2016 Reading books reading

January 2016 in Books

February 15, 2016
January (1)

Wow! It’s mid-February, but January’s reading list is up:

More than Happy by Serena B. Miller

More than Happy: The Wisdom of Amish Parenting (Serena B. Miller)

I have a love-hate relationship with modern parenting books…unless they’re coming from a sociology angle, and then they’re pretty much a literary candy (dark chocolate!) for me! 🙂 Kind of like Amish romance for some people? Ha! Seriously, though, this was insightful and inspiring. If you’ve enjoyed books like  Bringing Up Bébé or Parenting without Borders, More than Happy might just be another one to add to your stack.

So, what does make Amish children happier? Miller believes it is a combination of many things: heavy sense of community and extended family involvement, a strong work ethic, respecting children as contributors and individuals, lack of distractions (TV, technology, etc…), slow pace of life, a sense of appropriate discipline, religious reinforcement of ideals, and an emphasis and priority on family life.

As with any culture that elicits mystery, there are a lot of common assumptions about the Amish that simply are not true. This book helps point some of those out. Of course, this is simply one person’s opinion (well, technically two) and an examination of one subgroup and subcategory of Amish culture, focusing primarily on the positive outcome.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action ( Simon Sinek)

This is a great little business book to help you provide focus for your business (or organization, or ministry). Great at any stage of the process, this book helps founders and leaders focus on their purpose as the framework for moving forward. 

Investing in Real Estate by Gary W. Eldred

Investing in Real Estate (Gary W. Eldred)

Investing in Real Estate is a comprehensive guide to the fundamentals of investing in residential real estate. So, yes, basically a Real Estate Investing 101 textbook! 🙂 Combine this book with the Bigger Pockets podcasts, and you’ll gain a lot of insight into real estate investing. It was encouraging to see that my general strategy of REI matches to much of the direction of this book.

The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes

The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy  (Lewis Howes)

Lewis Howes’s new book, The School of Greatness, is a great, motivational read. This book is particularly helpful for entrepreneurs, but for anyone who is looking to make improvements in their lives (which should be anyone)!

Time Power by Brian Tracy

Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible (Brian Tracy)

After reading Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog, Time Power was a mild letdown. At the same time, there’s definitely a gold mine of productivity wisdom and life advice hidden beneath the verbosity. Like a gold mine, you’ll have to sift through some of the repetitive nature to find it. Some of the advice is dated (“buy a rolodex”) and implementations have been revolutionized with online tools; but there is timeless, evergreen productivity advice scattered throughout. Scattered and repetitive, sort of like this paragraph. 🙂

Spark Joy by Marie Kondō

Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (Marie Kondō)

Upon reading and enjoying Mari Kondo’s bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, who could resist adding the followup “master class” to supplement the first? Not me, that’s clear.  When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year, my main takeaways were: 1) you should sort and discard (and keep) by gathering everything of one kind together and 2) you have to go through things in the correct order and attempt to do each category completely for tidying to truly work.

From Spark Joy, the main takeaway was: only keep things that spark joy (simplistic, I know. I think I caught that idea last time, but had a hard time really understanding it with a lot of psychological baggage from various past mentalities.) Spark Joy has illustrations, but they really could have been better, most likely with actual photographs. (The title makes it seem like there would be more.)

Since this book did give me several “ah-ha” moments, it’s still a winner for me personally. It probably does not work well without reading the first book, though.

In regards to both books and Kondo’s tidying philosophy, I realize it can be easy for to be distracted by her religious and Japanese cultural beliefs coming through. While the Japanese way of life and role in the world of technology has even exceeded our American developments in some areas, we should not expect the cultural backdrops to be the same.

Religion is a carrier of culture, culture is a carrier of religion, and both are carriers of practices, beliefs, and ways of life that are simply expressions of humanity. The key is to see the core ideas, extricate them from the religious and cultural carriers, and place them in our own context (or, adapt our context where it is wise to do so). When readers can do that, we will learn so much from Kondo’s Buddhist beliefs and Japanese reflections; not because we accept Buddhism as our own, but because we see Buddhism to be a carrier of elements that are wise and good.

Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk

Istanbul: Memories and the City (Orhan Pamuk)

Orhan Pamuk’s journey through his lifetime spent in Istanbul paints a melancholy, yet poignant portrait of the evolution of Istanbul over recent decades. From a literary standpoint, it’s beautiful. From an excitement standpoint, it’s dull.

Ask by Ryan Levesque

Ask : The counterintuitive online formula to discover exactly what your customers want to buy…create a mass of raving fans…and take any business to the next level (Ryan Levesque)

If you’re marketing to anyone, this is a must read. Ryan’s unique angle on marketing is one that will be particularly helpful to Internet entrepreneurs, particularly those who are working with building marketing funnels.

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level (Gay Hendricks)

This book has already gone down of one of the most life-changing reads of 2016. Daniel and I have both discussed that at this point in life, many of our business and personal growth hurdles have more to do with mindset than with actual roadblocks. The Big Leap took that understanding to the next level.

It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton

It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us (Hillary Rodham Clinton)

It is politically convenient to ignore perspectives from politicians (or people in general) with whom we assume to disagree with. But it is not always socially expedienct, and when considering how we can best work together to foster human flourishing as much as is possible, we would be remiss to ignore the core, important message of Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village.

The premise of Clinton’s books is that it requires a community effort to raise a well-rounded child fit to eventually become part of and give back to the community at large. As Clinton indicates, no family truly lives in a vacuum. Implementation of Clinton’s perspectives may vary across political parties, but implementation is not the primary point of this book.

At times Clinton waxes political, but overall the book read like a rather conservative view of the importance of family life in the United States. (I have a more lengthy review here, on Goodreads.)

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran

The 12 Week Year (Brian P. Moran, Michael Lennington)

The technique of dividing a year up into 4 parts is certainly not novel, and yet reading The 12 Week Year, I gained fresh insight into this method of arranding life goals and yearly planning into 12-week segments. As someone who likes to move quickly and have variety in my endeavors, this was a helpful articulation of what this could look like.

The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal

The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It (Kelly McGonigal)

“Stress will kill you,” they say. This books is here to tell you that that modern maxim is true, but only if you believe it to be true and respond to stress as if it is. Rather, this book encourages readers to look at stress from a more positive light, and to see the helpful role it can have. Helpful in a chaotic world where many endure stressful environments and situations that they have little control over.

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg

The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea (Bob Burg, John David Mann)

Business books told in story-form have oft seemed fluffy to me, and yet they stick with me and usually have a depth of meaning that is lacking in simple outlines. I found the same to be true to The Go-Giver, seeing it as comparable in form to The Energy Bus, a similar story-line book I read at the end of 2015.

The Chimes by Charles Dickens

The Chimes (Christmas Books) (Charles Dickens)

Ah. Classic Dickens, complete with visiting spirits of future life.

What at first seemed like a depressing tale of hopelessness, poverty, and general disillusionment with humanity, eventually settled into a more hopeful story, resolving itself as the main character, Trotty, himself goes from losing all faith in humanity to seeing the good in individual people, and even his own state of poverty. (Still, if you’re already feeling world-weary and worn down, it might be a hard read. ;))

As goes the usual Dickens fare, there are a lot of lessons written in between the lines. Most notable to me was how the nobility and “gentle class” viewed the life and actions of the poor. Although Dickens wrote this over a century ago, the upper-class criticisms of lower-class eating choices could sound like a FB rant today, just substitute food items. There are many powerful storylines hidden within the main story here.

Do More Better by Tim Challies

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity (Tim Challies)

Do More Better by Tim Challies is a practical introduction to personal productivity. Specifically, Challies delivers a productivity guide to organizing life and setting up systems in the online world. His advice is applicable to the stay-at-home mom to the pastor to the young entrepreneur building an online business. (As a counterpoint, these are probably not productivity tips that the Luddite, blue-collar worker, or offline elderly person could use.)

On the productivity side, the book was stellar. Simple, yet specific and precise. And that’s usually a big pro when it comes to this genre.

On the theology side, I felt things were a bit forced at times: in other words, here’s a productivity book, and here’s some wooden theology to accompany it. However, that was not always the case and there were many portions which where rich and gracious, understanding that application will differ in various walks and seasons of life.

My (and my husband’s) main concern was the legalistic feel at some points of the book, especially in portions that conveyed the idea, “you don’t have a productivity problem; you have a theology problem.” For the reader who already wrestles with guilt for “not doing enough,” such portions may be a challenge.

On the practical side, this is a helpful and efficient guide to setting up Todoist, Evernote, and Google Calendar in a way that can allow users and reader to…well, do more better.

For those who are looking for a productivity book that more thoroughly integrates theology and productivity, I highly recommend Matt Perman’s “What’s Best Next,” although it is not as specific in it’s system setup guide.

The Songs of Jesus by Timothy Keller

The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms (Timothy Keller, Kathy Keller)

Why read a book of a year’s worth of daily devotions when you can read it in a month? Well, that probably wasn’t the best form of intake for this book, but it was what I needed to do for my reading for this year. Hopefully, this is a book I can return to with more intentional, slow digestion. Still, Keller’s devotional on the Psalms was helpful.

Although the word Jesus doesn’t appear in any of the Psalms, the references, both specific and broad, are abundant. So much so that Keller calls this “The Songs of Jesus,” which is the focus of the devotional’s look at Psalms. Very rich content, though it does not always read like a typical Keller book.

More Thoughts on Reading

Let’s Connect

If you’re on Goodreads, I’d love to connect there. (It’s like Facebook for nerds. And book-lovers who aren’t nerds. With none of the cat videos (sorry, if that’s your thing), little of the fear-mongering, and sadly no cute baby pictures.)

Answer questions/thoughts on reading more: 

Since I’ve gotten a few questions on my reading, I’ll just address some of those here:

How do you have so much time? 

Keep in mind, that this is not my first year of reading at this level of book intake. (And that there are moms with more kids than me who read more books than me.) It’s become a habit in a sense, and is something that I started working on shortly after my first baby was born in 2008.

I also read books via Kindle, paper (still my favorite), and audio (second favorite).

Do I have a babysitter? Does my husband only work part-time? 

No, and no, sadly. In fact, I’ve never been apart from my kids for a single night in over 8 years, not even to give birth to more! 😉 Our kids are pretty much with either myself or my husband all the time. We don’t do separated Sunday school or daycare with our kids…I haven’t even had anyone watch all 4 of my kids yet. (This baby has actually been my most clingy-at-night baby, so it’s been quite the ride!)

(But getting help is actually an area I want to improve upon this year, so I am hopeful that I will have used a babysitter by the end of this year. Though, I’m not sure I’ll spend that time reading books if I do. :))

My husband worked about 60 hours a week until a few months ago. He still works full-time, but he does work remotely and this allows us to break up our days in ways different than the traditional 9 to 5 job family.

How Can You Read So Much?

Reading books about things I am passionate to learn more about is something that energizes me. As an entrepreneur and homeschooling mom of 4 young kids, creating energy is something I’ve found crucial to do. Because my time is so limited right now, the extras I pursue must be things I can squeeze into the extra pockets of time. Reading can be done just about anywhere, anytime. (I also haven’t watched a movie in over a year! ;))

But, really, I actually did a series on this a while back. You can find that here.

Should You Read So Much?

As in, the sentiment here is, “should you go deep or should you go broad?” “Is it better to be a mile wide, but an inch deep, or just a few inches wide and a mile deep?”

I am choosing to read a lot right now: to go a mile wide. There is a lot of literature and thought that I missed out on in my earlier years. I go deep in a few areas, but am primarily working on expanding my breadth at this time, particularly in business, bestsellers, and classics. In the coming years, I hope to be able to read less better. Or maybe just read more deeply and still read lots! 🙂

My Strategy

Knowing that winter months can be harder for me, I decided to stack the books on the motivational and productivity side of things. I also decided not to read any sad stories or history accounts. I don’t think I’ll read as much in coming months as I did in January, but I feel that this burst gave me a good start to the year.

What are you reading? 🙂 

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  • Johanna February 16, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Loved your list, Keren and I’m looking forward to talking about a few of them in person! I have a love/hate view of productivity books in January, but I always end up reading them at this time of year!