Marisol Dahl

Books

Reading Resolutions for 2019

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One late night in August, I sat down and wrote a “2018 Closing” list.

I was feeling overwhelmed—mind brimming with to dos, goals, and the fear of missing out with time passing too quickly. So I wrote a list of things, mostly practical, that I wanted to accomplish before entering 2019.

Things like, refreshing my LinkedIn profile, cleaning out my desktop, updating our home budget, paying taxes, answering old emails and letters. Tasks that would help me feel like was “going in clean” in 2019—no lingering things that would bog down my mind.

The fourth item on this list: three good books. Because I knew a major root of my dissatisfaction came from not having made proper time to read, and fulfill my mind in an intellectual way one can only achieve from sitting alone with someone else’s words and world. There really is something truly horrible about leading a busy lifestyle on an empty mind. And I had been feeling like that for too long.

So, three good books. Book that would fill me up. That I would have no hesitations to recommend to others in the future. Totally doable.

I am writing this post on December 15, 2018, and I haven’t completed even one. I’ve started several, and have added dozens to my to-read list. But none complete.

I am at my best when I have a good book—a go-to place for my mind to wander, and a more thoughtful way to fill in the spaces in between. So here’s how I vowed to do it differently in 2019. Three simple rules:

  1. Always carry a book.
    Habits are built and ingrained in the unexpected times, when life tests your values and priorities. So I have gratefully adopted my boyfriend’s Kindle Paperwhite and taking full advantage of living across the street from the public library. And sure, it’s another thing to pack and carry around. But if it means more intentional escape during unoccupied moments, then it’s totally worth it.

  2. One at a time.
    I used to have this thing where if I started a book, I needed to finish it—no matter how much I didn’t care for it. But that’s just a waste of time and self-sabotage. My rule of thumb now is to commit to one book at a time and find closure with each before I turn to the next, whether that closure is to finish the book completely or lovingly close its covers mid-way if it’s just not for me. Commit, decide, move on.

    The exception here, at least for me, is when you have a really long book. A book that you know you will enjoy and are excited about, but also know that it will just take a lot of time to read. Maybe it takes more focus than your average book, or perhaps it’s a book not meant to be read for prolonged periods. Examples would be a textbook, or a short story or essay anthology, where the power of each piece is best preserved when read individually in their own time. My current example is Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton. It’s dense, rich, and I love reading just a few pages at a time.

  3. Be guided by pure enjoyment.
    No more guilt and no more forcing it. My reading liberation comes in part from saying no to: the “should” books that are not a hell yes; the best-sellers that everyone else is reading but I’m just not that into; the “smart” books during moments my brain is fried and just wants a good adventure or romance. Follow reading moods and phases, and entertain the paths of curiosity.

Book Notes #1: Love Style Life by Garance Doré

BooksMarisol DahlComment

Highly acclaimed style photographer, illustrator, and blogger, Garance Doré is quite the charismatic writer. Her book, Love Style Life, is a bible for the modern woman looking for sound fashion advice and peace of mind regarding the crazy twists and turns of life. She offers an honest and funny take on what it really means to be the effortless, elusive "Parisian Woman" that society is so captivated by.

On Style

I loved the author's method for finding your personal style, which lies at the intersection of four key truths:

1. What you know about yourself. Be realistic about your daily needs. 

"I adjust and adapt not only to suit my tastes but also to suit my lifestyle. Knowing yourself is knowing the distance between your dream self and your real self." 

2. What you know about your body. Keep in mind what best flatters your body type. 

"Try, try, try, and cross things off the list. In other words, edit. That's how great style is revealed." 

3. What you want to say. How can your clothes communicate how you want others to see you?

"Our clothes carry the message we want to convey to others, and it changes, depending on what we're going through in our lives." 

4. Who you want to be. Style let's us stay connected to our aspirations. 

"Go on and dress for it. Borrow from your dreams. Of being a movie star. A great lover. A great mother. A respected teacher. A free spirit. An astrologer. An artist. A painter, a sculptor." 

On Business

"If you know how to create emotion, you can create a business."

On Elegance

"But what she radiated was not only self-assurance—it was simpler than that: she didn't think anyone was above or beneath her. ... She just was who she was and instinctively knew that was the only way she could be. ... 

If I make people feel good, if I encourage them to be themselves and be at ease, then I feel happy and present. 

To me, that's the heart of elegance." 


Full citation:
Doré, Garance. Love Style Life. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. 

Book Reviews #1

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First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

Kate Andersen Brower | 2016

"Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands." [Link

The Sociology major in me could not put this book down. It's a fascinating look at how such a diverse group of women—with their own histories, ambitions, ideals, and political views—are so uniquely bonded by their defining role as first lady. Kate Andersen Brower's research process is interesting to read about in itself. Though many other reviews note the author's bias, I found the book offered a refreshingly balanced look at the strengths and flaws of each first lady featured. 

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

Heidi Durrow | 2011

"Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop. Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity." [Link]

Told from alternating points of view, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a beautiful story of a young girl's awakening through tragedy—forced to confront her identity and how she fits in with her extended family and new community. Rachel's youth is portrayed through simple prose, drawing the reader to dissect the clashes of race, class, generations, and culture that lie just underneath. 

The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan | 2014

"Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at The New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. She left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation." [Link]

It is important to understand the circumstances under which this book was published—that's what makes it particularly powerful and engaging. Marina Keegan was devoted to the art of writing and determined to make a living in what many would say is a dying industry. Her stories and essays are rich and demonstrate a wisdom I don't think very many people our age have yet. As someone who finished her freshman year at Yale just as Keegan was graduating, I felt particularly close to the themes and references within the book.