Every now and then, I think about changing my blog and featuring completely different topics.
There are so many pieces and people that make up my life, and most of them aren’t present in my blog posts – they are alluded to, masqueraded, out of sight. Every time I have thought about reviewing a book, or writing a blog post about a friend’s accomplishment, or sharing about my vacations … the energy has felt funky.
But soon I will be publishing my first book, and I’m realizing how important it is for authors to have word-of-mouth recommendations. I’m realizing that if I read an incredible book and don’t tell anyone about it, I’m doing a disservice to the author… but more importantly, I’m also doing a disservice to the readers whose lives might be changed by that book if only they knew about it. If I don’t ever talk about great books, how can I expect people to talk about mine when it comes out?
Enter my friend Lee.
I’m pretty sure I met Lee at 9-something PM on a weeknight in 2011 in the glaringly-lit parking garage of our college. Her and I and a few dozen other students stuffed our backpacks into the trunks of rental cars, drove through the night from Chicago to Washington DC, slept in the basement of a friend-of-a-friend in Maryland, and participated in a giant national environmental conference and protest.
We laughed. We became friends. We saw Al Gore speak. We were instructed on how not to sound stupid if Fox News interviewed us. It was all very glamorous as far as environmental sustainability goes.
Flash forward to the present moment: Lee works in book publicity, and she told me about a nonfiction book called Calm: Calm the Mind, Change the World that seemed up my alley. The perk of being a blogger is that I got a free review copy of the book from the publisher, with no strings attached of what kind of review to write – I am free to say whatever I want about it. All opinions can remain sacredly, preciously my own.
So I read the book. And I really enjoyed it.
Calm is somewhere between a self-help book, a coffee table book, and a pre-filled-out journaling book like Wreck This Journal. It’s perfect for people with short attention spans: each page is designed uniquely as its own work of art, and when you flip the page it’s an entirely different topic and art scheme. Because of this setup, readers can read the book in whatever order we want.
The author ( Michael Acton Smith, who has amusingly been described as “a rock star version of Willie Wonka”) doesn’t wade into heady self-indulgence – the book feels like a beautiful scrapbook mish-mosh of pleasant introspection, bullet-pointed lists, poetry, and incredible graphics. Some pages just have a poem or a few words of inspiration on them. Other pages are more interactive, and I imagine the adult coloring book aficionados will appreciate those. Other pages include succinct lists of creative suggestions to get more sleep, take more breaks, connect with nature, and so on.
I believe that every single person could use a little more mindfulness in their day – whether it relates to our negative self-talk, our relationships, our addictions, our procrastination, or any other static mindfuzz that keeps us from fully showing up as who we are.
My favorite part about this book is that every mindfulness technique is presented in an accessible way. You don’t have to be a meditation master to enjoy this book. You don’t have to believe in a higher power. You don’t have to like self-help books. You can open this book, flip through a few pages on your bus ride, and gain some slivers of hope and inspiration to carry you along for the next few hours. And in our more complicated moments, that in itself can be a tremendous, life-affirming gift.
I will never turn this website into a giant string of book reviews. I will always, always stay rooted in my stories of stuckness and empowerment and light. But when someone sends me a really cool piece of art with the opportunity to share it with the world, how can I turn it down? When other authors try to set the world on fire, how can I keep their efforts all to myself?
Peace, Serenity, and Cozy Happy Reading,
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