Reading 2017: Books that inspire personal change

2017 was my most productive reading year since the year after I finished university--a time when I gleefully read all things chosen by me and not my professors.  My daughter is now 20 months old, and the last 12 months were significantly less demanding than the initial 8 months.  As such, my slightly more alert self was able to read in the evenings after she went to bed, during nap times, nursing, and--occasionally--while she played next to me.  (There was a challenging phase when she wanted my books for her teeth, and I had to resort to just digital reads for a while.)  My reading was also hastened by looming return dates on ebook loans.

So rather than just splat down 63 titles, I have decided to ease the revelation of my reads of 2017 in multiple posts.  But first, how I read in 2017:

I find myself itching to read concrete physical books, both to fend off the distractions inherent in reading on a phone (through Overdrive or Kindle apps), as well as to model to my daughter phone-free hands.  (In my defense, she does sometimes look at me with my phone and say "read.")

To kick off the new year, my first reading installment features books I read in 2017 that inspire personal change--be that around the home or in your ways of thinking.

Just after Christmas I finished Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin.  I didn't know what I would think of her, because I can be a person who rolls their eyes at a conversation about happiness, but I misjudged Rubin.  But I found the book to be practical and action-oriented--not a shallow book about me and how to make myself happier regardless of anyone around me.   Rather, Rubin's definition of happiness includes "feeling right" and realizing that the best way to be happy is also do do things you don't like (like help your parents get their end-of-life wishes documented).  Rubin is a Yale grad and a former lawyer and in this book she commits to a school-year of projects to be happier at home. Each month she focuses on a particular area that affects her happiness at home, be that marriage, parenting, her physical home, or similar.  I admire that she takes on the project as an individual, and is not on a mission to change the people around her.  It reads a bit like a journal, and sometimes, I find the examples could be more concise, but overall I found it inspiring and encouraging in its specificity, and I found myself noting changes that I also could make to be happier at home.

In January of 2017 I read Unstuffed by Ruth Soukup, a book not only about unstuffing your home, but also unstuffing spiritually and relationally.  At first, I didn't resonate so much with the author's story because the volume of stuff she was dealing with was so much greater than what I deal with in our, albeit two, flats in the Czech Republic.  Still, I found many of her points to be just what I needed to hear (the obligation of a receiver of a gift is to receive it with gratefulness, not to keep the gift for one's entire lifetime), and it was a catalyst to finally start selling my excess clothing online as well as to be discerning about the baby clothes we'd received, pruning away excess to save for friends or to donate for the immediate use by others.  It also led to me intentionally tackle some of the remnants of childhood that are sitting around in my sister's home. I feel that in 2017 I have cast a more critical eye on what we own, what we receive, and what we intend to acquire.

Just in time for Thanksgiving 2017 I finished Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, a book exploring the transformative power of gratitude.  Her style wasn't always my favourite (it's much like spoken word, but not always), but I found the book effective in showing its purpose.  After the initial set-up exploring some foundational Biblical texts about gratitude, in memoir style she cycles again and again to her personal experiences of gratitude. Because of the style and repetition, I spent many months reading this book. Her own experiences gradually unfolded as she becomes more and more attuned to reacting with thanksgiving in all things.  This repetition proved to create a keener picture of exactly what she was trying to express.

Another book that could provide some inspiration and perspective at the start of the year is Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air.  If you haven't yet heard of it, this book was written by Dr. Kalanithi at the end of his life, during the cancer that would finally end his life. He received this diagnosis of cancer at the cusp of a successful career in medicine. In addition to his medical qualifications (neurosurgery), he’d studied literature, which makes for an interesting writing perspective. The book details his exploration into meaning and meaningful existence as well as the relationship of the mind and the brain in our living.  His perspective is unique as he is a master of both literature and science. I find his voice to be very pure and thoughtful, and I enjoyed this book immensely.  What better way to start a year than inspired to live meaningfully?


  1. I'm going to enjoy these installments! (And it reminds me I should finish up my December book log.)

    I also read When Breath Becomes Air about 18 months ago and recently came across an article about the spouses of two dying memoirists starting their own relationship:

    Two dying memoirists wrote bestsellers about their final days. Then their spouses fell in love.

    1. I read the article and immediately had to share it with Jana. Now we're both interested in reading The Bright Hour.


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