With the start of the New Year, everyone is busy reflecting on the year just gone, and looking bright eyed and bushy tailed towards the next 365 days. As many of your friends and family will have been discussing, the time for New Years Resolutions is at our door, and we find ourselves wondering what we would like to accomplish in this new chapter of our lives. Before I delve into what I plan to commit to this year, I wanted to share my 2017 Resolution review with you first.
Having made New Years Resolutions in the past, and given them up in less than a month, I wanted to give myself a challenge that would contribute to my sense of self, and broaden my knowledge. Back in January, when I was working just outside Nottingham city centre, I used to spend 3 hours each day, 2 buses there, 2 buses back, getting into work. During this time I used to read articles on LinkedIn to try and spark some kind of enthusiastic drive for work (basically anything to keep my mind off the fact that I was spending 3 hours each day on a bus). It was on such a morning that I came across an article entitled ’40 Books in My 40th Year’. Now, I’m going to be honest, back in January 2017, I had probably read about 20 books in my lifetime, most of which were compulsory throughout school. I never read for the sheer joy of reading. The idea of reading 40 books in one year just seemed utterly mind-blowing to me. Yet I was very curious to find out what a person would get from this experience.
After pondering this idea for a few days, and wanting to find a Resolution that didn’t mean I had to stop eating chocolate, I decided to adapt this concept for myself. I vowed to read 25 books in my 25th year (January – December 2017). With some quick maths I planned out that I would have to read just over 2 books each month to be on a safe track to completing. I had no idea what books I wanted to read. I only had about 4 books at home that had been recommended by others in the past, but of course, I had never read them, so they were my starting point. I was going to use these 3 hours every day for reading and I was going to put this wasted time to good use instead of browsing social media until my eyes popped out.
Now that I am in January 2018, I can proudly say, with the biggest smile on my face, that I achieved this mammoth task in the allotted time (it was touch and go at the end, but I finished my 25th book on December 30th 2017). I felt very strongly that I should write a blog post about this journey, because it really has expanded my view of the world, how we live it, and it has also enabled me to experience the utter joy in reading. Not knowing which books were going to make an appearance on the list, I chose to read non-fiction books with topics I was interested in, rather than fiction, with only 2 out of the 25 books written as fiction fables.
Surprisingly, I enjoyed every single book I read. I wish I could review each one for you. However, I feel like that may be a little excessive. Therefore, I have chosen to pick the top 5 that I feel I gained the most insight from. I will provide a list of all the books I read over the course of the year, and I would urge you to look into them to see if any would be of interest, as I do highly recommend!
In no particular order, book number one that I wanted to share with you is ‘The Secret Lives of Colour’ by Kassia St Clair. Not only is it visually a very beautiful book to read, but it is also so incredibly interesting. Coming from a design background, and wanting to expand my knowledge of colour for my paintings, I thought understanding the information surrounding colour would be of interest. However, this book completely exceeded all of my expectations. St Clair weaves an amazing web of stories around the 75 shades that she is inspired by the most. She delves into the history, geography, technical processes and peculiar lives that surround each individual colour. Even if you aren’t a painter or a designer, or in a creative field, I thoroughly encourage you to read this book.
Number two on the list is ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. This was an interesting choice for me, as most of the books on my list were about either expanding my knowledge of my craft, or expanding my knowledge of the mind and wellness. What grabbed me about this book was the mysterious line on the bottom of the back cover, ‘a walk in the woods will never be the same again’. I can safely say that this book truly does live up to this statement. I had no idea how social and family orientated trees were. Each species works together to support each other, and research has shown that they are actually able to communicate with each other through their roots. Honestly, whether you walk in the woods regularly, or you only visit on the odd occasion, this book is well worth your time.
Book number three is the biggest book I’ve read this year. Not only did I give myself the challenge to read 25 books in one year, three of the books I read were over 400 pages. Ringing in at 528 pages, I present Derren Brown’s ‘Happy’. Now, I would say that at times this one was quite hard to read as some chapters contained a lot of historical information and I had to be alert to keep up. However, the topics he covers in searching for what it truly means to be happy, and how we can achieve happiness quite simply and easily are incredibly intriguing. A lot of his work is based upon Stoic and Epicurean thinking, but what this book teaches you is to let go. So many people, myself included, set goals and don’t really spend the time to reflect or appreciate what we have now. We are always so busy looking to the future at what we want to have. This book has taught me to reflect, to be grateful with what I have, to see the beauty in the everyday and to be more empathic towards others. It’s a big commitment, but I’d definitely recommend spending time sitting down with this book. It’s well worth it.
Almost there. Number four is ‘Ikigai’ by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. Ikigai teaches you ‘the Japanese secret to a long and happy life’. Now, after watching the Netflix documentary ‘Wild Japan’, I am already obsessed with the rural cultures of this country, and this book certainly caters to that love. There are interviews with super centenarians (people who are 110+ years old!!) and techniques on how to be more mindful and active. It’s a beautiful book with a heart-warming insight into how we too can obtain such a mammoth age!
Finally, my last book in the top 5 is ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo. This book is around 240 pages and I read it in just over a day. Its very enthusiastic, and it can be a little repetitive in places as she drives her message home. But oh my is it worth a read. This woman is a genius. As you may have seen through my instastories and post captions, I have spent 2-3 days straight tidying. She has a very particular method of tidying, which you cannot deviate from, but it works. Each month I feel like I need a clear out and when I’m done I don’t really feel much better. However, this time, I have thrown away 3 bags of rubbish, 3 bags of recycling, and about 6/7 bags for the charity shops. These are big heavy-duty bin liners I’m talking about here! She makes you hold each item in your hand and asks you if it ‘sparks joy’. The reason why so many of use feel restless, untidy, or that they’re always under a bed of clutter, is because we don’t take the time to evaluate whether the things that inhabit our home truly give us joy. It makes your physical space and your head space so much clearer, and it’s made me think a lot about all the things in my life that spark joy, not just the objects that I obtain.
I wish I could review all the books I've read this year, as they each deserve some credit for contributing to my mental development. As for the future, to be honest, I'm not too sure on my Resolution for 2018 yet. For now, I just want to reflect and appreciate how far I've come in a year. It really has been one of the most life-changing years of my life, and without it, I would not be sat here writing this post. I am incredibly grateful for how the wise words in the pages of these books have given me the skills to open my eyes and live life according to my true self.
This one is for the authors.
Full Reading List:
1. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
2. Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray
3. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
4. Working With Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
5. The Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries
6. Create Your Own Website The Easy Way by Alannah Moore
7. The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sumin
8. The Introvert Entrepreneur by Beth Buelow
9. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
10. 48 Hour Start-Up by Fraser Doherty MBE
11. The Path by Professor Michael Puett & Christine Gross-Loh
12. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by Lucy Roster
13. Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan
14. Grit by Angela Duckworth
15. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
16. The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St Clair
17. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
18. An Introduction: Sikhism by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh
19. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben
20. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harai
21. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
22. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harai
23. Ikigai by Hector Garcia & Francesc Miralles
24. Happy by Derren Brown
25. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo