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Recent Reads: 3 books to feed your soul, change your life and help you become more aware of why you do the things you do

August 10, 2018

With what I am about to say, you might be surprised to learn that this isn't a sponsored post for Audible, however, I can safely say that my Audible subscription has been my most valued purchase and investment for the entirety of 2018. As an avid reader who has dabbled in ebooks but ultimately returned to the feeling and smell (and the safe spillages) of physical books, I was quite wary of venturing into the world of audio books. I love to listen to talk radio and now that I work from home, more than ever before, I devour podcasts (an upcoming blog post is in the pipeline to feature some of my favourites) so really I should have realised earlier how much I would enjoy the audio book format. I am sure I am not alone in saying that I often struggle to get into the zone for reading whereas listening allows me to occupy my restless nature while enjoying an audio book.

 

So far, I have gravitated towards non-fiction and I particularly enjoy that the author has narrated the books I have listened to. Two of the three books follow the current trend for year long experiments and challenges and the third is from the author responsible for probably the most prolific year long challenge: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I am a complete sucker for this style of book. I love the transformational aspect; I especially love it when an author effectively interweaves anecdotal evidence alongside scientific studies and I really love hearing about the author's own personal experience, opinions and conclusions about the subject they are discussing. 

 

Let's dive into the first three books I have listened to with my Audible subscription that might feed your soul, change your life and help you become more aware of why you do the things you do. 

 

 

1. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life if Worth More than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders documents the author's life for the 12 months where she bought only consumables: food, toiletries and petrol for her car amongst a few other exceptions to the rule. Along the way, she got rid of 70% of her belongings, learned how to fix things rather than throwing them away, researched the zero-waste movement and completed a television ban. The irony was that at each stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.  

 

This was the first Audible book that I downloaded and I can't even remember where I first heard about it. I remember seeing it floating around in the shops and I was immediately drawn to it's subject matter. I enjoyed watching the Minimalism documentary on Netflix, for the past couple of years I have consciously been trying to consume less and I have already undertaken somewhat of a clothing shopping ban so the subject area of living with less is something I am drawn to. I admired the challenge that Flanders set herself and although at first it seemed very pragmatic and practical, what I was not prepared for was how poignant and thought-provoking Flanders' book would be. I love how self-reflective she was as she looked back on her shopping habits and I challenge you to not reflect on the way that you consume things. Flanders' book buying habit especially resonated with me. She often bought books that she thought she ought to read and ought to like and this is something that I am guilty of. Also, she noted that this habit can manifest itself in other buying habits; often you buy for the 'idea of yourself'. This book is relatively short but I am still impressed that I managed to listen to it all in one day and one sitting. I loved the practical tips at the end on how to undertake your own 'Year of Less' and these could also be integrated into your day to day life without having to commit to entire year of not spending.

 

 

2. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin chronicles the author's year long journey to explore and test drive the wisdom of the ages, scientific studies and lessons from popular culture on what it takes to be happy. I first came across Gretchen Rubin when I listened to her podcast Happier which she co-hosts with her sister, Elizabeth Craft. You can't help but be enamoured by Gretchen and her sister with their nerdy approach to being happier, their recognition that it is often the small things that can give you great pleasure and the frank honesty of themselves. These qualities are very much a part of Gretchen's book as well. Although, I thoroughly enjoyed the grand adventure of Carol Strayed's Wild or the mighty challenge of Cait Flander's Year of Less, I love the focus on the everyday for Rubin's project; she wanted to see how she could enrich her life and possibly make herself happier by making changes to her everyday life.  This book is brimming with ideas, with interesting scientific studies and facts as well as plenty of personal observations by Gretchen herself and those close to her. She never pretends to be a scientist but you cannot help but be convinced by her observations. She is a true happiness enthusiast (in my mind anyway, not a happiness bore as she frequently worries about throughout the duration of the year) and she approaches it with such dedication. This militant dedication soon makes you realise that although someone's happiness is a very personal thing and very hard to measure, it doesn't mean that it cannot be approached strategically and mindfully. Most of all, I love her message that the most important thing that matters is that once you can allow yourself to be yourself, then you can truly understand how to help yourself be happy.

 

 

3. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert is the author's love letter to creativity and manifesto to help her reader's to find more joy in their lives by living in a more free, more joyful and more creative way. Elizabeth Gilbert is most well known for her 2009 best-seller, Eat, Pray, Love which followed her path after divorce to eat, pray and love her way through the recovery process.  Much less of a memoir, Big Magic positions itself as a inspirational piece for its readers as well as self-help guide to help enrich the reader's life. 

 

Personally, this book is my least favourite of the three and frankly, without the author's name behind it, I doubt it would have been published in its current form. I am 100% behind her viewpoint. I felt inspired listening to her points of view and I even found this gem of a quote which especially resonated with me: You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path not by your successes or failures.

 

 

However, the main issue for me is that I think the book could have been an long form opinion piece rather than a book or even a Ted Talk. The book is filled with contradictions and lacks content. Although I completely agree with her sentiment that we should stop thinking and start doing when it comes to approaching creative projects, I do think that her spiritualisation of creativity jars with this point. She holds up creativity as this other worldly magic that could strike at any time yet encourages to approach creativity as something that should be practised. She maps out her own opinions on the subject of living a creative life without providing tangible advice of where to begin if you are genuinely fearful or if you are going through some level of artistic block. I would love for the content to be peppered with scientific studies rather than purely anecdotal evidence. All in all, I love the message behind this book but I just feel that it could have been a lot more than it is. 

 

Have you had a chance to read/listen to any of these books? What did you think? Do you have any recommendations for similar books? Please let me know in the comments!

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