Professional/Personal Development (gross) Books that are Great for 2016

Hello all, I’m back at it with a few more book recommendations. This post is dedicated to that necessary evil we all love to hate—Professional/Personal Development.

I’ve written on the subject of self-help books before, though “Personal/Professional Development” sounds a little sexier, if not creepily hormonal.  Wouldn’t you know, there’s a brand new batch of great books for 2016 just waiting to be devoured. I’ve always been open to various genres (turning my nose up will likely result in me walking into something). So I’ve tried it all—from trashy romance novels to horribly angsty YALit to some really dry, difficult classics, and they’ve all taught me something valuable.

The thing about Personal and Professional Development books is they aren’t sly about their teaching—there’s basically a big ol’ neon sign flashing “this is going to teach you something” above each work. In our fast-paced society, it’s easy to feel bogged down, unmotivated, and overwhelmed, especially when you evaluate your career and life and come up wanting.

The thing is, everyone is a work in progress. Everyone could use a little extra boost. 

I’ve always been kind of obsessed with the topic of improvement. My shelves are lined with notebooks filled to the brim with neatly scripted to-do lists and goals and inspirational phrases painstakingly transposed from Google (is that endearing or just sad?). I’m a big believer in setting attainable goals and working my arse off until I can contentedly slide my pen across one less item on my ever-changing life list. No matter if you’re a CEO of a major corporation, a stay-at-home mama with a brood of lovely rascals, or a fresh-faced college grad with a little too much pluck, these books can help you and your  career develop (yuck).

1.) I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of their Time

Laura Vanderkam

book_i_know_how_she_does_it12

I enjoyed this book so much I read it twice. Seriously, I did. Though I will say this book isn’t exactly the most beautifully crafted—Vanderkam’s turn of phrase won’t make you sigh with metaphysical understanding or laugh out loud. However, her advice is practical and her approach is pragmatic, and I love the book’s underlying theme. In the book she interviews hundreds of “mosaic women,” females who have young children but also have a career that earns them over 100K.  She simply asks these women how they manage their time without delving into the archaic, dried-up “how does she do it all” narrative. She discusses practical ways women can truly engage with family and grow their career while not falling prey to the harried, scary business mommy trope. She reminds us that we actually have 168 hours a week, and those hours can be spent catering to a hectic job, raising a loving child, engaging in meaningful connection with a spouse, and facilitating truly beneficial “me time.” She writes:

You don’t build the life you want by saving time. You build the life you want, and then time saves itself. Recognizing that is what makes success possible.

and this little gem…

In life, you can be unhappy, or you can change things. And even if there are things you can’t change, you can often change your mind-set and question assumptions that are making life less good than it could be.

She also takes on the narrative we tell ourselves about how “busy” we are. In society business is a status symbol in the same way a lack of sleep seems to represent a life well-lived (more so, at least, than someone who happily clocks 7-8 hours a night). Vanderkam takes these assumptions to task and upends them, asserting that it’s okay to have leisure time and to be well-rested.

2.) The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Marie Kondo

91Aa9XUcaOL

Okay people get ready to have your world rocked. I understand that this book is very “in” right now. It’s very “buzzy.” It’s all the “rage.”

Unnecessary quotations are wonderfully awful.

Marie Kondo is a self-proclaimed tidier who has spent her whole life looking for efficient ways to store, manage, and enjoy her belongings. It’s kind of impossible to continue living in clutter after reading her engaging work. Yes, my purse is still a madhouse of fools and my car is kind of an embarrassment to the human race, but my cabinets…my cabinets are truly lovely. The same can be said for the majority of my house, although my closet tends to build up with clothes and puppy toys faster than you can say clutter. However, Kondo’s two-point approach to getting rid of stuff and filling your space with things that truly bring you joy is really compelling.

In a review of the book an author sums up her approach quite nicely:

First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

When she says put your hands on everything, Kondo means everything. And she means do it all in “one sitting,” or a cohesive space of time, not spread erratically over a year or a few months. She divides up your tidying into different categories based on their degree of difficulty, with the last category, personal memorabilia, allowing you to put off throwing away your love letters and kindergarten poems until the end. Kondo’s method comes from a worthy place—according to her, your home should only contain the things that bring you contentment and joy.

I will say that her section on books was hard for me—she requires you get rid of books that no longer bring you joy. I must confess I didn’t go through my books as I should have because it is so hard for me to give away books. One day I may need them! Or worse, someone else may randomly need my extra copy of Southern Women Writers and I will be able to fill that void. I know I have a problem and I’m working through it, but I digress.

Kondo asserts that the things you don’t absolutely love are taking up the space that the more joy-bringing items could occupy.  She encourages people to toss or donate these misfit items. Donate and toss I did. By the end of my tidying I had 6 garbage bags filled with stuff I no longer needed. And as Kondo promised, I felt a lightness I could only describe as declutter detox.  The feeling was so strong, I told about 7 of my friends they absolutely had to read the book so we could talk about it at length.

The Life Changing Magic, is much more than a cleaning book. It’s a book about taking stock. It’s a book about assessing the life you have and how it measures up to the life you want, and adjusting accordingly.

So there you have it. Two books to fill up your brain and your Kindle, that will also help you professionally and personally. Happy reading!

 

PhotoPhoto 2

 

Advertisements

Lady Love Part 3: The Many Talents of Lorelai Gilmore

So I have a bit of a confession. In my spare time, instead of solving issues of world hunger or tearing through my (GROWING!) reading list or trying new, exotic cuisine or showering, I’ve gone rogue. I’ve went through the looking glass, and there’s really no turning back.

Yep, I’m re-watching all of the seasons of Gilmore Girls. I went back to the very beginning (a very fine place to start) of Rory and Stars Hollow and Dean (the boy she SHOULD have broken up with much earlier) and Jess (the boy she SHOULDN’T have broken up with…at least until Junior year of college). It’s such a frothy, fast-paced world of perpetual fall days and festivities and old timey barber shop quartets and cars that stay unlocked because, heck, there aren’t any felonies in Stars Hollow.

And Lorelai. Beautiful, batty Lorelai.

Sometimes when life is getting me down, when I feel extra paranoid or kind of blue I remember that one time when Lorelai turned on her car lights because her porch light went out and the yard needed illumination and think, hey kiddo, you’re doing just fine. Here are some lessons I’ve learned from the coolest lady around:

get. it. girl.

get. it. girl.

1.) Staying true to yourself is the only real option.

Kooky, oddball, hilarious, weird. These are all words that consistently come to mind when describing Lorelai. Obviously she’s striking and lovely to look at, but that’s not who Lorelai is, yafeel? She doesn’t cook (at one point she becomes upset with Luke for making her stir), she doesn’t people please (one look at Emily Gilmore’s perpetual side-eye at her daughter and you know Lorelai honestly doesn’t care), and she raises her kid the way she sees fit. Pizza, Twizzlers and coffee for dinner? NBD. Lorelai is Lorelai and won’t be bothered with who she is supposed to be…or who she’s supposed to be with.  That’s actually a really powerful quality in an Instagram filtered society bent on being perceived as perfectly perfect. For the record, if Loreli had an Instagram I feel like it would be filled with photos of piles of dirty laundry and unflattering shots of Michel.

635481327341260013-339702484_hughhefner

2.) Pop culture is actually pretty powerful.

Pop culture gets a bad rap.  The thinking goes, if you have enough time to make E! news and People magazine your daily bread then there isn’t enough brain space for things like global warming, politics or existential questions. It’s a valid argument, but one that fails to give credit to the lack of sleep many pop culture fiends can live on. I like to think my existential thoughts in the morning and leave the Marry, Do, Kill Celebrity Style for my late night ruminations.

The thing about Lorelai is she is QUICK. Not only in her talking speed, but in her wit. She’ll drop a reference to Anna Karenina and in the same breath deconstruct the meaning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And it works. It works in a scary kind of way. Similarly, my knowledge of pop culture occasionally scares me. I frequently find myself asking How in the hell do I know this much about Gwen Stefani or The Kardashians or Ina Garten. Sometimes I feel like I should dedicate my brain to other things, but then Lorelai reminds me it’s okay to have copious amounts of frivolous knowledge. In fact…it might make you a more well-rounded person.  Go with me for a second, pop culture is the great connector. I can’t tell you how many awkward conversations the mention of Blue Ivy has gotten me out of. It relaxes people and allows them to open up, much, much more than global warming does, for the record.  So maybe Lorelai was on to something…or maybe she just really, really liked “Breakfast Club.”

3.) Never underestimate the power of a strong woman. 

Lorelai is one tough broad. She raised a child on her own when she was basically a child herself. Yeah she was privileged growing up and yeah she wound up in a pretty idyllic little town, but for a good chunk of her life, it was just her. She is incredibly self-reliant. I on the other hand tend to lean toward leach-hood when it comes to people I really care about. I think Lorelai appreciates her friends and family (kind of), but when it comes down to it she’s able to create a life in solo fashion. This is a powerful example, not only for women, but also for everyone.

Do you watch Gilmore Girls? Who is your GG character spirit animal? If you don’t watch it, why are you crazy?

Citing erraday:

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

greetings earthlings

Every time I start feeling sexy I trip. -Lena Dunham

So, I’m really jazzed you’re here. For those who can’t quite connect the dots, I’m Katy, I’m a twentysomething, I’m a redhead, and I’m a writer. Characters in books are some of my favorite friends (looking at you Elinor Dashwood) and life as a ginger is actually quite interesting. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Story time because that’s how you connect with readers. When my brown eyed, brown haired, tanned goddess of a mother birthed me and held me in her arms for the first time after hours of labor, the first thing she said was, “Oh my gosh she’s ugly!” #gingerprobs

Can you blame my beauty queen mom? I had a great personality.

Can you blame my beauty queen mom? I had a great personality.

She was expecting a mini brown eyed, brown haired, tanned goddess, but instead got a  squalling, pale redheaded little creature.  I guess I don’t really blame her. Luckily my hair has changed into a more auburn shade and my skin, still pale, is now covered in freckles, and that’s…endearing, right? Oh, and I only squall when I run out of coffee or get lost, which actually happens a lot…

So what the eff is this blog about anyway? Well a long, long time ago after the ugly incident but before the internet, back in the olden days with paper and pens and Full House, a little girl named Katy decided she wanted to become a writer. She would doodle on yellow pads and dream up stories about basketball playing fairies and then write until her hands were covered with ink.

Today, I don’t write as much as I type, and I don’t dream up basketball playing fairies as much as rehash my thoughts on books I’ve read, pop culture I’ve obsessed over, places I’ve visited, politics I’ve supported, and shows I’ve devoured, but the little girl is still in there, and the urge to write, to create, is still very much alive.

I’ve recently joined the grown-up, 9 to 5 camp (As a writer! Woo Woo! But still, the office life struggle is real, y’all) so in order to retain an ounce of my classic zaniness I plan to use this as an outlet, a place where books and towns are recommended, US Weekly is analyzed (Who wore it better you ask? Who is Gwen Stefani forever and always, Alex, for 5 million) and dreams are discussed, changed, and then wholeheartedly defended.

Me and my main squeeze, Colby

Me and my main squeeze, Colby

It’s a place where I will speak very seriously and passionately about shows I’m watching and authors I’m loving. A place where gingers are loved and appreciated and called ugly in jest. (HAHA right?!?!) So sit back, grab a cup of strong coffee and enjoy my first post.

Which is oddly, over now (???), so I guess you can just drink your coffee and scroll through your Twitter or something.