3 Book Reviews and a JULY Challenge

I took 2 days off of last week just because I am fortunate enough to be able to have a bank of PTO days to pull from. With the weekend and the 4th of July holiday, I ended up having 5 consecutive days off of work (for the first time in in loooooong ass time). Trust when I tell you that I needed a break from my corporate job in the WORST way. I had no "real" plans. All I planned on doing was a whole lot of what makes me happy. "Tank Fillers", I call them. My tank fillers are reading, cooking, housework (I really love a clean house), working out, watching movies, spending some time with my girlfriends, and lots of time with my manfriend. Lucky for me, it rained quite a bit over the 5 days I had off. I welcomed the rain. I saw it as an opportunity to stay in the house, and in my yoga pants without (self-imposed) judgement or guilt. And stay in I did. 

I ended up reading 3 books in 5 days.

I read: "The Happiness  Project", "A Simple Act of Gratitude", and (I reread) "In The Body Of The World", a memoir by one of my heroine's, Eve Ensler. I noticed a theme in what I read. These are all true stories, they all center around gratitude to some degree, and if you really take from them what (I believe) the author intended... they are all a call to action. If you decide to scroll down and check out the books, let me apologize in advance for all of the sloppy underlining.  I underline things that speak to me. If you ever borrow a book from me and it's not marked up... that means that I think it sucked. 

Book #1: The Happiness Project

I'm not really a self-help book reader, most of them annoy me. That book, "The Secret"... I got to page 14 or something ridiculous and I was all like "I get it... our thoughts are powerful and they manifest themselves in our lives... so what the hell are the next 100 pages about"? #Annoyed (yes, I just used a hashtag). This book was more like a diary, or self-imposed challenge than a self-help book though and it really resonated with me. The author had an epiphany one day that prompted her to become more conscious of her everyday life. She wanted to be happier. She wanted to change her life, without changing her life. I love that concept. I mean, people who just pick up and move to Bali, quit their corporate jobs and follow their passion... that is incredible/inspiring/amazing... but it is not reality for most of us. We have mortgages, families, kids, and just general responsibilities that make major "Eat, Pray, Love" journeys nearly impossible. Does that mean though that we go through our everyday lives like zombies, just kind of going through the motions? Gosh, I hope not. This is the story of a woman who felt like her life was passing her by without really taking notice of it. So... she spent a year making a conscious effort to figure out what genuinely made her happy, incorporating resolutions into her everyday life, and journaling about the good, bad, and the ugly surrounding all of it. I'd recommend this book for anyone who wants to really try to enjoy their life more... their life as it is. It's for anyone who feels burdened by the monotony of every day... it's defenitely for anyone who tends to be a "joy sucker". You know, the "glass half empty" types.

Book #2: A Simple Act of Gratitude

I read this book in one afternoon. I picked it up on the afternoon of the 4th of July, and I ended up being over 2 hours late to my friend's holiday cookout simply because I could not put it down. It's the true story of a man in his early 50's. His life is a shit storm of adversity, "failures", and obstacles. He is extremely depressed and, although he is an attorney... he is dead broke. He has an epiphany one day, seemingly out of no where, around "gratitude". It seems to make sense to him that his life will never be blessed with anything more, unless he is grateful for what he does have. Here. Now. At this point in his life. The lowest point. This sets him out on a journey. He resolves to write 350 thank-you notes in a year. He ends up expressing gratitude and thanks to everyone from his kids, his ex-wife, his Starbucks barista, doctors, old friends, the Superintendent of his dilapidated apartment, and his employees. He learns poignant life lessons in the most random of places; while reading "Polyanna" to his daughter, and stumbling on a book that a stranger left behind in the waiting room of a doctor's office.  I loved this book. If you are looking for a quick read that will inspire you... this is it.

Book #3: In The Body Of The World

I have been in love with the author of this book, Eve Ensler, since the year, 2000. I was in college, and I was introduced to "The Vagina Monologues". I feel in love with Eve Ensler the woman, and the movement. She is a woman who travels the world visiting victims of sexual violence, victims of war... telling their stories. Writing plays. Writing books. Marching on Washington. Building. Dreaming. Doing. Living. Loving. She is an activist, an author, a life force. This is her memoir. It centers around her battle with uterine cancer. Cancer (ironically) of her vagina, rectum, uterus, seemingly everywhere. She tells the story of her battle with disease and weaves it into the story of her life's work. Her childhood. Her mistakes. Her victories. It's a story of a woman, of a disease, of a worldwide epidemic of violence, of a childhood victim, a fighter... survivor.  I want to buy this book for every Woman Warrior that I know. It is invigorating... inspiring... and impossible to ignore.

P.S. - I don't think it's coincidental that 2 out of the 3 books I read mentioned the 1912 book, "Pollyanna" (of which I had never read or seen the movie) and then yesterday afternoon the movie was on one of the classic movie channels. I caught it 3 minutes after it started and watched all 2 hours of it. It was so good. I cried. Obviously.  

Oh, and since I am off to such a roaring start (and because I really love the idea of challenging yourself to do something significant every month)... I have given myself another monthly goal/challenge. This month I am challenging myself to read 10 books. That means, I have 7 books left and only 22 days. Wish me luck! 

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