The Reading List – 2015

“A book may be compared to your neighbor: fi it be good, it cannot last too long; if bad, you cannot get rid of it too early.” –Rupert Brooke

I had so much fun putting together “The Reading List – 2014” last year that I’ve been compiling my list for 2015 ever since then. Who knew 2015 would fly by so fast!

Fear not! Even with 2016 knocking at the door, I have a fantastic group of books I want to share with you that have really inspired me this year. Some are self-help, others are for pure story enjoyment, and still others are books I started in 2015 and am already rereading. Whatever the case may be, I’ve learned a lot from these picks, and I hope you find your own inspiration from them.

This year, I have 7 books to share, and some are from a different variety of genres this year: Non-fiction / Self-help, Novel, Young Adult (YA) Fantasy, Manga, and a Graphic Memoir (one of the few of its kind):

Non-fiction / Self-help:

I’ve Never Been to Vegas, But My Luggage Has by Mandy Hale

“When you stop blooming where you’ve been planted, it’s time to put down new roots.”

I read I’ve Never Been to Vegas early in 2015, and though I can’t say it was the reason I decided to apply for a job in Japan, it definitely helped me realize that I needed to make some changes in my life and that I was the only one who could do it. I hadn’t realized until reading Mandy’s story.

Basically, through no fault of my own or of anyone around me, I had stopped growing in Montana. It was one of the hardest things for me to admit, but it was the first step for me to start reclaiming what I want to do with my life. I wasn’t dealing with the complications of relationships like Hale was, but she helped me realize that I needed to make some changes, dating or single.

So ladies, if you want an entertaining and true story that might help you see you where you’re at — or where you want to go, give this a read. You won’t regret it.

Mandy Hale (1)Overview: Can wrong turns and painful breakups go hand in hand with happiness? Affectionately known as “The Single Woman” to her social media followers, blogger Mandy Hale believes that even our messiest mess-ups can point us toward a joy-filled life.

In I’ve Never Been to Vegas but My Luggage Has, she delivers heart-to-heart, hilarious stories that make us feel her pain and laugh with her as we are inspired to apply her wisdom to our own lives. Young adult single women can gain much from her insight and experience.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

“Intuition is always right in at least two important ways: it is always in response to something; it always has your best interest at heart.”

I came across this book as a recommendation from a writer named Rich, who frequently posts for tofugu.com. When I learned I was officially coming to Japan, he had written an article titled “Staying Safe in Japan” at about that same time.

Reading de Becker’s book has really opened my eyes, but mostly by assuring me to trust my instincts and not be so afraid of offending people when I feel really uncomfortable. It gives a somewhat scary look into human nature, not even just of people around us but also of ourselves and what we have the potential to be. Overall, remember to keep the balance: be cautious, but don’t let fear control your life.

the-gift-of-fearOverview: In this empowering book, Gavin de Becker shows you how to spot even subtle signs of danger – before it’s too late. Debunking the myth that most violent acts are unpredictable, de Becker offers specific ways to protect yourself and those you love. Learn to spot the danger signals others miss. It might just save your life.

Gavin de Becker is the man Oprah Winfrey calls the US’s leading expert of violent behavior, and his clients have included government agencies and top Hollywood stars.

The Emotionally Healthy Woman by Geri Scazzero

“When it comes to quitting the approval of others, progress is best made with two daily practices: reflecting on the movements of your heart and reflecting on the love of God.”

My mom gave me this book in the spring of 2015, and it has been the one book that has helped me the most this year. There is so much to take away from this book.

My first read-through was how I identified much of what I’ve been struggling with. Now, I’m already rereading it so I can try and use more of the advice and strategies she writes about. I’m not sure how much will help, but I have nothing to lose if I try.

the-emotionally-healthy-womanOverview: Geri Scazzero knew there was something desperately wrong with her life. She felt like a single parent raising her four young daughters alone. She finally told her husband, ‘I quit,’ and left the thriving church he pastored, beginning a journey that transformed her and her marriage for the better.

This book is for every woman who thinks, ‘I can’t keep pretending everything is fine!’ When you quit those things that are damaging to your soul or the souls of others, you are freed up to choose other ways of being and relating that are rooted in love and lead to life. When you quit for the right reasons, at the right time, and in the right way, you’re on the path not only to emotional health, but also to the true purpose of your life.

Novel:

To Live by Yu Hua (translated by Michael Berry)

“Your life is given to you by your parents. If you don’t want to live, you have to ask them first.”

My dear Chinese friend gave this book as a gift to me, and it was one of my favorites this year. The story starts off really well, with bits of humor sprinkled throughout a very serious and often sad story. It’s set in the environment of China as it transitioned from a Nationalist to Communist nation, enduring civil war and the Cultural Revolution.

I enjoyed this book for the truth that it gave and the masterful storytelling in its creation. I didn’t always agree with everything expressed, but it has made me think about many things and so much of what I take for granted.

This is a fine piece of literature, one that I’ll certainly experience again one day.

to-liveOverview: To Live tells the epic story of one man’s transformation from the spoiled son of a rich landlord to an honorable and kindhearted peasant.

After squandering his family’s fortune in gambling dens and brothels, the young, deeply penitent Fugui settles down to do the honest work of a farmer. Forced by the Nationalist Army to leave behind his family, he witnesses the horrors and privations of the Civil War, only to return years later to face a string of hardships brought on by the ravages of the Cultural Revolution.

Young Adult (YA) Fantasy:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

“In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

I must admit, I discovered the book after experiencing Hayao Miyazaki’s Ghibli animated film of the same name. I will also say that the film is nothing like the book — and that’s what make both book and movie incredible in my eyes.

I have never before said this about a movie that went in such a completely different direction than the original book (in fact, I’ve always spoken most strongly against it, especially in the case of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon and the movie of the same name). I have also reread this one, and the setting and character development become richer each time.

So go into reading Howl’s Moving Castle with an open mind for Jones’ original story and having a young audience in mind, and you won’t be disappointed!

Howl's Moving CastleOverview: Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady.

Her only chance at breaking the spell lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl’s castle.

Manga:

Strobe Edge (ストロボ・エッジ) by Io Sakisaka

“For all that I lack in confidence, I’ll make up for it ten times, a hundred times more, by forever trying my best.”

Oh man, I’m a softy for this kind of manga, and this is by far my favorite series from Io Sakisaka. Her artistry is beautiful, yet so are her characters and storytelling. The story retains an interesting and realistic flow, yet the characters are so relatable in their innocence and life circumstances.

I’ve only read this in the English translation, but I might start collecting the original Japanese so I can practice my translation. This manga doesn’t have an anime, but it does have a new live-action film based on the series. (And yes, I just acquired it!)

Strobe EdgeOverview: 15-year-old Ninako Kinoshita has never been in love until an encounter on the train with her school’s most popular boy, the quiet Ren Ichinose.

As she grows closer to Ren, she falls in love with him, but must learn to cope with the unfortunate fact that Ren already has a longtime girlfriend.

Graphic Memoir:

Tokyo on Foot by Florent Chavouet

“To draw the wreck of a van next door, I had to sit in a really uncomfortable position on a low wall with out any room for my pencils, while a squadron of vicious mosquitoes did a number on me. Seeing all my suffering and self-sacrifice, a club of moms came over to compliment me on my sketch and offered me a bottle of tea.”

This book is in a category all it’s own, and one that was recently introduced to me by a friend. I’m so grateful that he did!

Winner of the Ptolemy Prize at the 2009 International Festival of Geography, this author/illustrator takes you through the neighborhoods of Tokyo and gives the best, non-tourist view of the city I have ever seen. He tells of his experiences in day-to-day discoveries, the days he spends observing people, and the places he got to know. The color of the art — and the humor of each person — pours off the pages!

This book is best for the person who’s been to Tokyo before or is moderately familiar with the city’s layout. I started reading it before my first trip to Tokyo, but I appreciate it so much more now that I’ve been there before. If you want a non-touristy impression of the city, definitely pick this one up!

tokyo-on-foot (1)Overview: Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth with a pouch full of color pencils and a sketchpad, and visit different neighborhoods.

This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures.

So there it is! My second-annual reading list! It looks like my main focus was on more self-help material and some stories that broke away from my normal reading range.

Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about these books and why I like them. Do you agree with my list, or do you have any suggestions on what I should read for 2016? I’d like to hear from you!

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” –Oscar Wilde

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