Recommitting to Reading

This is week 42 of year 2020, yet I am only on my 23rd book… While I usually read an average of one book every week or ten days, I have had a harder time reading over the last couple of months. This may have to do with the fact that I fell into the black hole of Mankell’s Kurt Wallander series (the original version, in Swedish, based on the amazing crime novels by Henning Mankell). Or it may have to do with the fact that my brain is so tired from dealing with our current reality that it has no bandwidth for reading.  

Regardless of why, I am recommitting to reading. And I have lots of books I am really excited to get in to. 

This week, I am reading Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. I met Jane a few years ago, when she attended book club in Georgetown for her book Mortal Friends (still one of my favorites from book club), and she fascinates me – for many reasons including the fact that she is a professional poker player (and yes, Bluff features a female poker player…). 

Then, I will read the following (in which order I don’t yet know). 

Richard Branson: Losing my Virginity. This book has been traveling with me between DC, Hammond, Geneva, and Tinos for the last six months. It may be the best travelled book I own… 

Kelly DiNardo: Living the Sutras. Kelly gifted me this book over a year ago after she invited me to her studio Past Tense to attend a yoga class. And boy do I need more yoga and more calm in my life… 

Victoria Hislop: three more books because I love her writing that much and need to travel in my head… preferably back to Greece. The Last Dance (a collection of ten short stories set in Athens and various Greek villages), The Thread (set in Thessaloniki in northern Greece), and The Sunrise (set in Cyprus… I am really venturing out of my comfort zone with this one!).

Brenda Janowitz: The Grace Kelly Dress. Because I need a “summer read” even though we are technically in fall. (Note: this is not in the photo because it is on its way to me from Amazon even though I promised myself not to buy any new books until I had read all others…). 

Casper ter Kuile: The Power of Ritual. This was recommended by Seth Mattison on a webinar I listened to a few weeks ago, and is about crafting rituals that promote connection and wellbeing. 

Bill Murphy Jr.: The Intelligent Entrepreneur. This tells the stories of ten Harvard Business School grads who started their own businesses, and how they became super successful. One of them is Marla Malcolm Beck of Bluemercury

What are you reading right now?

Summer 2020 Reading List

I can’t say It really feels like a “normal” Summer, yet we are officially in Summer! Every year, I craft my Summer reading list thinking about reading these books at my favorite beach on my favorite Greek island. I would typically be there right now… but then again, this year is a little bit different than most. Nonetheless, I am excited to read these books before Fall is upon us. 

I have writer friends, including the witty, funny, and glamorous Karin Tanabe. I finished her latest book, A Hundred Suns, this past weekend as the Summer Solstice was upon us. I could not put it down. 

Possibly the opposite of a “summer read,” yet I don’t think I need to explain why this is on my reading list.  White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo.

 And because it’s all about balance, at the other end of the spectrum, a summer crime series read: The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

The Untold Story of Barbara Hackman Franklin and A Few Good Women  by Barbara Hackman. Because my friend Marc Ross said I should read this, and Marc Ross is very smart. 

Another Summer read, on the theme of female friendships, that I can’t wait to dig in to, is Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, which comes highly recommended by two of my Book Club girlfriends. 

And The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille, which I have been carrying around with me since I last traveled in March. In true escalation of commitment, I will not stop carrying it around until I read it cover to cover! 

What are you reading this Summer? 

A Well-Timed Virtual Book Club

Last night was book club, and the most fun night I have had in weeks. Book club is always a highlight of my month, the last one was “Before”, on March 5th. Last night’s book club was virtual, since we are “During,” and it was a smart, stimulating, emotional evening spent discussing The Only Plane in the Sky, written by Garrett Graff (an amazing thinker, historian, and friend) who was with us virtually. 

For those of you who have not read it, The Only Plane in the Sky is a gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, oral history of 9/11. We picked this book to read, and this date to meet in early 2020, and I must admit the timing seems uncanny. Reading about 9/11 during the COVID-19 global pandemic was both maddening and reassuring. 

This is the time to read this book. Perhaps even the time to share its stories with children who did not live through the events of 9/11 and are of age to understand them. If you prefer to listen rather than to read, the book on tape version won the 2020 Audiobook of the Year Audie Award. 

The most insightful moment of our evening was when Graff spoke about Will Jimeno. William J, “Will” Jimeno was a Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer. He was trapped under the World Trade Center for over 12 hours and survived. Today, he spends time coaching and inspiring people include veterans and addicts, helping them work through their hardships. Graff reminded us that in effect, we all go through moments of “I feel like I am buried under the WTC” – whether due to the loss of a job, a bad breakup, the death of a loved one, a global pandemic, and everything in between. 

While today, none of us are actually buried under the WTC, we may very well feel like we are. There is no hierarchy in pain, fear, loss, grief; these feelings cannot be compared or quantified, mine are neither graver nor lighter than yours – they are simply mine. We are each entitled to our own feelings, and should not add the guilt of “I shouldn’t be feeling bad right now because I have a roof on top of my head and food on the table” to the list of negative emotions swirling around in our head and hearts. 

Rather, as Graff reminded us, we should focus on the fact that what defines us is not external events, but how we respond to them. This was my reminder to be resilient, graceful, kind (including with myself), patient (including with myself), and hopeful. 

PS – for those of you not ready to start this book, but interested in reading about Graff’s perspective on what is happening right now, this article is a must-read. 

2019 Books

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” – Lena Dunham. 

As 2019 draws to a close, I realize I have read 31 books this year. Fiction, non-
fiction. Short, long. Great, less great. For book club, not for book club. Here are my favorite, in the order that I read them.

  1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry. I started 2019 with this book, which I have read a dozen times at least. There is a reason why this novella of love, loss, friendship, and loneliness is one of the best-selling and most translated books ever published.
  2. On Becoming by Michelle Obama. I miss the Obamas. That is all.
  3. Love you Hard by Abby Maslin. I don’t often cry while reading, but this memoir of love, loss, and marriage is a real tear-jerker (in the best sense of the word).
  4. The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger. The author is a friend of a friend and a fellow Harvard graduate, and discovering her writing is one of my 2019 highlights.
  5. The Darlings by Christina Alger. I am addicted.
  6. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.The best book I read this year, this Theranos exposé is proof that reality is indeed stranger than fiction.
  7. Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing by George Cloutier. A powerful reminder that profitability enables the mission.
  8. Girls Like Us by Christina Alger. Christina, please write more faster.
  9. The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy by Michael Lewis. A must read in today’s political climate. (Truly, anything by Michael Lewis is a must read).
  10. The Friends We Keep by Jane Green. A touching book about friendship.
  11. The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins. A lovely story about a small town and the power of books.

My goal for 2019 was to read a book per week. I did not quite get there – although I do plan on reading four more books before 2020:

This has been on my reading list since this past summer. It is time.

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”

“Love is the precursor to contribution” and other wisdom from Marcus Buckingham

Last week I had the privilege of attending the annual International Spa Association (ISPA) conference at The Venetian in Las Vegas. There were many highlights, including reconnecting with spa friends, listening to Susan Cain speak about introverts, dinner at Morel’s, and more. Yet what I can’t stop thinking about is the presentation Marcus Buckingham gave on the topic of his latest book, Nine Lies About Work.

Here are the nine workplace misconceptions (aka lies):

  • People care which company they work for (they care which company they join).
  • The best (strategic) plan wins (forget about them, yet planning is a great activity to engage in)
  • The best companies cascade goals (yet alignment is a good thing)
  • The best people are well-rounded
  • People need feedback
  • People can reliably rate other people
  • People have potential (everyone can get better)
  • Work / life balance matters most (balance is stasis and we don’t want stasis)
  • Leadership is a “thing” (there is no such thing as leadership, if you look at great leaders, they are all different)

I am still wrapping my head around these misconceptions and can’t wait to dig deeper with Buckingham’s book. I also jotted down a few other amazing one-liners from his presentation:

  • Average is homogeneous; excellence looks weird quickly
  • Define a job by the outcome not the method
  • Your strengths are your key areas of development (your weaknesses are not)
  • Your future greatness is based on your current goodness
  • Strength replays (stop saying “stop that” but “keep doing that,” not to celebrate but to interrogate)
  • Good job is not the end of the sentence; good job is the start of a sentence (a sentence that includes these questions) what were you thinking? what was going on? what worked?)
  • Love is the precursor to contribution
  • Burnout is the absence of love
  • Don’t do what you love but find love in what you do – a little love goes a long way to fight against the feeling of burnout

Thank you Marcus Buckingham, and thank you ISPA!