping now.), he reads. While I am dialing the phone for my next student appointment, while I am tracking appointments, while I am responding to email, he reads.

These are the things I am doing to cope, to escape, to strive to thrive:

  • Empowered movement: For me, this consists of cycling about three evenings a week (Thank you, daylight savings time!) for 15-20 miles and building mileage on the weekend days. I rode 30 miles each day this weekend, despite cold, dreary conditions. A couple mornings a week, I do yoga (Yoga with Kassandra is my favorite.), strength training or Foundation Training. Training my body helps me to feel better physically and mentally and to feel stronger and be more resilient. It prepares me to face more effectively whatever comes my way.
  • Reading: My life is too full (even in this strange new world) to allow time for simply sitting and reading, but using skills I honed years ago as an undergraduate who worked full time and went to school at night, I read while I am getting dressed, washing dishes, folding laundry, brushing my teeth—every spare moment. I read over 60 books a year this way, and they help me stay sane and continue growing and evolving. They help a lot now. I just finished reading Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip & Dan Heath. It was very good, and I gleaned from it some useful decision-making strategies. After finishing it this morning, I started Deep Listening: A Healing Practice to Calm Your Body, Clear Your Mind and Open Your Heart, by Jillian Pransky. Reading, like cycling, is a tremendous escape for me.
  • Meditation: My morning meditation practice, as well as some moving meditation on the bike, helps me stay grounded and centered. I incorporate breathing exercises and Kundalini yoga, and it starts my day from a place of peace and grace.
  • Plant-powered nourishment: Of course, I eat plants, not animals all the time, but it is even more important to be mindful that the food is nourishing and supporting my mental and physical health at this time. It is easy to want to eat just comfort food in this crazy situation, but I try to keep in mind the bigger picture. As I wrote this yesterday, I had just finished my breakfast smoothie. I included hemp seed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate for extra nutritional support. This morning, I had Kashi and dry oatmeal with frozen berries and cherries, cocoa (full of antioxidants!), walnuts, vegan yogurt, ground flaxseed, maca, turmeric and magnesium gluconate. Breakfast is important, but so is everything we put into our mouths throughout the day.
  • Hope: As I said above, I have to believe that we will get through this. I do believe we will be changed. I hope the changes are for the better. Some of them may not be or may not feel like they are, but we can choose to grow through the changes. So, I am not relinquishing my goals, although I am giving myself some grace and adjusting the pace of my pursuit. I am still writing my book, writing blog posts, working my business course (but holding off on public-facing activities because pushing forward with those seems insensitive) and pursuing certification as a running coach. I am choosing to trust that everything will happen in the right time, in the way that it should.
  • Structure: All too suddenly, our days look different. Even if I have an ultimate goal of being able to work from home, I want it to be in circumstances I choose, not a situation thrust upon me, in my busiest time of semester, with no time to prepare thoughtfully and comfortably. So, I am creating a new structure for myself. I took time yesterday to establish a structure for Logan’s days because this cannot be perpetual spring break. He needs athletic (He has continued to run.), academic and household responsibilities each day. There will still be time for Xbox (although I have to admit that I absolutely hate that thing). Structure helps us to make sense of our days and make use of our time for productive activities.
  • JustWind Mindset: We don’t know how long this will last or how brutal it may get. On my bike, I literally have been blown off the road by the Kansas wind. I have felt many times like I am being pushed backward by headwind or could be knocked over by crosswind. I just keep turning the pedals (and, after some deep breaths, get back on the road after having been blown off). I am remembering all this and trying to apply it to COVID-19. It will change our days, our plans and our ways of life, but we can handle it. We just have to choose the empowered perspective that allows us to believe we can and then take action to do so.

As I said, I would love to see your comments about how you are striving to thrive during this pandemic. Please let us know.

I wish all my readers (and all the world) health, safety, happiness and peace in this scary and uncertain time. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Let’s follow the CDC and WHO, as well as local, recommendations, guidelines and orders. Let’s try to stop this thing as soon as we can, take what we learn and move forward powerfully. Blessings to all!

“The moment you accept responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you gain the power to change anything in your life.” –Hal Elrod


Discovering Courage & Community in the Written Word

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

–James Baldwin

While I certainly don’t think my pain and heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, a couple of recent books have awakened the realization that I’m not alone in certain experiences that, admittedly, I had previously believed were unique quirks. This has caused me to think about the many ways that we can find both courage and community through the written word.

The biggest a-ha moments occurred while I was reading Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness, by Melissa Dahl. I was drawn to this book because I hoped it would help me to understand and release certain experiences of embarrassment and shame that have continued to haunt me. Initially, I was disappointed, and, I have to say, I struggled to stay focused reading it. I even skimmed some parts. Then, I encountered Chapter 8.

“Cringe attacks” That’s what she called them. As soon as I read the words, I had the thought, “So, it’s not just me? Other people do this, too?”

Cringe attacks are the name that Dahl gave the experience of suddenly, out of the blue, being blindsided by a memory of an embarrassing or shame-filled experience. It is something that I have never discussed with anyone, but it has nagged me for as long as I can remember. Certain memories have been perennial pests, popping up time and again, year after year. The time in 2001 when I made a poor choice about what to wear to work. The time when I was about 15 that I still can’t bring myself to state publicly. The cringe attacks come in vivid flashes, utterly unbidden, usually causing silent or out-loud exclamations and shaking of my head, in an effort to quickly usher the thoughts away.  

In recent months, my biggest tormentor has been an experience of mistaken identity at the beginning of fall 2019 semester. At a University social event, I saw someone from the back and thought it was someone else who I knew had fairly recently started working at the University. She’s someone I like and was happy to see. I think I called her name (well, the name of the person I thought she was) and touched her on the back. She turned, and I continued to talk to her, as I looked at her face. I knew this other person, too, but, for some reason that I still don’t understand (and, believe me, I have analyzed it ad nauseam to try to figure this out), it didn’t register until she said something, clearly trying to signal politely that she was not who I thought she was, about the location of her office. This woke me, and I made a hasty and ungraceful exit. Immediately, I wondered, “What is wrong with my brain? Is this early-onset dementia?” Was I spaced out from the stress of being in a social, mingling setting, which I hate? Whatever it was, I couldn’t believe that I didn’t immediately realize, when she turned, that I was talking to the wrong person. If I hadn’t known the woman in front of me, it would have been embarrassing and awkward, but not as mortifying as this was, since I knew her (and, worse, she knew me), too. For months it has popped randomly into my head. There does not have to be a trigger. Seemingly out of nowhere, the memory will barrel back into my consciousness, and I will feel a visceral clench of shame in my stomach, in my face. A cringe attack!

Reading about this phenomenon, I felt a sense of community with the unknown others (Does everyone do this? Even if it is just some of us, knowing that it is not just me helps.) who are tormented by cringe attacks. Until reading this, I thought I was the only person who suffered such attacks. More than anything else I have done to try to dampen the shame and embarrassment I felt around the mistaken identity, knowing that others have cringe attacks and witnessing their courage in sharing them, has helped me find both community and courage. I have had more healing and release since learning this and since starting to think about sharing my story in my blog than in the preceding months of trying to banish my negative feelings through Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or tapping), meditation (not just for that reason, of course) or any other strategy, like hard intervals on my bike. Although finding out that I was not alone in the cringe attacks did not change the original experience, it seemed to normalize the whole thing for me—at least enough that I could write about it, further diluting some of the poison. It may seem silly, but the anguish has been real.

“Mind pops” are cringe attacks’ benign cousins. These aren’t particularly bothersome, but, again, I thought this regular occurrence was just part of my weirdness. A mind pop describes the sudden, apparently random, appearance in our conscious thoughts of less painful recollections. They aren’t upsetting, but they have often left me wondering, “Where did that come from?” A common form of mind pop for me occurs in the middle of something entirely unrelated. For instance, during my yoga practice on Thursday morning, I suddenly found myself mentally at the intersection of 151st W and 109th N, north of Bentley, Kansas, on my bike. Why? I don’t really mind, especially when it is a cycling mind pop. It’s just puzzling. There is nothing particularly unusual about the locations that show up as cycling mind pops. Why there? Why at this particular moment? I could understand if I had experienced something emotionally significant, but they usually just represent routine bike rides. Odd. But maybe normal?

My mind pops don’t only happen around cycling. That is just one of the more common forms for me. While reading about mind pops in Cringeworthy didn’t provide the same emotional release that learning that others have cringe attacks did, but I felt a little less alone, a little less weird. Others have mind pops. Interesting.

Listening on Audible, Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis, by Ada Calhoun, gave me a different type of feeling of community. As a Gen X (roughly those born between 1961—or 1965, depending on the source—and 1981) woman, I have never really thought about myself as part of a generational community. You hear a lot more about Baby Boomers and Millennials, and I never really gave that much thought, which was part of Calhoun’s point. I have always thought that the angst I have felt over my path in life and over some of my choices were uniquely mine, unrelated to my position in history. And they are, in the specifics. But Calhoun pointed out that a lot of women my age experience this existential angst to a greater degree than some other generations, and that this suffering has often gone without recognition. While hearing many stories from other Gen X women who grew up with similar messaging, in a particular, shared historical context was a bit depressing, it also helped me recognize that my generation is one form of community for me, beyond just having grown up listening to the same music or, on a micro-level, gone to school together.

That’s the power of the written word—recognizing that we are not alone in experiences that we may have believed were exclusively ours and because of which we may have felt lonely.

Our own writing can be a place for us to find and express courage and, by sharing our stories bravely, to help others find courage. I have a dear friend who is writing a memoir. Sharing our stories in full honesty requires forging through pain and shame and guilt and many difficult feelings. I have been privileged to read some of her early chapters, and she is taking on all the pain courageously, baring her feelings and her memories because she believes (and I do, too) that her story can make a difference in the world.

That is also the power of the written word.

There are so many ways, these days, that we can read and benefit from learning others’ stories and realizing that we are not alone. We can heal and gain courage and feel a kinship with others who have gone through similar experiences. We learn that other people have gone through the trials and torments and embarrassments that we have. We feel a sense of community. That gives us strength.

We learn so much from books. Books (albeit mostly Kindle, for convenience) are still my favorite form of the written word. There are other ways, too, that we can find courage and community in reading and writing. Blogs and social media have opened up whole new avenues of expression and connection through the written word. I think this is a particular benefit to introverts, like me, but we can all grow through our interaction with these forms of writing.

I’m so thankful for my literacy, my vision, my drive to read, my call to write, the countless authors and writers I have read—and will read 😊–in my lifetime.

Courage and community. Compassion is my highest core value. Courage and community help us grow in compassion—for self, others, the animals, our planet.

What are some of the books that have made the biggest difference for you? How have you discovered courage and community through any form of the written word? How can you use the written word to make a difference?

I sincerely hope that my writing—whether in this blog, my in-progress book, my social media sharing, my soon(ish)-to-be-published essay or any other writing I do—will speak to others, at least occasionally inspiring courage and growing community.

Writing really is a superpower. Reading really is an amazing gift. I am grateful for both in my life.


My Favorite Books of 2019

I am thankful to have enjoyed many great reads in 2019. This is my annual post highlighting those books I gave four or five stars on Goodreads during the year. Goodreads shows my entire year in books here. As always, nonfiction is my preference.

It is always fun to reminisce about my literary year as I write and refine this post. As I read the brief reviews I wrote about each book that earned a spot on this list, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I was reading each book. In some cases, I recognize evidence of my evolution from who I was when I read a book to who I have become with exposure to additional books and new life experiences. It is nostalgic, enlightening and exciting.

I am almost finished with a book right now that I know will go on next year’s list. I also plan to give it as a gift. (Tune in next January to find out what it is. 😊) That is the wonderful thing about reading—there is always another terrific book waiting to be read and more to learn and discover.

I am making good progress on my own book, and I look forward to completing the writing and learning the publishing process in 2020. I have submitted final revisions for my essay to a forthcoming vegan cycling anthology, edited by Carol J. Adams and Mike Wise. I am not sure of the publication date, but I am hoping it will be during 2020. Writing, editing and revising my essay has been a tremendous learning process. As I work on my own book, I am grateful for the experience.

These are the best books, alphabetical by category, that I read in 2019. This year, maybe more than most, some defied straightforward categorization. In those cases, I went with my gut instinct on where to place them. Please excuse any funky formatting in this post. I’m trying to correct it, but I want to get on my bike, so I don’t plan to spend too much more time dealing with it.

Here’s to another great year of reading! I’m so grateful for my literacy, my vision and my access to wonderful books.

I hope you find some of your next reads in my list below.

Business/Career

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future, by Chris Guillebeau—This book was encouraging and helped me believe that I could really make my coaching business thrive. It offers practical business advice as well as many case studies from successful entrepreneurs. If they can do it, I can do it! I was at a different place with my coaching practice when I read this than I am now. I have determined in the last month that I will be evolving to a different model and taking an approach that more fully resonates with me. Still, this was a very good book, and I like the author.

The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life, by John Assaraf & Murray Smith—This book inspired me in several ways, including a modification to my daily mindfulness practice, which was meaningful to me. In some ways, it is two books in one—the first part devoted to putting Universal Laws (Attraction, Gestation, Action, Compensation) into action in our lives and the second part spent detailing business practices. I found value in both parts and have implemented actions from both.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do, by Chris Guillibeau—As I mentioned above, I really like Chris Gullibeau’s writing. This book may be even better than The $100 Startup. Guillebeau provides both advice and inspiration for finding and/or creating work that is the right mix of joy, money and flow, the combination he believes creates the work we were born to do.


Wellpreneur: The Ultimate Guide for Wellness Entrepreneurs to Nail Your Niche and Find Clients Online
, by Amanda Cook—The more I read, the more I realized how well-organized and information-packed (in a manageable way) this book is. I used her suggestions to create a more regular schedule for my blog. I utilized some of her other recommendations and still find them to be very good. I think they would have worked more effectively for me, if the model I was pursuing for my coaching practice had been right for me. I have since figured out that it is not, but I do recommend this book.

Health/Nutrition

The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons From the World’s Happiest People, by Dan Buettner—I am a fan of the Buettner’s Blue Zones work. This book examines happiness, which, of course, is an aspect of health. Buettner gives information and practical tips from what he has learned from the happiest places on the planet.


The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People
, by Dan Buettner—Here, Buettner elaborates on the dietary aspect of health in the Blue Zones. The book has recipes, as well as information about these locations.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey–I listened to this on audiobook and really liked it, but it was so loaded with information that I think I would have preferred a hard copy. This is a comprehensive resource for using exercise to enhance so many aspects of brain health across the lifespan.


What the Health
, by Eunice Wong—I watched the documentary a couple years ago and really liked it. This book provides greater depth, detail and context. It covers the range of health, social, political and economic issues associated with our country’s obsessive consumption of animal products. Experts in the field of nutrition and medicine are consulted, and compelling case studies are presented. If people will watch a movie, but won’t read a book, show them the film. If they want more detail, this book should convince uninformed consumers of animal products of the harm they are doing to themselves, the animals and the planet.

10% Happier, by Dan Harris—This is an interesting discussion by a skeptical news correspondent and anchorperson of his journey to becoming a meditator.


14-Minute Metabolic Workouts: The Fastest, Most Effective Way to Lose Weight and Get Fit
, by Jason Karp—Karp presents a large menu of several different types of high-intensity, efficient workouts, covering all aspects of fitness. The menu can serve as a mix-and-match strategy for increasing fitness, while minimizing boredom. I have incorporated some of his workouts into my off-season training program.

Inspiration

The Awakened Woman: Remembering & Reigniting Our Sacred Dreams, by Tererai Trent—More than a memoir, this book is so full of inspiration and encouragement. Tererai bravely tells her story of courage and perseverance. The odds she has overcome to accomplish what she has accomplished are truly unbelievable. When I doubt my ability to accomplish something in the future, I will remember Tererai.


A Survivor’s Journey: From Victim to Advocate
, by Natasha Alexenko—This is Natasha’s courageous account of being victimized by a rapist in 1993 and struggling with PTSD ever since. She also shares the startling news that there are many thousands of untested rape kits in the US. Her own rape kit sat untouched for over nine years, while she believed the rapist hadn’t been caught because of her incompetence. When she learned the truth about the rape kits, she founded a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating the backlog.

Where There’s Hope: Healing, Moving Forward, and Never Giving Up, by Elizabeth Smart—I read My Story, by Elizabeth Smart, several years ago. In this book, she weaves aspects of her own harrowing kidnapping and rescue into a series of interviews with a wide range of people who have experienced trying (and sometimes tragic) times in their own lives. Her own healing is evident, and she brings out the lessons others have to share from their own stories. While some of the stories are horrific, the overall tone of the book is uplifting.

Language

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, by Gretchen McCulloch—The volume of research that must have gone into this book is incredible. Honestly, I debated about whether to award three or four stars in Goodreads, because the detail was so minute at times that it became a bit tedious. Still, I was so impressed with McCulloch’s broad scope of coverage and her obvious enthusiasm (I listened to the audiobook.) for all things language, especially informal language, the category to which she assigns internet language, that I decided the book deserved four stars. She presented a great deal of fascinating data on the many ways that the online world is changing language worldwide.

Memoir/Biography

Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense, by Krista Schyler—This memoir is one of my favorite styles—a journey of personal introspection, written from the perspective of a physical journey. In this case Schyler travels for nearly a year in a car with her dog Maggie and her best friend Bill, trying to make sense of life after her boyfriend succumbs to metastatic testicular cancer at the age of 28. She tries to figure out what her future will look like, while traveling, hiking, appreciating natured and discerning the nature of her relationship with Bill.

 

Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist, by Daniel Munoz—I learned a lot about the world of cardiology by reading this book. I did not realize that the field contains so many subspecialties. Munoz tells multiple stories of patient encounters during his first year as a Cardiology Fellow at Johns Hopkins. Within these interesting case studies, Munoz shares what he likes and dislikes about each type (interventional, preventative, echo, etc.) His descriptions helped me to understand more about what each one meant.


A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal
, by Jen Waite This was an interesting story. More than anything, I liked it because it encouraged me that an average person still had a message to share that would sell books. Waite determined that her ex-husband was a sociopath, and that very well may be true. I’m not sure the evidence was always clearly laid out to support this, but she had an interesting story to tell of shock, survival and post-traumatic growth.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family, by Amy Ellis Nutt—This is a very well-written biography of a transgender girl and her family. Nutt documents the family’s journey from Nicole’s birth as Wyatt, an identical twin to Jonas. The family was supportive of Nicole throughout her many challenges and heartaches. The story is both fascinating and touching. I learned a lot.


The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster
, by Jonathan M Katz—This one was hard to categorize. It is a memoir because Katz lived through the Haiti earthquake and relates his personal experience, but it is also a meticulously-reported account of the earthquake and its aftermath. I found the detailed explanation of Haiti’s political more in depth than I wanted at times, but it is a legitimate part of the story, and the whole picture would be incomplete without this background. Among other things, this book is a reminder of how very fortunate I am.


Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected
, by Nnedi Okorafor—Okorafor shares her inspiring story of going from a college athlete to someone who had to overcome paralysis to learn to walk again, after the scoliosis surgery that was supposed to ward off future serious health problems went wrong. In her suffering, she found a way to make meaning and, as she says, become more than she would have been without it.


Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action; A Memoir
, by David Fajgenbaum—In a similar vein to Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Fajgenbaum’s story is one of suddenly becoming deathly ill to finding meaning in his suffering. His story is different than Okorafor’s, though. I learned about Castleman disease, which has an incidence similar to ALS, but of which I had never heard. Fajgenbaum became afflicted while he was a medical school student, and the journey he shares of recovery and hope and perseverance is truly inspirational.

Climbing With Mollie, by William Finnegan—This Audible Original audiobook struck me with Finnegan’s obvious devotion to, and awe of, his daughter. They started rock climbing together when she was a teenager. She developed a high level of skill. His was not comparable, but they have enjoyed many years of climbing and travelling together. His discussion of their shared language reminds me of the language I share with fellow cyclists.


Feast: True Love in and out of the Kitchen
, by Hannah Howard—I really liked this book. Howard honestly and courageously shares her story of recovery from disordered eating and a series of unhealthy relationships. It was so enjoyable that I was sad to finish it because I will miss it.


Find Another Dream
, by Maysoon Zayid—This audiobook was wonderful. Maysoon’s story is inspirational, and her delivery was entertaining. I loved listening to this courageous memoir, sprinkled with Zayid’s comedic comments. I did not know who she was, although she has had a long career in stand-up and TV. She is a terrific advocate inclusion of all people, regardless of ability, health status, religion, gender, etc.

Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, by Amanda Knox—Although I was aware of who Amanda Knox is, and I knew that she had been accused of murdering her British roommate in Italy, I really didn’t know much more. This is Amanda’s side of the story, and it is fascinating. She describes her decision to study abroad in Italy, her early days there and how she became entangled in the murder investigation and trial. She was imprisoned there for four years before being exonerated, but the mess didn’t end there. I really enjoyed this book.

Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, by Ken Ilgunas— Besides being a fascinating and entertaining story, there are many lessons in this book. Ilgunas has chosen an unconventional path, and while it is not one I would follow precisely, his ideas about freedom, the value of higher education, debt, adventure and purpose gave me a lot to ponder. His adventures cover a wide range and vast geography—from lodge cleaner to AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer to tour guide to Arctic ranger to grad student living in a van to writer. I hope to read more of his work in the future. I am eager to see where his very interesting and unusual path takes him.

Walk to Beautiful: The Power of Love and a Homeless Kid Who Found the Way, by Jimmy Wayne—This book contains an important message about the difference loving support can make in the life of a young person. Jimmy Wayne tells his poignant story of an unpredictable and dangerous childhood, abandonment by his mother and the critical intervention of a loving older couple who inspired him to walk halfway across the US to raise awareness for foster children, after becoming a country music star.


The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World
, by Kim Dinnan—I really enjoyed this book, although I felt like the story was more about the introspective journey than about the Yellow Envelope. I found myself impatient at times with the author because of her unsettledness and indecisiveness. I realized this was probably because it triggered anxiety about my own feelings of unsettledness. The story was very interesting, however, and it felt like a great escape to read.

Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace, by Kathryn E. Livingston—I found the first half of this book to be rather slow, and I wondered how I could be only 50% finished, according to my Kindle tracking. However, it became more interesting at that point, and I felt like I drew quite a bit of inspiration, including adding some Kundalini yoga to my own practice. Ultimately, I did enjoy the book, and I also felt like I grew through reading it.

Nature

Wildhood: The Epic Journey from Adolescence to Adulthood in Humans and Other Animals, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz & Kathryn Bowers—I listened to this on audiobook, and it was fascinating! As the mother of a teenager, it was very interesting to understand that the adolescents of all species share common tasks and behave similarly as they strive to accomplish them. The authors explore how humans and other species approach status, safety, self-reliance and sex as they work toward becoming adults. It was enlightening.

Personal Development

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear—This book begins with a powerful, attention-getting story that sets the stage for James’ interest in habits. He has many good suggestions and explains the habit cycle (Cue-Craving-Response-Reward) a bit differently than several other authors.

The Best of the Happiness Project Blog: Ten Years of Happiness, Good Habits, and More, by Gretchen Rubin—I have read several of Gretchen Rubin’s books, plus an occasional blog post over the years, so much of the material in this quick read was not new. Still, it was enjoyable, and I found new tidbits of inspiration.


Everything is Figureoutable
, by Marie Forleo—I am a big Marie Forleo fan and had been looking forward to this book. At first, I was a little disappointed because it felt like I had already heard a lot of it. However, the ideas are so good, and Marie presents them so simply that I really did find value in the book. Essentially, the book is a collection of many of her lessons all gathered in on place, which is useful. I have a lot of respect for Marie and look forward to learning more from her.

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Find Success in Work, Hobby, and Life, by Chase Jarvis—I first learned about Chase Jarvis when I heard him on Lewis Howes’ podcast. I was fascinated by his story and bought his audiobook. During the time I was listening to the book, I heard Jarvis on Marie Forleo’s podcast. His message is encouraging, inspirational and heartfelt. Probably the idea I most liked in his book was toward the very end, when he said, “The best antidote to negative feeling is creative doing.” I can relate to this, and I agree with it. In my own life, I feel most alive when I am taking some form of creative action. Starting my book and making it public enhanced my well-being. Jarvis provides both practical ideas and motivational stories to encourage creativity in every person.

The Genius Habit: How One Habit Can Radically Change Your Work and Your Life, by Laura Garnett—This is another audiobook that I feel like I need to purchase in hard copy because there is so much I want to review. Garnett gave me a lot to consider in this book. One of her key points is that we each have a particular “genius” that allows us to excel in particular types of tasks. She challenges us to find that and then to apply it, along with our purpose, to our career paths. Her method for considering “purpose” is different than other approaches I have seen or taken. I need time and space to give her ideas deeper consideration.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals, by Rachel Hollis—I accidentally listened to this audiobook before I read or listened to Girl, Wash Your Face, because I got confused about which one came first. It didn’t hurt anything, although I wished I had done it the other way around. I still plan to read the other one. Rachel narrated this book and really made it come alive. Honestly, I was not familiar with her prior to listening. I feel like I know her now. She is very honest and very motivating. She speaks directly to women and gives us the pep talk and tough love to push us to pursue our dreams. I’m not sure I want to put in the hours she seems to have invested in her brand, and I don’t want to scale my business to the size of hers, but I did pick up a lot of good inspiration, as well as practical ideas for achieving certain goals. She talked a lot about her experience as an author, and I found that useful.


How to be Everything
, by Emily Wapnick—I learned so much from this audiobook! I listened to it at just the right time, when I was already in the midst of making some important changes.  This book emboldened me to own my power and my uniqueness in a deeper way. It helped me to honor my multipotentiality and to see it not as a source of wishy-washiness, but as a source of strength. I have a new definition of my professional self. I am grateful for finding this resource when I did.


The Leap of Your Life: How to Redefine Risk, Quit Waiting For ‘Someday,’ and Live Boldly
, by Tommy Baker—I listened to this on Audible and found good inspiration in it. I felt like the ending was a little weak, compared to the rest of the book, but I liked it. Essentially, the message is one I have come to believe is critical—We must live now. If we put off living or doing things that matter, we may miss our chance. Tommy Baker provides both inspiration and practical suggestions for making those things happen.

Someday Is Not a Day in the Week: 10 Hacks to Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life, by Sam Horn—Having recently refocused my coaching practice as a No Regrets practice when I listened to this audiobook, I found that Sam Horn’s book (to which I listened during my commute) resonated deeply with me. Her wisdom is apparent as she shares her personal stories and the lessons she has learned around living and being happy right now, rather than waiting for someday. She has an apparent affinity for quotes, like I do, and she shared so many in her book. I purchased a hard copy of this book, not just for quotes (although that, too), but because there are many terrific exercises that I want to remember. I was so moved by this book that I emailed Horn and ended up having a phone conversation with her. Although it was not specifically about my writing a book, her words provided some of the encouragement I needed to decide that this was the time to do so. She also helped me to own and honor my unique message.


You Are a Badass Every Day: How to Keep Your Motivation Strong, Your Vibe High, and Your Quest for Transformation Unstoppable
, by Jen Sincero—I really do love Jen Sincero’s style. This is the third one of her books I have read. This one is more quick bites of motivation, but she says that from the start. Rather than just read a chapter a day or turn to pages randomly, I chose to read it through. It was a very quick read, but there are lots of good reminders there.

Your Best Year Ever: A 5-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, by Michael Hyatt—I was surprised how inspiring and valuable I found this book. Besides gleaning many great quotes from it, I found quite a few strategies that will enhance both my personal life and my coaching practice. Really good stuff here.

Let me know if you have read any of these, and please share your favorite book or books of 2019.


My Favorite Books in 2018

Happy New Year!

Reading continues to be one of my passions, right up there with cycling, so I am excited to share my annual blog post listing the best books I read during the year.

“Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” –John Locke

As usual, these are the books that I rated four or five stars on Goodreads during 2018. They are in alphabetical order by category.

Biography

 The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit, by Michael Finkel—I found this account of Christopher Knight’s solitary, 27-year stay deep in the Maine woods fascinating. Knight simply chose to vanish into the woods at age 20. He stayed there for 27 years, until his arrest for burglary. He relied on breaking into unoccupied cabins for his food and supplies. While I wouldn’t choose a path that entirely alienated me from society, required sleeping in dangerously cold conditions or necessitated theft for survival, I could relate to his desire for solitude. That aspect certainly holds an appeal for me and left me craving more solitude in my own life.

Health


The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body’s Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
, by Sylvia Tara—Tara presents fascinating biochemical information about fat. I learned a great deal. For instance, I had no idea that body fat is now considered an organ. She presented information about the individual nature of fat from one person to another, depending on a range of factors, including genetics, gender, age, microbiome and exposure to viruses. I did find Tara’s description, toward the end of the book, of her own strategy for keeping her weight manageable to be rather extreme, but she presents it as her own commitment, not as a prescription for anyone else. All in all, this was a very interesting and educational book.

Memoir

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls—I loved this book! I read it as part of the WSU Reads book selection committee, and I am always a little apprehensive when someone else “chooses” a book for me because reading is such an important part of my life and such a treasured escape. This one fully met my needs. Walls’ captivating narrative of her unbelievable childhood in a family with an alcoholic father and unmotivated mother contains so many lessons and could be an excellent selection for college students. It is a reminder that we have no idea what challenges and hardships other people are facing. Much like Ruth Wariner in The Sound of Gravel, Walls included her siblings in her escape plan. Despite the incredible disadvantages she faced as a child, she became a successful journalist and author. Great book!

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance—I read this book for the WSU Reads Book Selection committee and wasn’t too excited about it, but it turned out to be great. Using a combination of sociological analysis, storytelling and personal reflection, Vance illuminates the struggles of the Appalachian and Rust Belt poor. His deep love for his family—especially his grandparents—is obvious, and so is his honest acknowledgement of the personal responsibility the people in these regions must accept for their circumstances. He recognizes the complexity of the relationship between circumstances and personal choice. Although telling his story from “the other side,” as a lawyer, he clearly still identifies as a hillbilly. He tells his story with courage.


Rusch to Glory: Making the Journey from Ordinary to Extraordinary
, by Rebecca Rusch–Rebecca Rusch is a woman of remarkable athletic achievement. In her memoir of her long professional athletic career, which encompasses rock climbing, paddling, adventure racing and mountain biking, Rusch shares the lessons and wisdom endurance sports have taught her. Despite her incredible record of success, she comes across as relatable and humble. She is a multi-year winner of the Dirty Kanza. Although I am a road cyclist and haven’t ridden that, it was cool to see a home-state event described in her book.

The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France, by Tyler Hamilton—This book grew on me as I read it. At first, I thought it was going to be interesting, but not great. By the time I got several chapters into it, however, I really liked it. Tyler Hamilton and his co-author, David Coyle, provide the most detailed account of doping in professional cycling that I have ever read. Tyler fully admits to his own role in the problem, while he shares his personal experience on Lance Armstrong’s team and, later, as Lance Armstrong’s enemy, when Tyler told the truth.

She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, by Jennifer Boylan—This is the courageous story of how James Boylan became Jennifer Boylan. From the time he was a small child, Jim identified as female. Jenny Boylan shares the story of her personal struggle, her transgender journey and her family’s love.


Sometimes Amazing Things Happen: Heartbreak and Hope on the Bellevue Hospital Psychiatric Prison Ward
, by Elizabeth Ford—Touching memoir of Ford’s devotion to the most unwanted psychiatric patients in NYC—those incarcerated in the NYC jail system, before sentencing. Ford sees them as humans, when many do not.

The Sound of Gravel, by Ruth Wariner—Ruth Wariner tells her amazing story of growing up in a polygamist cult. It is both tragic and hopeful and demonstrates the tremendous courage that was necessary for Wariner to escape the clutches of the cult and her abusive stepfather and to save her younger siblings. Hers is a powerful story that needs to be told.

Straight Pepper Diet: A Memoir, by Joseph W. Naus—Excellent memoir of Naus’ childhood, alcohol and sex addictions and incarceration. He is honest and shares what he learned. It was both informative and intimidating.

Surfacing: From the Depths of Self-Doubt to Winning Big and Living Fearlessly, by Siri Lindley—I found a lot of great quotes—inspirational nuggets of wisdom—in this book. Beyond simply sharing her fascinating story of her neglectful childhood and her discovery of triathlon, Lindley bravely tells her story of self-discovery and acceptance of all parts of herself, including her sexual orientation. Her book is a pretty quick read and left me with some nice motivation.

Performance


The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance
, by David Epstein—This fascinating book taught me quite a bit I didn’t know about genetics, in general, but especially about the influence of genetics on athletic performance. Epstein does an excellent job of sorting out and explaining the relative contributions of nature and nurture in athletic performance. It was captivating from beginning to end, and I have shared it with my son to read because of his growing interest in running and his endurance background and exposure through our family. There is much to learn within these pages about individual athletes, cultures and ourselves.

Personal Development

Can You Be Happy for 100 Days in a Row?: The #100HappyDays Challenge, by Dimitry Golubnichy—I read this book because I enjoyed the online challenge so much and was preparing to implement the challenge again in my Facebook group. The book is a very quick, easy read, if you read it straight through. It contains lots of simple, useful happiness-building strategies. Light and pleasant.

Some Nerve: Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave, by Patty Chang Anker—I needed this book because I was struggling with my concern that I was being held back and limited by fear. I was feeling fear in areas of my life where I have not previously and/or to a degree much greater than in the past. Patty shares her own fears and her journey to overcome them. One of the things I liked the best about this book was that Patty did a lot of research and used other people’s ideas to help convey her message. I learned from them, as well as from Patty.


Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds
, by Carmine Gallo—This is an excellent guide to delivering powerful presentations, whether on major stages, like TED, or in smaller, more intimate settings. Gallo has researched extensively the methods used by the best, most popular, most effective TED presenters. He shares their strategies here, in a way that is engaging, memorable and useful.

TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, by Chris J. Anderson—This is another really good book about giving talks that make an impact. Many of the same examples of excellent speeches were given in this book as were given in Talk Like TED. I guess that is because they are truly exemplary presentations. This book gives different details, however, about crafting your presentation. It is not conflicting information, just focusing on different aspects of great talks. Both books were useful, and this one is written by the current owner of TED, which adds an interesting twist.

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, by Kelly McGonigal—This is a potentially life-changing book for me. McGonigal presents a “mindset intervention” aimed at helping the reader rethink stress—which it did for me. I admit that I was a hard sell, and I still need to process some of the ideas she explains. However, she was convincing, and I have come to view stress differently. I think the most powerful idea for me was this: “A meaningful life is a stressful life.” I realized that she is correct. Almost everything that has meaning in life is also a source of stress, on some level. I have begun talking myself through stressful situations by noticing the benefits of my body’s physiological stress response. The book was full of a lot of great research, including studies showing that it is how stress is viewed, rather than stress itself, that creates health risks. I think this is a book that will affect me for a long time, in a lot of different ways.

Wait, What?: And Life’s Other Essential Questions, by James E. Ryan—This short book carries some good advice and interesting ideas for introspection. It is not so much the specific questions Ryan suggests, but the ideas he shares around those questions, that inspired reflection.

You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero—I can’t even remember how or why, but I got this book as a free audiobook. Typically, I do not listen to books, but it felt like a particular gift to listen to this one, read by the author. I started the book and then stopped listening for several months. I started again after I made a firm and clear decision that I was on the right path with my coaching practice. This time, it was exactly what I needed to hear. The book is amazing! The author delivers her message with humor and passion and convincing, no-nonsense firmness. I was disappointed when it was finished. I felt lonely for her voice and the inspiration in her words. Read this book when you are ready to take big steps forward in your life.

You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, by Jen Sincero—I just LOVE Jen Sincero. This was another terrific book. I liked the first one so much as an audio book, that I got this one as an audio book, too. Her description of her time house-, horse- and goat-sitting while writing the book made me laugh so hard, and her message is consistently inspirational, encouraging and motivating, while hilariously delivered. I will listen to this and her other book again and again.

Productivity


Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine
, by Michael Michalowicz—I learned about this book in the Wellness Business Podcast, and I felt like the presenter was speaking to me. I’ll be honest. I don’t fully understand why, but money scares me. The financial aspect of my coaching business was causing me great anxiety and befuddlement. I ordered this book on Kindle as soon as I learned about it. Again, being honest, I have made some modifications in the system (which Michalowicz recommends against), but just the part that I have implemented so far has greatly alleviated my stress and increased my confidence around managing my business finances.


The Prosperous Coach: Increase Income and Impact for You and Your Clients
, by Steve Chandler & Rich Litvin—There is so much to consider in this book, so many areas to examine how I can implement their ideas. In one of my business mentorship groups, there has been a lot of discussion and excitement about Rich Litvin’s work. After watching some of his videos, this book quickly rose to the top of my to-read list. I was surprised at how difficult it was to obtain a copy. It doesn’t seem to be available for Kindle, and the paperback and hardback versions are quite pricey. I listened to the audio book, which was a great way to get exposed to their concepts quickly. I really enjoyed that, but I want a reference copy, so I ordered one through interlibrary loan and ultimately purchased a paperback copy. Chandler and Litvn teach building a coaching practice through referral and invitation only. It is an interesting concept that appeals to me.

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg—In this excellent book, Charles Duhigg put to good use his experience as a journalist for the New York Times to uncover fascinating stories and situations that illustrate his research findings on the science of productivity. The thing that most impressed me was the level of originality in the ideas and recommendations in this book. He drew on research from gerontology, aviation and education, among other areas. It made for interesting reading and thought-provoking inspiration.

Social Justice

The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler—For many years I have heard about the performance of the Monologues, but I had never seen it. I decided that the 20th Anniversary book a good opportunity to read them. I felt like I was carried back to my days as a Women’s Studies minor as an undergrad. The Monologues themselves are powerful, but what impressed me most is how they have become a social movement, embodied in several forms. A great deal of money has been raised through the movement, funding a wide variety of efforts to protect women  from victims of sexual and physical violence and to help women worldwide who have been victimized.

 Work-Life Fit

Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, by Anne-Marie Slaughter—This is a very well-written book that addresses the important issue of work-life fit, specifically the need for the US to give equal value to caregiving and making money, for both women and men. Slaughter draws on her personal experience making the decision to step down as Director of Policy Planning for the US Department of State to return home to Princeton to spend more time with her teenage sons, as well as her expertise in public policy, to draw a complete picture—from personal to policy—of how this value might be more equally distributed.