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Reading and finding a sense of self again…
My original title for this post was Books for Happiness And Self Esteem but I think my reading this year has been more about finding a sense of self again… which in turn is making me happier anyway.
Put it down to the life stage I’m in (parenting a teen/menopausal (I think)/growing older) but I feel I’ve definitely lost my sense of self over the past couple of years. In all honesty, I’ve run the gamut from confused and listless to emotionally numb and physically drained.
That’s not meant to sound dramatic. It’s meant to highlight something that was probably previously referred to as a “mid-life crisis”.
Jokes about fast cars, infidelity and dodgy outfits aside (although I have had a few of the latter), it’s not easy and I’d love to discover some relatable reading on the subject matter. If you know of any such thing, please point me in the right direction.
With life issues and emotional changes thrust into my lap, I found myself floundering. I still am sometimes but at least I can pin down what it is and acknowledge the cause and effect. Because it really does seep into everything.
At the start of the year I decided to adopt a slower living/working mantra, without even really knowing what that meant in practical terms. Some six months in I took time to reflect on it, the benefits it brought and the things that it has given me more time for.
One of those was reading more books.
I’m not a Kindle gal – I’m a through and through, hold a copy in my hand person and I’ve loved giving more time over to burying my head in a book.
I recently took a look back at the books I’ve been reading and realised they all had two things in common. They were loosely themed around getting your head into a good place and being happy… in whatever form that happiness may take. In digesting them and the insights contained within, I’ve slowly been finding a sense of self again.
This is the first time in eons that I’ve read so many books so I’m hoping I’ve remembered to include them all here. Having scoured the bookshelf, my bedside table and bedside drawer, here in no particular order is a run down of the books I’ve loved and that have really inspired me in one way or another…
I remember buying this a year or so ago and for a while, it served as nothing more than an Instagram prop. The irony of the fact that I’d seen it pop up on so many feeds and yet I refused to allocate myself any downtime to read a book about the conscious decision to slow things down isn’t lost on me.
The story of Erin’s journey as a pioneer into the world of blogging, the major life events that followed and then how she began pulling things back to basics, captivated me the whole way through. Whilst reading her words, a feeling of calm crept over me and the book left me determined to focus on what’s really important in life.
The Book Of Hygge
I know that here are now a plethora of books about the Danish concept of cosy vibes and daily rituals that bring a sense of belonging… and some just feel it’s yet another band wagon that Insta World has jumped on. With cashmere sock clad feet. But I’m fully on board with it which was why Mr OS had bought me this one last Christmas.
For the first few weeks of 2018, I made it my weekend morning routine to get up, make a coffee and curl up in the corner of the sofa with the dog to read a few pages of this feel good book. It and the practices contained within were the perfect way to underline the elevate the everyday concept that runs on a loop in my head.
And it made me feel very contented and centred after I read a few pages.
The Life Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k | Get Your Sh*t Together | You Do You
Oh my goodness – I can’t recommend these three books enough. Not just for their forthright, no Boo-Hockey approach to living life the way you want it but because they regularly made me laugh out loud! Sarah Knight, dubbed the Anti-Guru, tells is like it is and you just find yourself nodding your head, pointing at the page and shouting “Oh my god YES! That’s me!!!”.
I loved all three though I think the first and third were my absolute favourites. The timing of reading these – i.e. approaching fifty and feeling like your old enough to say what you want without worrying what others might think of you – was spot on for me.
Why Social Media Is Ruining Your Life
I read this whilst in the middle of The Fog that descended in September and being in the business of blogging, I would say it’s the book that has had the most impact on me so far. Katherine has included so much well thought out research on social media and how it can be detrimental to our mental health. Unless we start taking it for what it really is. Read: Not a true reflection of real life and NOT a genuine validation of who we are.
Her own stories of the part that Instagram has played in her life (both positive and negative) are so interesting and the accounts from some of the influencers that you and I probably follow make for an insightful read too. This is a book that I would pass on to H when she’s old enough to understand the concept but also put it into perspective. We’re not quite there yet.
Ice Cream For Breakfast
I got to meet Laura Jane Williams in person this summer during a stay over at Burley Manor, here in the New Forest. We were there to celebrate the new Elizabeth Scarlett collection and when I walked in, I did that thing where you realise you’re seeing in real life, the person you secretly stalk on Instagram. I’ll be honest and say that I had a bit of a moment and in my state of awe, probably mumbled something really inane!
A couple of weeks later, Laura kindly sent me a copy of her book and I devoured it over the course of a few evenings. This is the most glorious self-care book for the person who has decided they really couldn’t care less what people think (Er… did I mention that was me?), is tired of comparison (me), wants to go slower and dream bigger. Also me… and ummm… me.
Loved this book. Please read it!
I’ll be honest and say that I’d added this one to last year’s Christmas list when I was nearly ready to launch the OS rebrand and was all “Get Me… Lady Boss coming through!!” By the time I unwrapped it on Christmas morning, I couldn’t have felt less like any kind of boss if I’d tried… so I left it to one side for quite a while.
But once I’d picked it up and got going, I realised that you can apply the theory of playing big to any area of life – it doesn’t have to be just work related. The book talks about no longer listening to your inner critic and instead developing and fully imagining your inner mentor. I loved the part about imagining who she is, where she would live, what she wears and what she says to you when you meet her.
This part really resonated with me and for the record… my mentor looks very much like Diane Keaton’s Erica Barry at the Hamptons beach house, wearing white jeans and turtle neck sweater. Man I need to watch Somethings Gotta Give again!
In practical terms the section on stopping the use of apologetic language both in emails and face to face was spot on. I’m really glad I read this book.
Everything I know about Love
I’d seen everyone and their aunt talking about Dolly Alderton’s book so I had to see for myself what it was all about. This book had me reading late into the night to see exactly what the younger Dolly got into, got out of and got gut-wrenchingly honest about.
For anyone who looks back on their younger years and wonders at their own bravery/foolishness/optimism and who also thinks of their friends as family, this is a must-read. One of those books that made me cry at the last few pages.
And on the fiction front just because I love Nora Ephron and Marian Keyes…
I’ve seen the movie Heartburn countless times… I mean come on, it’s Meryl! But I love the dialogue that Nora Ephron weaves and so reading the book allowed me to completely immerse myself in it. And of course, I could visualise Meryl Streep, Jack Nicolson, the cooking, the house renovation and the New York scenes throughout!
The Break was the perfect holiday read whilst we we were in Majorca this summer – I’m so glad I picked it up last minute at the airport. I still remember reading Watermelon by Marion Keyes back in the day and falling in love with pretty much everything she’s written since. The fact that Marian is an unabashed Strictly Come Dancing Fan to the same obsessive level as I am just makes me love her even more!
So there you have it – the books that have made me laugh, cry, gasp, snort and shout “Me Too!!”… possibly a little too loudly when sat in bed next to a fast asleep Mr OS.
I still have about twenty more unread books to go, more on my Christmas list and another three or four that I pre-ordered earlier in the year and are due to arrive soon.
A pre-ordered book is my favourite previously forgotten, unexpected gift to self when it lands on the doormat with a satisfying thud.
If you enjoyed this post and would like another round up next year, drop me a line here or on Instagram. It’ll give me the perfect excuse to add reading to my work To Do list!
Also, if you’ve read any books that really stuck with you or have helped in some way, let me know… just don’t tell my already groaning book shelf…
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