The 2019 Personal Growth Read-a-Long
Happy New Year, friends! I hope your 2019 is off to a wonderful start. I've been taking slower holiday season as an opportunity to make all the plans for this year, enjoy some gorgeous walks with my husband and daughter, and complete a few works-in-progress of my new favourite hobby: knitting! (seriously, so therapeutic and satisfying).
The last two years, I've shared reading challenges based on general interest and personal growth (I also shared my favourite books from 2018 in last week's post). This year, I thought I’d do something different to clear the backlog of books I have on my “to read” list that I keep meaning to read (and want to read!) but haven't yet made time to do so.
Here’s what I’m thinking: it could be even more fun and interesting to do this together! I’m planning to share share my progress and thoughts about each book on Instagram as I go, so if you’d like to join me you can do so here. Below, I’m sharing the books I’ve chosen for each month, but I’m sure you have your own list of titles that have been languishing on your to-read list for ages too, so feel free to substitute your own choices!
To prevent this read-a-long becoming overwhelming, I’m aiming to chow down on one book a month. I read much more than this, but I’ve found with personal growth books that time to digest is good. Some of the books I’m tackling are fairly meaty topics so I want to give myself space to spend the time on them that they deserve without feeling crunched to get to the finish line. As you’ll see, some months I’ve added two choices as I’m not sure which one I want to go for yet. If I’m feeling optimistic, I’ll aim for both :)
Without further ado, here are my must-read/will-read personal growth books for 2019:
January: The Power of Self-Kindness // From Coping to Thriving by... Me
OK, so this is a cheat entry: I have read these books before, just a few times ;). I include them here because one of my intentions for this year is to start making my books more accessible and inclusive by creating large print and workbook versions. This is one of those important-but-not-urgent tasks that I pushed down my to-do list for most of last year, so in January, I’m going to start by re-reading and reviewing these books to figure out the best way to make these versions happen.
(N.B. If you’ve already read these, may I also suggest this is the perfect time of year to begin The Year of You: 365 Journal-Writing Prompts for Creative Self-Discovery :)
February: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
As unscientific as most of them are, I love me a good personality test (<- INFJ). The last couple of years, I've seen a lot of people talk positively about the Four Tendencies so this month I plan to investigate them further. Have you read the book or taken the test? I'd love to hear which tendency you are!
March: The End of Self-Help by Gail Brenner
Honestly, I’m not sure I’m going to love this book (the description makes me wonder whether it’s going to be another personal growth publication of the spiritual-bypassing ilk) but the title makes me curious. As a self-help (or shelf-help ;) writer, I’m interested to get the author’s take on the self-help movement and what she suggests as an alternative.
April: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I have heard this book recommended so many times and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, partly because let’s face it: death is a bummer. But I think there is something incredibly powerful about reading words written by someone who knows they are at the end of their life and the perspective that brings. I’m planning to use this as a memento mori and a reminder of what’s most important in life.
May: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van der Kolk
This is another book that has been on my reading list since forever. And this is the year I will finally read it (yes, I will!). I have avoided it so far as the topic (how our bodies store trauma and alternative ways of healing from trauma that don’t involve drugs) feels quite heavy and like it could make for uncomfortable reading. Frankly, that’s a terrible reason not to read it as the heaviest/most uncomfortable topics often end up being the most important and impactful. Since I became a mother, I’ve been thinking a lot about how trauma can be passed down through generations and my own responsibility to limit this as much as I can, so this feels like the right time.
June: Positivity by Barbara Frederickson
I thought it would be good to counter-balance May’s meaty topic with some positive psychology this month. While I didn’t love the couple of books I read by Martin Seligman, I got a lot of value from The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, so I’m interested to check out Barbara Frederickson’s work and hopefully give this over-thinker a refresher on the importance of optimism.
July: The Gift by Lewis Hyde
While I’m not sure if this technically counts as a personal growth book per se, it’s interesting to consider how we view the relationship between creativity and commercialism, and how this impacts how we perceive our own creations and our identity as a creative person. Having coached dozens of writers and artists over the past 18 months through Coach.me, I’ve been thinking a lot about the marrying of creativity and commercialism, so I’ve chosen this book for July to hopefully broaden my perspective.
August: The Secret Life of Pronouns // Opening Up by Writing It Down by James Pennebaker
James Pennebaker is one of the leading researchers and authors in the field of journaling and while I’ve heard a lot about his research through second-hand sources and reading online papers, I’m embarrassed to say I have yet to actually read any of his books. It’s definitely time to correct this! Having enjoyed studying a bit of language and linguistics at university, The Secret Life of Pronouns book seems like a fascinating insight into the power of words and an opportunity to geek out about one of my favourite topics, while I'm hoping Opening Up by Writing It Down will give me some additional tools to add to my journaling toolbox.
September: Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert A. Johnson
This is another book I’ve wanted to read for a long time but have also avoided because it has felt rather heavy. The shadow is a topic that fascinates me and, as I wrote about in The Power of Self-Kindness, is something that can have a huge influence on our lives whether or not we acknowledge its existence.
October: Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner
I’m drawn to this book because it’s not positive psychology per se, but it is an in-depth look at all the positive emotions that make us human. Based on the description and reviews, it might not contain as many personal takeaways as some of the other books on this list, but it sounds like a feel-good read that should be interesting and informative.
November: The Dance of Anger // The Dance of Fear by Harriet Lerner
I’ve heard so many good things about Harriet Lerner’s books and November will be the month I tackle at least one of the two that have been on my reading list the longest (although The Mother Dance also feels very relevant!) The Dance of Fear is all about dealing with feelings of anxiety, fear and shame in our lives, while The Dance of Anger is about developing a healthy relationship with anger.
December: The Art of Comforting by Val Walker
There have been so many instances where someone I know has been dealing with pain or grief and I’ve felt tongue-tied, clumsy, or even not said anything at all for fear of saying the wrong thing. I enjoyed reading There Is No Good Card for This a couple of years ago, and I’m hoping this book will also be a good primer on how to overcome a fear of saying the wrong thing to connect with someone during difficult times and meet them where they are.If I have time, I will also try to squeeze in: Why Do I Do That? by Joseph Burgo (a psychotherapist’s exploration of defence mechanisms and the ways in which they impact our lives) and On Death and Dying by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (a psychological study of the effect imminent death has on patients, practitioners, families and all involved).
So that’s my reading list for this year. Care to join me? Want to do your own monthly read-a-long with a different selection of books? As a quick reminder, I plan to share my progress on Instagram, so head on over to share your read-a-long commitment with me, and let’s get reading :)