Reading List time has rolled round again and this month I have four recommendations for you. Happy November by the way. I feel like November is the perfect no-fuss, no-pressure month to catch up on some reading. Up to a few days ago, I thought I'd only have three books for you this month. It was just one of those months where I struggled to find the time to read, probably because I ended up watching two entire series of House of Cards on Netflix. But a fourth book I did read, starting the day before yesterday and finishing it last night and oh my word, is it a good one.
Keep scrolling for my November reading list and as usual please comment below and tell me what you are reading. I already have two new books lined up to read next but otherwise I'm in need of your recommendations x
Dare to Lead by Brené Browne
I read this book from start to finish in two days and if I'd have had a free afternoon I'm pretty sure I'd have read it start to finish in one sitting. I love Brené Browne. For anyone who doesn't know who she is, she's a best selling author and social researcher based in Texas and is probably most famous for her viral TED talk on the power of vulnerability. If you haven't already watched it, I suggest doing so now. I mean it. Stop reading this and go watch it!!
I love, love her new book "Dare of Lead". It's focused on how we can cultivate effective leadership and is based on research she has done with global executives. Now, the obvious thing to say at this point is that I'm not a global executive and I'm sure most of you aren't either. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't read this book. The takeaways aren't just for leaders in the conventional sense of the word, even thought it would be wonderful if some of our current leaders in policitics and business read it and learned from it (not mentioning anyone in particular). The takeaways from the book can be applied to our relationships outside of work as much as in work.
The focus of Dare to Lead is about living authentically and exploring our vulnerability as people and as leaders. Browne talks a lot about courage and how we can't have courage without vulnerability. In other words in order to be courageous, we need to have uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure and to be ok with that. Her reserach shows that courage is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, trust and empathy and who doesn't want more of all of those in this world.
Brené Browne is fascinating and once you start listening to her and following her, you won't stop. This is the book that people need to read right now. Give yourself space to read it and read it with a pen and paper in hand. You will want to take notes. I feel like this is one of those books that I will read and re-read again and again, dipping in and out of when I'm struggling with my own vulnerability and whole heartedness.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
I haven't read Sally Rooney's first novel Conversations with Friends yet and was tempted to read it first but as they aren't a series, I decided to dive straight into her new release Normal People. It tells the story of Marianne and Connell's on-off romance told over several years, starting when they are in their last year of secondary school in Sligo and following them through their university years in Trinity College. Connell is the son of a working-class single mother, who works as Marianne's family's housekeeper. He is smart and at school he is popular. Marianne is from a wealthy family but is a social outsider in school. They don't interact publically but they are drawn to each other outside of school. While their relationship remains secret in school, they develop real feelings for each other and the story follows them as they transition to university life in Dublin.
The book is a compelling romance story, but it's so much more than that too. It explores the transition from school to univeristy, from country to city. It examines issues of class and social dynamices. It explores the power balance that exists between Marianne and Connell as they come together and fall apart over the years usually as a result of miscommunications and personal anxieties. The tenderness in the story is remarkable. The relationship between them always feel real and never contrived. The dialogue is outstanding and it's a remarkably easy book to read.
Normal People is a brilliant and intensly satisfying book. It has been long-listed for this year's Man Booker Prize and has been received with overwhelming postitive reviews. The author is only 27 which makes her talent even more incredible. I would describe this book as a must-read.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
When I'm in a book shop, I'll often ask the assistant to recommend their favourite book and Lincoln in the Bardo has been mentioned to me more than once or twice. Intrigued I flicked through a copy a few months back but was nervous of the style and setting. The reason being that the book is written in dialogue mixed with extracts from historical accounts. Some real and some imaginary. I wasn't sure I'd get it. But when a friend recommended it and offered me her copy to read, I decided to give it a go. I honestly I thought I'd struggle to read it, but it was the complete opposite.
The story is made up of dialogue and extracts from a cast of characters, some dead and some alive, some imaginary and some real. The novel focus on the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11-year-old son Willie, who died from tyhoid. The story takes place on a day in 1862 in the Washington DC cemetary where Willie has just been buried. The Lincoln in the title refers to Willie and not the president and the Bardo is a Buddhist concept, a limbo-like afterlife for those who cannot accept death. The story is told mainly from the perspective of three souls in the bardo. There isn't really a plot of this novel, but rather the novel tells the story of loss and relationships and President Lincoln's reluctance to say goodbye to his son.
If you've heard of this book and weren't quite sure whether to take it on or not, read it. It's like no other book I've read before, it's desperately sad at times and overall it's engaging and challenging.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Lianne Moriarty
Any new release by Lianne Moriarty will catch my attention, because of how much I loved her novel Big Little Lies. That's the one that was made into a TV series staring Nicole, Reese and co. If you haven't read the book or watched the show, do both. Her latest novel, Nine Perfect Strangers explores the wellness industry and how people turn to "self-improvement" when faced with struggles. It's a story of nine different people brought together for an expensive ten-day retreat at Tranquillum House. The guests are all looking to Tranquillum House to help them process and deal with their own problems, from marital diffuculties, to grief, to life after sports stardom to rejection. And the book is told from their perspectives along with those of the retreat director Misha and her assistants.
By far the best character is Frances, aged 52 and a former bestselling romance novelist whose career has taken a turn for the worse after her latest novel was rejected from publishers and after she recently fell for an interent romance scam. Reeling from this, she turns to the Tranquillum House to reboot her life. When the story is being told from her perspective, it is at its most engaging and entertaining and I can't help but think that the book would have benefitted had she been given a more central role.
Nine Perfect Strangers is entertaining and a book that's easy to read. I have to admit that I feel the story drags in the middle and becomes quite bizarre, but goes on to wrap up quite satisfactory in the end. If you are expecting Big Little Lies, you might well be disappointed. This book is completely different in style and setting, moving away from the suburban style drama that Moriarty is best known for. What I liked most about this book are its observations on relationships, human interactions and contemporary life, all served alongside a 'healthy' dose of blood-tests, smoothies and silent retreats.