You Are What You Read

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A woman on the couch reading. You know the saying, “You’re like the five people you spend the most time with.” I like to think that applies to all kinds of influences – not just people, but situations, settings and the information you take in. You are, or you become like the five books you read – except it’s not limited to five. And you don’t necessarily become them, but they seep into you, impact your thoughts and beliefs, and feed your mind and soul. They shape you in some way or another. 

I was planning to share my top five books from 2021, but it turned into eight, and even that required a lot of restraint. I could talk about all of the books I read this year (I think there were 22 in total), what I got from them, and why I loved them. For the most part, I love all the books I read and finish. I’ve long since abandoned the idea that if I start a book I have to finish it. Committing to a book is a big deal, and I can’t ruin the experience by reading something I don’t love, so if I’m not feeling it, I’ll move on. The one caveat is if there’s a topic or counterargument I’m trying to learn about, I’ll stick with it for the sake of learning and understanding, but that’s it. 

Anyway, I digress. I read, almost exclusively, nonfiction books. I’m drawn into the real-life experiences and wisdom of the author and love the ability to see them as whole people, following them on social media and getting a deeper look inside their worlds. 

My top 8 from 2021 (in no particular order):

1. The Beauty of What Remains by Rabbi Steve Leder. A friend recommended this book on her podcast, and I had no idea what it was about. I think it was one of the first books I read in 2021 and I’ve recommended it countless times. It’s about death, sort of… but really it’s about life and living. It’s so beautiful and moving. 

2. Professional Troublemaker by Luvvi Ajayi Jones. I listened to this book and it made it a different kind of experience. Luvvi’s personality shines through in her voice, and listening to her read felt like your best friend was giving you a life lesson. 

3. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks. If you’re wondering, “what am I supposed to do with my life,” THIS is the book to sort through all of those big, bold questions and help you gain so much clarity about what you actually want out of life.

4. Cultish by Amanda Montell. The author is a linguist and cult expert who explores the world of cults and those that exist adjacently. I read this book in a single day on the beach over the summer and it has sparked some really interesting research and conversations. If I was ranking the books, I think this would be #2 behind The Beauty of What Remains.

5. The Weight of Air by David Poses. Having just passed by my fourth anniversary of sobriety, I’ve read a lot of recovery and addiction memoirs, which are amongst my favorites. It is heartbreaking and so honest and real. Beautifully written and so deeply moving.

6. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. I am a little obsessed with Brené and everything she says and writes. This was one of my favorites of hers, and I also just started her newest book Atlas of the Heart. Her books are universal and I think make us better people.

7. Boundary Boss by Terri Cole. This book is filled with real life examples of how often, and in how many different ways, we violate our boundaries and sacrifice who we are. Terri gives so many examples of how to move through this and practical application to scenarios we all navigate through. 

8. The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner. This is why I didn’t rank the books because this one would be tied for my favorite book of the year! Diet culture in this country is completely out of control and wreaking havoc on many of us. If your new year resolution involves some new diet or weight loss program, I would highly recommend reading this book first. And definitely follow Caroline on Instagram. And also pre-order her second book!

So, those are the voices influencing me over the past year. I often listen to the audio version first and then buy the hard copy of books I really love. I’m especially a fan of books read by the author, it feels like such a different experience. I’ve also been know to pull over when driving to take notes on something or to take a screen shot of a specific moment in the audio so I can go back to and re-listen to a section. I like my reading to be interactive.

I have a stack of books in my office that I’m planning for 2022. My goal is 30 books, and I have my first five already lined up.

What are your faves from last year, and what’s currently on your to-read list?

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Lauren Schwarzfeld was born and raised in Yorktown, and aside from college in Boston and a few months living in New York City, she has spent her entire life in Westchester. She has lived in Mt Kisco with her husband Karl since 2006, where they have three kids, Mia (2008), Jacob (2009), Abigail (2012), and two dogs, Edna (a four-year-old beagle) and Felix (a one-year-old pitbull-lab mix). Lauren is a writer, coach, and leader in community engagement. She helps women rediscover their strengths, passion, and confidence to reclaim their spot in their life and step outside the box of perceived expectations. Her goal is for women to create a future that is authentically and unapologetically their own. As the Chief Operating Officer at (914) Cares, a local non-profit, she combines her business background with a passion for volunteer work and desire to care for the community around her. Connect with Lauren on Facebook or through her website!