“The Year of Less- How I stopped shopping, gave away my belongings, and discovered life is worth more than anything you can buy in a store” by Cait Flanders
The idea was born on a trail, as many of mine seem to be.
I’m a sucker for writers that take on a challenge and write about it. It inspires me to take on my own challenges of adding things into my life or taking them away. It’s always a lesson in mindfulness.
After pulling herself out of $30K in credit card debt, Flanders found herself slipping back into old patterns. To break the pattern, she decided to set herself a new challenge: she wouldn’t shop for an entire year.
She made rules as to what was allowed on the shopping ban and what definitely was not. She found she had to adjust the rules along the way but they provided a necessary structure. While I was inspired by how much she was able to save and the changes she made in her life, it fascinated me how it impacted her relationships. Just as when somebody is on a diet or choosing to be sober, choosing to not spend money triggered interesting reactions. Like offering a sober person beer, some people tempted her with shopping. Or she found that a lot of her social life revolved around buying things just as much of our social life revolves around food and drink. What happens when you step out of the normal activities that bond people? And she was dealing with both: a shopping ban and continuing her sobriety.
A sentence that really resonated with me:
“But there were really only two categories I could see: the stuff I used, and the stuff I wanted the ideal version of myself to use…There were books I thought smart Cait should read, clothes I thought professional Cait would wear, projects I thought creative Cait could tackle…I would do it all one day, and become a better person one day.”
“Behold the Dreamers” a novel by Imbolo Mbue
He’d never been asked to wear a suit to a job interview.
This timely novel takes us deep into the lives a family desperate to stay in America, to live the life they have always dreamed of, a life not possible in their home country.
Jende Jonga lands a dream job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende is making money, he carries a briefcase, wears a suit. He drives Clark and his wife Cindy and son Mighty wherever they need to go on any given day. His wife, Neni, is able to go to school to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacist. Then the financial crisis hits and things begin to fall apart quickly. Cracks within the Edwards’ marriage begin to show as do cracks within the marriage of Jenge and Neni, everyone desperate for things to stay as they have been even as it all is shifting beneath their feet. It’s a beautiful, compassionate glimpse into lives of immigrants dreaming of a better life, the obstacles to realizing that dream and what they are willing to do to achieve it.
A line I love:
“They would lose the opportunity to grow up in a magnificent land of uninhibited dreamers. They would lose the chance to be awed and inspired by amazing things happening in the country, incredible inventions and accomplishments by men an women who look like them.”
“My Friend Fear- Finding Magic in the Unknown” by Meera Lee Patel
Like everyone, I came into this world without fear.
That first sentence just grabbed me. We aren’t born with fear, we learn fear. So that must mean that we can unlearn it. This beautiful book is filled with Patel’s personal exploration of how fear has manifested in her life alongside her lovely watercolor drawings and questions that demand reflection. It provided an insightful conversation at the yoga studio book club I facilitate and it is a book I will return to again and again as I learn how to unlearn fear and make it my friend.
A line I love:
“I thought about bodies another imperfections and why we carry them around as unforgivable symbols of who we really are.”
“Bluets” by Maggie Nelson
- Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen love with a color.
Describing this slender yet powerful volume as a lyrical essay or prose poetry does not do it justice. Nelson uses the color blue as a prism though which to reflect on everything from philosophy to saints, desire to religion, physical pain to soul pain with the thread of lost love woven throughout connecting and illuminating the whole. Beautifully explored, beautifully written.
A sentence I love:
“I am writing all this down in blue ink, so as to remember that all words, not just some, are written in water.”
“A Selfie as Big as the Ritz” stories by Lara Williams
And so it begins. You graduate university.
The women that populate these stories are searching for something: love, desire, companionship and ultimately, to be seen. Several stories use the second person POV reminding me of Ann Beattie but Williams’ voice and perspective are fresh and unique, as are each of these quirky yet deeply moving stories.
A sentence I love that made me laugh out loud:
“He sniffs the bell and turns from you, slowly, hopping onto the bed and sitting down, with a calculation you cannily describe as sociopathic.”