by Ashley Fagan
It's no mystery that reading is necessary and useful to encourage personal growth. It's drilled into us from a young age and encouraged throughout life, but how do we consistently feed this useful but time-consuming skill?
Over the years I've found that variety plays a major role in how much I read. About two years ago I joined a book club which pushed me to finish one book per month. I must admit, it sounded a lot easier than it actually was. Finishing a book in a month on top of the ever-expanding list of To-Do's that my life requires was a daunting task. I've always loved to read but struggled to find time...or was I? When I really thought about why I wasn't squeezing that reading time into my day, it had nothing to do with not having time, it had more to do with not wanting to trade reading for another relaxing alternative like watching my favorite show on Netflix or testing a new recipe. When I realized that I had to make a trade in order to finish the books on time, the material I was reading became incredibly important to whether or not that was going to happen.
The great thing about book club is that it got me to read books I NEVER would have picked up on my own. Our method of selection is based off member recommendation and then we put it to a vote, so everyone's personal reading preferences are evenly distributed throughout the year. We've read murder mystery, self-help, sci-fi, love stories and time-period pieces. Each one offering a new outlook into what it is that will really get me to dedicate more time to reading. For me personally, I love a good mystery and sci-fi novel and if it incorporates both, Jackpot! Everyone is different but, I highly recommend reading outside of your comfort zone and pick up something you never thought you would enjoy! Ask your friends, ask your Mom, ask your coworker "What is your favorite book?". I think you'll be surprised by their response! Make time for yourself and make time to read! It's so much more valuable than you can ever imagine! Expand your knowledge and try something new. Here are a few of my recommendations from books I've read this past year.
Winner of the Guardian's 2016 "Not The Booker" prize, The Summer That Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel, is a beautiful poetic novel that focuses on the impact of good versus evil. Its themes play into hypocrisy, racism, sexism, labels and the drive of human nature. A tragic but beautiful piece sure to stir plenty of emotion. What would you do if the Devil came to town? Find it Here.
A debut novel by Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a unique and creative mystery novel reminiscent of my favorite childhood game, Clue, meets another classic favorite movie, Groundhog Day. Aiden Bishop has 8 days to solve the murder of Evelyn who will inevitably die at 11pm each day unless he can find the killer before the night ends, but each day Aiden wakes up as a new guest at the party where Evelyn will die and some of his hosts aren't as helpful as he would hope. This one kept me guessing until the very end! You can find it on Amazon here.
A debut novel from author Rena Rossner. The Sisters of The Winter Wood is an imaginative tale of love, family, youth and strength. Two sister's Liba and Laya are faced with the magical secrets passed down through their family for generations. Set in a small village near the border of Moldova and Ukraine, this beautifully woven tale of the bond between two sisters during a trying time for their Jewish community while coming into womanhood is a creative recreation of classic fairytales.
A New York Times Best Seller and soon to be a Hulu limited series starring Resse Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is an intriguing novel that follows the story of the Richardson family who live in a picturesque suburban community where perfection and appearance is of the upmost importance. Everything changes after they rent their guest house to a quirky artist and single mother named Mia. When a custody battle erupts within their community, lines are drawn and tension sets in. This story unravels the weight of secrets and the strong pull of motherhood. A heart wrenching story that highlights the devasting impact our choices can have on one another.
A Pick from Stephanie Spickler
The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is a book I’ve read many times. I am in love with this book for many reasons but I like to re-read it during transitional times in life. It’s hard for me to categorize this book because for me, it’s mostly an organizational guide to organizing life. The secret just kind of reminds you to look at what you really desire in life, your main priorities and how to maximize your time and efforts to “do it all” so to speak. I have no boss as a stay at home mom (unless you count my 3 & 1 year old! ha!) so it’s easy to get off track, switch tasks constantly, but The Secret kind of keeps you on track if you have a lot going on.