Pursue What Matters
Episode 112: Top 10 Summer Reads
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
It’s summer. Are you ready to slow down for some great summer reading? Well, I’ve got you covered today with a top 10 summer reading list and I promise there aren’t business books on the list.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:36
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So if you’re familiar with the podcast, you know that each month, I review a book that I think canhelp strengthen your love and leadership. And you know, 99% of the time, the books that I am reviewing each month, are business books or leadership books, sometimes we move into self development, because that’s very applicable when we think about pursuing what matters and love and work. But today, I have a different kind of book review for you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:16
So it’s summer. One of my absolute favorite things to do in the summer, actually, it’s one of my favorite things to do year round, but especially in the summer, I love jumping in to a great book. So you know, summer is a time for most of us where we slow down a little bit. Hopefully you are, you’re able to do that this summer. So I love sitting on the back porch with a good book. I love taking a hammock up into the mountains and relaxing and hammocking with a book. Usually I end up taking a bit of a snooze. But I thought it would be fun as we move into summer to share with you some of my top favorite books and summer reading recommendations.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:06
So I have a good friend who also loves to read and she’s often texting me and saying, Okay, what should I read next? What have you read lately that you have really enjoyed and I love being on Goodreads, which is a great app for readers because I always discover what my friends are reading and what what what others are reading and the reviews. They’re at good reads are good. So if I’m ever at the bookstore, or looking for a new book, I always, always always consult Goodreads because I find those recommendations are actually much more useful than some of the reviews that we have of books out there. So anyway, just a little tip for you on that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:49
But since it’s summer, right, let’s, let’s take a break from the leadership and the business focus, right, so I’m going to share with you books, the kinds of books that you can take in a hammock, the kind of books that you can take to the beach, the kind of books that you can throw in your bag, and head out to the park or something. And so if you want leadership or business books, just check out all my other reviews every single month, because I do those. But for now let’s, let’s jump in to some fun variety. Now, every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead. I do that in one of three areas. So first leading with clarity, which is all about connection to purpose and vision, leading with curiosity, which is all about self awareness, self leadership, and as part of that self care for sure. And then the third area is leading and building a community. And so our primary focus today with a podcast is leading with curiosity. And it recognizes that we need to take good care of ourselves. First, we need to lead ourselves first. And a big part of that is having downtime. A big part of that is cultivating other interests, expanding your worldview. And you know, that is something that reading has always done for me. So I’ll have to share another time kind of how I developed a love for reading. But reading has so many incredible benefits, right?
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:21
And so today, I really want to help make the case for why we all need to slow down right especially like we’re all getting back up to speed after the pandemic but but summer is a great time to take a break from the hurried pace and think about something besides work and perhaps think about nothing at all. So you might have lots of forms of getting away whether you’ve got a great vacation planned. Maybe you have a hobby that you really enjoy. But today I want to make the case for why reading should be part of that plan. Part of that plan for relaxing and unplugging. So, a quote here from one of my favorites, Nora Ephron, she is just, I adore her. So this is what she had to say about reading, “reading is escape, and the opposite of escape. It’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up. And it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination. After a day, that’s all too real.” And I think what Ephron gets to, in this quote is something that’s really unique to reading.
Dr. Melissa Smith 5:39
So reading is one of the best forms of escape, that also connects us to others, right? So when we think about forms of escape, most of those aren’t very healthy. Right? So we think about addictive processes, addictive behaviors, where there’s some emotional numbing, right, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be addictive. But we think about what you know, activities that emotionally kind of numb us, a lot of TV is like that. Now, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, but the way we approach it really makes a difference. So sometimes eating can be numbing, use of exercise can be numbing, of course, substances. So there are so many ways that we strive to escape, or emotionally numb from the burdens in our day to day life or the stressors that we have. And here’s the thing about reading, it is a great form of escape, but it connects you right? So it actually engages you emotionally, so it’s not emotionally numbing, and it connects you to yourself. It connects you to empathy, it connects you to the stories of others, and it connects you to broadening your perspective and your worldview. And so I just love it, because it, there are times we need to know we need an escape from the world, right, we need a timeout. And reading is perfect for that. But it also serves as a bridge back to what matters most for many of us, right? So relationships, empathy, perspective, and purpose. So I just love it.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:19
And so you know, as you jump into the stories of someone else, you reflect on your own story, you build compassion, and empathy for others, you become a better thinker. And when you let your mind wander in a good book, you develop more creative solutions to your own challenges. And reading is restorative, while also being proactive. So Isn’t that cool? Like I absolutely love that about reading. So reading as an escape, that is also a bridge back for us. So why you should escape in a good book, right? So if that hasn’t convinced you Here are a few more reasons.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:00
First of all, there are so many documented benefits of reading. This list could go on and on. But I’m just going to highlight a few of the big ones. So first, and especially for our purpose here is it’s enjoyable, though, right? Like we don’t need another reason. it’s enjoyable. It can reduce your stress, it can help you clarify the kind of person you want to be, as you read the stories of other people, you are inspired, maybe you’re disgusted, you see the path of another, and it gives you direction for your own life. Reading provides a sense of belonging and connectedness, right, as we read the human experience of others, we feel that sense of belonging and connection. Reading strengthens your social skills. What, you know what kind of things should we not be saying what kind of things should we be saying, reading will make you smarter, and it will strengthen your neural pathways. And there is some rich research that indicates that might even help you live longer. So that’s pretty cool.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:02
So lots of good reasons to escape in a good book. And so let’s jump right in to my top 10 summer read recommendations. Now before I jump in, I want you to know that I have a really great resource associated with this podcast that includes all of the books that I’m going to talk about. So don’t feel like you need to drop these down. And I will at the end of the podcast, I will share the link to my website. And obviously on Instagram, you can just link in the bio and you can get your hands on this great resource with my summer read recommendations. So let’s make sure that you get your hands on that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:49
Okay, so let’s start with my my first recommendation. Now let me just say that as I came up with this book list, I went through my Goodreads, which is that like I said, it’s an it’s a great app for readers where you can keep a list of what you’ve read, you can add your own review, you can read the reviews of others. And I just love this app. I don’t get any money from them. So I’ve just found. But so I went through my read list, what have I read in the last year that I’ve really been excited about? I’ve loved maybe I’ve, you know, had strong reactions to, and I tried as much as possible to mix genres. So I’m a very broad reader, my favorite kind of reading is literary fiction. But I read a little bit of everything. And so recognizing that literary fiction is not everyone’s jam, I have worked to make sure that there are some really good variety. So these books aren’t necessarily my favorite books. But they’re they’re really good books across the different genres that I think like, Hey, if you’re looking for a mystery, this would be a good one to check out. And I don’t have the books in any particular order, except for this first read, recommendation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:13
Okay. So the first book that I am recommending to you for your summer reading pleasure, is entitled Before You Go. This is considered literary fiction by Tommy Butler. And it just came out, I think it just came out in 2020. And it is remarkable, I absolutely adored everything about this book. And I have recommended it to a few people. And they have adored it just as much as I have. So here’s the thing, though, when I really love a book, I’m very careful about recommending it. Because I don’t want to hear. I don’t want to hear what other people have to say if they didn’t like it. So I mean, I guess you could tell me if you don’t adore this book, but oh, my goodness, I just love it. So I don’t get very many five star reviews. This one got a five star review. And so this is debut. And it’s remarkable. It’s because it’s so well written. But let me just give you a quick synopsis. It’s the moving story of one man’s quest for happiness. And it is, it’s a playful literary journey into the ache and wonder of being human. Okay, and so it is just, I know, that’s really vague, but you just have to read it. So I’m going to I’m not going to share my review on all of them. But I am going to share my review on this first book before you go because I think it does give a little more flavor to the book. So this is my review. “This is my favorite kind of book, not afraid to tussle with life’s biggest questions about purpose and meaning, but does so without taking itself too seriously. This book is an important book, but it isn’t self important. It tackles heavy themes.” So suicide and life after death, so be warned. “But does so with a light touch. I adored everything about this book. And though it was about the difficult questions about choosing to carry on, ultimately, I found it redemptive, and an ode to the beautiful heartache that is life itself.” So just cannot recommend this one enough. But if literary fiction is not your jam, you might not love it. So just write like respect to your preferences, respect genre, but that’s my first recommendation Before You Go.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:47
And so now, let’s move to my second recommendation, which is in the genre of fiction or mystery, sorry, mystery. It’s fiction, too. But it’s mystery, The Guest List by Lucy Foley. Okay. And so let’s just talk a little bit about this. So I like a good mystery here. And there. The Guest List was a fun book, I actually really enjoyed it. And this has been a really popular book in the last year. So it is a story that you can jump right into. And so when we think about the guestlist, this is for a wedding. So there’s this wedding on this island, I think it’s an island off of Ireland, if I am correct. And so as all the guests arrive for this wedding, right, you start to get all the complex layers of their history together, their relationships, the different feelings about the wedding. And it’s it’s just fun. I really enjoyed this. So I one of the things I said about it is great characters, nice twists and compelling backstories. Overall, this is just what you want in a mystery. So that’s my second recommendation.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:59
So Let’s move to read number three. So what is my third book recommendation? This one is The Splendid and The Vile: A saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. So this is by Erik Larson, who is such an incredible historian. I love his books, if you haven’t, if you haven’t come across his books, if you’re new to history, check out Eric Larson’s work. And so this is history. It is nonfiction. So it is fully documented, and really used a lot of letters and journal entries. And this story covers the period of time. So it is a story of Churchill, and London during the Blitz, okay. And it relies heavily on personal letters that Churchill wrote. And it is remarkable. And I read this book as the pandemic was getting going. And I just felt like it had so much to teach us about facing challenges and how communities and nations face challenges. So I think we have a lot of lessons to learn from the example shown in this great account of Churchill and the people of London during the Blitz. So that’s the third recommendation, the the splendid and the vile by Eric Larsen.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:36
So now let’s move to read a number four. So what is my fourth book recommendation? And this is a book that I just finished in the last day or two. And I think it’s known as the recency bias that I’m adding this to the list because I just finished it. And so it’s familiar to me because I looked at several other memoirs. But this memoir is really just that spectacular. So this is entitled In Order to Live: A North Korean Girls Journey to Freedom. And this is by Yeonmi Park. And it is also really incredible. And so, you know, there is not much news that comes out of North Korea, right? We have a few accounts here and there of a defectors who have gotten out and have gotten to freedom. And this memoir is an account of a young girl who does that. So you know, she tells her whole story. But I think when she wrote this book, she was only 21 or 22. And it is a remarkable story. And so, you know, she fled North Korea with her mother in 2007, when she was 13. She was trafficked in China for a time. And eventually, they crossed over from China, across the Gobi Desert into Mongolia, and eventually made it to South Korea. She now I believe lives in the US, she went to Columbia University, her story of resilience, and just the impact of trauma is remarkable. It’s not heavy on trauma, though. Okay, so, I mean, her story is harrowing, but it’s also incredibly inspiring. And so that is the fourth recommendation in order to live by Yeonmi Park.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:45
Okay, so now let’s move on to my fifth grade recommendation. And maybe I’ve talked about this a little bit. This is the book that gets closest to leadership. But it’s so much more than that. It’s about creativity, and living to purpose. And we can all use some of that. And so the fifth book recommendation is The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. And this is by Seth Godin. And boy, this is a treasure. So this would be considered leadership, self development. But it is so enjoyable, you won’t feel like you’re reading a business book, I promise. So it’s bite size, it’s so applicable and it’s just wise, so wise. And so they describe this as an elegant little book that will inspire artists, writers and entrepreneurs to stretch and commit to putting their best work out into the world. So he says creative work doesn’t come with a guarantee that there is a pattern to who succeeds and who doesn’t. And so that’s what we really are focusing on with this book. Now I gave The Practice five stars so this was another five for me, and this is the kind of book that I would recommend that you just read out of daily. So I’d read it one time through, but this is one that you can keep going back to because it’s just so wise.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:13
Okay, so now let’s move to read number six. So what’s the six recommendation? Oh, this book I also just adored. So this is called 1000 ships. And it’s by Natalie Haynes, h A y n e s. So this would be considered historical fiction. And it is all about Greek mythology. So this is really wonderful. So this book really is a retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of the many women involved in its causes and consequences. Okay, so a lot of times, right? When we read Greek mythology, it’s from the perspective of the men and especially the Trojan War. So this goes back. And it details the Trojan War, from the perspective of women, right? How were they impacted? How did they protect their family, it is such a compassionate read. And it’s powerful, so strong women doing scary things. And I absolutely loved it. So this is what I had to say this is an epic retelling of the Trojan War, from the perspective of the women, full of intriguing details and heartbreaking accounts. This book is compelling, and beautiful. So what I would say about this book is don’t spread the book out like this would be a good one to read during a short vacation where you have a little more time to read. Because if you stretch it out too much, you will lose the thread of characters, because there are a lot of characters, and it goes in and out of different characters. And so you do just want to be mindful of that. But really powerful book, I felt completely transported by that book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:59
Okay. So now let’s go to read number seven. So what’s my recommendation? Number seven, so this, I probably will not pronounce this correct. But it’s The Anthropocene Reviewed, right, which is this human period of time. And this is by John Green, you might be familiar with him, he’s the author of The Fault in Our Stars, which is a great book, I would also recommend that, and also Turtles All The Way Down is his most recent book. So this book is nonfiction. And what I would say about this book, is it is his observations on life. So this book, is really a review of John Green’s award winning podcast, which I think is the same title, if I’m not, if I’m not mistaken. And so with this book, he’s really, he is really just, he’s got observations on life and the planet and we as humans, and so he reviews different facets of the human centered planet. And he gives everything that he talks about, he discusses them on a five star scale. So at the end of each chapter, He gives a rating of what he’s just talked about. And so it’s really like it’s so sweet, but it’s also deep, it makes you think. And so this is what I wrote about this book:
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:30
“This book is sweet and tender hearted and cynical all at once, but not in a bad way. I love Green’s vulnerability as he reflects on life, purpose, relationships, and diet Dr. Pepper, no joke.”
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:42
So I just finished this book. Two nights ago, it just came out. It’s really, really good. And it’s just a very good nonfiction, kind of like, you would think about short stories, but but it’s nonfiction observations on life. So you could just pick up a chapter if you have a few minutes and read it. So it really works nicely that way.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:06
Okay, so now we’re ready for reading recommendation number eight. And this book is Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness. Now, I think we could all use a bit of that. So this is by Rick Hansen. So he’s a PhD. I think he’s a psychologist. I’m not positive. But he’s one of my favorite thinkers on Act, which is acceptance and Commitment Therapy. So he is a researcher, and does a lot of writing on this topic. So this would be considered a self development book. So right if you’re wanting some good self development, this book is so good. I found it. so enjoyable to read. So practical, it is not heavy or dense in terms of the research. So he really, he really uses it as a self-help guide. And that’s what I think is really wonderful. And so let’s just hear a little bit about this book. So “the combination of New York Times bestselling author and respected psychologist, Rick Hansen’s work, this is a scientifically grounded program for developing the 12 inner strengths for being resilient, no matter what life throws at you.” Okay, so this is eminently practical. And we all could use some skills in resilience. So this is what I had to say about this book actually gave this one five stars as well, you’re getting my best books from the last year. So what I said is, “this is an excellent review of the research that focus more as a self help guide with activities for cultivating resilience. So if you want application, this is the book for you cover so many of the topics that are critical to cultivating resilience, an excellent resource, and very well written a generous and compassionate book, I loved this book, plus, this is a bonus, this book is really well organized.” So I always appreciate that, especially in a work of non fiction. So that is our book number eight.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:11
Okay, let’s move on to reading recommendation number nine. This book who is so powerful, so this is a memoir, it’s Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, and her name is Suleika. And I don’t know how to pronounce her last name, I apologize. But I’m going to spell it Jaouad and of course, don’t forget, I have the free resource where I have everything listed. This was a power house memoir. I particularly love memoirs, because I love true stories. I love seeing resilience in action and seeing how individuals overcome challenges. You know, that is, maybe that’s why I’m a psychologist, because that’s what I get to do every life every day of my life. But when I get to see and read about these kind of harrowing experiences, it’s pretty remarkable. And so this is a searing, deeply moving memoir of illness and recovery, that traces one young woman’s journey from diagnosis to remission, and ultimately a road trip of healing and self discovery. And so this is about a young woman who, in college was diagnosed with a horrible illness, a cancer. And really, it’s talking about how she walked through that. This is a powerful book, it’s really, really good. So it’s a heavy theme. But it’s, it’s really great, you just see the power of love, and commitment here. And it’s so well written. So what I had to say about this book, I also gave this one five stars, that I stumbled on this book. But this author, while she was ill, she actually had New York Times installments of her journey. So she was very, very popular before this book came out, but I had never come across her. And so I had stumbled on this book. And I can only say that this book and the story are remarkable and heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive. So, to learn to grow up is one thing, but to try and do that, while you were also trying desperately to live is quite another and so her unflinching account is honest and true. And it really leads you to asking yourself the deeper questions about how life’s experiences shape us, and are we broken by them? Can we actually live braver lives as a result of some of our brokenness and some of the experiences that are so incredibly challenging? So I highly recommend this memoir. It’s really great.
Dr. Melissa Smith 28:52
Okay, and now, we are going to end with the 10th book recommendation with a spiritual note. Right. So it this, this author is just one of my favorites. So the book is Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott, who I think is a national treasure, she is absolutely lovely. And she’s so funny. She just does not take herself too seriously. So she’s a very popular writer on spirituality, and just getting through this life. So let’s learn a little bit more about this book. So she writes about the three simple prayers essential to coming through tough times, difficult days and the hardships of daily life. And so right the first prayer is help the second person thinks, and the third prayer is wow, and it’s really beautiful. It’s a small book, so it’s very easy to read. You could probably read this in one sitting, but she is just, I adore her. I love her practical faith. She teaches me that I can be broken and flawed. still seek God. And in the mods writing, she confirms what I have always felt that God is there for the least of these, and that I can be there too. And usually the least of these is me, right? Usually, we need God for us to help us through this life and to help us to show up for others. And so it is a lovely little read.
Dr. Melissa Smith 30:27
Okay, so those are my top 10 book recommendations for your summer reading. So I am imagining you in a hammock with one of these books. And so I hope that at least one of them will be a great addition to your summer reading and that you really do take some time to read. So I am going to just list the books again quickly. So number one, Before You Go number two, The Guest List number three, The Splendid and Vile number four In Order to Live. Number five, The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. Number six 1000 Ships. Number seven, The Anthropocene Reviewed. Number eight, Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm Strength and Happiness. Nine Between Two Kingdoms: A Memoir of a Life Interrupted, and number 10. Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers.
Dr. Melissa Smith 31:27
So before I let you go, I am actually going to share a bonus rate. So this is just great fiction. So as I looked at the list, I’m like these are really good. But I don’t think we have enough fiction on there. And so I am adding a bonus read. And this has been very popular in the last year. So it appeals to a wide variety of readers. So it is The Midnight Library by Matt Hague. And this was a good read, I really enjoyed this. So what they talked about. So there are some heavy themes in this book, too. But it didn’t, it didn’t feel that heavy to me. So between life and death, there is a library and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life, you could have lived to see how things would be if you had made other choices, would you have done things different if you have the chance to undo your regrets, a dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived. So this is a really good book, it’s creative. And I really, I really enjoyed this book.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:35
So that’s my bonus read for you the library or the sorry, the midnight library, and that is fiction. So I just want to wrap up with a reminder that you can get your hands on this great resource where I list all of the books that I’m recommending for your summer reading list. And you can find that by heading over to my website at www.drmelissasmith.com/2021summerreads. So one more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/2021summerreads and that’s all as one word right? So 2021 su m m e r, r e a d s, okay, so head on over to my website, and you can download that resource. So you have that list for you when you go to find some books either at the library or at the store or from your friend’s bookshelf. So I hope that you have some lovely summer reading. This summer when I’m in my hammock reading I will be thinking about you and hope you have some great summer reading ahead. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai