• alissaward

Lockdown Literature

While I may be wishing I was in the mountains, I’ve also found immense joy in reading lately. The past year has given me a lot of time to read, something I haven’t done much of for my own personal pleasure since probably my early high school days, which was almost 10 years ago… somehow? Anyways, I got sucked into the continuous cycle of reading only the books required for my classes, that I forgot how much I enjoy reading, so this year I’ve done just that. Now that we all have a little extra time on our hands I’ve reflected on the ones that really provoked thought or had principles that stuck with me. Most are of a business, motivation, or mindset nature just as a heads up. In no particular order, some of my favourite books so far include:

Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard 

In his long-awaited memoir, Yvon Chouinard – legendary climber, businessman, environmentalist, and founder of Patagonia, Inc.-shares the persistence and courage that have gone into being head of one of the most respected and environmentally responsible companies on earth. From his youth as the son of a French Canadian blacksmith to the thrilling, ambitious climbing expeditions that inspired his innovative designs for the sport’s equipment, Let My People Go Surfing is the story of a man who brought doing good and having grand adventures into the heart of his business life – a book that will deeply affect entrepreneurs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

This has been a company I have supported basically from my onset of getting into hiking. I’ve always supported companies that make and back quality gear and Patagonia does just that. As a Certified B Corporation they follow certain stands in relation to their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Learning more about the onset of the company and what values continue to drive this company, as an industry leader they set standards that many other large and small businesses can incorporate. 


Atomic Habits by James Clear

People think that when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world-renowned habits expert James Clear has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from the compound effect of hundreds of small decisions – doing two push-ups a day, waking up five minutes early, or holding a single short phone call. He calls them atomic habits.

This was a perfect read as I transitioned from my travels to life in one city, with a 9-5 job. It helped me set achievable habits that I now carry out each day to have an overall outcome that I always wanted, but could never get to before. 


Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Feeling trapped in successful but unfulfilling corporate careers, Joshua and Ryan worked long hours, wasted money, stayed in bad relationships and spiralled into depression. The everyday grind pushed them further into debt and discontent.After each undergoing a life-changing event, Joshua and Ryan walked away from their six-figure careers and discovered minimalism. Jettisoning most of their material possessions taught them that physical things can get in the way of the most important ‘things’ in life: their health, passions, growth, relationships and their contributions to the world around them.

Minimalism is a lifestyle I’ve been slowly starting to embrace, although I’m nowhere near considering myself a minimalist. Moving countries with only a few bags of possessions was the start of this lifestyle change. Living out of a car with a rooftop tent furthered this grandiose idea. Now I try to incorporate it further into my every day life and this book poses great questions to really get us thinking about what takes up space in our lives: physically, emotionally, mentally and how to adjust accordingly. 


How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie 

This book will help you solve one of the biggest problems you face: how to get along with and influence people in your daily business and social contacts. How to Win Friends & Influence People can help you achieve these important goals: Get out of a mental rut, think new thoughts, acquire new visions, discover new ambitions; Make friends easily and quickly; Increase your popularity; Win people to your way of thinking; Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done; Handle complaints, avoid arguments; Become a better speaker and more entertaining conversationalist.

Absolutely everyone should read this book. An easy read, broken down with plenty of examples, that truly does just as the title suggests. I’ll leave my review short and sweet and hopefully highly encourage you to pick up a copy. 


This is Day One by Drew Dudley 

If you’re intimidated by the mystique surrounding leadership, this book is for you. Dudley simplifies leadership without denying its complexity, demonstrating that leadership in all its forms begins at the same clear and accessible place for everyone: what he calls “Day One.” Day One is when you discover, define, and start to consistently deliver on your foundational leadership values.

I’ve been a personal fan of Drew Dudley ever since I saw him at a conference in my second-year of university. I was lucky enough to see him again a few years later, and have watched many of his other shorter speeches online since. This book was no less captivating than being in his presence and is truly inspiring to empower individuals to embrace being leaders in their every day life. 


Cradle to Cradle by Michael Braungart and William McDonough 

This book proposes a new vision for modern industry. Instead of our current wasteful and polluting methods of manufacturing, we could be taking nature as a model for making things. With the right redesign, objects that have come to the end of their useful lives should provide the basis for something new. In designing and producing products we need to stop worrying about being ‘less bad’ and start finding ways of actually being good.

Definitely a book that makes you rethink all of your buying habits. They delve into some great comparisons and discuss many the alternative possibilities that are out there surrounding what elements are used in products and their expected lifecycles. A great entry read if you’re looking to dabble in sustainability-related books, but unsure where to start. 


What I Was Doing While You Were Breading by Kristen Newman

Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s dealing with the stresses of her high-pressure job as a television comedy writer, and the anxieties of watching most of her friends get married and start families while she wrestled with her own fear of both. Not ready to settle down and yet loathe to become a sad-sack single girl, Kristin instead started traveling the world, often alone, for a few months each year, falling madly in love with attractive locals who provided moments of the love she wanted without the cost of the freedom she needed.

This book is absolutely iconic. She explores so many parts of the world in the early 2000’s before they were really known and the stories she lives to tell are beyond hilarious. By the end, I honestly felt like I knew the author as  a friend based on the details of her life that I now know. 


The Boy Who Followed his Father into Auschwitz by Jeremy Dronfield

Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann are father and son in an ordinary Austrian Jewish family when the Nazis come for them. Sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939 they survive three years of murderous brutality. Then Gustav is ordered to Auschwitz. Fritz, desperate not to lose his beloved father, insists he must go too. And though he is told it means certain death, he won’t back down. So it is that father and son together board a train bound for the most hellish place on Earth . . .This is the astonishing true story of horror, love and impossible survival.

I want to state that this is not a light read by any means. I read it over the course of four days because of how incapsulating it was, but on more than one occasion I had to put it down based on the vividness of what was told throughout this true story. I’ve always connected with recounting stories of the lives of those who went through these very, very different times. This story put a lot into perspective for me. 


Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author’s own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.

This book is devastating to say the least. From the beginning you know that not everyone survives this Mount Everest expedition. It details the various stages of reaching Everest Base Camp, the altitude training they partake to progress to the summit, and leaves many questions unanswered as to what truly happened on this catastrophic day that resulted in the lost lives of many. 


I found each of the above books to be inspiring in their own unique way, each having practical takeaways that I could apply to my life and see real progress, which is something I define as important in a book. I’ve listed some more below that I also read this past year and enjoyed, but will save the full overviews and just give my opinions.

Others books to Consider

Start With Why by Simon Sinek 

This had a lot of hype around it, but I honestly didn’t enjoy it all that much. The book was incredibly repetitive and had more grammatical errors than I can count, which is something that really irks me while I’m trying to read for pleasure. The overall concept is great, but his Ted Talk is a much more efficient use of your time to get the same information. 


The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Again another book that had a lot of hype, and I’m glad I read it once to see what it was about, but I would not reread it. There were no real tangible takeaways for me, although thought-provoking at times.


Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson

I enjoyed this one much more than Mark Manson’s first book, as it explained the psychology behind a lot of the catastrophic life events that have happened in history.  I have always enjoyed the social sciences and this background was something I enjoyed. This book definitely puts into perspective the “first world problems” we experience, yet how everything is relative. Again I’m glad I read it once.


Mindset by Carol Dweck

This book was so dry, it just really was not for me. It was another very repetitive book with more jargon than probably necessary to get the relatively simple message across. 


The Customer Loyalty Loop by Noah Fleming 

A great book for anyone in the business world. It essentially outlines thow he cost of gaining new customers is far greater than continuing to have acquire a repeat customer. It outlines the importance of  focusing your time and energy on those who already know about your company/ business/ brand rather than doing extensive research to continuing find new business. 


The Messy Middle by Scott Belsky 

Although long, this was a pretty enjoyable read. It detailed his transition from a small tech-based start-up to having his company purchased by a big-time player in the corporate world and the trials and tribulations he and his team went through. 


Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham 

Another easy read, filled with humour while detailing the stages of life. She’s self-deprecating as she recounts her experiences of navigating the different relationships in her life. 


Each of these books I have purchased new, but have then lent to friends to read many times over and then if it is one I don’t think I’ll want too reread, I place them in various “free libraries” around my city. You know the little cute, brightly-painted ones that resemble little houses in neighbourhoods and outside of businesses? Yeah, those ones. If you can, see if your local library will stock these to lessen the cost of reading, or do a book swap with friends, and of course check your local thrift stores (op shops as they’re called here).

Take care and enjoy some reading if you can!

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