I find it fascinating how one little book can make you feel so many things and transport you to a different world, far away from your own. Books have the ability to teach us something, conjure up different emotions and blissfully pass the time away. I’ve read a LOT since I’ve been recovering for that reason, and whilst preparing for brain surgery this summer, below are just a few I read in that time that were useful in some way.
1. Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think By Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling
The one to make you CURIOUS.
“Factfulness: The stress-reducing habit of only carrying opinions for which you have strong supporting facts.”
The world is actually a lot better than we think. Throughout the book there is an emphasis on the word BETTER, not good, as in it is possible that the world can be both bad and better at the same time. However, things are explained by numbers that do not lie.
It might not seem that convincing to read that 60% of young girls finishing primary school is considered a positive, or that despite still killing a handful of people in a small town, natural disasters are actually a lot less deadly than they used to be. Yet the statistics show that the world is improving, and the numbers are better than they used to be.
Most of what we know is based on what makes the news every day and whilst the book doesn’t try to make us see the world through rose tinted glasses, far from it, the author uses information and statistics to expose the ignorance, clarify truths and explore logical conclusions to what is happening around us.
A must read for anyone that is willing to alter that dramatic world view that we currently have.
2. The Secret By Rhonda Byrne
The one to give you HOPE.
Despite being a bit far-fetched and determining that our thoughts attract things, part of me still continues to read this book regularly in the hope that it might actually work. Whatever we send out in positive thoughts to the Universe, comes back to use. Ask, believe and receive. Want more money coming to you? Just visualise it and it will happen. Want to be thinner? Eat the cake anyway and just visualise that it has zero calories.
The problem I have with it is the belief that our thoughts cause everything; wars, natural disasters and family tragedies.
After the worst few months in our family, and a tearful phone call with my sister Harrie a few weeks back, we began to think that we must be doing this ‘positivity thing’ incorrectly. If we were doing it right, then surely all this bad stuff wouldn’t have happened this year? We must have brought these terrible events on ourselves with our thinking – (which is of course ridiculous and later had us in hysterics!)
I made Harrie read it to me whilst I was in hospital as I needed the positive energy around me. And yet, whilst I quietly listened to the belief that you can make yourself better with your thoughts, she listened to the sons opposite crying as their mom was very much past that.
Whilst I can’t deny that I owe my positive thinking and grateful heart to this book, “manifesting” a lot of incredible things into my life most likely because of those two things, the reality is that it’s impossible to be positive all the time. I will continue to dip in and out of it throughout my life, and recommend it for those two reasons – positivity and gratitude – as it’s a useful reminder when you need it. But it’s important to remember that you didn’t actually cause the undesirable event in your life just because you had an off day.
3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and it’s all small stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life By Richard Carlson
The one to make you RESILIENT.
Whilst we’re on the subject of positivity, this book is simply amazing and a firm favourite on my shelf.
In it are 100 short essays teaching you how to stop the little things in life from taking over and driving you mad. We are all faced with trying times that we cannot control. What we can control is our attitude, choosing how to respond to these times. It’s about having the right attitude to make inevitable hardships easier to handle. Control what you can and accept what you can’t.
I read this book at random, one essay a day. It’s not something you read cover to cover but reading one essay a day means it’s easier to make positivity and resilience a habit, and gives you a little uplift. Each essay features ideas that you can fit into your daily life to help keep anxiety under control and appreciate the joy in your life. It’s a book that reminds us to enjoy each moment, go with the flow and not break down in difficult times.
4. Strong Woman By Karren Brady
The one to leave you feeling INSPIRED.
After finding out I needed brain surgery in December 2018, I didn’t want it because of how petrified was at the thought, It seemed like a whole other world that I knew nothing about and it wasn’t something I knew of anyone close to me experiencing that I could talk to them about, My mom brought me this book that Christmas to remind me that I’m not alone and can still go on to be successful following my operation, as Karren Brady did after a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2006.
It was far more interesting, and insightful, than I imagined and even though at first I just wanted to skip to where she writes about her unexpected brain aneurysm, and fight for survival, it also provided a fascinating and inspiring look at her climb to the top in a male dominated industry.
I loved that this book was a mix of Karren’s life-story, and also lessons on how to be ambitious, driven and adopt that tenacious nature in business, in the face of real-life issues that we have no control over.
5. Confidence: The Secret By Katie Piper
The one to give you PERSPECTIVE.
I wrote about the time I met Katie at the Women’s Health event a few weeks before my surgery, which you can read here. But even though I knew Katie’s story, I purchased this book after her talk and found it to be so honest, authentic and refreshing; a much needed read to awaken the determined spirit we each have within us.
Along with tips and exercises on how to develop and nourish your self-confidence, it also taught me a lot about perspective. When something causes a change in the way we appear to others, we’re forced to either hide and go down a road of self-pity, or accept the situation, accept that this challenging event is only temporary and choose to learn from it. This book reminded me that you are not whatever has happened to you and that you’re still worthy of achieving the things you previously dreamt of despite it. No matter what I’m faced with in life, after meeting Katie, and reading this book, I no longer feel defeated by anything; if she can do it, then anyone can.
It’s truly an inspirational read.
6. The Wrong Knickers: A Decade of Chaos By Bryony Gordon
The one to make you LAUGH OUT LOUD (literally!)
Disclaimer – do not read this on public transport. This book had me laughing out loud to the point of tears in some parts. If you are in your twenties, single in the city and have a diary or memory full of screw-ups, sadly its horribly and hilariously relatable.
This book isn’t for everyone – those who are prudish should probably put it down. But Bryony recounts her decade of mishaps – including picking up a colleague at the STI clinic, sinking into debt to fund a varied diet of wine, crisps and vodka and the one night stand she ended up having with a guy that handed her someone else’s knickers in the morning – in the same way a candid best friend would.
A fabulous book for when you’re feeling low.
7. Who says you can’t? YOU DO By Daniel Chidiac
The one to make you DETERMINED.
Why is it that there are two sets of people, who can have the exact same start in life but take wildly different paths? Its a question forever on my mind and one that this book explores.
“Daniel studied the lives of great achievers, sought guidance from spiritual leaders, and discovered the secrets for shaping one’s own destiny. He used his personal experience of changing his life to create this powerful seven-step guide to discovering your true self, committing to your own life, and pushing beyond your known limits.”
What I love about this book is the reality that the power of positive thinking alone cannot change your life. Instead this book emphasises that there is action to take. It challenges you to ask hard-questions and make life-changing decisions. It’s quite weighty to read, and might be the only book I’ve ever taken a highlighter to, but it’s worth it.
8. Normal People By Sally Rooney
The one to make you ESCAPE.
I turned to this book during the worst week of my life, when I actually just craved a bit of fiction that I could temporarily get lost in, especially after mostly reading heavy personal development books like above!
The book follows the lives of two high-school students, Connell and Marianne. It’s not considered a romance or love-story, but instead a character driven study, that is intimate, unfiltered and emotional. It’s quite a dark read, with a little bit of light at the end. But the awkward and flawed characters appear real and their lives of misunderstanding from poor communication are absorbing.
It’s not an uplifting read, nor will it leave you feeling content. But sometimes uplifting isn’t what you want. Sometimes you just want a piece of literary genius that allows you to forget your own unfortunate events and life for a second, and be whisked away to someone else’s.
9. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life By Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles.
The one to equip you with HAPPINESS.
This book touches on the various ways that we can live a long, happy life; tips that are based on the Japanese culture and well-practiced technique, Ikigai. Just reading it had a very calming and centring effect.
My only downside is that it sounds pretty simple, and obvious when reading it, how to live to a ripe old age; eat more fruit and veg, eat smaller portions, exercise daily, don’t sweat the small stuff, do things that add meaning to your life, get plenty of sleep and stay busy.
I wouldn’t necessarily say it focuses on how the Japanese live a long life, but instead repeats what we already know. Having said that, it is a straight-forward, easy read and sometimes we do need a reminder on how to live well. Plus, it makes a pretty addition to a bookshelf with it’s pastel blue, hardback cover.
10. Your Dream Life Starts Here By Kristina Karlsson
The one to turn you into a DREAMER.
The concept of this book is a bit like ‘The Secret’. Part of you thinks it’s a load of old phony, the other part of you questions “what if?” I was lucky enough to meet Kristina a couple of years ago at the Sheerluxe event, and after asking what her mantra was, she told me: don’t say no, say how.
The same passion and energy given in that advice, that there is no such thing as no, runs throughout this book. The book is filled with powerful ideas promised to help transform your wishes into dreams, and then into reality.
Many of us want change in our lives even in small ways, and stopping to note down what we want, whilst following the proven exercises, helps us realise what we actually desire, whilst inspiring us to take the steps to achieve those things. Not to mention that it’s admittedly quite fun to take yourself out of your reality for a moment and imagine your life – childlike dreaming that we should do more of.
Would love to know what you’re reading, or of any recommendations, so let me know!