Reading

We love books. W really love books. It’s rather surprising it took us until 2022 to decide to formally regale you with our current and past favorites on the regular.

The Last Thing He Told Me

By Laura Dave

Before I give you my next book suggestion and synopsis, let me just say that while I read a lot of fiction, I do so with the intent of being entertained or even escaping life for a few precious moments.  If I read historical fiction, which I also love, I know that it will likely lead me down a rabbit hole of looking up historical facts about whatever time period I am reading.  Non-fiction books are usually their own kind of entertainment, but with a work or learning component involved.  I expect proper grammar, spelling and punctuation as well and if all of these components are present, I am happy.  

I have the ability to read a book and enjoy it even if it does cause me to suspend belief in reality at times.  If my entire goal is to poke holes in the storyline, I would likely never be satisfied.  I realize that sometimes you read a book that is truly lackluster and has so many gaping holes, it distracts from your entertainment pleasure, but most of the time, a New York Times Best Seller hits the spot.

I have always read reviews online before reading a book.  They used to be a valid way to determine whether I wanted to read it.  That is no longer the case.  I can no longer find a book review on Amazon, whether it’s a quick summer beach read or a critically acclaimed novel that hasn’t been absolutely trashed in the review section.  If the reviewers are to be believed, there isn’t a book out there that is worthy of your time or money.  So, do what you will with these book suggestions.

All that being said, The Last Thing He Told Me will require some suspension of reality and a little don’t ask questions attitude.  It was a New York Times Best Seller and one of Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club books, so apparently I wasn’t the only one who was entertained by this book.

Before husband and father, Owen Michaels, goes missing, he gets a note to his wife, Hannah that simply says, “protect her.”  That’s it.  No other details, hints or clues as to why he has left or where he has gone.  All she can decipher is that she must protect his daughter. Hannah, who has only been married to Owen for a year and her step daughter, Bailey, who already have a tumultuous relationship, are left to find the missing pieces of the puzzle.  Almost immediately, there are raids by the FBI, arrests and countless unanswered calls to Owen.  

Hannah and Bailey take you on a journey to try and uncover the truth while also trying to stay out of harm’s way.  There are many twists and unexpected turns along the way.  It is a thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.  While you may be left wanting more, it will leave you asking yourself what you would do in this situation.

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Golden Girl

By Elin Hilderbrand

Golden Girl, by Elin Hilderbrand, is one of those books that not everyone is going to love.  Hilderbrand is known for her trademark books based in Nantucket that are great for summer days on the beach. That is not this book.

This one hit a little differently right from the beginning. The main character, Vivi Howe, is in an accident early on and throughout the chapters, we watch as the chief of police tries to figure out “what happened” and “who done it?”

Alongside this mystery is a more personal story. It’s about a 51-year-old mother who has 3 mostly grown children trying to figure life out. Sometimes, you don’t need a perfectly well-thought-out story to relate to what is happening. I was hooked right from the start.  As parents, we always wonder if we have done enough and this story begs the same question of Vivi.  She watches as her kids struggle with the pain of growing up, making wise and unwise decisions and wondering how it will all work out

This book will keep you turning the pages right up until the very end as you try to figure out for yourself who did it, is everyone going to be okay, and do our own kids have everything they need. Make sure you have the tissues ready just in case it hits a little too close to home.

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Deep work

By Cal Newport

This week I want to tell you about the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport but first, I have to share that based on Lowi’s recommendation I am reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and I am gripped. This book is wrecking me with its ravaged tale of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s but at the same time, I cannot get enough. I am about 80% done and I wake up in the morning wondering if I have time to get a little further because I have to know what happens to these characters. I know this is not how book reviews are traditionally supposed to go but I put the G in Lowi & G so I am taking creative license.

OK, I feel better. I just had to get that out. As I was saying, I read Deep Work by Cal Newport, and while not the same style of gripping read as The Four Winds it captured my attention all the same. In essence, this book is about our loss of focus and how our environments do not lend themselves to single-tasked, dedicated, concentrated work. The kind of work that fuels outcomes we all desire whether it’s completing a work project that we can be proud of, writing a book, or working through a mental challenge in a consistent and organized way.

With all the dinging, chirping, ringing, and alerting distractions create, not to mention all of the interruptions of the human, animal, and Netflix variety it’s no wonder we have trouble maintaining our focus. You may have even zoned out during that sentence. 

Newport gives tried and tested steps toward building pockets of time into our days and/or weeks that allow us to, well, work deeply. To fall into an idea, a creative endeavor or otherwise, and not climb back out until we are good and ready. Sounds a little crazy and awesome, right?!

If you have deep work that you have on the back burner, turn up the flame but first get this book.

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American Dirt

By Jeanine Cummins

American Dirt is a novel that has been the center of much controversy since its debut in 2020.    It’s a suspenseful page-turner that grabs you right from the start and won’t let you go until you know the characters are safe. 

The book opens with an introduction to Lydia, who is running her bookstore in Acapulco, her husband Sebastián, who is an investigative journalist writing about the cartels, and their young son, Luca.  They have a comfortable life and even when Lydia befriends a man who turns out to be the head of a cartel, they still feel relatively safe. 

The next day, Sebastián and the rest of Lydia’s family are gunned down by the cartel while she and Luca hide in a shower.  With the clothes on their back and very little money, they begin their harrowing escape. Within days they find themselves on a journey north with hundreds of other migrants seeking refuge in the United States. It’s a story of bravery, sacrifice, maternal love and a relentless determination to find safety.

Regardless of your views on immigration or even if you find these fictional characters believable,  you will find yourself moved by this story.  You can’t help but think about the countless mothers and small children just trying to find a better life across the border.  It’s definitely worth the read.

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The Great Work of Your Life

By Stephen Cope

“The Great Work of Your Life” by Stephen Covey in a word is disruptive. It grabbed my attention on the first page and never let me go. It did, however, take a while to read it because I needed to digest and consider the ideas he presents in this book.

In the simplest synopsis possible, this book is about your calling in life and how we must ultimately look within to connect with it. He lays the groundwork for this consideration in a multi-layered approach. He begins with the backdrop of the Bhagavad Gita and then places one pivotal story over the next until it’s a complex mosaic of how dharmas (callings) are realized in this life. You don’t need to be familiar with the Gita or anything else in order to read this book as the author connects the dots and leads you along with all the pertinent information. 

I think this book falls into the category of the book you need to read but may not always want to read because it calls your attention to the parts of your life from which you want to avert your eyes. Once you see the ways you are living out of alignment, you can’t unsee it; you can no longer ignore it. But conveniently after reading this book you also don’t want to ignore those areas. You feel inspired to live into your contribution to this life.

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Green Lights

By Matthew McConaughey

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is a somewhat unconventional autobiography that reads a little like fiction with his crazy stories of growing up, while at the same time giving you a lesson in how to live your best life.  

My husband and I listened to this book on Audible during a road trip last fall. I’ll be honest, I am not sure I would have enjoyed it nearly as much if I had read the book on my own.  Some words need to be heard in the way the author intended them rather than your own interpretation.  If you have ever watched a movie or an interview with McConaughey you know that he has a way of speaking that captures the listener right from the start.

We talk a lot about overcoming fear and not creating roadblocks to life and McConaughey is a perfect example of someone who has never let either get in his way.  He fully admits he had looks, athleticism, confidence, and talent on his side, but mostly he was willing to work hard, take risks, and always be looking for what he calls, “greenlights” to push him to the next level.  Through the stories of his life, we are able to see the moments when he took the risk.  While some endeavors didn’t pan out the way he expected, he continued to look for opportunities to make his situation better.

The moral of the story?  Look for reasons to say yes and go live your life.  And while you are at it, grab Greenlights for your next dose of inspiration.

“We all have scars, we’re gonna have more. Rather than struggle against time and waste it, let’s dance with time and redeem it. Cause we don’t live longer when we try not to die. We live longer when we are too busy living.” Matthew McConaughey

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The Four Winds

By Kristin Hannah

You might think that we only read non-fiction, self-help books, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Okay, we read A LOT of books from that genre, but I love historical fiction.  It’s my favorite kind of escape.

My most recent foray into historical fiction came in the form of Kristin Hannah’s novel, The Four Winds.  This is an epic story that follows one woman’s journey through the course of The Great Depression and more specifically the Dust Bowl which lasted about a decade.   It’s a story of hope, love, poverty, despair, resilience, strength, and ultimately, survival.

Elsa, the main character,  loves her family more than anything and after years of struggle makes the difficult decision to leave her home in Texas in search of a better life in California. She is a hard-working American, who like so many during that time, was forced to live in poverty and had to fight for the ability to just feed her children.  This book will draw you in and not let you go until the very end.  Make sure you have the tissues ready.

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Big Magic: Revisited

By Elizabeth Gilbert

It’s February and we are talking magic. It only makes sense that we would talk Big Magic. Lowi and I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert recently. During our revisit, we often commented that we couldn’t believe how much we forgot, missed, or simply didn’t appreciate from our first go-round. 

I think that’s one of the often unappreciated aspects of books. They stay the same. They hold the same wisdom from beginning to end throughout time. But we change. What we can take in. What we can hold or understand on any given day or time in our life varies. 

Reading this book almost makes me want to go back and re-read every book I have ever read wondering what I have missed. What could I not fully absorb when I read it the first time.

It’s unlikely that I will do that because there are so many books to be read the first time. 

But what I am more likely to engage in is the idea of the beginner’s mind. It’s a common phrase in eastern philosophy, yoga, meditation. What it essentially means is to stop assuming you already know everything. We enter so much of our lives already assuming we know.

We know the day is going to be wholly bad because we hit traffic. We know that our spouse is going to say just the thing to set us off. We know that our boss is going to make us do a report we dread. We think we know.

When we already know, we aren’t beginners. When we already know, we certainly aren’t leaving any room for magic or surprise. We are clamping our blinders down hard because we know.

This month, we invite you to revisit Big Magic, if you like; or maybe give an old favorite another perusal. What I remember most this time from Big Magic is essentially this: Go do, create, make whatever you want because everybody else is worried about their own stuff. They don’t care if you fall on your face. They don’t really care all that much of you succeed either. Follow your bliss. Create because you can. 


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The Happy Runner

By David Roche and Megan Roche, MD

Deciding what book to share with you was difficult only because I questioned whether all of you would think I am boring. I think it’s possible that at times I am, in fact, boring. For many years, likely a decade, I rarely read non-fiction and now that’s almost entirely what I read. I am not averse to having someone tell me a phenomenal and fantastical story, it’s just that I also have a penchant for learning. One of the books I read most recently, is The Happy Runner and the primary reason I wanted to share it with all of you has nothing to do with running at all. Feel free to exhale in a sigh of relief now.

One of the driving philosophies of the book is how to learn to enjoy the process of running and let the quest of making it fun be more influential than results. Hence, being a happy runner. As someone who is often incredibly attached to results and is loathe to relinquish the outcome, this was an approach I needed to snuggle into. We’ve all heard it, enjoy the journey; trust the process; be unattached to the outcome; don’t rush to the end. All of these aphorisms are saying the same thing: enjoy the process. And yet in this results-driven culture that can be a rebellious and elusive idea. But who among us couldn’t be served better by being more focused on cultivating joy in the day-to-day instead of reserving joy when we meet an end? We save the celebrating for when the finish line is crossed, the diploma is in hand, the promotion has been bestowed. And then what? It can be a letdown. It can be defeating and deflating. In the Happy Runner, the overarching question is Why? Why are you running? Is your answer compelling? Does it cause you to feel enjoyment in the process too?

We can apply the same “why” to any area of our lives. Ultimately let’s enjoy the ride and the destination. 


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The Art of Gathering

By Priya Parker

As you know, G and I are avid readers and we love to share any and all of the wise words with you.  As we enter 2022 and change things up a bit, we will have a little section called, what we are reading so you can decide for yourself if it is something you might be interested in reading.  The first book of the new year is The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker.  I read this as I was entering the holidays and it definitely gave me pause as I planned for any gathering this past season.  While this book might feel a little over the top for your ordinary gathering of close friends, it does force you to ask important questions like what is the purpose of the gathering, who is invited and who is NOT invited, how to be a proper host and how to make your gathering interesting by coming up with thought-provoking questions. There were times when reading this book that I thought, I just want to have friends over for pizza and the game, not host the heads of state.  While my gatherings are much smaller in scale it has made me step up my game and think about what I want out of each gathering. Definitely worth the read, but maybe borrow it from the library.
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