I am wrapping up 2021 with an ode for my favorite form of self-care… reading. Reading is one of my great pleasures in life amongst massages, cat cuddles, carbs, naps.
As a self-proclaimed bon vivant, I put reading near the top of the list of what makes my serotonin levels pop. After a hectic 2020 which led me to near burnout, I started 2021 with the intention to make it through with more balance and routine. With the looming stress and pressure of the Minori launch, I anchored my days in a mindful morning routine reading, mediating, and working out. I hope that this blog post inspires you to pick up a good read over the holidays!
P.S. if you are looking for a suggestion, you’ll find a few of my favorites in the paragraphs ahead.
Hot summer reads
I started reading for fun relatively late in life, mainly because I was still struggling to learn Russian, English and French all at the same time as a kid. I must have been 11 or 12 when I devoured Harry Potter books and figuring out that I can finish any size book I set my mind to.
Some of my best teenage memories are my summers spent visiting my older sister in New York City. At the time she lived in a tiny apartment on Thompson St., in Soho. For nearly every Christmas, Spring and Summer breaks from ages 11 to 17 I would take the Amtrak train from Montreal to New York and bum around Soho by myself while my sister worked as a young lawyer in the city. Her apartment was so small when she would go to bed, my only option to stay up reading into the wee hours of the night was to curl up near the kitchen’s windowsills, or sprawl on her bathroom floor’s carpet. During those hot and humid no-AC NYC nights, I devoured Nabokov’s Lolita, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and almost every Haruki Murakami book I could get by hands on (my favorite is Kafka on the Shore).
The ensuing drought
Beginning with my second year in college I nearly stopped reading for pleasure, as I was focused on staying on top of my Finance textbooks. Still, looking back at my undergrad program from McGill University, my most memorable class was an elective economics course called Critical Thinking: Biases and Illusions, where the professor asked us to read several amazing behavioral economics books such as Daniel Khaneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. This in turn triggered my love for reading non-fiction books, particularly around psychology and behaviors.
In the years that followed my undergrad, I went through a long reading drought. Weeknights, I would come home from work crashing in front of the TV, watching mindless shows such as the Vampire Diaries and Trueblood. Weekends were spent nursing hangovers from big nights out. I would pick up a book only when on vacation on the beach, where I would gladly bake under the sun for 5 hours straight (my poor skin!) while reading something fun like an Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. By far the most impactful book from that period for me was Marie Kondo’s books [insert title here, italicized], where I began changing my habits for the better [link to another article where you talk about this].
Falling back in love with reading
Strangely, I got into the habit of reading voraciously early this year, at what was likely the busiest times in my life, 6 months away from launching Minori. While I was bandwidth-constrained given all the different tasks on my to-dos to accomplish, I found reading both soothing and stimulating. Getting the entrepreneurial bug seems to have triggered wide-open my thirst for learning. I read business books, pen and paper in hand, taking notes and jotting down ideas. My favorite books from this period are Seth Godin’s This is Marketing and Derek Thompson’s Hit Makers.
Finding time to read during those days felt almost like a guilty pleasure. Looking back, I realize now that almost anyone can find the time to read for 20 minutes a day if they really put their mind to it; it’s just a matter of cutting down time from other less fulfilling activities (ideally at the expense of Netflix or browsing mindlessly through the web!)
Reading every day, almost without exception, this year resulted in finishing about 16 books. I must admit that I had to dig through my kindle, my library and my audible app to recollect the names of all the titles. I don’t feel like I retained nearly as much of the wisdom from reading Atomic Habits as I would have liked! I’m also sad that I can’t charismatically re-phrase Esther Perel’s brilliant observations on relationship dynamics. With all that said, every minute spent reading this year was a moment of utter bliss. I am so grateful to have given myself permission to lose myself in those pages and to carve out small peaceful moments do something I genuinely enjoy.
I hope that this inspires you to pick up a book and take some time away from your screens over the holidays (and perhaps a little bit everyday day in 2022).
My 2021 reads
* next to my favorites
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert *
Stories of our lives by Ted Chiang *
Ghost Bride Yangsze Choo
Educated by Tara Westover
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet
La Femme qui fuit par Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette *
Atomic Habits by James Clear*
Elevated Economics by Richard Steel*
Obsessed by Emily Hayward
The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
Self Help / Psychology Books
The Art of War by Steven Pressfield *
Man’s search for meaning by Victor Frankl
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel *
The 4-hour body by Tim Ferris
Meditation & Mindfulness by Andy Puddicome
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Calia Jetha