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My 2021 Reading List: Part 1

This time last year I had read over 50 books. 50 books in 5 months, that's how my 2020 started. This time last year I also couldn't physically leave my house due to stay at home restrictions thanks to COVID so there's that. Needless to say, reading was my main form of entertainment this time last year.

While I'm not quite at 50 yet (my schedule and the state of the world has changed a bit), I have made a decent dent in the first half of the year on my way to my 2021 goal of reading 50 books. I'm giving myself just a few more months to achieve it this year thank you very much. Without further delay, here are the books I read in the first half of 2021 along with my personal review, recommendation and of course a summary of the book itself.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

AlmostFab Review: Not going to lie, this was a book I started at the end of 2020 and finished at the beginning of 2021. It was a slow read and quite different than anything I've read before. Not necessarily in a good way.

Recommendation: Ehh, I would say skip it.

Summary: In 1937, Shanghai is the Paris of Asia, a city of great wealth and glamour, the home of millionaires and beggars, gangsters and gamblers, patriots and revolutionaries, artists and warlords. Thanks to the financial security and material comforts provided by their father's prosperous rickshaw business, twenty-one-year-old Pearl Chin and her younger sister, May, are having the time of their lives. Though both sisters wave off authority and tradition, they couldn't be more different: Pearl is a Dragon sign, strong and stubborn, while May is a true Sheep, adorable and placid. Both are beautiful, modern, and carefree . . . until the day their father tells them that he has gambled away their wealth and that in order to repay his debts he must sell the girls as wives to suitors who have traveled from California to find Chinese brides.

As Japanese bombs fall on their beloved city, Pearl and May set out on the journey of a lifetime, one that will take them through the Chinese countryside, in and out of the clutch of brutal soldiers, and across the Pacific to the shores of America. In Los Angeles they begin a fresh chapter, trying to find love with the strangers they have married, brushing against the seduction of Hollywood, and striving to embrace American life even as they fight against discrimination, brave Communist witch hunts, and find themselves hemmed in by Chinatown's old ways and rules.

At its heart, Shanghai Girls is a story of sisters: Pearl and May are inseparable best friends who share hopes, dreams, and a deep connection, but like sisters everywhere they also harbor petty jealousies and rivalries. They love each other, but each knows exactly where to drive the knife to hurt the other the most. Along the way they face terrible sacrifices, make impossible choices, and confront a devastating, life-changing secret, but through it all the two heroines of this astounding new novel hold fast to who they are: Shanghai girls.

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

AlmostFab Review: Positioning is a book I read as part of a marketing book club I'm in and while I was skeptical at-first (kind of seemed like an old school marketing book), boy was that skepticism wrong. This is a marketing classic for a reason. It is chock-full of incredibly meaningful wisdom and advice that can be applied to your career in marketing or advertising and beyond really.

Recommendation: YES! A must-read for anyone in the marketing, advertising industry. Really, for anyone and everyone.

Summary: The first book to deal with the problems of communicating to a skeptical, media-blitzed public, Positioning describes a revolutionary approach to creating a "position" in a prospective customer's mind-one that reflects a company's own strengths and weaknesses as well as those of its competitors. Writing in their trademark witty, fast-paced style, advertising gurus Ries and Trout explain how to:

  • Make and position an industry leader so that its name and message wheedles its way into the collective subconscious of your market-and stays there

  • Position a follower so that it can occupy a niche not claimed by the leader

  • Avoid letting a second product ride on the coattails of an established one.

Positioning also shows you how to:

  • Use leading ad agency techniques to capture the biggest market share and become a household name

  • Build your strategy around your competition's weaknesses

  • Reposition a strong competitor and create a weak spot

  • Use your present position to its best advantage

  • Choose the best name for your product

  • Determine when-and why-less is more

  • Analyze recent trends that affect your positioning.

Ries and Trout provide many valuable case histories and penetrating analyses of some of the most phenomenal successes and failures in advertising history. Revised to reflect significant developments in the five years since its original publication, Positioning is required reading for anyone in business today.

Upgrade Yourself: Simple Strategies to Transform Your Mindset, Improve Your Habits and Change Your Life by Thibaut Meurisse

AlmostFab Review: This was one of the first books I read in the new year and truthfully the perfect book to kickstart the year. It was just the motivational kick in the butt I needed to start my 2021 off right!

Recommendation: Yes! Quick but impactful read.

Summary: In Upgrade Yourself, you’ll learn simple habits and strategies to transform your mindset and change your life for the better.

You’ll be introduced to the core—and only the core—of what you need to know to become the best version of yourself

You’ll discover:

  • how to reprogram your mind to remove mental blocks to success and create the life you want

  • what a holocaust survivor and a man without arms or legs have in common, and what you can learn from them

  • how an anonymous call changed Tim Ferris’s life, and how this information can change yours, too

  • how to sharpen your skills the Benjamin Franklin way

  • how a simple strategy can turbocharge your productivity, and

  • much, much more

By the end of Upgrade Yourself, you’ll have a stronger mindset, better habits and a more exciting vision, and will be able to build a happier and more fulfilling life.

Sabotage: How to Get Out of Your Own Way by Emma Gannon

AlmostFab Review: Emma Gannon has become one of my favorite authors after reading "The Multi-Hyphen Life," which connected with me on a deeply meaningful level. Sabotage is a really quick read but the message is so powerful and one that all of us could stand to read about. If you've ever gotten in your own way (let's face it we all have), this book is for you!

Recommendation: Yes! Quick but powerful read.

Summary: How do we get out of our own way? With personal stories and research-based insights multi-hyphenate Emma Gannon explores her own relationship with self-sabotage and presents a quick, meaningful guide to help you recognize your own forms of self doubt, identify what is holding you back, and the steps you can take to loosen its grip.

Dress Your Best Life: How to Use Fashion Psychology to Take Your Look - And Your Life - To The Next Level by Dawnn Karen

AlmostFab Review: As someone who thinks she has a pretty good handle on fashion and her own sense of style, my mind was absolutely blown after reading this book. I saw and felt the effects of reading Dress Your Best Life immediately as I was shopping with my mom and found myself strategically looking at everything I bought or considered buying.

Recommendation: 100% Yes! I was feverishly taking notes the entire time and finished it in a weekend.

Summary: You may get dressed every day without really thinking about what you're putting on, but did you know that what you wear has a powerful effect on how you feel? Or that your clothes influence the way others perceive you? By making a few adjustments to your wardrobe, and learning to style from the inside out, you'll not only elevate your look, but level up your entire life.

Dawnn Karen is a pioneer in the field of fashion psychology, and she has spent years studying the relationship between attire and attitude. In Dress Your Best Life she goes far beyond well-known makeover advice, pushing you to ask yourself: Are my clothing choices hurting me or helping me to achieve my life goals? Her book will help you discover your unique style story, become a smarter shopper, use color to your advantage, match moods to clothing choices, and embrace new or different standards of beauty. This knowledge is a power that you'll exercise every time you open your closet door or walk into an important meeting in just the right outfit.

Packed with practical tips and cutting-edge advice, Dress Your Best Life will teach you to harness the power of fashion for the life you want to live.

House of Versace: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder and Survival Deborah Ball

AlmostFab Review: I always find myself getting a little nervous before diving into a book like this as I assume it's going to be a slow read and take me forever to get through. The House of Versace could not have been more different than that. From the moment I cracked open the book it was SO compelling and I walked away from this book feeling like I truly learned so much about the Versace family and brand.

Recommendation: Yes! If you have any interest in fashion and this prolific fashion brand and family dynasty, I recommend picking it up.

Summary: Versace. The very name conjures up images of outrageous glamour and bold sexuality, opulence and daring. All of course true, but only half the story. Versace is also the legacy of a great creative genius from a poor, backward part of southern Italy who transformed the fashion world through his intuitive understanding of both women and how a changing culture influenced the way they wanted to dress. The first book in English about the legendary designer, House of Versace shows how Gianni Versace, with his flamboyant sister Donatella at his side, combined his virtuosic talent and extraordinary ambition to almost single-handedly create the celebrity culture we take for granted today.

Gianni Versace was at the height of his creative powers when he was murdered in Miami Beach. The story was front page news around the world and the manhunt for his killer a media obsession. His beloved sister Donatella demanded no less than a funeral befitting an assassinated head-of-state to be held in Milan's magnificent cathedral. In what was the ultimate fashion show, the world's rich and beautiful - Princess Dianna, Elton John, Carla Bruni, Naomi Campbell, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, Anna Wintour and others - gathered to mourn a man already considered one of fashion's great pioneers.

Deborah Ball, a long-time Milan correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, conducted hundreds of interviews with Versace family members, Gianni Versace's lovers and business rivals, models such as Naomi Campbell whom he helped shoot to international stardom and fashion industry icons, including Anna Wintour, the legendary editor of Vogue.

Ball vividly recounts the behind-the scenes struggles - both creative and business - of Donatella as she stepped out of her brother's long shadow and took control of the House of Versace. The book offers the first inside look at the enormous challenges Donatella faced in living up to Gianni's genius, her struggle with a drug habit, her battles with her brother Santo and the mystery of why Gianni left control of his house to Donatella's young daughter, Allegra. House of Versace is a compelling, highly readable tale of rise from obscurity, a painful fall and ultimate redemption as the Versace empire returned to health - for now.

Bringing together fashion, celebrity, business drama, jet-set lifestyles, and a notorious crime, House of Versace is an old-fashioned page-turner about a subject of enduring fascination.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

AlmostFab Review: This novel is unlike any I've ever read. There's a reason The Vanishing Half took the literary world by storm in 2020. It's an incredible story of love and the strong, overwhelming desire to fit in, despite what it may cost you in the process.

Recommendation: YES! I loaned my book to a friend to spread the good word of this amazing novel.

Summary: The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it's not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it's everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters' storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person's decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate and wise.

Wise as Fu*k: Simple Truths to Guide You Through the Sh*tstorms of Life by Gary John Bishop

AlmostFab Review: The best chapter of this book was the last. That sounds really bad but truthfully, the very last chapter was a summary of the best parts of this book. It had a handful of great takeaways but it wasn't anything earth shattering.

Recommendation: No. While it had some good nuggets, I didn't love it. Summary: In Unfu*k Yourself, Gary John Bishop taught millions of readers how to silence the negative, self-sabotaging voice in their head to thrive. In Wise As Fu*k he expands on his ideas, redefining what it means to be wise and showing how to tackle problems and improve our lives and those of others.

When the shit storms of life hit us, many of us don't know what to do--whether it's losing a job, suffering a broken heart, or just feeling a lack of purpose. We need wisdom to help us navigate forward. While the internet is full of seemingly good advice, it isn't helping us actually change our lives. Wise As Fu*k breaks through the bullshit, providing insight to inspire us in the four areas we need it most: love, loss, fear, and success.

Written with his widely admired no-nonsense style, Wise As Fu*k provides a welcome fresh perspective to help us transform how we approach a variety of life's problems. But Bishop makes clear, the work doesn't stop there. Now that you've unfu*ked yourself and and are wise as fu*k about these touchy areas, you can apply the lessons to make a positive impact on the world.

Live, Love, Explore: A Roadmap to the Life You Were Meant to Live by Leon Logothetis

AlmostFab Review: As an avid traveler myself, Live, Love Explore was such a fun read. Not only did it induce MAJOR wanderlust, but there was much to learn from Logothetis' incredible adventures.

Recommendation: Yes!

Summary: Part travel memoir, part self-help book, Live, Love, Explore is a guide to finding meaning and adventure in your everyday life and discovering the road you were always meant to walk. By bestselling author, Leon Logothetis, from the Netflix Series, The Kindness Diaries.

Leon Logothetis's life was well plotted out for him. He was to do well in school, go to university, get a job in finance, and spend the next fifty years of his life sitting behind a slab of wood, watching the rain-slicked streets of London from thirty floors above. For a long time, he followed that script, until one day, he finally realized he was living someone else's life--a good one--but not one of his own choosing.

So he walked out of that life, and discovered the one that took him around the world. Since then, Leon has driven a broken-down English taxicab across America, offering people free rides; ridden a vintage motorbike around the world, relying solely on the kindness of strangers; and followed a fellow traveler through India without ever knowing where he was going. He has visited more than 90 countries on every continent. Along the way, he learned something about the human spirit and about the heart of this world. He learned that he needed to shed his old ideas about who he was supposed to be in order to feel his soul rise to the surface and become the person he always longed to be.

The wisest words he heard, and the greatest lessons he learned, came from everyday people he met on his travels. He became their accidental student, and after years of sharing those lessons through TV shows, college tours, books, and in the media, he realized that he had also become an accidental teacher. His experiences are more than a collection of stories, they have become a way of life--the Way of the Traveler.

So, what is the Way of the Traveler? It's a roadmap to living your best life, loving with all your heart, and exploring the world--both the great and adventurous one waiting outside your door, and the even greater, more adventurous one waiting within your soul.

Weaving together Leon's hilarious and heartwarming stories of his misadventures on the road with simple but profound exercises to help you uncover your true path, Live, Love, Explorewill teach you how to live fully and without regrets. It's not to say that everyone who reads it will have to go to the ends of the world. Because you don't have to go to Mongolia to discover the truths that lie inside. No, those life lessons can just as easily be learned from the people all around you--the chap serving you coffee at Starbucks, the woman sitting next to you on a plane, your co-workers, family, and friends. There's an entire world of people willing to teach you their lessons if you're willing to learn. And by opening yourself up to new adventures, by recognizing that you have the freedom to choose your own road, you'll find something else that has been hiding in plain sight: you'll find the life of which you have always dreamed... and the curiosity and courage it takes to make that life happen.

How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz

AlmostFab Review: While there were definitely good stories and lessons learned from the world's most inspiring entrepreneurs and businesspeople, personally I didn't love it in book form. I would say stick to the podcast, which is great!

Recommendation: No - stick to the podcast.

Summary: WALL STREET JOURNAL #1 Bestselling Business Book

Based on the highly acclaimed NPR podcast, How I Built This with Guy Raz, this book offers priceless insights and inspiration from the world's top entrepreneurs on how to start, launch, and build a successful venture.

Great ideas often come from a simple spark: A soccer player on the New Zealand national team notices all the unused wool his country produces and figures out a way to turn them into shoes (Allbirds). A former Buddhist monk decides the very best way to spread his mindfulness teachings is by launching an app (Headspace). A sandwich cart vendor finds a way to reuse leftover pita bread and turns it into a multimillion-dollar business (Stacy's Pita Chips).

Award-winning journalist and NPR host Guy Raz has interviewed more than 200 highly successful entrepreneurs to uncover amazing true stories like these. In How I Built This, he shares tips for every entrepreneur's journey: from the early days of formulating your idea, to raising money and recruiting employees, to fending off competitors, to finally paying yourself a real salary. This is a must-read for anyone who has ever dreamed of starting their own business or wondered how trailblazing entrepreneurs made their own dreams a reality.

After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage and Self-Love by Alexandra Elle

AlmostFab Review: After the Rain was not what I expected it to be. It was better. Alex Elle delivers poignant tales from her own life woven throughout the book and mixes it in with self-affirmation and moments of reflective meditation. This is one you'll keep on your shelf and revisit for years to come. When your soul truly needs it.

Recommendation: 1000% YES. Such an important and transformative read.

Summary: In After the Rain, celebrated self-care storyteller Alexandra Elle delivers 15 lessons on how to overcome obstacles, build confidence, and cultivate abundance.

Part memoir and part guide, Elle shares stirring stories from her own remarkable journey from self-doubt to self-love.

This soulful collection is filled with illuminating reflections on loss, fear, bravery, healing, love, acceptance, and more.

- Readers follow along her journey as she transforms challenging experiences--a difficult childhood, painful romantic relationships, and single parenting as a young mom--into fuel for her career as a successful entrepreneur and author driven by purpose and pasion

- Filled with Elle's signature candor and warmth

- Includes empowering affirmations and meditations for readers to practice in their own lives

After the Rain is a soulful guide to help you embrace all the beauty, love, and opportunity life has to offer.

Eiffel's Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris's Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World's Fair That Introduced It by Jill Jones

AlmostFabReview: It was certainly interesting to learn more about the Eiffel Tower and how it came to have its place not only physically in Paris but in the history books forever but the book itself was not my cup of tea. It was extremely quote heavy so it didn't read like a fluid story.

Recommendation: No.

Summary: In this first general history of the Eiffel Tower in English, Jill Jonnes-acclaimed author of Conquering Gotham-offers an eye- opening look not only at the construction of one of the modern world's most iconic structures, but also the epochal event that surrounded its arrival as a wonder of the world. In this marvelously entertaining portrait of Belle Époque France, fear and loathing over Eiffel's brash design share the spotlight with the celebrities that made the 1889 Exposition Universelle an event to remember-including Buffalo Bill and his sharpshooter Annie Oakley, Thomas Edison, and artists Whistler, Gauguin, and van Gogh. Eiffel's Tower is a richly textured portrait of an era at the dawn of modernity, reveling in the limitless promise of the future.

Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream by Ibtihaj Muhammad with Lori Tharps

AlmostFab Review: Ibtihaj Muhammad is someone whom I've always admired for her fearlessness and her ability to break through any perceived barriers to accomplish her Olympic dreams. It was even more powerful learning more in-depth details about her journey to Olympic success.

Recommendation: Yes - an inspiring and insightful read.

Summary: Growing up in New Jersey as the only African American Muslim at school, Ibtihaj Muhammad always had to find her own way. When she discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy, she had to defy expectations and make a place for herself in a sport she grew to love.

From winning state championships to three-time All-America selections at Duke University, Ibtihaj was poised for success, but the fencing community wasn't ready to welcome her with open arms just yet. As the only woman of color and the only religious minority on Team USA's saber fencing squad, Ibtihaj had to chart her own path to success and Olympic glory.

Proud is a moving coming-of-age story from one of the nation's most influential athletes and illustrates how she rose above it all

Kicksology: The Hype, Science, Culture and Cool of Running Shoes by Brian Metzler

AlmostFab Review: Definitely not a book I would pick up on my own but nevertheless it was a unique read that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. Considering the subject matter is not something I would traditionally be interested in, the book was written for avid runners and non-runners alike.

Recommendation: Yes! Especially if you're a runner.

Summary: Sports journalist and veteran shoe tester Brian Metzler takes runners and kicksologists deep inside the $10 billion dollar running shoe industry with a behind-the-curtain look at what makes iconic running shoe brands tick. Kicksology follows a shoe from inspiration to store shelf to show how innovative ideas evolve into industry-wide trends and fads. Metzler tours shoe labs where scientists advance our understanding of shoes and running mechanics as well as the domestic and overseas shoe factories where the world's favorite kicks are assembled.

A dedicated shoe nerd and running junkie, Metzler shares his love of great shoes in this fascinating look at the intersections of shoe culture and history, science and storytelling, intel from the innovators with on-the-ground insight from top runners.

Kicksology is filled with information as entertaining as it is surprising, tapping into the passion runners have for their kicks and feeding their curiosity about what makes a great shoe.

Hello, Fears: Crush Your Comfort Zone and Become Who You're Meant to Be by Michelle Poler

AlmostFab Review: This book changed my life. Not only is it extremely captivating from the moment you open the first page - the colors, the art, the bold and vibrant quotes - but the message is one that should be read and absorbed by all. By anyone who's remotely lost in this thing we call life.

Recommendation: YES YES and YES!

Summary: In this inspiring and motivational new book, founder of the Hello Fears social movement Michelle Poler is challenging you to say hello! to your fears and find meaningful happiness outside the traditional definition of success by living with courage and tapping into your full potential.

With kick-butt attitude and a humorous *wink*, Michelle breaks down each set-back she battled on the road towards joyful purpose. Her stories and practical strategies encourage you to name, accept, and embrace what's holding you back so you can be the heroine in your own life, not the victim.

Hello, Fears is an honest, empowering guide to living alongside what scares you. Our fears reveal what we care about the most, so each and every challenge is an opportunity to grow, hustle, and be your authentic self--unapologetically.

Perfect for readers of Untamed and Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle, Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis or listeners of The United States of Anxiety podcast on NPR. On the professional side, if you liked Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, you'll love Hello, Fears.

Hunting Charles Manson: The Quest for Justice in the Days of Helter Skelter by Lis Wiehl with Caitlin Rother

AlmostFab Review: Truth be told this book is definitely something out of my comfort zone (as I'm sure you can tell based on my previous reading lists and recommendations) but I picked it up in a bookstore, hoping to learn more about Charles Manson and this piece of history. That being said, while gruesome of course, it was definitely an interesting read and for someone not familiar with the subject matter it was quite digestible as well. Recommendation: If interested in learning more about this particular piece of history - yes!

Summary: In the late summer of 1969, the nation was transfixed by a series of gruesome murders in the hills of Los Angeles. Newspapers and television programs detailed the brutal slayings of a beautiful actress--twenty six years old and eight months pregnant with her first child--as well as a hair stylist, an heiress, a businessman, and other victims. The City of Angels was plunged into a nightmare of fear and dread. In the weeks and months that followed, law enforcement faced intense pressure to solve crimes that seemed to have no connection.

Finally, after months of dead-ends, false leads, and near-misses, Charles Manson and members of his "family" were arrested. The bewildering trials that followed once again captured the nation and forever secured Manson as a byword for the evil that men do.

Former federal prosecutor and Fox News legal analyst Lis Wiehl has written a propulsive, page-turning historical thriller of the crimes and manhunt that mesmerized the nation. And in the process, she reveals how the social and political context that gave rise to Manson is eerily similar to our own.

Irrational Loyalty: Building a Brand That Thrives in Turbulent Times by Deb Gabor

AlmostFab Review: This book was filled with examples which I really appreciated. It made the lessons the author was trying to convey that much easier to comprehend. It wasn't anything earth shattering nor subject matter that was unlike anything I've read before but I appreciated a branding master's take on branding "disasters" that I was familiar with.

Recommendation: Yes! It's a quick and easy read.

Summary: Eventually, every organization faces a serious branding disaster. Think of United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Uber, and other companies whose tribulations made front page news. Poor business decisions, corrupt cultures, or just plain bad luck can lead to major PR meltdowns, sending once-loyal consumers fleeing in droves. But there's a right way to handle controversy and come out stronger on the other side.Using recent high-profile brand implosions as prime examples, Deb Gabor demonstrates how top companies that break their promises inevitably suffer, and she explores the routes the more agile ones have taken to full recovery after letting their customers down. One of the world's premier branding experts, Gabor provides invaluable insights that will help your own enterprise build positive brand equity, good will, and the "irrational loyalty" that will support your brand long-term through the best and worst of times.This is your essential guide to building Irrational Loyalty.

Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Beck

AlmostFab Review: This book came to me at a very pivotal time (as most books do) and I'm so very grateful for the wisdom offered by Beck. This is without a doubt a book I will have for my lifetime and revisit time and time again. A recommendation for fellow souls who have felt lost at some point or another in their own lives.

Recommendation: Can't recommend it ENOUGH!

Summary: In this book, you'll start by learning how to read the internal compasses already built into your brain and body--and why you may have spent your life ignoring their signals. As you become reacquainted with your own deepest desires, you'll identify and repair any unconscious beliefs or unhealed emotional wounds that may be blocking your progress.

This will change your life, but don't worry--although every life is unique, major transformations have common elements, and Beck provides a map that will guide you through your own life changes. You'll learn how to navigate every stage, from the first flickering appearance of a new dream to the planning and implementation of your own ideal life.

Based on Dr. Beck's work as a Harvard-trained sociologist, research associate at Harvard Business School, instructor at Thunderbird Business School, and especially on her experiences with her clients over the last six years, Finding Your Own North Star offers thoroughly tested case studies, questionnaires, and exercises to help you articulate your core desires and act on them to build a more satisfying life.

Creative Manifestos: Inspirational Statements to Celebrate Self-Expression by Oliver Luke Delorie

AlmostFab Review: A quick read but another one to keep in your library and turn to any time you need a little extra boost of motivation or inspiration. Each page offered something more insightful and thought-provoking than the last.

Recommendation: Yes!

Summary: A creative manifesto can trigger new ways of seeing problems, encourage us to be daring, and help us find our way out when we feel stuck in a rut. Here, you'll find 100 inspiring examples from a wide variety of creatives, including writers, designers, architects, and engineers. These manifestos come in many different shapes and sizes, but each one addresses fundamental questions about what it means to be creative, where creativity comes from, and how to be more creative in your everyday life. Along with interactive, thought-provoking prompts to record your personal reflections, you'll also find a short introduction to the history of the manifesto and how manifestos have motivated people around the world.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

AlmostFab Review: Personally I'm a big Jojo Moyes fan so I would recommend just about anything with her name on it. This one had a bit of a slow start but a plot unlike anything I've ever read before. If you like historical fiction this could be your next read!

Recommendation: Yes!

Summary: From the author of Me Before You, set in Depression-era America, a breathtaking story of five extraordinary women and their remarkable journey through the mountains of Kentucky and beyond

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve, hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt's new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity, and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they're committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America's past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic--a richly rewarding novel of women's friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

AlmostFab Review: I had high expectations for this book and I'm pleased to report it absolutely lived up to them. I dare you to read McConaughey's book and not immediately catch a flight to some faraway destination or chase down a dream you've had your heart set on. Greenlights gives you wings!

Recommendation: Absolutely!

Summary: I've been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life's challenges--how to get relative with the inevitable--you can enjoy a state of success I call "catching greenlights."

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it's medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot's license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It's a love letter. To life.

It's also a guide to catching more greenlights--and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt

AlmostFab Review: With a wildly entertaining cast of characters, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil seems quite literally too good to be true. It's not a particularly fast-paced book but the author's storytelling abilities are sublime.

Recommendation: Most definitely!

Summary: Shots rang out in Savannah's grandest mansion in the misty, early morning hours of May 2, 1981. Was it murder or self-defense? For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this hauntingly beautiful city of moss-hung oaks and shaded squares. John Berendt's sharply observed, suspenseful, and witty narrative reads like a thoroughly engrossing novel, and yet it is a work of nonfiction. Berendt skillfully interweaves a hugely entertaining first-person account of life in this isolated remnant of the Old South with the unpredictable twists and turns of a landmark murder case.

It is a spellbinding story peopled by a gallery of remarkable characters: the well-bred society ladies of the Married Woman's Card Club; the turbulent young redneck gigolo; the hapless recluse who owns a bottle of poison so powerful it could kill every man, woman, and child in Savannah; the aging and profane Southern belle who is the soul of pampered self-absorption; the uproariously funny black drag queen; the acerbic and arrogant antiques dealer; the sweet-talking, piano-playing con artist; young blacks dancing the minuet at the black debutante ball; and Minerva, the voodoo priestess who works her magic in the graveyard at midnight. These and other Savannahians act as a Greek chorus, with Berendt revealing the alliances, hostilities, and intrigues that thrive in a town where everyone knows everyone else.

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

AlmostFab Review: Whether you're a businessperson or a creative, this book is for you. The War of Art challenges you to think differently toward achieving your own version of success.

Recommendation: An absolute must-read! It's a cult classic for a reason.

Summary: A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor-be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece? Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself. Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle

AlmostFab Review: It's crazy that this book was written in 2015 because so much of the subject matter is spot on with what we're dealing with 6 years later! Turkle has been researching this subject matter for decades and it's quite clear by the richness of her examples and subject matter. It was a little repetitive at times but an interesting read nevertheless.

Recommendation: Yes! The book definitely didn't need to be that long but it was a fascinating read still.

Summary: We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don't have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents' attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with - a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human--and humanizing--thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself by Mark Epstein M.D.

AlmostFab Review: Ever since I took a World Religions class in high school, I have been fascinated by Buddhism. I picked up this book because the subject matter of the crossover between Buddhism and Western Psychology peaked my interest but I'l admit it wasn't quite what I was expecting. Interesting to learn more about the Eightfold Path and the examples that Epstein provides to support his argument are excellent but not sure I would recommend this one.

Recommendation: Eh, I say skip it.

Summary: Our ego, and its accompanying sense of nagging self-doubt as we work to be bigger, better, smarter, and more in control, is one affliction we all share. But while our ego is at once our biggest obstacle, it can also be our greatest hope. We can be at its mercy or we can learn to work with it. With great insight, and in a deeply personal style, renowned psychiatrist and author Dr. Mark Epstein offers a how-to guide that refuses a quick fix. In Advice Not Given, he reveals how Buddhism and Western psychotherapy, two traditions that developed in entirely different times and places, both identify the ego as the limiting factor in our well-being, and both come to the same conclusion: When we give the ego free rein, we suffer; but when it learns to let go, we are free.

Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Your Net Worth By Simply Being Yourself by Jessica Zwieg

AlmostFab Review: Where do I even begin?! Jessica Zwieg is truly unlocking the vault to her personal branding expertise. My mom stumbled upon this book in Barnes and Noble and I'm so glad she did. One I will read over and over again.

Recommendation: 1000% yes!

Summary: Everyone in marketing is talking “authenticity.” Which means making a personal or professional brand should be simpler than ever, right? What could be easier than “being yourself?”

Simple? Sure. But easy? Not so much.

Why? Because authenticity is unfiltered, unapologetic, and honest. Authenticity owns its imperfections and takes responsibility for mistakes. It shows up on the good and bad days. In short, authenticity feels scary. No wonder we try to brand ourselves as someone else we think will be more appealing than our real selves.

Jessica Zweig founded the SimplyBe. agency to revolutionize an authenticity-first approach to branding. With Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself, she shares her most powerful secrets for building authenticity, service, and real connection into your winning brand. “I’m opening up the freakin’ vault to SimplyBe.’s best-in-class, trademarked methodologies, tools, and frameworks for clearing away everything that’s keeping the real you from shining through,” she says (...).

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our World by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan and Jeremy Salter

AlmostFab Review: While it's quite clearly a bit outdated, it was a fun and interesting read. I'll admit there were a number of characters in the book that I wasn't familiar with so it was great learning about new figures deemed influential by the authors.

Recommendation: Not a must read but kind of a fun one to pick up and dive into on a weekend or something.

Summary: From Santa Claus to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, from Uncle Sam to Uncle Tom, here is a compelling, eye-opening, and endlessly entertaining compendium of fictional trendsetters and world-shakers who have helped shape our culture and our lives. The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived offers fascinating histories of our most beloved, hated, feared, and revered invented icons and the indelible marks they made on civilization, including:

# 28: Rosie the Riveter, the buff, blue-collar factory worker who helped jump-start the Women's Liberation movement

# 7: Siegfried, the legendary warrior-hero of Teutonic nationalism responsible for propelling Germany into two world wars

# 80: Icarus, the headstrong high-flyer who inspired the Wright brothers and humankind's dreams of defying gravity . . . while demonstrating the pressing need for flight insurance

# 58: Saint Valentine, the hapless, de-canonized loser who lost his heart and head at about the same time

# 43: Barbie, the bodacious plastic babe who became a role model for millions of little girls, setting an impossible standard for beauty and style

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

AlmostFabMe Review: Again, it's a cult classic for a reason. Highly recommend for writers especially fiction writers.

Recommendation: Yes!

Summary: For a quarter century, more than a million readers--scribes and scribblers of all ages and abilities--have been inspired by Anne Lamott's hilarious, big-hearted, homespun advice. Advice that begins with the simple words of wisdom passed down from Anne's father--also a writer--in the iconic passage that gives the book its title:

"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live As They Do by Clotaire Rapaille

AlmostFab Review: I'll admit this book was also not what I expected it to be but it was quite interesting. For anyone who'd like to gain more insight into why we do things the way we do as Americans, or perhaps how and why other cultures do things the way they do I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Recommendation: Yes! Fascinating read.

Summary: Why are people around the world so very different? What makes us live, buy, even love as we do? The answers are in the codes.

In The Culture Code, internationally revered cultural anthropologist and marketing expert Clotaire Rapaille reveals for the first time the techniques he has used to improve profitability and practices for dozens of Fortune 100 companies. His groundbreaking revelations shed light not just on business but on the way every human being acts and lives around the world.

Rapaille's breakthrough notion is that we acquire a silent system of codes as we grow up within our culture. These codes--the Culture Code--are what make us American, or German, or French, and they invisibly shape how we behave in our personal lives, even when we are completely unaware of our motives. What's more, we can learn to crack the codes that guide our actions and achieve new understanding of why we do the things we do.

Rapaille has used the Culture Code to help Chrysler build the PT Cruiser--the most successful American car launch in recent memory. He has used it to help Procter & Gamble design its advertising campaign for Folger's coffee - one of the longest lasting and most successful campaigns in the annals of advertising. He has used it to help companies as diverse as GE, AT&T, Boeing, Honda, Kellogg, and L'Oréal improve their bottom line at home and overseas. And now, in The Culture Code, he uses it to reveal why Americans act distinctly like Americans, and what makes us different from the world around us.

In The Culture Code, Dr. Rapaille decodes two dozen of our most fundamental archetypes--ranging from sex to money to health to America itself--to give us "a new set of glasses" with which to view our actions and motivations. Why are we so often disillusioned by love? Why is fat a solution rather than a problem? Why do we reject the notion of perfection? Why is fast food in our lives to stay? The answers are in the Codes.

Understanding the Codes gives us unprecedented freedom over our lives. It lets us do business in dramatically new ways. And it finally explains why people around the world really are different, and reveals the hidden clues to understanding us all.

And that my friends is the comprehensive list of books I've read in the first 6 months of 2021! What have been some of your favorite reads this year thus far? I would love to hear from you and share in the book recommendation goodness. Feel free to send me a DM on IG (@almostfabme) or you can email me directly at Who knows, you may even see your recommendation show up in a future blog post!

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