Book Recommendations and a Public Service Announcement

Dear P,

I miss you already. I can’t wait to hear about your adventures in San Francisco. To combat my P withdrawals, I’m drinking tea with whipped cream on top. I put the whipped cream on the tea. It gets an earl gray flavor and I sip it out of the top. And then I put more whipped cream in my tea.

I would like to write about two things in this post: books and a common health issue. Yesterday, I went an exercise class with my mom and my mom’s friend PA was there.  PA is a very cool person-she has a law degree, children, and likes Downtown Abbey and horses- AND she reads my book recommendations. She is the first person I have ever met who reads our blog without being a close friend or family member of either of us. In honor of her, I’m writing out a top-ten book list from 2013, in no particular order:

1. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed- If you’re looking for a beautiful and emotionally exhausting book about how to embrace all the messy parts of life, this is your pick. Cheryl Strayed is a genius at the essay format she wrote her advice column in. I am less crazy about her memoir, Wild. If you don’t want to buy Tiny Beautiful Things, you can read the Dear Sugar column here.

2. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki- This book will change the way you think about money. It is the best business book I have ever read (close second is The World is Flat). Another good business book is Maximize Your Potential, edited by Joceyln K. Glei. It’s a series of essays by CEOs and other people maximizing out their potential. I also loved Choose Yourself because, of course, I have a crush on James Altucher. He sent me an email once.

3. The Diaries of Anias Nin, Volume 1– I read this book during the summer and it put me into this weird haze in which everything I said seemed significant and strangely sensual. Read at your own risk. This book would be good to listen to on tape; the prose is like poetry.

4. Bossypants by Tina Fey- I listened to this book while I was training for my marathon, and several people in Austin think I am insane because they saw me laughing while running. But I don’t care, because I believe in the Tina Fey sect of feminism: “Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

5. The House of God by Samuel Shem- This book is like Catch-22 except the setting is a hospital instead of a military base. Read this book if you ever plan on dying. It’s important to consider these things from the doctor’s point of view.

6. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott- I have read a couple of high-quality books about writing this year: On Writing by Steven King and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, both of which I highly recommend. Bird by Bird touched me in a way the other two didn’t, though. If you don’t feel like reading the Natalie Goldberg book, the most useful tip I got from it was to set your timer for twenty, thirty, fifty or more minutes every day and just write everything that comes to your brain. You are supposed to use ugly spiral notebooks and Goldberg fills up one a month. I have been able to go more deeply into my thoughts in my writing since I started this practice. Now you don’t have to read the Goldberg book and you can focus on the Lamott and King (sorry, Natalie Goldberg).

7. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin– Ben Franklin is not only one of the founding fathers of our country, he is one of the founding fathers of the self-help genre. His autobiography details how he lived the “American Dream” (John Green refutes some of his claims here) and is riddled with productivity and self-improvement tips that are as relevant today as they were in 18th-century Philadelphia.

8. One Summer: America, 1927 by Bill Bryson- Many of my life goals revolve around how I can be more like Bill Bryson. My favorite book by him is still A Short History of Nearly Everything, which I gave to JFV on his birthday, but One Summer is a close second. I imagine 1927 as America’s senior year of high school: it was getting good at the stage it was in, was top in most things, and suffered a crippling reality check soon after. Bryson chronicles this summer of flight, fights, and theaters while capturing the era of hopefulness that overcame out country. This book is a pretty long read: consider yourself warned. It’s an accomplishment to finish it.

9. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid- I like books that push the boundaries of style and genre, like Italo Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler and Truman Capote’s In Cold BloodHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a novel posing as a self-help book. It sounds like it might be gimmicky but every word seems right.

10. Love 2.0 by Barbara Frederickson- There is a certain weirdness about the kind of romantic love that modern America has embraced-the kind that plays on our radios, is written in our novels, and is transferred through our Disney movies- and this book cleared up all the nigglings I’ve always had about love but never been able to articulate. Many women (think Bridget Jones) are gripped by the desperation-inducing belief that they will only feel complete when they fall in love with the man of their dreams and live happily ever after. This book’s thesis is that love is created every day in interactions between family, friends, and strangers. Frederickson shares therapies that help foster this kind of love and use it to make your life richer and more enjoyable.

This beautiful list of books shows what a beautiful year I had in 2013. I hope these books see you through equally full and exquisite times in your life.

Now for my public service announcement. Over the break, I discovered that I had lower-than-average blood pressure. Not cripplingly low, but low enough so that if I exercise in the morning I feel strangely exhausted at points in the rest of the day (usually when I’m lying down). This problem is easily remedied with a V8 and lots of water. I’m pretty sure the V8 brings more sodium into your blood stream, which causes it to be hypertonic and suck in as much water as possible. I have verified this theory only anecdotally and haven’t asked any scientists about this. However, since I’ve started doing this, I have felt much better. After I exercise, I drink two glasses of water, a V8, and then two more glasses of water. Yesterday I didn’t even feel like I was going to pass out in the bathtub after my run. I think many people have this easily-fixed problem without knowing it. More emphasis is put on having high blood pressure because it puts you at risk for a heart attack and there’s a booming market for statins and other blood-pressure-lowering medications.

P, I am so glad you are safely in San Francisco and I can’t wait to hear about your forays into the fashion industry. Keep in touch ❤

Much love,



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