“Deep Work- Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport
In the Swiss canton of St. Gallen, near the northern banks of Lake Zurich, is a village named Bollingen.
This book popped up on my radar via Ben Percy just as my own attention was feeling frayed into nothingness. And I am really hard on myself about this. I feel like I should be able to just say no to social media. Just not check it. When I see another writer who I really admire and who appears to have an incredible work ethic struggling with the same kind of thing, I was intrigued enough to get the book.
Weaving together science, cultural criticism and actionable steps to take today, Newport makes a strong case for finding ways to drop deeply into your work whether it is writing, coding or gardening. He defines “deep work” as the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. He makes the case that work that emerges from this state is more valuable thus making you more valuable to your company, clients, the world.
At times, his advice seems a bit stringent but it works for him. The point is to get us to be able to drop into our work, have the time to mull and experiment and just be present without being pulled in a million different directions by others, by technology, by our own impulses.
Since finishing this book, I took the step of taking Twitter off my phone. A small step for sure but with huge benefits. I am not drawn into the 24/7 drama that sends me spinning off into a turmoil of rage or despair. I feel calmer, more focused, two thing that will help me sink into deep work.
A line I love:
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.
“Braving the Wilderness- The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to stand Alone” by Brené Brown
When I start writing, I inevitably feel myself swallowed by fear.
I chose this for the book club I facilitate at our yoga studio not knowing that much of the book was born out of the extreme division our country is facing. At first I was a little nervous about selecting this, about bringing politics into the space. But it was a perfect choice, a necessary and timely read for everyone.
Brown says, “It’s about breaking down the walls, abandoning our idealogical bunkers, and living from our wild heart rather that our weary heart.”
My own heart lit up at that. Yes! Exactly. My heart and soul have felt battered and incredibly weary over this past year. And it is so easy to stay in my tribe of like-minded, liberal leaning people who agree with everything I say, everything I post. But there’s a whole other world out there. A whole other part of the country that voted for this man, wanting something from him that they felt they couldn’t get any other way.
Brown guides us through her research and stories about belonging, not belonging, the need to belong, the need to stand alone out in the wilderness of our truth.
A line I love:
No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.
True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.
“When Women Were Birds- Fifty-four Variation on Voice” by Terry Tempest Williams
I am fifty-four years old, the age my mother was when she died.
This book had been on my radar for years. Recently, it began popping up a lot. Friends would talk about it, recommend it to me, I’d stumble across it on-line. One day I was writing in my journal about voice, using voice as a theme for my Poses, Pens + Inner Peace class that I teach when I saw that the subtitle of the book was “Fifty-four Variations on Voice.” Okay, okay, I got the not so subtle hint. I needed to read this book. So I ordered it, it arrived and I read it in two days.
I fell in love with every page, every word.
I read with a pen in my hand underling those sentences that made my skin tingle. Honestly I could have just underlined every single sentence.
I m still processing what I read and I will most definitely read it again. For now let me leave you with the blurb by Susan Salter Reynolds:
“Williams is the kind of writer who makes a reader feel [her] voice might also, one day, be heard….She cancels out isolation: Connections are woven as you sit in your chair reading—between you and the place you live, between you and other readers, you and the writer. Without knowing how it happened, your sense of home is deepened.”
That last line especially resonates with me. My sense of home has been deepened—home as the house I live in, the place I inhabit, the place in time, my body as home, community as home, writing as home.
I love the structure of the book, how one section echoes the one before it but takes you to a completely different and unexpected place. How she made the bold choice to have empty pages within her book. How lists are woven through the prose.
The writing, the story is simply stunning.
Some lines I love:
My mother’s voice is a lullaby in my cells.
Word by word, the language o women so often begins with a whisper.
She exposed the truth of what every woman knows: to find our sovereign voice often requires a betrayal.
“Little Fires Everywhere” a novelty Celeste Ng
Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.
The pace of this novel doesn’t slow down from that first line as we become enmeshed in the lives of the Richardson family and their new tenants, Mia and Pearl Warren. Mia is the anti-Shaker Heights. the city is a well planned, well thought out suburb of Cleveland, everything is orderly and rules are essential to the success of the town and the residents. Mia Warren is a n artist who doesn’t plan, her life is a pieced together to give her enough money and time to create her art. Her presence shakes the stars quo and the people of Shaker Heights up as alliances are made and broken and secrets come to light.
A passage I love:
She had never seen an adult cry like that, with such an animal sound. Recklessly. As if there were nothing more to be lost.
How about you? Why have you been reading lately?