I kicked this year off with a focus on alignment. To live more like the person I believe I can be someday, while giving myself the grace to savor life in the moment. A lot of this is grounded in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which I continue to believe is one of the most game-changing books of my life. That said, after devouring 50+ books in 2023, a common theme that continues to mesmerize me is addiction. The impact it has on ourselves and others, the cyclical nature of it, why we become addicted to things, and the Opioid crisis in general – in part because so many authors are exploring addiction through this tragic lens.
While this is not specifically about addiction, it explores the residual impact trauma has on one’s body and what it takes to heal. In understanding trauma, it becomes easier to understand why we act the way we do, even post trauma. It opened my eyes to bringing more empathy to critical conversations with others and myself, and a new understanding of how trauma shows up in our lives.
These books – both non-fiction and fiction – respectively, address the opioid impact on a macro and micro level. Raising Lazarus, which is a follow-up to Dopesick, talks about the frontline heroes and helps readers understand the complexities of helping what is ultimately a systemic problem. Funding, stigma, and access to healthcare are just a few of the shortcomings we continue to offer those who need help. Meanwhile Barbara Kingsolver takes an exquisite approach at capturing this complex issue through the eyes of one young man named Demon Copperfield. Less raw than a memoir but equally as heartbreaking, Kingsolver moved me yet again with her ability to use the English language to inform and inspire me.
What could possibly make a Generation Xer happier than an Oprah WInfrey book framed in facts by an intriguing researcher named Arthur Brooks. For every gentle Winfrey nudge to pursue a meaningful life, Brooks provides the hard evidence on how to do it. Most importantly, starting with the notion that happiness is fleeting but being happier (which is much harder and therefore resonated with me) is much more nuanced. It is not what self-help gurus and toxic positivity spews on Instagram in an endless feed of do more, be more, quit your day job, and pursue your passion that is in my humble opinion dangerously harmful for those of us striving to live an extraordinarily, ordinary life. Instead, this book is about the basics – the pillars of contentment – family, work, faith – you get the gist. Do the work. Live your life in the now. Be grateful but real. No “authentic” like Instagram AI bots portray, but more like a middle-aged stoic Scandinavian focused on removing tension in her life to find moments of contentment in the day-to-day thing we called life.
Overall, 2023 marked a year of game-changing books that filled my notebook with ideas, understanding and the desire to evolve. Both fiction and non-fiction filled my head with new concepts and questions, not to mention brought me great joy. My full list of 2023 reads can be viewed her on my Good Reads account. Please share your favorites below so I can fill my 2024 reading list.
If you enjoyed this, please consider subscribing to my e-newsletter Rural Ramblings here.