Books: June 2019

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book has been on my (digital) shelf for a while as it is a consistent recommendation from the other productivity, self-help authors I’ve read. I really liked this book. It’s different from the other habit books I’ve read (including Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin and The Power of Habit by James Duhigg.) Clear focuses on the end game. While explaining why (and how) we form habits, Clear is more concerned about where our practices take us (better or worse.) It is the systems we put in place that helps us to achieve the goals we set. That’s the difference between dreamers and doers. I really the brief review at the end of each chapter. This is a great technique to make sure the information sticks. If you can get past the opening story of his high school baseball injury, you’ll love this book.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

I haven’t read a novel that I’ve enjoyed as much as this one in a very long time. Again, this book has been in the queue for a while. (Can you tell I’m trying to read what I already own?) I’d read the reviews, and it sounded ok, but I wasn’t expecting the rollercoaster of emotions. I attached myself to Eleanor immediately. My empathy for this character was incredible (aided by the fact that we are similar in personality.) I found myself in every emotion imaginable. I laughed out loud, cringed and mourned right along with Eleanor Oliphant, who keeps telling herself that she’s completely fine. This is a five-star read for me. I loved it! (And didn’t expect the ending!)

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport

I own a vast amount of books that I have not yet read. I will learn of a new book, buy it a digital version (Amazon Kindle) and then plan to read it at a later date. This is not a good habit, and I don’t advise it, but I’m afraid if I don’t buy the book while I’m thinking about it, I’ll forget. (Which, I guess wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.) In my defense, however, I do manage to rediscover these waiting treasures at precisely the right time for consumption. After I finished Eleanor Oliphant, I wasn’t sure what to read next. I knew I was planning to save “The Rule of St. Benedict” for an upcoming retreat, but I needed something in the meantime. This book was timed perfectly.

The appeal of downsizing my dependence on digital devices and content has been on my mind lately. While I am always touting the benefits of digital products for productivity and ease, I too can get caught up in mindless scrolling through social media, or falling down the rabbit hole of a Google search. (I’m a real sucker for the Facebook videos of parrots and other birds doing or saying whacky things. They crack me up.). Newport’s book reinforced my understanding of these time wasters, but also explained the unseen (or at least unnoticed) damage that these behaviors are causing to my time management and creativity. No Bueno.

With Newport’s recommendations, I’ve implemented a few ideas to limit my digital consumption. I will tell you that it is awkward and I feel a little vulnerable (which reinforces the concept of addiction to these products), but I know I’ll be better off in the long run.

The Rule of St. Benedict by: St. Benedict (Paraphrased)

I was attracted to this book when I realized that the author died in 547 AD and yet “The Rules” that he established all those years ago still form the foundation of monastic life today. That is the true definition of enduring work. In his rules (paraphrased into modern-day English) Benedict teaches how to live in a community. The answer to “Can’t we all just get along!” Benedict said, “Yes, we can, and this is how we’ll do it.”

It is not light reading, but it is quick. I read it in one day and highlighted many of my favorite passages. One of my favorites was from regarding making mistakes. Benedict warns that the person making the mistake needs to report his error to the community before they hear it from someone else. This was a rule with my kids growing up. (Still is.) We all make mistakes, but I better not hear about your issue from someone else. Go me!

The 15-Minute Prayer Solution - How One Percent of Your Day Can Transform Your Life by Gary Jansen

I loved this little book, and it offered simple, concise prayer solutions for those seeking a deeper spiritual life. I picked up this book in replacement of St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises because I could not grasp the language and felt overwhelmed. This book fixed that for me (and many of the prayer suggestions are based on Ignatius’ Exercises.). Jansen reaffirms that it is the repetitive habit that forms our spirituality. Consistency is key. I also enjoyed the stories Jansen offered, and I can highly recommend it.

Kick-Ass with Mel Robbins by Mel Robbins and Audible.com

This is an “Audio Original” from Audible.com. I read Mel Robbins’ book “The 5-Second Rule” a while back and really liked her storytelling style, so this new format sounded interesting. In Kick-Ass, Mel does personal, one-on-one coaching with several different individuals with different challenges. While I enjoyed listening to the sessions (and I did learn a few things too,) I need to offer a couple of warnings. 1. These sessions are full of profanity. Now I’m not a profanity snob, but these were almost over the edge for me. I think if I were reading the words, it wouldn’t have been so shocking, but hearing them (over and over again) made me uncomfortable. It’s a distraction. The 2nd warning is a trigger warning. Mel (and her participants) talk about some deep stuff. She is right to warn the listening audience ahead of time (she even warns of the profanity) but if you are currently working through your own stuff, you might want to steer clear of this one for a while.