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What We’re Reading – Book Balm for December
December 28, 2020 at 7:30 PM
by Janine Ilsey
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We could all use a little extra support right now as the year comes to a close. Books can offer that.

The right read may wake up a dormant inner passion, inspire you to take an adventurous leap of faith, become a guidepost on your journey of self-exploration, or simply provide you with a sense of comfort in recognizing the common humanity shared between story lines.

We are finding that this month, however, is less about keeping about the ways in which the world is changing and the reverberating challenges that lie ahead. As we close out December together and unfold into the new year, we offer you a curated list of reads to remember not only what hope and happiness looks like in the present moment, but above all in the midst of contradiction or separation. Whether you've curated your own quarantine reading list or resolved to better your bookshelf with personal development, we assure you there is something on here for everyone to unfurl on the couch with.

My Therapist Wants Me To Practice Mindfulness

October 14, 2020

The Offing

What mindfulness looks like in everyday moments. Whether we may be conscious of it or not, it is within these small moments where a deep, flowing energy exists in face of the beauty of Being. Where life reveals itself, yet again, as just beginning.

What is a moment for you? How do we make the best of these moments – “normal” or not - that we’re in right now?

< 1 min

The Things That Join the Sea and the Sky: Field Notes on Living


Nonfiction, by Mark Nepo

Much like Mark Nepo's other works, these field notes on living encourage us into an intimate, raw conversation with the depths of life. He presents us with 145 passages under 17th different themes that teach us how to navigate the currents of our lives, including: Unraveling Our Fear, The Gift of Deepening, The Practice of Relationship, Navigating Trouble, Right-Sizing Our Pain, Shedding Our Masks, The Reach of Kindness, Burning Off What's Unnecessary, and many more. Together, they illuminate a secret truth of life: amidst the ongoing push and pull of life, struggling to keep our heads above water, "joy is the sea that holds us all.”

This book also provides guideposts to the practice of daily writing that encourages travelers of all stages to begin or expand their own journaling explorations. Savor every flavor of each moment as it comes, for his prose is like spiritual balm that nourishes the soul.

To get a sense of his writing, listen as Mark reads “Etched:”

223 pages

A Promised Land


Memoir/Autobiography, by Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s memoirs are sure to leave you with a number of “pearls of wisdom” about leadership. His latest memoir truly highlights another less obvious, fundamental truth of life: how true strength lies in holding the duality – what many psychologists refer to as embracing the “both/and”.

Finding the balance of opposites is rarely taught or represented in much of our Western culture, for it requires us to be okay with ambiguity in the moment and the uncertainty that lies ahead. It requires discomfort. While we will continue to encounter contradictions in the world at every turn, Obama’s story humbly reminds us the ability to straddle these kinds of paradoxes inherent in life – whether it be the contending viewpoints of our country or the emotions of our inner landscape – is what leads to internal transformation.

768 pages

The Art of Solitude


Nonfiction, by Stephen Batchelor

We live in a hyperconnected world that is, at the same time, plagued by social isolation. Whether we are at home on our own or not, we have unwittingly been forced to work out the difference between “being alone” and “loneliness” by way of the virus – the former a physical state, the latter a universal human emotion.

Buddhist scholar Stephen Batchelor shows us that amidst the challenges of being alone, there are great rewards in practicing solitude to develop the inner calm needed to engage with the world around us, and we don’t have to be “mystics living in a monastery” to experience that. “When you practice solitude,” he writes, “you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” A must for introspective readers.

200 pages

The Pandemic Has Remade Friendship

September 22, 2020

The Atlantic

All of us have at some point during the pandemic contended with the question of “where do I go?” as a result of the isolation imposed by social distancing and quarantining. No new plans. No new friends.

Yet the pandemic has also release us from the implicit expectation that emotional closeness requires physical proximity. Instead, it “offers an opportunity to decouple good relationship…and open up other ways for friendships to flourish.”

14 mins

The Architecture of Happiness

April 8, 2020

Nonfiction, by Alain De Botton

As you find yourself spending more time at home this year, you may have began to notice the connection between physical environment and mental wellbeing. Is the way we design our spaces more than just a matter of comfort and entertainment?

Alain de Botton beautifully weaves human psychology and human philosophy in a joyful manner that encourages us to pay attention the effect that built environments have on our emotions. He may even encourage us to re-evaluate how we’ll design our work-from-home space in 2021.

Rather take a pass on reading? The three-part documentary series The Perfect Home (2006) was based on Alain's book.

288 pages