I wanted to follow-up on last week’s mental health post by sharing a few books that have helped me develop a framework and some practical tools for dealing when growing up is hard. It’s hard to fully explain why reading – above any other medium of artistic expression – is necessary for the soul. In part, I think it’s that reading normalizes our experiences. It’s helpful for me to know that other people are thinking what I’m thinking about, or going through what I’m going through. Or, even better, that other people can put words to what I cannot yet adequately describe.
(This is tangential, but I heard Junot Diaz say once that what’s universal lives in the details, and I think there is something so beautifully contradictory about that.)
As a caveat, most of these books are by real-life, by which I mean mid-life, grownups – so any advice to young people skews hindsight-20-20 or “I should have done this when I was your age”. In practicality, I think you can’t arrive at meaningful lessons until you learn them the hard way, but I think you should also know the rules so you can break them well. If you want to wholly normalize your twentysomething behavior, just watch Girls or read Thought Catalog (or the wiser Billfold).
In the funny-and-wise-people-spouting-wisdom-and-being-funny category:
1. Nora Ephron’s I Remember Nothing and I Feel Bad About My Neck.
“Here are some questions I am constantly noodling over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it’s your last, or do you save your money on the chance you’ll live twenty more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really all going to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread in American is so unbelievable delicious? And what about chocolate?” (from I Feel Bad About My Neck)
2. Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without A Country.
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”
3. Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.”
In the practical wisdom category:
1. Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.
“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” Also see her blog. Or just watch her TED talks.
3. Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist.
“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.” Also see his blog.
What are you reading? What should I be reading? Get at us on Twitter.