This morning a friend of mine texted asking about how to approach the fact that so much of what he reads will be lost to his memory. He wanted to know if I had any good solutions to improve retention. I have tried all kinds of things, typically related to different systems of note-taking, all of which have failed. And I still lament the fact that so much of what I’ve read has been lost. As I thought about it though, I came to this realization. Reading is not so much about the book itself, but about how it changes you. The hundreds of books I’ve read over the past ten years is less about the knowledge I’ve gained, but the person I’ve become. It’s the compassion I’ve developed and the more expansive approach to life I’ve adopted.

 

My response to this friend was to make it as simple as possible. Pick something small enough to succeed at. I try to relate what I read to my life today. How does this change the way I see the world? Is this something I’d like to implement? And I try to focus on being in the moment with that book. The moment will pass and the knowledge will fade, but the opportunity to live in the present is as much a benefit as the reading itself. 

 

With that, I’d like to share some brief thoughts about the books I’ve read this year. It wasn’t my most prolific year, as far as numbers go. And I didn’t find any new, life changing books like I did last year. But I still read some good ones that I would highly recommend.

 

Most impactful book

Die With Zero – I’m still riding high on some of the experiences we had because of this book. I still have some deeply ingrained habits to change, but I’m working on it. If you haven’t read this book, it’s worth your time. Read my thoughts here.

 

Favorite Biography

Ali by Jonathan Eig – This was just a fascinating look into the life of of the most recognizable figures in recent history. Muhammad Ali was an enigma. A walking paradox. I loved hearing his story and understanding his life better.

 

Spiritual/Religious

Do I Stay Christian by Brian McLaren – I loved his honesty and vulnerability. And I loved his willingness to ask hard questions that may not have good answers. Read about it here.

 

Memoir

Surrender by Bono – I loved reading Bono’s story. I’m grateful for his spiritual insights and the efforts he’s made for positive change. And I loved the concert. Read about that here.

 

Historical Fiction

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict – I was inspired by the story of Belle da Costa Greene, the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan. Descended from slaves, and daughter of the first Black graduate from Harvard, she successfully hid her true identity to become one of the most powerful women in society at a time when that type of success would be highly unlikely. Well-written and inspiring.

 

History

David O. McKay and the Making of Modern Mormonism by Greg Prince. Greg Prince is an award-winning historian and writer whose focus has been on the LDS Church. He’s written five books that are highly regarded and I look forward to reading them as well. In his book on David O. McKay he answers all the questions you have about the modern church and all the questions you didn’t know you had as well. He basically peels back the curtain for a behind the scenes look and how the church operates. Drawing off of thousands of pages of journals and documents kept by McKay’s personal secretary, Claire Middlemiss, Prince weaves a masterful story of a critical time in the church’s history – it’s rise out of obscurity to a global organization.

 

Favorite Book

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey – I loved this audiobook. Read my review here.

 

The Jury’s still out

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter – Negative self-talk is a part of our everyday life. According to the author, by the time we turn 18, the average person, who grows up in a relatively positive home, will be told “no” more than 148,000 times. And that programming sticks with us. Hill recommended this book to me (you know those book recommendations that someone gives you because you have an obvious blind spot). Immediately I recognized how I talk to myself negatively.

Dr Helmstetter states that listening to 15 minutes of positive self-talk for 90 days will change your life, that it’s the key to implementing all the changes you’d like to make in your life. So that’s my one New Year’s goal. I downloaded his app, and I’m ready to change the way I talk to myself. I’ll definitely report back on this one.

 

Self Improvement

How Minds Change by David McRaney – I loved the author’s discussion of how opinions are formed and why. Read my reviews here and here.

 

Everybody has read this book, so I should read it too because it’s really good

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – There’s a reason that almost everyone who has read this book recommends it. It’s a fascinating look at how society and culture has evolved over thousands of years. He makes a pretty compelling argument that everything in our lives is just a story that we’re telling ourselves.
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Happy New Year, and Happy reading!

Nate

P.S. If there’s a book you read this year that I should put on my list for next year, please comment below!

  • Angeline Chase
    5 months ago
    I enjoy your book reviews. Thank you for sharing! I m reading a book now that I had on my wait-list for a long time. I have read a lot about about the power of positive thinking. This book is called Bright Sided and is about the dangers of positive thinking. So far it is really interesting and gives some really interesting insights. You might enjoy it also. It is written by Barbara Ehrenreich. Thanks again for all your insights!