Do you ever feel like books find you at the exact right moment? During the past July and August I read these books while I was recovering from an unexpected and unsettling illness. I know that I chose them, but it felt like they were finding their way to me for a reason. Each book, in its own way, left me thinking about how I spend my time, how precious this life is, being present in the abundance of the every day. In short, I spent a lot of time this summer thinking about what it means to be alive right here and right now, and each of these books contributed to that complex web of thought. And bonus: I had a lot of fun illustrating these covers.
Here’s the complete list:
Funny, poignant, and a teeny bit neurotic. I resonated with many of these essays, especially thinking back on the early days with my two daughters, and laughed out loud more than once.
If you and I have ever talked about books, I have likely ooh’d and aah’d about this book, a constant favorite that I reach for every summer (this year was my tenth!). It is a pithy 184 pages of biting, insightful prose that I never tire of reading. My copy is tattered, full of dog-ears and underlines because each year I read something in it that I didn’t read the same way before.
An essential read. Garbes tackles a deeply complicated subject, and calls on all of us – parent or non-parent – to reconsider how, as a society, we can approach motherhood as the genesis of social change, and proposes revolutionary, refreshing takes on taking care of and talking with the humans we bring into the world, as well as our communities, ourselves and each other.
I read this book on the heels of an illness that kept me in bed for the better part of the summer, and I have to say I found it completely refreshing. Burkeman cuts right to the chase: we only have so much time on this planet, so why not spend it doing the things we care about most passionately and forget all the other BS?
I love reading cookbooks before I fall asleep at night. In August, I finally revisited this book, which from my perspective changed how we think about cookbooks. But instead of browsing through it, or referencing a single recipe, I read it cover to cover this time and spent time really looking at MacNaughton’s lively and informative illustrations. I learned a lot reading it this way, but it will take several times through for me to retain even a smidgen of the knowledge it contains and be able to apply Nosrat’s lessons to cooking in real time. In every way, this book is a treasure.
I read this book immediately following 4,000 Weeks, and both hit me hard (in a good way). I read How to Do Nothing while I was still on my way back to feeling 100% – a moment in time when I was giving a lot of thought to where and how I direct my attention, and how closely I am paying attention to my immediate environment. This subject that makes up the premise of the whole book which unfolds as Odell explores it through the lenses of individual, body, community, environment, and capitalism. Here’s an excerpt that really resonated:
“To resist in place is to make oneself into a swap that cannot so easily be appropriated by a capitalist value system. To do this means refusing the frame of reference: in this case, frame of reference in which value is deterred by productivity, the strength of one’s career, and individual entrepreneurship…It means recognizing and celebrating a form of the self that changes over time, exceeds algorithmic description, and whose identity doesn’t always stop at the boundary of the individual.”
I wrote about how much I loved discovering this book in my newsletter, Constellations No. 3. If you’re a fan of Joni Mitchell’s, don’t even hesitate. To know the songs so well and then see them written out in her equally poetic hand writing next to her paintings is…well…remarkable. I will love this book forever.
This was my second time with this book, so admittedly more of a skim, but refreshing to return to note powerful advice for weathering creative tides. One of my favorites:
“It’s all just an instinct, an experiment and a mystery, so begin. Begin anywhere. Preferably right now.”
I’ve heard so much about this book for the last few years – particularly as the world navigated the pandemic together, as well as and many other individual and collective crises. Maybe it was my own mental space, but I had a hard time getting into it.
I would not have known about this book were it not for artist and fellow Michigander Rebecca Green writing about it in her newsletter. I immediately checked it out from the library, and I’m so glad I did – it’s a completely fascinating deep dive into the history of self portraits and the role of women in the art establishment throughout history. Thanks for the tip, Rebecca!
This book reads like it was written to be a film, which bothered me more than I thought it would but I enjoyed it anyway. It is organized around the intriguing and philosophical premise that between life and death exists the possibility of sliding into alternate, but equally real, parallel universes of our lives. A big idea, masquerading in an easy to swallow, light read.