8 of My Favorite Long Books

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Last week I was listening to episode 173 of What Should I Read Next, my favorite bookish podcast. The guest in this episode was talking about how she enjoys long books and wants to read more of them. While listening to this episode, I realized that I don’t read long books nearly as often as I do short books. (I define long as being over 450 pages.) As much as I love reading, sometimes I’m intimidated by long books, though I’m not sure why. To remind myself that I shouldn’t pass over long books, I’m sharing eight of my favorite lengthy reads today.

1Q84 book cover

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami; translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel
925 pages

1Q84 might be the longest book I’ve ever read, but it never feels long. (It was published as three different volumes in Japan, but I read all three in one hardcover edition.) This novel is weird, suspenseful, a little creepy, and wholly original, but never dull. It’s about a woman named Aomame who happens to be an assassin and a man named Tengo who teaches math and is working as a ghostwriter. Aomame realizes she’s living in a parallel reality which she doesn’t understand. Tengo is becoming so involved in his ghostwriting project that his dull life starts to seem anything but ordinary. Murakami converges these two narratives in a way that makes total sense for the world he has constructed. This novel is hard to explain, but know it’s a phenomenal accomplishment by one of my favorite writers.

Anna Karenina book cover

Anna Karanina by Leo Tolstoy; translated by Richard Pevear
and Larissa Volokhonsky

838 pages

Do you ever pick up a book and expect to put it back down shortly after that? That’s the way I approached Anna Karenina. I was intrigued enough to begin the novel, but finishing it seemed like a huge challenge. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Reading this translation of Tolstoy’s classic was a delight, not a problem. Anna is a complex character who chases her passion, even though it leads to her downfall. Who among us can’t relate to that? If you’re intimidated by this novel like I was, try this particular translation, and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

The Goldfinch book cover

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
771 pages

The good news about Donna Tartt is that she’s a gifted, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The bad news is that she’s only published a book every ten years, so there’s a lot of waiting and expectation associated with her work. Thankfully, The Goldfinch was worth the wait and surpassed all of my expectations. It’s about a boy named Theo who loses his mom in a tragic accident. He clings to her memory by holding on to a small painting of a goldfinch. This painting and his connection to the art world ends up shaping the course of his life in extraordinary ways.

A Little Life book cover

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
720 pages

A Little Life has haunted me from the moment I finished it. It’s a story about four male friends in New York City, though the focus is mostly on Jude, a wounded man both emotionally and physically. Yanagihara follows these four men throughout several decades. We see them advance in their careers, fall in love, get hurt, and come face to face with their secrets. A Little Life is a heartbreaking book, and Jude’s story is especially brutal. This book isn’t for sensitive readers or those who are triggered by references to abuse, but if you like beautifully told stories that will stay with you long after you read the last page, pick up this novel ASAP.

The Habit of Being book cover

The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor
edited by Sally Fitzgerald
640 pages

Flannery O’Connor is one of my most beloved writers. She’s funny, thoughtful, challenging, and smart. Her fiction has a voice that’s undeniably hers, and her nonfiction is full of intelligent thoughts about God, the writing life, and how to do creative work. This collection of her letters combines all of the things I love about her work. I know an extended selection of correspondence might not sound too exciting, but I read each page of this book and loved every minute. Die-hard O’Connor fans will appreciate The Habit of Being for being such an enjoyable and charming book that reveals what life was like behind the scenes of O’Connor’s success and battle with lupus.

The Nix book cover

The Nix by Nathan Hill
640 pages

Samuel Anderson is coasting through life. He wants to be a great writer, but instead, he’s a mediocre college professor who spends his evenings playing video games. One day he sees the mother who abandoned him as a child show up on the news for throwing rocks at a political candidate. Samuel owes his publisher a book, so he decides to track down his mom and write her life story in an attempt to show her true colors. As Samuel gets to work, readers are taken through the latter half of the twentieth century as his mother tells her story. There is so much happening in this novel, yet Nathan Hill never lets it get away from him. It’s an epic book, and it still astounds me that The Nix is Hill’s debut. I want everyone to read this book and love it as much as I do. (The audiobook narration is outstanding, by the way.)

Night Film book cover

Night Film by Marisha Pessl
592 pages

Journalist Scott McGrath hears about the suicide of Ashley Cordova, the twenty-something daughter of Stanislaus Cordova, the iconic and reclusive horror filmmaker, and feels something’s not quite right. He immediately suspects that Ashley’s death wasn’t a suicide. McGrath has been interested in Cordova for a long time, but his attempts to chase the truth about the mysterious man and his life have never ended well. Still, Scott’s curiosity gets the best of him and he, along with two unequipped strangers, start looking for the truth. Throughout the novel are photos, newspaper articles, website screenshots, and other visual elements that make this story even creepier than it already was. If you’re a mystery and thriller fan, this is a must-read. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

Middlesex book cover

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
529 pages

Like several of the books on this list, Middlesex tells an epic story. At the center is Cal who was born as Calliope Stephanides, a girl growing up in Michigan during the 1960s and ’70s. Readers learn a secret about Cal and trace generations of her family to better understand her story and history. This novel is utterly unforgettable and deserves its Pulitzer Prize.


What are you favorite long reads? What books would you recommend I pick up next? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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6 Essentials for a Cozy Reading Day

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At the beginning of February, I thought, “I’m fortunate. This winter has been so mild. There’s hardly been any snow at all.” And then it proceeded to snow a foot in a couple of days. I had a day off from work thanks to a snow day, and I spent most of it curled up in my sweats with a blanket and book. Nothing makes me want to stay indoors as much as snow does, so I thought it would be fun to share my essentials for a cozy reading day so that you too might be inspired to hunker down in your home while remaining motionless for several hours. I highly recommend it.

Girl in sweater reading

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Essential #1: Comfortable clothes

Some people stay in their regular clothes until bedtime. I do not understand these people. Who can genuinely lounge around the house in jeans? Who can be entirely comfortable in a skirt or button-down shirt? The first essential item for any cozy reading day is comfortable clothes. Put on those sweats and be proud. Throw on those leggings and relax. So what if your favorite college t-shirt has a few holes? Whatever you wear, make it soft and comfortable.

Vintage chair, ottoman, and piano in the background

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Essential #2: A comfortable reading location

Now that you’re wearing your most stylish comfortable clothes, you need even more comfort in the form of a good reading location. My favorite reading spot is my navy blue wingback chair and brightly-printed ottoman. Couches work just fine, too. If you’re genuinely embracing the lazy part of a lazy day, stay in bed.

A woman holding three folded blankets

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Essential #3: A warm blanket

I am a productive adult, and I have a blankie. In fact, I have several blankies. And yes, I call them blankies because I’m young at heart and I can. You too need a blankie. (Unless you live in Miami or somewhere comparably toasty.) My blankie is essential because no matter how comfortable my clothes and location might be, they’re enhanced by the blankie. Not only does the blankie offer extra warmth but it also provides another layer of softness. Who doesn’t want that?

An iced coffee in a glass

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Essential #4: A beverage

The entire planet could be glazed over in a layer of ice, and I’d still reach for an iced coffee. I saw a meme the other day that referred to iced coffee as the most important meal of the day, and it spoke truth to my spirit. You don’t have to drink an iced coffee, but you do need a beverage. One of the goals of a cozy reading day is to avoid movement as much as possible, so being sure you’ve got your drink prepared before you assume your position underneath your blankie is vital. Hydration is essential, and so are taste buds.

A red book with glasses sitting on the top placed on white bedsheets

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Essential #5: Silence

When I want the coziest of cozy reading days, silence is a must. I don’t want TV on in the background, and there can be no music. If I hear anyone making commotion outside, I find myself wondering why they don’t care about me and my needs. Is this high maintenance of me? Yes. But the heart wants what it wants, and mine wants silence.

Open book pages

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Essential #6: The right book

Perhaps the most vital aspect of a cozy reading day is the reading part. For that, you need the right book. The right book is not the book you’re forcing yourself to read for book club. It’s not the book you got for Christmas five years ago and feel guilty about not having read yet. The right book for a cozy reading day is one you’re excited about and can’t put down. For me, that’s a mystery, thriller, or engaging literary fiction. Find the right book for you and get to work. And by that I mean don’t work at all.


So what are your essentials for a cozy reading day? I’d love to hear them!


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Book Options for the Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge

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I love reading, but I don’t love feeling as if I have to read something. I enjoyed many of the books I was assigned in college, yet didn’t always like having to stick to a syllabus. That’s why I’ve never participated in any online reading challenges. I don’t want reading to feel like homework.

One of my favorite book blogs is Modern Mrs. Darcy. I was looking at her 2019 reading challenge and realized this one actually excites me. At only 10 categories, it’s not too long, and there are plenty of options for every requirement so I won’t feel pressured to read specific things.

Today I’m sharing some possible reads for each category. Who knows if I’ll stick to this list, but at least I’ll have a plan. (And I love plans.) Maybe these books will inspire you if you’re doing the challenge, too.

1. A book you’ve been meaning
to read

This list could be ridiculously long since I have so many unread books on my shelves. (One of my 2019 reading goals is to lower that number.) For this task, I’m choosing a book that I’ve owned for at least a year. These are the ones I’m most excited to read right now:

2. A book about a topic that fascinates you

I’m fascinated by a lot of things, but my primary interests right now include:

3. A book in the backlist of a favorite author

Sometimes when I really love an author, I’ll hesitate to read everything they’ve written because I want to know there’s still a book out there by them I haven’t read yet. (Especially when there are many, many years between new releases, DONNA.) Is that weird? Maybe. Probably.

4. A book recommended by someone with great taste

Some friends have recommended:

5. Three books by the same author

I’d love to read more from Baldwin and French, and I haven’t read Ferrante at all.

6. A book you chose for the cover

I’m a sucker for a pretty book cover. These are the most recent ones that have caught my eye:

7. A book by an author who is
new to you

Thanks to some Christmas gift cards, I just bought a few books by authors I’ve yet to read, including:

8. A book in translation

I was happy to see this category on the list since reading more translated books was already one of my reading goals this year. At the top of my list are:

9. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone

This category is going to stretch me more than any of the others because I tend to read a bit narrowly when it comes to fiction. I mostly stick to literary fiction, thrillers, and mysteries. Here are some titles that are definitely outside my comfort zone, but intrigue me nonetheless:

10. A book published before you were born

I’m hoping this category will inspire me to pick up a few of the classics that have been sitting on my shelves for too long, such as:


So those are my ideas so far. If you have any suggestions to add, please let me know. I’m always up for book recommendations.


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15 Books I’m Excited to Read This Year

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The Millions is one of my favorite bookish websites, and twice a year they release a list of books that will be coming out within the next few months. The first list of 2019 was posted yesterday and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I always get fantastic recommendations from these lists, and this year is no exception.

Today I’m sharing the books I’m most excited to read in the upcoming months. I certainly don’t need any more titles to add to my ever-growing TBR, but how can I resist stories like these? (And the pretty covers. I love a pretty cover.)

Book cover for Hark

Hark by Sam Lipsyte

I don’t tend to read much satire, but this book about a reluctant mindfulness guru named Hank sounds intriguing enough to make me start. I’m always on the lookout for well-written, funny books.

The Far Field book cover

The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

This novel tells the story of an Indian woman named Shalini whose mother is dead. Wrestling with her emotions and full of questions, Shalini decides to visit a remote village to find a man from her childhood who she believes might know something about her mother. This was my Book of the Month selection last month, so I have no excuse not to read this one since it’s already on my shelf.

Mothers: stories book cover

Mothers: Stories by Chris Power

Mothers is a collection of 10 stories about people at a crossroads. These stories are set in locations all over the world. Kirkus notes this collection is “populated by travelers of many kinds.” I enjoy short stories and armchair travel, so I’m excited about this release.

The Source of Self-Regard book cover

The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

I’ve read five of Morrison’s novels, but none of her nonfiction work. Her voice is one of a kind, so I’m sure this book will be worth my time.

Bowlaway book cover

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

Bertha Truitt appears in New England one day in a cemetery. No one knows who she is or how she got there. She ends up settling down and opening a candlepin bowling alley, which serves as the link between generations of her family. With a concept this original, Bowlaway is toward the top of my to-read list.

The Heavens book cover

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

The Millions mentioned the words “alternate universe” when describing this inventive novel that plays with time and location. As a realistic fiction lover, I almost tuned out because of that description, but this story about a woman who lives seemingly real, full lives in her dreams sounds too good to miss.

The Cassandra book cover

The Cassandra by Sharma Shields

In this novel, Shields reinvents the Greek myth of Cassandra. Mildred Groves works for the Hanford nuclear facility during World War II and has visions of the terrible outcomes plutonium could cause. I thoroughly enjoyed Shields’s first two books, Favorite Monster, and The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, so I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while now.

Nothing but the night book cover

Nothing But the Night by John Williams

All I needed to know about this book is that it’s written by John Williams, who penned one of my favorite novels of all time, Stoner. This book, his first, will be reissued by New York Review Books soon. It’s a novella-length book tells the story of a complicated father-son relationship.

The new me book cover

The New Me by Halle Butler

This is another piece of satire about a 30-year-old woman who feels trapped in her unsatisfying life. Goodreads says this book is “darkly hilarious.” I’m here for that.

Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike

This is a collection of 12 stories about women and motherhood, including topics such as infertility, single parenthood, postpartum depression, and uncertainty after giving birth. I love the idea of such a life-changing topic being discussed through various lenses.

A woman is no man book cover

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum

This novel is the story of arranged marriage and female agency. An eighteen-year-old named Deya is living in Brooklyn with her grandparents when they start trying to find her a husband. As Deya struggles with being forced to marry, she learns surprising truths about her parents and past. I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

Women Talking book cover

Women Talking by Miriam Toews

Based on harrowing true events, Women Talking is about a group of Mennonite women who conduct a secret meeting to discuss what to do in the wake of their assaults. They grapple with whether to stay or leave their community while the men are away. I heard about this book a couple of months ago and can’t wait to read it.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek centers around a courtroom drama about deaths caused by the Miracle Submarine, a piece of technology that provides medical treatment to help people with autism, among other things. Goodreads says this book is “an addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng,” who happen to be two of my favorite novelists. This sounds so good.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

I keep seeing this book pop up on Instagram, where I’ve heard nothing but praise. Normal People is about Connell and Marianne, completely different people who have a strong connection throughout many years. This book releases in the US in August but has already been published in the UK. I don’t want to wait until August, so I’m happy to see that Book Depository has copies to buy now.

A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie

I’m a sucker for stories about boarding schools and/or teachers, so this novel about a boarding school student and his influential teacher is right up my alley.


What 2019 releases have you excited? Do you want to read any of the books I mentioned?


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9 Books to Motivate You in 2019

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I’m always a bit sad to see the holiday season come to an end, but I look forward to the possibility of a new year. January 1st feels like a fresh start, a clean slate. Change can happen anytime, of course, but there’s something about a new year that makes me feel extra hopeful and eager to make changes.

Today I’m sharing 9 books that have motivated me in different ways. If you too are excited about acquiring new habits and letting go of some old ones keep on reading. 

IF YOU WANT TO CULTIVATE NEW HABITS, READ THIS:

Book cover for The Power of Habit

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg

This book contains a lot of research and information, but Duhigg presents much of it through stories, so it’s never dull. Readers learn how habits helped Tony Dungy lead his NFL team to the Super Bowl and how habits helped a woman stop gambling. Habits impact everything from our diets to our routines, our relationships to our safety. Building a new habit sounds simple enough, yet we all know how difficult it can be. I learned a lot from this book and think of it as essential reading if you feel stuck and defeated by the failed habits of your past. 

IF YOU WANT TO FINALLY DO THAT THING
YOU’VE MEAN MEANING TO DO, READ THIS:

Book cover for Finish

Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff

Like many people, I’m great at starting things. But finishing what I start? That’s another story. If you too are a chronic quitter, read this book. Jon Acuff encourages people to complete their goals with doable steps and helpful advice. One of the things that stood out to me in Finish is Acuff’s advice to cut your goals in half. I tend to dream big, so being able to focus on smaller goals has helped me many times. This book is only around 200 pages, but there’s a lot of wisdom in it. 

IF YOU WANT TO CUT BACK ON YOUR PURCHASES
AND GIVE YOUR CREDIT CARD A BREAK, READ THIS:

Book cover for The Year of Less

The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store by Cait Flanders

I have a sweatshirt I wear around the house that reads, “Shopping is my cardio.” The mall has felt like a second home since I was a child. I consider T. J. Maxx a close friend and have a deep, everlasting love for Nordstrom. As I’ve worked on decluttering and minimizing over the past few years, I knew my shopping habits had to change. They have, and that’s partially due to books like this one. I’ve never cut out shopping completely or gave as much away as Flanders does, but this book is still worth reading even if you don’t want to take all the extreme steps mentioned. Learning how someone else learned to live with less is inspiring and will help you see your buying in a new light. 

IF YOU WANT TO BETTER UNDERSTAND
YOURSELF AND OTHERS, READ THIS:

Book cover for Reading People

Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel

When I first discovered what an introvert was and realized that label fit me perfectly, so much about my life and personality made sense. I saw myself in a new way and was able to understand my preferences for the first time. If you want a lightbulb moment like that for yourself, Reading People is a good start. Bogel presents a survey of different ways to understand and determine personality types, such as the Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, and several others. Find what interests you most and then pick other books to dig a little deeper. 

IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE AND START
TRACKING YOUR READING, READ THIS:

Book cover for My Life with Bob

My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues
by Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul has kept a record of the books she’s read for nearly three decades. Bob, her book of books, comes with her everywhere and its pages tell the story of her life. Paul reads widely and will inspire you to do the same. Seeing how essential her reading record is to her will motivate you to get your own Bob. Book nerds will genuinely enjoy this story of how reading shapes a life. 

IF YOU WANT TO LEARN HOW TO BE
MORE VULNERABLE AND PRESENT, READ THIS:

Book cover for Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Brené Brown’s work has changed my life. I can’t say that about a lot of things and don’t say it flippantly. If I were to make a list of things I hate doing, being vulnerable would be listed between laundry and running, yet it’s essential for a rich, fulfilling life. Brown explores what it means to live with courage and openness, explaining that vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a great strength. If your life needs a tune-up, Daring Greatly is an excellent place to start. 

IF YOU WANT TO CREATE SOMETHING, READ THIS:

Book cover for The War of Art

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield introduced me to the idea of Resistance, which is anything that stands in the way of a creator finishing her creation. Whether you want to write, take photos, bake, or start a small business, Pressfield’s words will help you. This book is like a serious pep talk perfect for those moments when you need someone to remind you that if you want something, there are no excuses. This book should be required reading for all creative people. 

IF YOU WANT TO EAT BETTER, READ THIS:

Book cover for Food Rules

Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

I’m easily overwhelmed by information about nutrition because there’s so much of it. There are countless diets out there and shiny magazine covers that tell you how to lose 10 pounds in a hurry. If your goal is to eat healthier, Food Rules is a simple, understandable guide that will help. Michael Pollan presents a rule per page and explains why it matters. I appreciate that this book gets to the heart of the matter and makes healthy eating seem like a doable endeavor. (There’s an illustrated version of this book by Maira Kalman that I’m dying to get my hands on.)

IF YOU WANT TO USE THAT DUSTY YOGA MAT, READ THIS:

Book cover for Every Body Yoga

Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body
by Jessamyn Stanley

We all know we should exercise more, but it can be challenging to find a routine that works. If you’re a perfectionist like me, the pressure to perform a certain way or look like a traditional athlete can be overwhelming. I like this book by Jessamyn Stanley because she encourages readers to move their bodies and to celebrate those bodies, no matter what they look like. The world needs more body-positive exercise guides. 


What are your goals for 2019? What motivates you to reach them?


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My 3 Favorite Decluttering and Minimalism Books

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I really like stuff. As a kid, my bedroom was always a mess (sorry, Mom), and was covered with posters, DIY-decor, and piles of clothes/toys/books/etc. (Again, so sorry, Mom.) I wasn’t great at throwing things away, and by that, I mean I never threw things away. I would save old calendars, folks. That’s how dedicated I was to my stuff.

I’d accepted that I was just a messy person who was okay with clutter. It didn’t concern me until a few years ago when I noticed a few things about myself.

  1. I’m really good at organizing. Not only am I good at it, but I love doing it. Few things make me happier than straightening, labeling, or alphabetizing.
  2. I’m ruthless when getting rid of other people’s stuff. I usually help my mom organize her closet once or twice a year, and I encourage her to throw away anything she doesn’t love. When I’m doing a weeding project at work, I can toss books left and right without feeling a pang of loss or sadness.
  3. My workspaces are always neat. For work, I rotate between different buildings, and all my desks are tidy. Even my computer files are organized and frequently reviewed.
  4. My messiness at home started to really bother me. I found that I couldn’t focus very well when my surroundings were a disaster. I struggle with anxiety, and having stuff everywhere wasn’t helping. And when I had too much stuff, it would paralyze me, and I wouldn’t know where to start putting it away.

After thinking about these things, I realized it was time for a change. I’d been making excuses for myself for a long time about how I was just messy, and that’s all there was to it. But considering those four truths above, I knew I could change. I’m still far from perfect in this area, but I’ve gotten better and have learned a lot. 

As I always do when I want to learn, I turned to books. Today I’m sharing three titles that helped me transform my life and home. Let’s start with some magic.

lcm.jpg

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I’m sure it’s no surprise this book made the list considering how popular it is. Some of the advice in it isn’t for me, but its thesis–“keep what brings you joy”–has made a tremendous impact on how I declutter and what I bring into my home. I also took to heart the concept of organizing category by category instead of room by room. This book kicked off my decluttering frenzy, and I’m grateful for it.

simple.jpg

Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle

I’ve been a fan of Erin’s blog for a long time. If you like the aesthetic of her blog, you’ll like this book. It’s full of gorgeous photos that show just how lovely a simplified home can be. Erin and her husband might live with less, but their home is warm and inviting.

cozy

Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith 

Part of me wishes I could say I’ve completely embraced minimalism, but that’s not the case right now (and might not ever be). That’s why I appreciate this book. Smith acknowledges that sometimes you want an extra pillow or throw around your house. Meaningless decorations need to go, but Smith’s philosophy allows for elements that add character and charm to a home. 

BONUS INSPIRATION

When I need immediate decluttering inspiration, I turn to YouTube. I love watching decluttering videos. I’ve learned a lot about minimalism and simple living from seeing how other people work those concepts into their lives.


What about you? Do you have any decluttering or minimalist goals you’d like to achieve in 2019? What books or other resources have encouraged you in your pursuit? I’d love to know!


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