Book Recommendations

I love to read. Currently I’m desperately in search of something that will be fun to read/make me think. I’ve been slacking on the reading front. In my defense, if there is a defense, it’s that I’ve been busy adjusting to working full time and having three kids and all the other nonsense I busy myself with, like transporting kids to and from activities and trying to sneak in writing time.

But I need to get my act together. If any of you have a  book recommendation–go for it! I need help.

Today I have two recommendations for you.

I read these two books within the last eight months. Let me give you a little context:

I’ve been pregnant and then postpartum in the last eight months, wondering how I was going to merge my personal goals with family and career and other obligations and keep that elusive balance that supposedly lets us have it all.

I’m recommending two novels, written by two strong women, with a commonality of having a voice that speaks to the strength of being your own woman. I like strong women. They make the best role models, and now that I have a daughter, I want these voices to be heard loud and clear.

Coming across these two novels was really perfect timing.

Wild

By, Cheryl Strayed

wild

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My husband got the movie Wild on Netflix. I didn’t want to watch, so he did. I went to sleep, per usual. Hey, I can’t make it past 9PM these days. A few days later he was re-watching scenes, as he typically does, and something caught my attention. It could have been the song El Condor Pasa by Simon & Garfunkle that played throughout the film as Reese Witherspoon was filmed hiking alone in the wilderness. I was hooked.

“I’d rather by a sparrow than a snail…”

It reminded me of my days of backpacking in the Sierras, distant memories that have since become clouded by the reality of having three little ones.

Now I’m resigned to listening to Simon & Garfunkle while I run, because it’s the closest I can get to feeling fresh air blowing into my sweaty face as my heart races and I feel the sun on my skin. Maybe in five years I’ll be back in the Sierras, but until then…

I started watching some of the movie, and later when the kids went to sleep I watched the entire film. It struck a chord. Even though I relate more to Election-Reese-Witherspoon rather than Wild-Reese-Witherspoon, I could relate to her character’s backpacking and desire to write experiences. I love a good story. I love ambitious people, and Cheryl Strayed was a person (real life person!) who overcame problems and made something of herself. It’s our favorite kind of story–overcoming adversity. Improving. Success. And a side of wild.

I’m not wild. But sometimes I’m intrigued by those who are. I like people who are different than me.

A few days later, I was in Barnes and Noble and had to get the book. I devoured it. Strayed had a way of describing what it was like backpacking that was so amazingly accurate. There was one particular part (and I don’t have it in front of me, so bear with me) where she describes seeing people eating a hamburger and feeling like a German shepherd. OMG. You don’t know that feeling until you go backpacking and subsist on an orange for 6 hours…after 6 hours of backpacking with a 40+ lb pack (or maybe more in Strayed’s case…you’ll have to read to understand…).

It made me miss backpacking. The blisters, the pitiful meals, the trees, the dirt, the river, the hours of quiet. The feeling of accomplishment. The feeling that your body is so, so strong.

I used to sit on boulders larger than me, overlooking the lake, and writing in my journal. All that time to just think. Clear your mind. Nurture ideas. No distractions, just the perfect opportunity to meet yourself.

All things I rarely have the opportunity to do today. It’s truly a special gift–backpacking.

You’ll curse. You’ll think you were an idiot for doing it. It will feel hard. So, so hard.

But you can do hard things!

And when you do, you’ll change the way you feel about yourself.

I could understand how hiking the PCT for three months cleared Cheryl’s mind. I really could.

It’s a great novel. I let my sister borrow it and have yet to hear back from her, but that’s because I’m the smarter of the siblings and she’s probably too busy watching TV.

But if you like to read, and if you want a good read that makes you think, go for Wild. My husband and I were talking about it for weeks.

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

By Sheryl Sandberg

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Another book about empowered women, but from a career-perspective, comes from Sheryl Sandberg. Also, incidentally another book by another Sheryl…with an “S.”

I loved this one because as a mother of three on maternity leave preparing to go back to my career after a 6 month leave, it was something on my mind. Sheryl brings up issues that I think any women could benefit from becoming conscious of, and eventually (actually…ASAP), advocating for.

Women with kids.

Women without kids.

Women who want to have kids.

Men. Men really need to pay attention.

Society needs to help remove barriers that keep women from pursuing meaningful careers. Society needs to stop making women choose between a career and a family.

Sheryl talks about finding a significant other that is supportive of your career, and that being an important career move. But not just supportive–an equal partner. Somebody who will have no problem sharing pick-up/drop-off duties. Somebody who can bathe the kids, feed them, and put them to sleep if you’re working. An equal parenting partner. Too many women have to cover the majority of family obligations, and that prevents them from being able to sustain a career. How about we share responsibilities?

Most of us don’t consciously think about this when we’re dating. We don’t look at a man and size him up for his ability to manage household affairs while we are gone.

But we should!

So that’s why I recommend this book even to women who don’t have kids. It’s called planning.

And for everyone else–it’s called building a better community and society. A place where everyone is supported. Equal opportunities for women. Hope for our daughters. Ensuring our children are carefully raised with both of their parents present, while at the same time not requiring mothers to choose between family and career.

Because children can benefit from having a happy, successful mother in their lives.

I think Sheryl’s book was important, and it got me fired up and thinking.

Can you see the theme?

I LOVE books that make me think and bring up real issues.

Go read these two books. I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

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