I love books ~ to read, to listen to, and even to write. This year I’ve explored another extraordinary collection of fiction and nonfiction. From classics to the latest best sellers, to business and leadership guides to spiritual reflections, each author’s word choice, phrasing, and insights have inspired my own writing and enriched my life. 

As I contemplate this year in review post, the stacks of books by my desk, on my beside table, in my car and on my phone sparked an awareness of a theme ~ growth. As open doors, portals to other worlds, books are tremendous resources on that perpetual journey of self-discovery and personal development. Slipping into an author’s point of view, peeking through their lens on the world affords us the chance to see our own view anew. 

While I have a great reverence for books, I also like to make my mark in them, capture the passages that resonate, the words that sing, the ideas that intrigue me. My books have notations, highlights and ever so tiny folds on the lower corners of select pages to remind me of those places where seeds were planted. 

Here are just a few of my standout selections from 2019. 

In her personal reflection, Garden in the East: The Spiritual Life of the Body, Angela Doll Carlson writes so eloquently of her own struggles with her body and faith, revealing a vulnerability that invites us to join her on the journey to self-acceptance. When I came across the following passage, I felt a deep connection to the author. She had captured a concept I’ve touched on in my own writing, but in a way that shifted my view like the subtle twist of a kaleidoscope. 

“Perhaps compassion is a kind of cure then – for the comparison, for the envy, for the injury. When the soul is dried out and thirsty, when the body is suffering, compassion becomes water.” 

From the spiritual to the tactical, Nir Eyal’s indistractable, opened my eyes to varied ways that our modern tools can shave off the edges of our attention, diminish the capacity of our patience, and limit the potential of our progress. Tapping into the power of identity can have a profound impact on our behavior, helping us to gain the traction so valuable to the achievement of our goals. 

“Identity is another cognitive shortcut that helps our brains make otherwise difficult choices in advance, thereby streamlining decision-making. Our perception of who we are changes what we do.” 

Eager to dive into the latest novel from a beloved author, I purchased Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House at the airport and devoured it in two flights. The worlds Patchett crafts are so multi-dimensional you can almost smell the funeral flowers that crowded the house, the singular symbol representing a value for every character, so reflective of their spirit. This structure became a living character in the narrative illustrating the potent power of possession. 

“How many years of someone’s life had gone into carving those walls in some other country. I reached up and traced a swallow with one finger. Is this what our mother had meant? I could feel the entire house sitting on top of me like a shell I would have to drag around for the rest of my life.” 

Preparing for a presentation on stewarding relationships, I revisited a research book with a literary feel. Recommended at a conference on marriage and family, A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M. D., and Richard Lannon, M.D. reveals the science of emotion, offering insights into the why of what we feel and how we relate to one another. 

“But in love merely brings the players together, and the end of that prelude is as inevitable as it is desirable. True relatedness has a chance to blossom only with the waning of its intoxicating predecessor. . . Loving derives from intimacy, the prolonged and detailed surveillance of a foreign soul.” 

Another recommendation added The Trusted Advisor by David H. Master, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford to my list. As a consultant and coach, I continue to establish and nurture the bonds of trust with clients, thus reinforcing the foundation of these relationships and increasing the potential impact of our work together. 

“The essence of professionalism lies not in distinguishing ourselves from our clients, but in aligning with them to improve their situations.” 

This list wouldn’t be complete without an addition from Brene Brown, whose body of work continues to reap benefits to all who continue to visit that well. Her latest, Dare to Lead, explores new and familiar themes in the context of leadership. 

“The real barrier to daring leadership is our armor – the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that we use to protect ourselves when we aren’t willing and able to rumble with vulnerability.”

As a latent artist, I anticipated the release of Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful. Exploring its riches during my morning reflection did not disappoint. 

“. . .joy is the brain’s natural reward for staying alert to correlations and connections in our surroundings.” 

The classic, The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy, reinforced the impact of small shifts. 

“The slightest adjustments to your daily routines can dramatically alter the outcomes in your life.” 

Listening to Toni Morrison read her beloved classic, The Bluest Eye, was an experience. The words flowed through the cadence and timber of her voice with a melodic resonance. The phrasing and illustrative quality of her language gave a vivid realism to her story. 

“We mistook violence for passion, indolence for leisure, and thought recklessness was freedom.” 

Fittingly, the book I’m currently reading is Susan Orlean’s, The Library Book. This quote from Ray Bradbury, reflecting on all the books he read in the library he visited every day for thirteen years, his alternative to college, sums up the power of books. 

“The library was my nesting place, my birthing place; it was my growing place.” 

As I look to 2020, I’m eager to discover what gems will find their way to my desk, my bedside table, my car and my phone. Confident in the profound gifts held within, I will trust that the bounty will be grand.