13 Good Reads That Inspired My 2013

Dear friends,

It’s that time of the year again! In 2009, I started a mini tradition for myself of summing up the year, with a list: “9 Crazy Things I Did in 2009.” Then, it was “10 Best Things from 2010.” 2011 saw “11 Unexpected Things in 2011.” Things got a little crazy in 2012, so instead of my #newyearslists you got, “12 Months in the Air in 2012” as part of my annual holiday greeting.

This year, before I hop on a plane to celebrate Weinachts in Deutschland, I’d like to share “13 Good Reads that Inspired My 2013” with you. I’d love for you to share your favorite reads and news from 2013 with me too. Happy holidays and early happy 2014 to all!

13 Good Reads That Inspired My 2013

1. “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosch

Part comic, part rant, part quiet self-reflection, this blog and eponymous book of illustrations can cheer you up when you’re having a crappy day, or inspire some reflections on your own Self when you’re in a contemplative mood.

2. “Philomena” by Martin Sixsmith

Yes, there’s a film coming out, but read the book! I learned a bit about 1950s Ireland’s church and state relations, about the Republican National Convention, about struggles of the gay community in the US as recently as the 1980s, about how a person’s childhood experiences shapes their life and Work. It was a fast read and a real tearjerker (the guy who sat next to me on that flight must’ve thought I was strange).

3. “Yoga Sequencing” by Mark Stephens

This year I tried to approach my yoga teaching and practice more scientifically. Mark Stephens’ book is my new bible for understanding the mechanics of anatomy and vinyasa.

4. “Bhagavad Gita”

I started with “Bhagavad Gita For Beginners” but a package from Mumbai containing a behemoth “as it is” version (thanks JP!) arrived in time for Christmas. This reading project will continue into 2014.

5. “This Is How You Lose Her” by Junot Diaz

Wow! Not since Mrs. Valles’ IB English class have I enjoyed the madness of reading pure fiction (although the short stories of Diaz are somewhat autobiographical). I felt ludicrously indulgent getting to know different cultures, times, and socio-economic segments through reading, without a thought of what functional use I would get out of it. I may have to stalk Junot Diaz a little during his teaching semesters at MIT next year.

6. “The Human Game” lecture by Alan Watts

I owe my introduction to Alan Watts’ philosophy lectures to VQ. This particular one made me think about Life and Living. “Say when dancing, you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room – that’s the where you should arrive; the whole point of the dancing is the dance.”

7. “Theory U” by Otto Scharmer

LXB brought this mega tome onto my reading list. I’m not done with it yet (it’s about a thousand pages long), but so far I’m enjoying the way Dr. Scharmer blends waxing poetic, management theory, and “transcendental” teachings into one book. More stalking of authors to be done at MIT in 2014…

8. “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Fast, fun read. And if you read too much into it, it could freak you out about the psychology of women, men, and marriage. Interested?

9. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

If you love nature, hiking, Bill Bryson’s travel adventure books, or if you’re a woman in her 30s / 40s / 50s going through major life changes, you’ll enjoy this. It’s funny, it’s painful, it’s perfect for a vacation read. Thanks TW for the recommendation!

10. “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain

A fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway and first wife Hadley Richardson’s life together in 1920s Paris. Need I say more? Oh, lesson learned from this book – brilliant people are often crazy!

11. 《孩子你慢慢来》by 龙应台

It’s been a while since I read for fun, and not for research, in Chinese. I didn’t think there would be a book that combines English, Chinese, Swiss French, Swiss German, and child psychology into one perfect read…but ZRK found it for me (thank you!). Primary reading language for this book is Chinese.

12. “Oh, wie schoen ist Panama!” by Janosch

I fell in love (with a dirty old German artist-writer, it turns out) after reading this. Then I devoured the Metzler Family’s entire attic collection of Janosch children’s books. Thanks, FM, for bringing these stories that inspire dreaming into my life. The primary reading language for this book is German, but you can just bring a healthy imagination as you flip through the pictures. (There are also many translations available – Google / Baidu it).

13. “Bounce” by Matthew Syed

Written by a two-time Olympian and sportscaster, “Bounce” explores the “talent vs. practice” debate with plenty of case studies (or, if you’re a real scientist you may dismiss then, in which case they’re just inspiring stories of highly motivated individuals).

Happy reading, happy holidays, and happy new year my friends!