30 Books in 30 Days Challenge

Being unemployed has its perks! I decided to make better use of my time and challenged myself to read 30 books in 30 days because I want to always be learning and growing. I’d seen someone in Instagram do it and thought, wow that’s an accomplishment! I had it in the back of my head that I wanted to do it for a while and when I would watch TV, I would see all the dusty books on my book shelf. One day I realized that in the last 5 months I’d only read 2 of them. I didn’t have an excuse anymore so I wanted to take some time for myself while also challenging myself. I took a step back from the things that were weighing me down and then went through my bookshelves to choose a variety of books – lighthearted, deep, thoughtful, mind-bending, fictional, self-help, etc. just to keep things interesting.

Here are the books I read along my thoughts about each one (mainly so I can keep them straight and remember the takeaways after I’m all done):

  1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom – A melancholy story about an old man who dies and goes to heaven only to meet 5 people that impacted his life, or vice versa. It’s a sad tale and made me cry, but it’s a good one and it’s very impactful. It reminded me not to take anything for granted and more importantly, to realize/remember that everyone has a purpose and that we are all interconnected in some way. Everything you do has an impact on the universe and people around you. It is so true! I liked it a lot but this was a pretty heavy book to start a reading challenge with.
  2. How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – One of the best books I’ve ever read considering I have a very hard time relating to people, making friends and holding jobs. The tips are for the most part very basic and make a lot of sense. He gives lots of examples of how this works in the real world and proved to me that all the education in the world doesn’t matter if you know how to deal with people. I can honestly say I do almost none of the things he teaches, which I guess explains a lot!
  3. Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza – This book is phenomenal and I’d recommend it to everyone. It offers lots of information about neuroscience and quantum physics and basically, which is a bit heavy, but it’s good because it teaches you how you can rewire your brain to make your life better (and best of all, how simple it is). The premise is that your energy, good or bad, affects your brain and body, how stress leads to disease and unhappiness, and how you can change the way your brain functions in order to become a happier, healthier person. A big part of the book is about meditation and how to use it to make positive changes in your life. I’ve heard it before but not until reading this book did I realize how/why meditation works. Kind of a mind bender and tiring to read at times, but it was very interesting! I’d like to read it again over a period of time to give myself more than a day to absorb it all. It is absolutely fascinating stuff.
  4. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma – This is a story about a workaholic attorney who has a heart attack, quits his job and goes to India on a spiritual journey. He returns to share his wisdom and life lessons with a younger former colleague. It’s all the stuff you’d expect – lessons on how to live a more joyful life, fulfill your purpose and reach your destiny. At times it felt a bit corny and over the top, like the author was trying WAY too hard, but the lessons are good and I appreciated the overall theme. Note: since I’m a grammar nerd, the incessant quotation marks drove me mad!
  5. Post Office by Charles Bukowski – The story of a somewhat degenerate postal worker who loves drinking, horse racing and women. Pretty sad at times, but also quite funny. It reinforced the fact that I never want to work at a “real” job again.
  6. What Is My Cat Thinking? by Gwen Bailey – Self-explanatory book about cats to satisfy my inner crazy cat lady!
  7. What To Say When You Talk To Yourself by Shad Helmstetter – This is exactly what it sounds like – a book about self-talk and how to pump yourself up to be better, happier and more successful. I liked it but it felt like overkill after a while. The author is a huge advocate of listening to motivational talks on tape and that even if you aren’t fully listening, you take it all in on a subconscious level and it changes how you think and feel. It was a good read overall, but I can save you the time and trouble of reading it: basically, just start talking out loud to yourself and repeatedly list lots of specific reasons why you are awesome/smart/successful (in present tense), even if none of it is true in your eyes and you don’t believe it….and do it as often as possible. You’re welcome.
  8. How To Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie – This book was definitely my least favorite book so far. It was almost 300 pages of anecdotal stories all of which had the same gist: if you stop worrying, your life will improve. Not a ton of takeaways from this one and it was WAY too long and repetitive sounding, in my opinion. Onto the next.
  9. Warrior of the Light by Paul Coelho – This is supposed to be a companion book to “The Alchemist” but felt like a total reach to me. It lists all the ways that a person can be a “warrior of the light” and to me, it just felt like one long run on sentence and was not that interesting. “The Alchemist” is a phenomenal book and I loved it, but sadly this one missed the mark for me.
  10. Women, Food and Desire by Alexandra Jameson – After reading pretty heavy books (with the last few being pretty disappointing), I just needed a change of pace. This book wasn’t exactly what I expected and was geared more towards people who have a toxic relationship with food. I got a few good tidbits out of it but overall wouldn’t recommend it.
  11. The Stranger by Albert Camus – This is a novel about a man who gets caught up in a murder case in Algiers. I actually really liked this book but I honestly can’t put my finger on why.
  12. Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson – Great advice for anyone running a small business/startup or who has an idea for one. I loved all the talk of how pointless meetings are and other dumb things companies/managers do. I agree with so much of this book!! Good stuff.
  13. Whale Done by Ken Blanchard – This book describes techniques used by animal trainers to train whales that can also be used to create positive, productive relationships with people. It’s kind of a lame book to be honest, but the concept is good – basically, it proves yet again that positive reinforcement works best for behavior change.
  14. The Healthcare Fix by Laurence J. Kotlikoff – The author proposes a solution to the healthcare problem in the U.S. He suggests getting rid of Medicare/Medicaid and replacing it with universal health insurance which basically entails everyone getting a voucher for healthcare. Interesting read.
  15. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks – My brain was way too fried to be reading something like this. It seemed like he wrote it for other doctors, not normal people. I didn’t enjoy it AT ALL.
  16. Animal Farm by George Orwell – I loved this book. A satirical novel in which a farm is run by the animals themselves after overthrowing the human owners. Such a wonderfully scary and accurate metaphor for the way this country (and world) operates.
  17. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – A book about the author’s journey in helping make a film about his own life and in turn, creating his own personal story that involves challenging himself, taking risks and pushing beyond his comfort zone. He teaches the reader how to “write a good story” both literally and figuratively. A very good read.
  18. Once There Was a War by John Steinbeck – I was excited because I bought this book at the Steinbeck House in Salinas. It was one of the only Steinbeck books that I hadn’t read and it looked good. What Steinbeck book isn’t? I read it in on Memorial Day so it was fitting. Basically, every chapter is some ironic event that happened during the war. There’s not a whole lot of flow to it. It was just ok. Definitely not one of Steinbeck’s best.
  19. Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper – This is a very bittersweet book about a cat named Prudence and her. She narrates most of the book although some parts are narrated by her owner. I really liked this book. It was cute and sweet and emotional because of all the ups and downs the cat and her family go through. I admit it made me cry. A lot. Ok, I bawled my eyes out. I love cats so much and always think of them as being totally innocent little fuzzy and sweet beings with feelings and it just made me so sad that this cat lost her owner and didn’t understand why. I realize it’s fiction but still! This was another reminder of how awesome cats are.
  20. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl – Viktor Frakl was a psychiatrist and neurologist from Austria who spent 3 years in Auschwitz. This is a fascinating account of how people in concentration camps dealt with the horror of their experiences. In the second part of the book he explains logotherapy, a type of psychotherapy that he created. The concept is that everything humans do is driven and motivated by our will to find meaning in our lives. I am always in awe of stories about concentration camps. It’s truly unbelievable how evil some humans can be and how triumphant and resilient others can be in spite of it.
  21. The Secret Language of Cats by Heather Dunphy – More awesome info about cat behavior! Meow!
  22. Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson – A super simple, short book (I was short on time this day). The gist of it is that the best way to deal with change is to embrace it since it’s inevitable and can lead to bigger, better things.
  23. The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh – As the name implies, this book is all about meditation. It’s pretty repetitive and at times boring. I like the overall message but it was very drawn out.
  24. What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey – Great book about appreciating the little things, having gratitude and becoming your best self. It’s definitely very “Oprah” and who doesn’t love Oprah?
  25. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – Ahhhh! Maya Angelou is such a poetic writer!! I love the way she describes things. It’s magical. This is a very bittersweet story about her upbringing. I enjoyed reading it a lot.
  26. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka – This book was so bizarre. I can’t even.
  27. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom –  I loved this book. This is a MUST read for anyone and everyone. Very touching, sweet and thoughtful.
  28. Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck – Basically a sequel to Cannery Row. It was ok but not my favorite Steinbeck book.
  29. Cat Daddy by Jackson Galaxy – This is basically Jackson’s autobiography and explains his love of cats and how he became a behaviorist. It’s pretty interesting and unexpected. I loved the chapter where he talked about working in an animal shelter. It’s all so true.
  30. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle – Wow, this was a heavy (and long) book. I read it because Oprah has said it’s her favorite book of all time (and who better to recommend a good read than her?). The gist of the book is to show how important it is to let go of toxic thoughts/feelings/behaviors and basically become more “enlightened” (and in turn, happy) by letting go of ego, not placing value on material things, being present, breathing, and accepting and/or enjoying each moment of your life. Great way to end the challenge!

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