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  • gretchenrubin 23:57:28 on 2017/03/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , book reviews, , , , , fantasy, , ,   

    Revealed! Three Great Books for March: Siblings, Great Reading, and High Fantasy (with Honey). 


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    Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

    — one outstanding book about happiness or habits

    — one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit

    — one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

    Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore. Or my favorite, visit the library!

    For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired.

    Bonus book this month: with Shea Olsen, my sister Elizabeth Craft has a new young-adult novel, Flower. The tag line? “She had a plan, then she met him.” Romance, temptation, secrets, college applications, celebrity...Check it out.

    Now, for the three book-club choices. Drumroll…


    A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

    The Pecking Order: A Bold New Look at How Family and Society Determine Who We Are by Dalton Conley

    This book asks a fascinating question: if we believe that adult development is largely shaped by genetics and nurture, how do we account for the wide disparities in the fates of siblings? This book tries to identify the different factors that influence how people’s lives unfold.

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    An outstanding children’s book:

    Chalice by Robin McKinley

    How I love the work of Robin McKinley! I keep hoping that this book will turn out to have been the first in a trilogy. I want to read more and more about this unusual world, with its powers and offices, awakened lands, and mesmerizing characters. Plus its celebration of bees and honey; I’ve always felt great symbolic power in bees and honey.

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    An eccentric pick:

    Ten Years in the Tub by Nick Hornby

    Because you’re reading this post, you probably love to read. And if you love to read, you’ll love Ten Years in the Tub. Hornby is known as a novelist (About a Boy; High Fidelity, etc.), and he also writes very idiosyncratic short essays about books. They’re called “reviews,” but they aren’t the usual kind of review. Hilarious, thought-provoking, original — I added a lot of great books to my library list after reading this book. Absolutely charming. Note: there have been shorter collections published, such as the one pictured in the image above. The complete set has been collected in Ten Years in the Tub.

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.


    If you want to make sure you never miss a month’s selections, sign up here for the book club newsletter.

    Remember, if you want to see what I read each week, I post a photo of my pile of completed books on my Facebook Page every Sunday night, #GretchenRubinReads.

    I continue to read book after book on the subject of color — it’s odd to find myself fascinated by this highly specialized topic. It’s definitely contributing to my desire to buy giant sets of colored pens and colored markers — which I can now use in the coloring book I created! The Happiness Project Mini-Posters: A Coloring Book with 20 Hand-lettered Quotes to Pull Out and Frame hits the shelves in a few weeks.

    What book are you most excited to read?

    The post Revealed! Three Great Books for March: Siblings, Great Reading, and High Fantasy (with Honey). appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 15:32:54 on 2016/10/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , fantasy, , , , , science fiction, , , ,   

    “If I Have a Regular Daily Routine and I Stick to It, I Can Be Much More Productive.” 


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    sharon-shinn-by-raquita-henderson

    Interview: Sharon Shinn.

    I love to read, all different kinds of books. One of my friends shares my taste for fantasy and science-fiction, and we swap books back and forth.

    A few months ago, she gave me a copy of Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters, and I was hooked. I’ve been working my way through all of Sharon Shinn’s books, and she’s written a lot.

    If you want to try these novels, I’d start with the “Elemental Blessings” books — I was thrilled recently to get an early copy of Unquiet Land, her latest addition to that set.

    Side note: In these “Elemental Blessings” books, the forty-three possible “elemental blessings” play a large role in the development of the characters and in the culture of that world. These blessings cover many aspects: joy, intelligence, beauty, creativity, love, travel, surprise, swiftness, power, triumph, luck, health, and so on.

    If you know these books, you may be interested to know that Shinn very kindly drew my blessings — which are just about the least glamorous blessings imaginable! Certainty, endurance, and patience. Sheesh. But they’re surely wonderful blessings for a writer, for whom it’s so important to have an idea and stay sitting in the chair long enough to hammer it out.

    Because I’m such a fan of Sharon Shinn’s books, I wanted to ask her about habits, creativity, happiness, and all the rest.

    Gretchen: Which habits are most important to you? (for health, for creativity, for productivity, for leisure, etc.)

    Sharon: Like everyone else on the planet, I have too much to do and not enough time to get it all done. I find that if I have a regular daily routine and I stick to it, I can be so much more productive than if I just make a list and hope for the best.

    I basically have two jobs—I’m an editor for a bi-monthly association magazine, and I write science fiction/fantasy novels—and I do both of these jobs from home. However, the magazine is essentially my full-time job, so it gets more of my time. One of the reasons I stick pretty closely to a routine is so that I can find enough hours to work on my books. On weekdays, I spend from roughly 9 to 5 working on the magazine, then I take a 30-minute break to walk or exercise, then I spend a couple of hours in the evening writing fiction.

    I can’t manage that every day, of course. I take yoga classes one night a week, and sometimes I go out with friends instead, and other obligations often come up. But my goal is usually to have at least three nights a week where I can work on my books. I’m a little more free-form about my weekends, but I try to find time for at least one writing session on Saturday or Sunday as well.

    To be fair, I can’t tell if that level of discipline can be called habitual or the clockwork doggedness of a slightly obsessive personality. I tend to get restless and cranky if there’s something I’m supposed to be doing and I haven’t had the chance to do it. And I’m not very good at relaxing. Although I always promise myself I’ll lie around and do nothing once I’ve finished all my tasks, somehow I always find another task to do.

    Take a recent Sunday afternoon when I had no plans or obligations. I was thrilled with the idea of just stretching out on the sofa and reading a book. Instead, I made a pie.

    Have you ever managed to gain a challenging healthy habit—or to break an unhealthy habit? If so, how did you do it?

    I spend about 20 minutes every weekday morning doing stretching exercises. A number of years ago, I threw out my back, and it was agony—I couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes, I couldn’t sit at all, I could simply lie down and be miserable. It took weeks of physical therapy before I started improving, and I never want to be in that much pain again. So I do the exercises I was taught back then, and I’ve supplemented them with stretches I’ve learned in yoga and from a friend who’s a physical therapist.

    The desire to avoid pain is a great motivator, but I don’t think I would be as faithful about the exercises if I didn’t make them a part of my morning routine. In fact, since they’re not part of my weekend routine, I rarely get around to them on Saturday and Sunday. So I know that for me, making the exercises habitual is the only way to keep my body healthy.

     Does anything tend to interfere with your ability to keep your healthy habits? (e.g. travel, parties)

    Travel! When I’m on a trip, I don’t do my morning stretches, I don’t meet my evening writing goals, it’s like I’ve given myself a pass because I’m in a strange environment. On the one hand, that plays havoc with my productivity (and sometimes bothers my back). On the other hand, sometimes I worry that I’m too much a creature of routine, so I think it might be good for me to slack off now and then so I don’t become a total automaton.

    But the minute I step into my own house, I’m back on track.

    Would you describe yourself as an Upholder, a Questioner, a Rebel, or an Obliger?

    I’m definitely an Upholder. I keep promises to friends and I honor my private resolutions. Occasionally this makes me a less-than-ideal guest, because sometimes I hold off on RSVP’ing until I’m absolutely certain I’m going to have the time and inclination to attend an event.

    Being an Upholder can also make it hard for me to drop out of ongoing commitments that are no longer fulfilling or that have become too time-consuming. I sort of have to argue with myself to convince my brain that it’s OK to stop going to community choir practice, for instance. This is also the reason I don’t issue ultimatums to myself unless I’m really, really, really certain I want to end a current behavior. See the next answer!

    Do you have any particular bad habits that you wish you could break?

    Yes! Every night after I get settled in bed, I pick up the iPhone and start playing word games, usually Scrabble or Spelltower. I know it’s bad for me. I know the blue light will sparkle across my retinas and make me think it’s time to start waking up. I know that I’ll get so engrossed in the game that I won’t just play for a reasonable ten minutes, I’ll play for half an hour…or an hour. But at the time, that little break in the day feels like a gift to myself, and I look forward to it.

    What I need to do is devise a time limit or cutoff time—No games after 11 p.m.!—and stick to it. But I’ve hesitated to do that because I know I’ll honor the restriction, and I’m not quite ready for that…

    What’s a simple habit that consistently makes you happier?

    I have a piano in the living room, but I rarely sit down and play. For a long time I felt guilt whenever I walked past it and realized I’d let another day go by without touching the keyboard except to dust it when I was cleaning the house. So a couple of years ago I decided that, any time I dusted it, I would also sit down and play it, if only for ten minutes. Since I usually clean the house once a week, this means I’m playing on a regular basis. I still wish I could find an hour a week, but it makes me happier to have these short interludes at the piano.

    Oh, and I eat chocolate every single day. Usually in the afternoon. Is that a habit or an indulgence? At any rate, it makes me happy.

    Have you ever read any of Sharon Shin’s books?  Which one is your favorite?

    The post “If I Have a Regular Daily Routine and I Stick to It, I Can Be Much More Productive.” appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:31:51 on 2016/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , fantasy, , , , , strategy of accountability, ,   

    An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises. 


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    quillpenwrite

    I love fantasy fiction, and I recently discovered the work of Sharon Shinn. I’ve been reading my way through all her novels.

    I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her novel Unquiet Land, which is the new addition to her Elemental Blessings novels.

    These days, everything reminds me of my Four Tendencies framework, and Unquiet Land was no exception. (Don’t know about the Four Tendencies? Find out if you’re an Upholder, Questioner, Obliger, or Rebel here.)

    One key aspect of the Four Tendencies is understanding the role that accountability can play. For Obligers, outer accountability is crucial; for other Tendencies, it may not be needed, and for some people, may even be counter-productive.

    But because Obliger is the largest Tendency, accountability is a very important strategy. And Unquiet Land features a great accountability solution.

    In the country of Welce, people can go to the Plaza of Men to visit the booth of promises. “Here patrons could swear, before witnesses and for all eternity, that they would accomplish specific tasks, and their vows were recorded in books kept by the booth owner and his family.” The promissor can choose whether to make a public recording that anyone can ask to read, or a private one that’s not released until he or she gives permission or dies.

    In beautiful script, the promise is written in a record book and on a heavy sheet of paper. Both copies are signed and can be sealed, and one copy is given to the promissor.

    An interesting method of holding yourself to a promise! Using the strategies that I outline in Better Than Before, a person commits in writing (Strategy of Clarity), decides whether that promise is more powerful when public or private (Strategy of Distinctions), and is creating accountability (Strategy of Accountability). Plus, the promise is made as part of a formal, elaborate ritual, which gives it extra strength (Strategy of First Steps).

    I wish we had something like a booth of promises — but of course, we probably do. I’m sure there’s an app that does the same thing!

    If you want to read the first book in the Elemental Blessings set, get Troubled Waters. So good.

    Do you think that you’d be better able to stick to a good habit if you made a promise in a booth of promises?

    The post An Interesting Accountability Solution from a Fantasy Novel: the Booth of Promises. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
  • feedwordpress 20:32:34 on 2016/03/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , fantasy, Natalie Babbit, Neil Gaiman, , , ,   

    Revealed! Three Terrific Books to Read in April. 


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    Book recomendations

    For all the books I choose, I love them; I’ve read most of them at least twice if not many times; and they’re widely admired. Because nothing boosts happiness more than a great book, each month, I suggest:

    • one outstanding book about happiness or habits
    • one outstanding work of children’s or young-adult literature–I have a crazy passion for kidlit
    • one eccentric pick–a widely admired and excellent book that I love, yes, but one that may not appeal to everyone

     

    Shop at IndieBound, BN.com, or Amazon (I’m an affiliate), or your favorite local bookstore.

    Or my favorite, visit the library! In fact, for my second episode of “A Little Happier” — the new 2-minute mini-episodes of my podcast I’m doing each week — I talked about how much I love going to the library. Listen here.

    Drumroll…

    A book about happiness, good habits, or human nature:

    Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An outstanding children’s book:

    Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    An eccentric pick:

    American Gods by Neil Gaiman

    Buy from IndieBound; BN.com; Amazon.

     

    Some readers have said that they wished that I’d describe and make the case for my book choices, instead of just providing links. I’ve noticed that many times, when someone describes a book to me, I want to read it less. And often, weirdly, the better a book is, the worse it sounds.

    Nevertheless, because so many readers have requested it, I’ve decided to give a bit more context for these choices in the book-club newsletter. So if you’d like to know more about why I made these selections, check there. To get that free monthly book-club newsletter, and to make sure you don’ t miss any recommendations, sign up here.

    If you read last month’s recommendations…what did you think?

    The post Revealed! Three Terrific Books to Read in April. appeared first on Gretchen Rubin.

     
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