Reading Without Requirement

As someone who was famous for procrastinating in school, I can say that I did my fair share of reading Sparknotes at the eleventh hour if I didn’t have time to fully get through a reading assignment in middle/high school. In college, I graduated to a process of “tactful skimming” whereby I’d pull some quotes from readings I hadn’t had time to finish if they could support the central thesis of a paper. Whoops!

Bean TreesThat being said, there are a fair amount of books on my shelf that boast notes in the margins from class discussion despite the fact that I never actually read them in full. Thankfully, summer reading is a thing of the past for me, but the arrival of warmer weather found me wanting to finally go through and give the books a chance now that there was no pressure to recall and analyze what lay between their pages. I chose to begin with The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver, one of many AP English books that I deftly flew through, knowing it wouldn’t be my eventual choice for essay topics on the AP Exam because I has practically committed The Great Gatsby to memory.

It’s amazing how quickly you can read something when there’s no expected deadline hanging over your head. If I clocked the hours I spent on The Bean Trees, they likely would have added up to less than half a day. Kingsolver’s prose was easy to digest because the voice of the novel’s narrator is a spitfire Southern girl who boasts no frills. As I read through, the handwritten notes scribbled within by 18-year-old me seemed to be sort of painfully obvious observations (affirming that, as I suspected, I probably has done more skimming than reading back in 2009), but despite their lack of depth, it was interesting to see what I picked up on and thought at the time. Reading the book at a different place in my life also gave me new perspective on its themes and messages. Overall, the experience made me want to reread another old “required reading” book again soon!

What was your favorite “required” reading book that you’d recommend? Have you ever gone back and finished a book you were supposed to read but didn’t?



Literary Loves | The Power of Habit

Power of HabitAs someone who is all too enthusiastic about the self-help section of the book store, I was excited to receive The Power of Habit in December. Although the book certainly provided a lot of interesting examples of how habits permeate all aspects of our everyday lives, I felt it underwhelmed when it came to the most important part: how to take control of those habits.

Perhaps I’m a little bit picky. This book intrigued me because it seemed like it would hold the secrets to mastering unruly tendencies, and whole reason I’m so into self-improvement style books is because they tend to be chock full of new things to try. I’ve found a lot of great books that fulfill that expectation. This was not one of them. Though I finished it feeling fully informed about things like “keystone habits” and even learned the basic process for honing a habit, after the last page I was still waiting for the section where the cool knowledge gets paired with life-changing strategies.

Perhaps I’m to blame for my own disappointment. I expected advice from a book that classifies itself as being simply psychology. It seeks to educate, not call to action. Maybe I should have read the subtitle better and noticed the key word, “why,” where I was craving a “how to change.”

Disappointments aside, I do think the book has a lot of cool case studies (some of which I already knew from marketing and organizational behavior classes – #womp). You can tell the author, Charles Duhigg, is a reporter from the hefty bulk of footnoting in the appendix,  but he’s certainly done a good job of compiling a comprehensive look into how much of what we do is purely due to habit.

Have you ever expected something more out of a book and been disappointed? What book was it?

Literary Love | The Defining Decade

As a recent college grad who has yet to find my first non-internship position, it’s safe to say I occasionally panic about my next step. During such a time, my fabulous cousin recommended this book by author and counselor Meg Jay. Jay, who specializes in treating twenty-somethings, puts forth a compelling argument as to why it’s important to make the most of one’s first “adult” decade, gleaned from research as well as her clinical experiences.

Though I’m admittedly a sucker for a good self-help book (ask me my feelings about “The Secret”…), this one was especially enjoyable. I loved the way she organized it by category (Career, Love, and Biology) and could boil down each chapter into one piece of advice. Additionally, the examples taken from her patients legitimized a lot of the points, in my opinion. Whether you’re looking to take action in your career or love life, if you’re in your “defining decade” this book is worth reading (and rereading).

Bonus: many of Jay’s main points can be found in her TED Talk on why 30 isn’t the new 20.

Literary Love | SB Edition

Reading for pleasure and spending my Spring Break in Punta Cana might not turn out to be complementary plans. However, I’m going to be doing my best starting tomorrow, 11 am when I board a plane to warmer weather. The aspirational reading list:

Also just finished this one today. The house we’re staying in is packed with books — seemed appropriate because it’s set in the Carolina Lowcountry. A haunting tale of two sisters, sailing accidents, and bipolar disorder.