Things I’ve told myself way too often: “I just don’t have time to read.” And many days this feels true. But just like every January, I’m trying to create the habit of reading books more often. Some simple things that have helped me read more thus far are:
- Having a book with me at all times so I can pick it up instead of my phone.
- Realizing listening to books counts, too. I’ve been listening on walks with Finley, on solo car rides, and sometimes while prepping dinner.
- Coming up with a list of books I want to read so when I finish one, I’m ready to go. For some reason, choosing the next book is half the challenge for me!
- Not forcing myself to finish a book. I’m sure this is controversial, but if I’m not enjoying a book then I don’t want to read it, which slows don my reading in general. I’ve learned to embrace putting it down and moving on.
I’m not setting any particular goal for how much to read each month (though one of my 2022 goals is to read 15), but trying to establish the habit. I’ve half-finished 3 books, so I’m not reviewing those yet, but I did manage to fully complete three books! Here are my thoughts:
Deep Work by Cal Newport
From Amazon: In DEEP WORK, author and professor Cal Newport flips the narrative on impact in a connected age. Instead of arguing distraction is bad, he instead celebrates the power of its opposite. Dividing this book into two parts, he first makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents a rigorous training regimen, presented as a series of four “rules,” for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill.
A mix of cultural criticism and actionable advice, DEEP WORK takes the reader on a journey through memorable stories — from Carl Jung building a stone tower in the woods to focus his mind, to a social media pioneer buying a round-trip business class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distraction in the air — and no-nonsense advice, such as the claim that most serious professionals should quit social media and that you should practice being bored. DEEP WORK is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.
Deep Work was profoundly impactful on me because it highlighted something I was feeling but not quite able to fully grasp: I have created a highly distracted life for myself. It’s something I even prided myself on and wasn’t fully able to see how my fractured day effected my mood. It’s something I wanted to change and since reading this book, I have made real progress and it’s exhilarating.
I was worried at first that the content might not apply to me. It’s not like I’m over here writing dissertations; I’m blogging my life, teaching my children, cooking food, and balancing life’s everyday tasks. But it did speak to me profoundly, helping me realize that this is my deep work and giving me tangible strategies to do it all in a more fulfilling, less distracted way.
A few takeaways that resonated with me:
- Busy is not necessarily productive.
- Rest and relaxation is a key piece.
- Think hard about your leisure time; your “day within/or after your day”
- We are actually happiest not when we are doing nothing but when we are deeply immersed in a task that is meaningful to us.
- We have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.
- The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.
This is a book I see myself revisiting once or twice a year as a reminder of how I want to feel in my own life (less distracted, fully present). Rating: 5/5 stars.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
From Amazon: In The Four Agreements, bestselling author don Miguel Ruiz reveals the source of self-limiting beliefs that rob us of joy and create needless suffering. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.
This was a reread for me, as I first read this book in college. I remember thinking it had some good points then, and knowing it was a short read/listen, I revisited it.
I am glad I did. It’s simple but profound and served as a good reminder of universal truths I believe in, but sometimes lose track of. Be impeccable with your word, take nothing personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. These are simple concepts but the supporting context he gives with each one feels like a breath of fresh air for the soul. His explanations teach you how to brush off the heaviness of the world and approach life from an enlightened and peaceful place. Rating: 4/5 stars
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
From Amazon: 1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she’s recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she’s trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the “Queen of Spies”, who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy’s nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn’t heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth…no matter where it leads.
As someone who will always choose a self improvement book over a novel, I forced myself to add in one novel to balance things out. I’m a sucker for historical fiction and had filed The Alice Network away after hearing it recommended for anyone who liked The Nightingale.
I very much enjoyed listening to this story told by bouncing back and forth between two different time periods. Eve’s WWI spy experience was enthralling and I enjoyed those chapter most. Since it’s based on a real person, I cringed through some parts and sat in awe at others at what she, and other brave women, went through.
Some parts of it dragged on a bit and might have been longer than they needed to, but overall I found it very entertaining. Rating 4/5 stars.
Have you read any of these three books? Thoughts?
Any recommendation for what to add to my list for February?