My 2020 Reading List

2020 was not kind on my reading. I remember when confinement began in March, I thought, “this will give me so much more time to read, it will be amazing.” Not so. My brain was so overwhelmed by COVID-19, by not going out of business, by BLM and social unrest, I had less mental space to read. 

Here is my reading list – 30 books in 2020, in the order I read them. It says a lot about what happened over the last 12 months! 

American Chica by Marie Aran. This was for Book Club, and the author came. One of the best books I read, in particular being from “two countries” myself.  

Nine Lies About Work by Marcus Buckingham. I heard him speak at a conference in 2019, and this was my follow-up homework. 

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra. Because we should all read this once. 

The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Also for Book Club. First fiction book of 2020, filled with twists and unexcepted turn of events. 

The Disruptors’ Feast by Fits Van Paaschen. A challenging read, but super interesting.  

Free Melania by Kate Bennett. Last indoor Book Club. I love Kate Bennett, and her book is both informative and entertaining. 

The Only Place in the Sky by Garrett Graff. My #1 book of 2020. I started it early March, and finished it early April. I remember reading it during the first few weeks of the pandemic wondering if this timing was opportune or not… 

Those Who Are Loved by Victoria Hislop. Second fiction book… and lots more fiction to follow. My brain needed to travel and Victoria Hislop knows how to transport her readers to Greece! 

Carte Postales From Greece by Victoria Hislop. Because I couldn’t get enough. 

Writers & Lovers by Lily King. Virtual book club with a book everyone was talking about. 

And They Called it Camelot by Stephanie Marie Thornton. Because I needed to travel to an era of political elegance. Enough said. 

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe. I call Karin a friend, and love all of her books and she has been a guest at our Book Club for all of them; this was our first outdoor book club and it was amazing. 

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. Well, because I needed to read it. 

The Guest List by Lucy Foley. A great thriller for a fast read and an immediate escape. 

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. More racism education for me. Beautifully written, brought me to tears. 

The Culture Code by Cloraire Rapaille. Because this had been on my “to read” pile for years. Hard to get into, but oh so insightful. 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. More escape by the same author as The Guest List. 

L’Énigme de la Chambre 622 by Joel Dicker. A gift from my godmother, who gifts me two books in French per year to make sure I don’t entirely forget my mother tongue. I loved it!

Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry by Mary Higgins Clark. The ultimate guilty pleasure (I have read every single one of her books). 

The Island by Veronica Hislop. Here we go again. 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. Set in Louisiana, and very much about race. 

Tiny Hot Dogs by Mary Giuliani. Another favorite of 2020, this memoir is filled with humor, entrepreneurial insights, and delicious-sounding recipes. 

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. Jane is a neighbor in Georgetown and attended Book Club for her book Mortal Friends oh so long ago. I want to be like her when I grow up, and I adore all her books. 

The Grace Kelly Dress by Brenda Janowitz. I saw this book on Instagram… a beautiful story spanning three generations, and an easy read. 

The Power of Ritual by Casper Ter Kuile. Seth Mattison recommended this book during one of his talks. And in general, I try to do what Seth Mattison says I should do. 

Living the Sutras by Kelly DiNardo. Kelly gifted me this book the day she invited me to a yoga class at her studio… it is filled with wisdom and advice. Reading this was almost like meditating. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear. I read this book as 2020 was coming to a close, with the goal of refreshing and relooking at my habits, including some habits acquired during 2020 which I did not want to bring in to the New Year. Very powerful book. 

Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I had started this book years ago, but could never get into it. I still could not, but I forced myself to read it. Now I can say I read it (and did not really enjoy it). 

La Femme Révélée by Gaelle Nohant. The second 2020 book in French from my godmother. Set in Paris and Chicago, this book ends during the 1968 race riots in the Windy City. Surprisingly good and relevant to what is happening today in our country. 

How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell. Recommended by my super smart friend Marc Ross, creator of Brigadoon. This book was not what I imagined it would be, is a bit more “manifesto-y” than I like. As all books recommended by Marc, this one stretched me out of my comfort zone…  

Self care and silver linings

Self care is having a moment. Some even say that the COVID-19 virus is transforming the “lipstick effect” into the “self care effect.” 

I was raised to believe in self care, and specifically in self care through skin care with my brand Alchimie Forever. But what exactly is self care? Over the past couple of weeks, I connected with Britta Cox, the founder of Aquis hair, about beauty, hair care, skin care, and most recently self care. We shared our respective ways to care for our selves, in general and more specifically during this time of confinement. Here are the highlights of our conversation. 

Britta’s self care wisdom: 

  • “Being in nature, moving and breathing deeply clears my mind and rejuvenates me. It’s also when my best ideas come, it’s when my subconscious and thoughts can float freely. 
  • Sleeping with the windows and doors open and breathing fresh air makes a big difference in how my skin looks and how well I sleep. It makes all the difference to feeling well-rested and fresh in the morning. 
  • Dry brushing. It’s a Swedish thing. Use a dry brush on dry skin, brushing towards your heart to keep lymphatic fluids and blood flowing to enhance circulation, remove toxins and keep skin healthy. Sunday is my self care day when I’ll dry brush and exfoliate from head to toe before taking a nice soak in the tub, with a few drops of oil in the water to replenish moisture. 
  • Detoxing my scalp. The scalp also develops sebum build up. We have a wonderful Detoxifying Scalp and Hair Wash with charcoal. It cleanses deeply without stripping the hair of natural oils, and is pH balanced for the hair and scalp specifically.
  • Spending time in the garden. I love spending time in the garden which is abundant with life, learnings and miracles of nature. I’ve been a certified organic gardener for 14 years, living on almost two acres, which brings such joy. You can just step outside, close your eyes, and experience life and nature everywhere. It makes you appreciate and tune into the small things in life and be in the moment. 
  • Beauty is all about what we put inside. I saw my first aesthetician at age 21, she got me hooked on fish oils. All of the omegas they have are one of the best things you can do for your skin, hair, and mental clarity. And I eat smoked salmon as another source.
  • Drinking water and tea to stay hydrated. Warm tea at night helps with digestion. Chrysanthemum tea is amazing for skin and reducing inflammation & the warm tea water is cleansing. 
  • Music. A good playlist can help you find your Zen, and completely change your mood.” 

I shared some of my current self-care rituals as well, which include: 

  • Stepping outside and breathing  fresh air. I try to spend part of every day outdoors, for my mental and emotional well-being.
  • Exercising 3-5 times a week. It has a positive effect on my skin. Exercise activates blood circulation, it’s good for my mental state, and for my physique. Normally I’m a morning exerciser but had a challenging day and decided to go for an evening run. I needed to shift my mental state and sometimes to do that I have to engage my body and shift my physical state.
  • Masking it up. I sleep with the K18Peptide™ Masque overnight. It’s so good for my hair and amazing at mending split ends. 
  • Scrubbing my body. My alternative to dry brushing (although I may have to embrace this technique) is Aveda’s Beautifying Radiance Polish. When we’re young our dead skin cells naturally fall off. As we age, those natural processes get a little lazier and don’t function as well. The older you get the more important it is for you to help your body naturally shed dead skin cells. Be super gentle with the skin on your face and neckit’s delicate, but the body benefits from a good scrub. Always scrub against gravity, so from the feet up your legs, from the hands up your arms, it’s good for lymphatic drainage. 
  • Smelling the roses (or magnolias in this case). My husband brings flowers into the house. We’re in Louisiana right now and he brought in a magnolia from our tree.
  • Soaking it up. I’ve been taking baths almost every night which I don’t normally do. It feels so good for my head, and I love the feeling of weightlessness. Kneipp bath salts make the baths feel like a real treatment.  
  • Being mindful of what I eat and drink. What we eat and drink is reflected in our skin. I’m trying to eat extra healthfully, and be very diligent about going three days each week without alcohol. A trip to the fridge is the most tempting trip. My girlfriends and I joke about the COVID-19. I don’t want that.
  • Taking care of others. The other aspect of self-care is care of others, your children, your spouse, your partner, care of people who can’t care for themselves.

 Last but not least, we both agreed that gratitude is a powerful form of self care. To read more about our respective silver linings, click here

How are you taking care of yourself during these times?