Books: May 2019

On the 10th of May, I had surgery on my right hand which hobbled me for a couple of weeks. This was the perfect time to catch up on some “fun” reading. One book was worth the time, the other wasn’t.

Outer Order Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

I haven’t read all of Gretchen Rubin’s books, but I did love Better Than Before (her book about habits.)  I am hesitant to write a review about this book because I liked the message, but I had some problems with the presentation.  Let me preface by saying that I read this on my Kindle (where I read 99% of books) and the content may not have been formatted well for digital use.  It felt like the chapters and sub-topics were all clumped together without any rhyme or reason.  I couldn’t pick up a flow of the content, and it seemed the author was bouncing all over the place with her ideas and themes.  Just when I thought she was going in a single direction, the subject changed (and sometimes back to an idea she had previously stated.)  Maybe it is disorganized, perhaps it’s not digitally formatted correctly, and perhaps it's just me.  (Probably me.)

Having said all of that (read: complaining), I can recommend the book if read in quick, small chunks of time.  (Which is a style that I love, but the text should be presented that way.) Rubin’s ideas are not new, but they are reminders of how to achieve a peace filled home (sans crap.)  For example, Rubin discussed holding on to an unused item just because you paid “good money” for it. I’ve been there too often.  I might have big plans (and initial use), but when I stop and consider my use of the thing, it doesn’t seem to make sense to hold on to it just because the money is gone.  (The money is still gone, and now I’m spending emotional energy to store it and feel guilt for the non-use.)  Solution:  Get rid of it.  It is that simple.  And the best part is that you can find someone (or someplace) that would love your donation and use it well.  Giving it away is precisely what I did, and I’m so happy this book empowered me to make that decision.  (Or at least reminded me that it was an option.)

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

This book has been sitting on my (virtual) “To Read” Shelf for several months.  It is regularly mentioned as a recommendation on many of the articles, blogs, and social media posts that I read, so I finally got around to reading it. The author quotes one of my favorite priests on page 19 (Richard Rohr), so I was hooked immediately.

In a world that tells us busy is better, this book offers an antidote for keeping up with that hectic schedule.  The author’s advice? “Don’t.” She describes her overbooked schedule and stressful existence and what she did to change the course. While I found I had a lot in common with the author, there were some things that she struggled with that were utterly foreign to me.

If I had any complaints at all (again, I’m really nit-picking here), it would be that the book often felt like a memoir and a little repetitive.  However, I would still highly recommend it.  It was inspiring.  I have lots of highlights.

The Mister by E.L. James

I’m embarrassed even to admit I read this book, but I had to.  (If you’ve read the Fifty Shades of Grey books, aren’t you obligated?  Anyway, I chose it specifically for the week after my hand surgery when I wouldn’t be doing much besides sitting on the couch reading.  I figured this book would not require a lot of mental capacity.  I was right.  However, I will admit that James has improved as a writer.

I cannot (in good conscience) recommend

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

This is only my second David Sedaris book, but I am a big fan.  I read his most recent book “Calypso” last year and loved every word.  I decided to go back and read his other work, and I just now got to it.  (Again, a choice for my rehabilitation after hand surgery.). 

Both books I’ve read are a collection of essays.  Not all of them are hilarious (many are) but all of them are honest glimpses into real life, and you’ll be able to recognize at least some part of yourself in every story.  (And that will make you laugh too, or at least it should.) I don’t know if all of Sedaris’ books are written in this essay format, but it’s one of my favorite styles.  (It worked exceptionally well to read small chunks in between post-op, narcotic induced napping.)

I told my friend that Sedaris and I could be the same person if I were a middle-aged, gay man living in Paris.  I highly recommend either one of these books and I will be reading more of his work.