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2013 Book List

I set a goal to read 36 books in 2013… and I did it! Between retiring and starting a new business, there was a lot of time to read.. and a lot I needed to learn. Many of you have requested to know all the books I’ve read this year, and here they are! (BTW it was really fun to go back and review all the books, so thanks for the inspiration).

In no particular order…

Fiction

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

This interesting book caught my attention from the first page. I loved the writing, but fair warning you have to suspend your imagination a little bit (it’s about a girl gains the ability to taste emotions in food on her 9th birthday). The end of the book leaves you wondering a little bit – this would be a good book club selection because you’ll want to discuss it.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods

This is not a book I would have chosen for myself, but I ended up really enjoying it. I found it really entertaining and laughed out loud quite a few times. I feel it’s important to mention that, although it’s hilarious, it has a dark plot and deals with death and dying. Another good book club pick.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

By the author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a favorite of mine. Hard to explain, the book follows Greta as she travels between lives in three different eras (1918, 1941, and her present in the 1980s). You see the life she might have lived in the different eras and how the cast of characters in her life play out differently in each era (while often dealing with the same issue). The Amazon description does a much better job than I did. While I didn’t love it as much as Max Tivoli, I found it really interesting. The historical fiction fan in me enjoyed seeing how Greta’s life – and she – was affected by the era she was living in.

Queen’s Gambit: A Novel

The story of Henry VIII’s sixth wife, and the only one to outlive him. It’s a nice bookend if you’ve read The Other Boleyn Girl (different author) and interesting historically, but I wasn’t crazy about it. It got good reviews on Amazon, so maybe it’s just me.

Maine

Usually I enjoy books that tell a family’s story through the eyes of the different women in it, but this one fell flat for me. I found it boring, and don’t really recommend it.

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats

It’s beautiful. I have a life goal of reading one book from every country, and this crossed off Burma for me. I don’t know how to describe this one, so I’ll rely on Amazon: “When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.”

Commencement

This book took me back to college. Going back and forth between the present and their years at Smith College, the book tells the story of four unlikely best friends. How they fell in “friend love” during college and how their relationships grew and changed as they grew older. It has a few interesting twists and turns, and is a good light read.

Daughter of Smoke & Bone & Days of Blood & Starlight

This satisfied the void left by other young adult fantasy fiction (that will remain nameless). Less teen drama and angst, more what the hell is going on. A lot darker and more interesting, the end leaves you wanting to reread it from the beginning. A little dark and scary, not for the faint of heart. The sequel, Days of Blood and Starlight, is darker and more violent – and personally I didn’t like it as much. Still very excited for the third though!

Ada’s Rules (Sexy Skinny)

I forget why I read this book. There must have been a reason. I skimmed it, and don’t really have a reason to recommend it.

 

Gone Girl

You’ve probably heard of or read this book by now. If you haven’t, go out and get it now. It’s dark – dealing with the disappearance of a woman and her husband is the main suspect. But it makes you question everything – character, relationships, and is an interesting exploration of who we really are in our romantic relationships.Would make for another good book club selection. They’re making a movie with Ben Affleck.

Memoirs

Red Hot and Holy: A Heretic’s Love Story

Hmmmm…. another tough one to describe. In this spiritual memoir, Sera chronicles her lifelong journey to connect with her own inner spirituality, and as a Harvard-trained scholar Sera punctuates her journey with research on religion and the divine. You’ll connect with this book if you’re searching for your spiritual “home.”

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes

It’s fun to imagine what it would be like to fall in love with a Frenchman and move to Paris. But what is it really like?  Since two of my great loves are great writing and cooking (I sometimes read cookbooks for fun, don’t judge), I love a book that combines a good (love) story and recipes (check out My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weissfor another great one).  This book was so much fun to read while I was in Paris. It turns out the author lived quite close to where I was staying, so I enjoyed reading about the neighborhood I was “living” in for a short time.  I thoroughly enjoyed following Elizabeth’s journey of falling in love and moving to Paris, but it also made me realize that I might not quite be ready to pack up and move to Paris indefinitely.

A Year in Provence

Since I’d never read it, I HAD to read it while I was in Provence. This classic memoir about a Brit who moved with his wife to Provence – and the fun stories of rebuilding his home and connecting with locals – spurred a genre. Worth reading if you haven’t, especially if you’re a francophile like me.

Data, A Love Story: How I Gamed Online Dating to Meet My Match

After one-too-many bad online dates (and glasses of wine), Amy Webb realizes her approach to online dating was completely wrong. She embarked on a (slightly OCD) mission to create selection criteria (so she would only go out with potential winners) and figuring out how to make her profile stand out (by creating fake male profiles to check out the competition). Amy’s writing is hilarious, and if you’re an online dater there’s some good tips in there as well. I’m not giving away anything to say that it has a happy ending.

Personal and Professional Development

Yoga and Yogic Philosophy

I went through yoga teacher training this year, which had some required reading. What I found interesting is that other books I read in the realm of personal development leaned heavily on yogic philosophy – I just never would have noticed if I hadn’t studied it.

Yoga and the Path of the Urban Mystic

As one of my classmates said, it’s the wikipedia of yoga philosophy. If you want a simple book to break down the eight limbs of yoga, and give practical applications for modern life, this is a good (and quick) read.

Teaching Yoga: Essential Foundations and Techniques

A great resource for aspiring yoga teachers – I’ve returned to it again and again. It’s the only book I kept after my training. Great for breaking down asana and sequencing.

Super Rich: A Guide to Having It All

This book, by Def Jam Records’s Russel Simmons, totally surprised me by how yoga-focused it is. It’s all about how you living on purpose and contributing your unique gift to the world will lead to fulfillment – spiritual and financial.

The Four Desires: Creating a Life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom

My dear teachers Chrisandra Fox Walker and Katie Silcox introduced me to this book in my yoga teacher training. According to this lineage of yogic philosophy, we are each born with a purpose, and that purpose is part of the the greater purpose of the universe.  Our souls have four desires – for purpose, the means to achieve our purpose, pleasure, and connection to spirit. At any time in our life, one desire is stronger than the others in order to continue to achieve our purpose. It’s a little dense and the exercises are deep, but if you can get through them you will learn a lot about your self, why you’re here, and how to fulfill what your soul is longing for.  Not small stuff – if you do the hard work.

Personal Growth

May Cause Miracles: A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness

This is the only self-guided program I’ve followed start to finish. For six weeks, Gabrielle provides daily meditations and exercises to bust through fear and open you up to changes in perception – miracles. It’s doable and the work led to some profound shifts – forgiveness, fear, and gratitude work can do that!

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

I know this is a book I’m going to come back to again.  Have you ever noticed that right when you’re on the verge of achieving a goal or breaking through, you sabotage yourself?  You fall off the diet right before you lose the last few pounds, pick a fight with your partner just when things are going well, bomb a big presentation right before a promotion. In The Big Leap Gail Hendricks (a man) calls these moments of self-sabotage an “upper limit problem”. Now I pay attention to these moments and try to figure out why I’m keeping myself from achieving what I want.  This is one of my must-read personal development books.

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

This book sat on my bookshelf for a year before I finally picked it up and read it cover-to-cover within a day. It’s deceptively short for how powerful the lessons are. From Amazon “In The Four Agreements shamanic teacher and healer Don Miguel Ruiz exposes self-limiting beliefs and presents a simple yet effective code of personal conduct learned from his Toltec ancestors.” It’s another one I’m returning to again and again.

The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul

I’ve been a fan of Danielle LaPorte for years.  Her writing style is simultaneously kick-ass and poetic.  I bought the Desire Map the day her program launched a year ago. Danielle posits that we have goal-setting backwards: that we should start with how we want to feel, and then create daily and long-term goals that will create that feeling. It can radically change what you end up striving for. For me, it was incredible to go through this process just after I quit my job and as I started building my business – my core desired feelings became my roadmap for discovering what I wanted my life to look like and how I wanted to develop and run my business. The book has been reworked and is coming out through traditional publishing on January 1st (available for preorder now), just in time to plan for 2014.

Rework

This is a quick and fun read, turning traditional business advice on its head. From Amazon “Read it and you’ll know why plans are actually harmful, why you don’t need outside investors, and why you’re better off ignoring the competition. The truth is, you need less than you think. You don’t need to be a workaholic. You don’t need to staff up. You don’t need to waste time on paperwork or meetings. You don’t even need an office. Those are all just excuses. What you really need to do is stop talking and start working. This book shows you the way. You’ll learn how to be more productive, how to get exposure without breaking the bank, and tons more counterintuitive ideas that will inspire and provoke you.” It has good advice whether you work for the man or work for yourself.

Psychology of French Women

I went through a phase when I read a series of books on how to be more like a French woman – all before I knew I was going to France! Guess I really did manifest that trip…

Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris

Of the five books I read, this is my top pic.  Jennifer L. Scott tells amusing stories  about the year she spent living with La Famille Chic as an exchange student – and gives practical, actionable advice on how to be more “French.”  You can also follow Jennifer’s blog, the Daily Connoisseur, where she has video posts on many of the lessons she presents in the book. One of the habits I’ve picked up is curating a 10 item wardrobe – game changer.

Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl

This book is a close second for my favorite book on how to be “French.” It all boils down to intention and pleasure, something we Americans could do with more of.  From Amazon: “Ever wonder what gives French women that je ne sais quoin? At first you might think it’s the elegant figure, matchless style, and mysterious allure. Then you realize those qualities don’t come from just anywhere. They come from generations of women raised to cultivate an extraordinary sense of self. French women know who they are, like who they are, and excel at presenting who they are… Provocative and practical, lively and intelligent, Entre Nous unlocks the mystery of the French girl and the secrets of her self-possession. Why do French women always look inimitably stylish? How do they manage to sit in a café for a three-course lunch and a glass of wine…by themselves? How do they decide when they’re ready to let someone become a part of their very private lives? Laced with practical tips, engaging sidebars, and essential observations about French women and their ways, Entre Nous is a delightful book that will help you take the best of all pages from the French girl’s book—the page that reveals how to really enjoy life.”

French Women Don’t Sleep Alone

This book comes in third. The “French” approach to relationships and falling in love is, again, about creating a life full of sensuality, romance, and joy that someone else fits into – rather than trying to use another person to fill that need in your life. It’s filled with simple ideas, from having flowers in your home to your beauty routine – to create a romantic life. From Amazon: “French women believe that the gift for attracting men has nothing to do with beauty, work, or even motivation. There are no Rules…  They conduct their relationships with the same unique sense of originality and artfulness that they choose their clothes and accessories.  Discover the secrets to:

  • Why French women always feel sexy
  • The French art of flirtation
  • Why French women walk everywhere and love to be seen
  • Where French women meet men
  • What French women do when their man misbehaves

Just as we’ve learned to stop torturing ourselves with fad diets and have relearned the art of eating, this witty, insightful, and candid book strives to show American women how to cultivate and enjoy the pleasures of love, romance, and marriage.”

All You Need to Be Impossibly French: A Witty Investigation into the Lives, Lusts, and Little Secrets of French Women

I don’t remember this one being particularly remarkable and would recommend the three above first. From Amazon: “With wit, whimsy, and wonder, British expatriate Helena Frith Powell uncovers the secrets of chic living in All You Need to Be Impossibly French, a cheeky guide to releasing your inner Frenchwoman. Delving deep into a mysterious realm of face creams, silk lingerie, and shopping-as-exercise, Powell reveals how French women stay impossibly thin and irresistibly sexy by achieving the maximum effect from the minimum amount of effort. Forget diet and inspiration books and style guides—this is all you need to embrace the wisdom of French living, and learn how to turn every day into la petite aventure.

 

French Women Don’t Get Fat

The other books cover the French approach to food and diet, but if this classic is still worth a read to round out your “French” education if this is an area you need more support in.

Miscellaneous

Foodist: Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting

I read this book after seeing the author speak at Samovar. It’s a good primer on whole foods and healthy eating, but if you’ve done a lot of research on the topic like me, it won’t teach you anything new.

 

Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction

I took a class on Human Sexuality in college (the most popular course on campus, which yearly had a wait list after its 800 seats were filled), so this book was more of a refresher than learning something new but still a good reference. Since I don’t want to write a review of a sex book, this is from Amazon: “From enlightening lessons on female anatomy to the complicated issue of libido to an overview of sex toys and positions, Because It Feels Good informs women about every aspect of sexual function, providing the knowledge they need to have the sex lives they deserve. This is a pleasure manifesto—and your handbook to a great sex life.”

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts: Using the Power of Pleasure to Have Your Way with the World

Loved the message: self-indulgence is the key to self-empowerment, that by tapping into your pleasure you can achieve your dreams. I didn’t resonate with the delivery, so skimmed the book because I found the voice annoying. It might be just me because Mama Gena has a big following and is tapping into a message that is resonating with a lot of people.

Trashy Romance Novels

Warning – incredibly girly reads ahead and I’m kind of embarrassed to mention them. But sometimes you need something that is pure trash (especially to balance out all the heady stuff I’ve read this year), so here you go…

Sinners on TourBackstage Pass & Rock Hard

The Backstage Pass series allowed me to inhabit a world I definitely would never be a part of – touring with a rock band.  It was refreshing to visit a world completely outside of my own. It’s pure trash, but kind of fascinating. Both feature strong female lead characters and the rock stars who fall in love with them.

All the King’s Men: Knight of Pleasure & Knight of Desire

If rock stars aren’t your thing and you prefer knights and ladies, this series might be more up your alley. Less salacious trash and more romantic trash.

Your Turn

What books have you read this year? I always am looking for suggestions – what should I put on my list for 2014?

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