A few months ago I hit a bit of a slump. Or maybe I hit a bump? Or fell into a slump? I don’t really know the right metaphor. Basically, I just felt a little purposeless. So, I started digging around for some reading that might inspire me to feel otherwise.
A few weeks ago I was having dinner with some friends at my house when my friend Kristy mentioned she was reading a fun book called Living With a SEAL. She said it was by the husband of the woman who created Spanx, Sara Blakely. I said that Sara Blakely had actually thrown the coolest party I’d ever gone to in my former life of doing things like covering cool parties. It was in Atlanta and co-hosted by Sir Richard Branson. Jane Fonda sat at the same table as the guys from OutKast. Jewel sang during dinner and then Collective Soul played at the after-party. I still have no idea how I got to go to that party.
Later that night, Kristy texted me an image of highlighted text from the book. It turns out that its author, Blakely’s husband, was at the same party, and he wrote about it as the night he really fell for her.
This completely meaningless connection intrigued me enough to download the book, which I enjoyed so much that I began reading and literally didn’t put down until I’d finished it a few hours later. It’s a memoir by Jesse Itzler detailing the month that he invited a former Navy SEAL into his home for extreme fitness training. It’s hilarious and inspiring. He weaves some stories of entrepreneurship and his unusual family life into the story, but for the most part it’s a lot about freezing cold runs and insane workouts, which are way more interesting than you’d think.
It’s inspired me to keep reading more crazy fitness books. I’m currently reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, which is making me want to become a barefoot trail runner. Or, you know, get off my couch every once in awhile. I’m about to finish that one though and now I’m hooked on this theme. Any suggestions in the genre for my next read?
I’ve had a longstanding obsession with Russia in the first half of the 20th century. It started when I read the book Nina’s Journey the year it came out. That was 1989. I was seven. I can’t imagine why my parents thought it was a good idea for a 7-year-old to read an autobiography from Stalin’s Russia, but that’s an entry for another day. Anyway, my mini-review of my latest read:
The Book: It’s a beautifully told story about a cultured aristocrat who is put under house arrest in Moscow’s most luxurious hotel after the bolsheviks take power. And he remains there for decades—living an incredible life inside its walls.
Favorite Aspect: The food and wine descriptions. This may be the first time I’ve put down a book thinking, “Well, that really left me craving some caviar.” The author makes food and drinks sound as beautiful as any scenery and as charming as any person.
Top quote: “For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.” So, so true, right?
Last night I went to Verse & Vino, the annual fundraising dinner for Charlotte’s library system. I go to a lot of these kinds of things with my job, but this one is definitely one of my favorites. Its highlights are buying books, meeting their authors, and drinking wine. If they could somehow throw puppies into this mix, this would actually my fantasy party.
Last year’s event convinced me to read ALL of Karin Slaughter’s books, two excellent novels by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Balm and Wench), and a disturbing book by Chris Bohjalian called The Guest Room.
Last night, Rumaan Alam spoke briefly about his debut novel, Rich and Pretty, but the real power of his speech was in telling the crowd to get it together with this HB2 stuff in North Carolina. Meanwhile, Tom Rinaldi made me literally cry in his description of personally reading his book, The Red Bandanna, to the parents of its subject, Welles Crowther, who died after saving lives on 9/11.
My favorite part of last night though was hearing these authors describe their own experiences with the library. Do you remember going to the library as a child? I do. I can vividly remember being a small child and carrying large stacks of books up to a counter as high as I was to check out. I remember the thrill of getting my first library card.
These days I download most of my books from an app that never requires me to leave my bed, much less step inside a library. But I love that they exist. And last night convinced me that it might be time to go spend an afternoon in one.