Here’s one of my favorite quotes – it perfectly describes my relationship with money and books:
When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.
― Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
For your summer delectation, here are my current favorite non-fiction and fiction books with you. At the end of the post you’ll find a link to last year’s Summer Reading post.
These 3 books are informing my coaching and my life right now. Yep, you read it right; fiction informs both my coaching and my life. Why? Because all of life, every single bit of it, is about the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we accept from others. What better way to examine the vagaries of the human condition than to read fiction?
Here are 3 of my favorites from this year:
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.
This is in my top 10 books of all time (I read 100+ books a year). It’s the story of a Russian nobleman, Count Rostov, caught in the middle of the Bolshevik Revolution. In one of my favorite plot devices ever, the Count is sentenced to house arrest in The Metropol a grand hotel across from the Kremlin. It’s a story of grace under fire that underscores how the determination to flourish in spite of our circumstances can transform our lives and the lives of those around us.
Click here for a link to a story about The Metropol (it’s a real hotel), including an interview with Amor Towles.
Also, in April, I attended an author talk with Amor Towles here in Atlanta. He was captivating! His presentation included photos of the hotel at the time of the novel along with interesting observations about who had been intentionally cropped out of the photos. He also shared his approach to writing. I love author talks because every single one I’ve ever attended has underscored that no two writers approach their work the same way!
The Little French Bistro, by Nina George.
I loved The Little French Bistro so much I read it twice in one month. I had to re-read it to revel in George’s characters all over again. In it, George explores the life of a woman, Marianne, who is no longer satisfied with her life. She’s so despondent over her marriage and her life in general that she contemplates suicide in Paris and even attempts it. Which is where the story soars.
George explores Marianne’s state of mind and the constant push and pull every one of us experiences when we are ready to shake things up. She’s particularly adept at presenting the destructive and cruel internal dialogues that keep us stuck.
And then there are the characters! Beautifully drawn, with lives that play out in what feels like living color as we read. The story is set in a Breton village where everyone knows everyone else, including their foibles.
Marianne’s struggle to accept the friendship of people around her underscores the disconnect between how Marianne sees herself and how everyone else sees her.
I loved this book so much that, as soon as I finished it, I bought my own copy. And, as I write about it, I’m ready to read it again, right now.
George also wrote the bestselling The Little Paris Bookshop, also a favorite of mine. I like French Bistro more – maybe because it has a female protagonist.
The Great Believers, by Rebecca Makkai.
In this novel revisiting the AIDS epidemic in Chicago in the 1980’s, Makkai follows a group of friends as their lives are devastated by the effect of the epidemic on everyone around them – whether gay or straight. The lead characters’ stories intersect and intertwine in unexpected ways. They provide a beautiful vehicle for the books exploration of life from the ‘80’s through today.
Makkai thoroughly researched AIDS and the gay community in Chicago in the ‘80’s and you can feel it. Her exploration of relationships and friendships and the grenade that was AIDS will bring back memories of that fraught time.
The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
This book had such an impact on me that I now give it to each female client at the beginning of our coaching engagement. If they have daughters, I also give them The Confidence Code for Girls.
Strangely enough, I read this right after finishing The Little French Bistro – a novel that underscores the price women pay for lacking confidence in themselves.
From shared stories of leaders like Christine Legarde and Angela Merkel, to professional sportswomen like the members of the Washington Mystics, Kay and Shipman paint a vivid picture of the struggles of women to find their confidence. Their pursuit of the science behind confidence gives the book a balance (and a couple of funny moments).
When I give The Confidence Code to someone, I include a bookplate with this quote (from the book):
Confidence occurs when the insidious self-perception that you’re not able is trumped by the stark reality of your accomplishments.
I laughed out loud when I read that sentence because 99% of my coaching is on this exact statement. And those descriptors – insidious self-perception (those negative voices in your head) and stark reality of your accomplishments – are dead on accurate.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a client about an element of a job description and they’ve replied, “I can’t do that!” So I point out the 6 or 7 places in our conversations and on their resumes where they show that they have done that exact thing – the stark reality of their accomplishments – and the still say they can’t do it. So this book. I’ve read it 2 times so far.
If you’re a woman, or know a woman, or have a daughter, read this book and share it.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
Regardless of your politics, this compelling memoir is worth reading. It is the universal story of what it takes to be a successful woman. Obama candidly shares her experiences growing up, her drive to be the best, the expectations she labored under, and her personal struggles to claim her own space as a woman, a mother, and a political wife. I particularly enjoyed her discussion of how she handled being a working mom. This is a stunning portrait of a woman’s journey out of her comfort zone and what it took to claim her unique voice.
Radical Candor by Kim Scott
This book is a twofer – useful both at work and at home! It’s required reading for all of my management level clients – regardless of the level of management.
In Radical Candor, Kim Scott, formerly of Google, lays out what it takes to be a great boss. She takes on straight-out truth telling vs candor, meaningful communication, and building appropriate relationships with the people you manage. I love her discussion about creating a culture of listening.
The information in the book is insightful, digestible, and actionable. It’s full of charts and illustrations that underscore her insights. There’s also a website: www.radicalcandor.com. Love that the website’s headline is Be a kick ass boss without losing your humanity. That describes the book in a nutshell.
Y’all, I have a list of 6 more books to share with you. Guess I’ll save them for posting in July.
ICYMI (in case you missed it), here’s a link to my summer reading blog from last summer: https://beckyberrycoach.com/summertime-reading-viewing/.