Sometimes I wish I could read everything under the sun. It’s just too impossible. There are millions of books out there. But the stuff you read can influence you in the future and I like the idea of being thoughtful, mindful even, of what I read. There’s just not enough time in the world to read garbage, so why waste it? Okay, sometimes I like garbage too. Smutty, dirty, sweaty garbage. Somehow I managed to read quality stuff this year.
I started the year off with Dr. Norman Doidge’s The Brain That Changes Itself, a ground-breaking work on neuroplasticity—the brain’s capability to reroute and “fix” itself. The doctor likened my experience of acute depression to a heart attack inside my brain. Reading Dr. Doidge’s work gave me hope that I can overcome my diagnosis and live a normal life. This year Dr. Doidge is releasing The Brain’s Way of Healing. It’s definitely on my TBR pile.
I also picked up Mind Over Mood. If you have never heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy you should look into it. Many of us will experience a mental illness in our lifetime. And those who don’t will know someone affected by it. CBT is a method of self-help that teaches you to re-examine your thoughts. When you’re depressed your habits tend to veer towards black and white thinking, catastrophizing situations, creating worst-case scenarios in your mind. Then your mind begins to panic and you’re left feeling hopeless. It’s a vicious cycle that kicks a mean piece of ass when you’re stuck in it. Mind Over Mood teaches you to pick these thoughts apart to give yourself breathing room. Practicing it regularly can definitely help. I wish I could say that I’m always practicing this, but it can be hard when you get stuck in a cycle of depression and anxiety. Life—it’s a work in progress.
On the other side of the nonfic spectrum, I read Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France. Talk about a woman with passion and joie de vivre! She and her husband Paul lived a very blessed life in France. I truly admire Julia’s passion for learning as well. I picked up a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking in Paris’s Shakespeare and Co. book shop in 2010 and I love cooking from it. Creating the perfect roast chicken is akin to finding nirvana and I love, love, love when it comes out right. French cooking may be simple but it’s demand for good ingredients truly sets the bar for everything else.
I also read my fair share of fiction. I read Dickens, Austen, Herman Melville, Richard Aldington, and my first Dean Koontz novel (not memorable.) The Dickens and Austen were exceptional, though. I read two Dickens this year – A Tale of Two Cities at the beginning of the year and Hard Times this fall. Both were full of his wonderful wit and charm. It’s the mark of a great writer that you can read his work over a century after publication and the words stand the test of time.
I also learned that Austen is more than Pride and Prejudice! I picked up Emma and Persuasion. By far my favourite of the two was Persuasion. Emma was nice, but well, Emma’s a bit of a twit and I can’t abide girls like her. I’m more of a straight shooter, like Anne Elliot. Her character resonated with my soul on a familiar level.
Herman Melville. God almighty did I ever give up on Moby Dick. The fiction was wonderful. The extensive history of the whaling industry killed me dead. The language was dense, but readable until I got to the pages and pages of explanations of 19th century whaling practices. Forgive me, but ain’t nobody got time for that.
Last but not least, I read What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson. Yes, I read it because my name is Olga. I’m not ashamed of that. But I also read it because Olga is a 94 year old international track star and I wanted to know what insight she has on what the body can do. Turns out she’s just the sort of person who puts her mind to something and keeps working at it. Yes, there are genes involved and I have no misconceptions about my own longevity. None of my grandparents lived to see ninety, but a good number of them did see 80 so, if I play my cards right, I think I’ve got a good chance of getting up there. I was curious to know what to expect at that age and it turns out that, as long as you do the things you love, you’ll live quite happily. So here I am, doing what I love—writing–and I’ll continue to do the things I love until I can’t no more.
Thus concludes another year of books. This isn’t the comprehensive list of all twenty that I read. If you’re curious about that list, you can follow me on Goodreads. I post all of the books I read on there. I don’t really know what else Goodreads is for, but I’m sure I’ll figure something to do with it. If you have an account I’d love to know how you use your account. Leave a comment, tweet at me, or leave it on my Facebook wall.