4 Game-Changing Books to Read While Cooped up Inside

These are scary and uncertain times.

For many of us, practising social distancing is the new reality — at least for the foreseeable future.

And while you’re cooped up inside, one way to take solace is in a good book.

This post will explore four different books I’ve read in recent years that were legitimate game-changers for me.

Whether in terms of improving my finances, decluttering my home, or developing my personal growth, these titles have shifted the way I live my life.

So if you want to try and be productive during these periods of anxiety, consider checking out one of these books (even if you have to purchase an ebook due to store/library closures).

I’m linking to them via the Apple Books platform for ease of reference, but you can surely find them in other places (and I’m not being paid any affiliate marketing fees — these are my genuine recommendations).

1. The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money

Written by Chelsea Fagan and designed by Lauren Ver Hage, this is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their financial health.

Especially if you happen to be a millennial woman, this book is written is very approachable terms.

As someone who is truly horrific with math, this book broke complicated financial topics like budgeting or investing down to a level I could genuinely understand.

It’s still nuanced and interesting, but if you’re a true beginner at personal finance, this book is a great option.

After reading it a couple of years ago, I gradually implemented changes like developing a weekly/monthly budget, creating a debt repayment plan, and setting/meeting savings goals.

Since making those changes, I’ve managed to pay off over $3,000 in consumer debt, save up $5,000 in personal high-yield savings accounts, and even start investing in a TFSA (no matter how small the deposits!).

I now understand where my money is going, and I feel empowered knowing how to manage my finances.

The Financial Diet is a larger brand, too, including their blog and YouTube channel. I’m actually now a regular columnist at the blog, and have had several articles of mine turned into YouTube videos for their Making it Work series (see here and here).

So if you’re interested in the book, be sure to check out their digital resources, too!

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Written by Marie Kondo, this best-seller has brought minimalism to the masses.

And, speaking of my column at The Financial Diet blog, I’ve actually already written an entire article about this book: see 6 Ways My Life Has Improved Several Years After Completing The KonMari Method.

Check out the article linked above if you want my full thoughts, but in short, if you’re someone looking to organize your home, this is arguably one of the best books out there.

It’s written in a clear and concise way, and the principles developed by Kondo are genuinely life-changing. Check it out if decluttering is one of your goals while practising social distancing!

3. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well

Written by Meik Wiking of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, this is another global best-seller.

In essence, it breaks down the Danish concept of hygge, which the author defines as “…when you are cuddled up on a sofa with a loved one, or sharing comfort food with your closest friends. It is those crisp blue mornings when the light through your window is just right.”

A rather nebulous concept, Wiking posits that hygge is the reason why Denmark often ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world.

It takes a while to understand the idea, but by the end of the book, you’ll take away your own personal definition.

I stumbled upon this title a couple of years ago at a bookstore, and it was a super pleasant read.

The physical book itself is beautiful, with gold detailing on its cover and stunning photographs throughout.

The pages aren’t text-heavy, so it almost reads like a grown-up picture book: focused more on simplicity and aesthetics than communicating dense writing.

Definitely give it a read if you need something comforting and uplifting (especially during this global pandemic). You’ll be sure to find actionable steps to living a happier life.

4. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Lastly, this self-help title by Eckhart Tolle is probably the closest thing that I have to a bible.

While I consider myself to be agnostic, this book has a great mix of spiritual and intellectual concepts.

Tolle bounces from referencing Jesus Christ to the Buddha to Descartes…and the result is incredible.

He doesn’t align himself with a single religion or belief system, but rather expands his idea of consciousness to encompass all different sects from across the world.

It’s been one of the most profound reads of my entire life, and I regularly return to it.

Particularly potent in this chaotic climate of 2020, Tolle speaks straight wisdom about the preciousness of the present moment.

Give it a read if you’re feeling particularly anxious, lost, or despondent right now. You won’t regret it.

Conclusion

This list was a bit of a departure from my usual Writing Advice series, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.

Give the blog a follow if you’re interested in more content about writing/reading in general.

I hope that you’re all staying safe and healthy during this chaotic time, and thanks for giving this post a read.

Why Reading Poetry Is Just as Important as Writing It: The Key to Creating Great Work

“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” — Stephen King

In King’s book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, he explains how important it is to be continually reading if you want to get serious about writing.

I couldn’t agree more.

The bulk of my education about the English language came from the act of reading.

And I’m not talking about assigned school-work. I’m talking about round-the-clock reading for fun.

When I was a young child, my mom would endlessly read books to me from the local library. She was a teacher in her home country, and is a trained early childhood educator here in Canada, so she’s always appreciated the value of learning.

As soon as I could read independently, I inhaled books to no end.

In elementary school, I’d bring home a backpack full of books I’d borrowed from the classroom — every single night.

At six years old, my teacher remarked that I was already reading at a fifth-grade level. And I didn’t stop there.

I entered and won my local library’s creative writing contests as soon as I was old enough to enter.

By the age of thirteen, I had already won a national youth literary contest, given a paid poetry reading at the reception, and gotten a publishing credit out of the whole thing.

None of this happened by accident.

Why reading is your secret weapon as a creative writer

Fast-forward to today, and I’ve won more literary contests, been published widely in magazines/journals, and written two books for my publisher.

All of these accomplishments started from one habit: regularly reading for fun.

So if you want to embark on a creative writing career, it’s crucial that you start reading.

Read whatever you can get your hands on: poetry, novels, non-fiction.

Every genre has something different to teach you; poetry teaches brevity and emotion; fiction teaches world-building; non-fiction teaches research skills.

And you don’t need to spend a ton of money. Check out your local library (or college’s library) to start.

Used book stores are also gold-mines for finding affordable new reads.

If you have the cash to buy lots of new books, go for it — but don’t feel obligated.

Writing poetry in particular

The bulk of my career has been as a professional poet. Although I dabble in creative non-fiction and do plenty of client work, poetry is my niche.

For poetry especially, you really need to expose yourself to different styles. Read the classics. Read new poetry. Read formal poetry. Read experimental poetry.

Poetry is so incredibly open-ended — unlike fiction, there really aren’t any rigid guidelines for writing it.

You can write a poem that’s one word long, or you can write a poem that’s 1,000 words long. You can have a title or not. Poets have the freedom to basically do whatever we want.

But how can you find your unique style if you’re not a seasoned pro? Just keep reading.

Eventually, you’ll stumble upon poets that change your life. (For me, those include authors like Sylvia Plath and Charles Bukowski.)

You’ll find poets that write about things you care about. You’ll find poets that have incredible styles the kind you’d like to emulate.

But you’ll also find authors whose work you really hate (for me, that includes ‘Instagram poets’ like Rupi Kaur). And that’s good, too! It’s all part of the process.

You need to dip your toes into many different types of writing — otherwise, you won’t know what you like and dislike.

Reading is a constant process of learning new things about the world (and about your personal taste).

Get inspired, but don’t copy

It’s great to read other poets to get inspired. But don’t try to outright copy another writer’s style. That’s pointless and uninteresting.

There’s no use trying to be the next Shakespeare — because you aren’t Shakespeare.

Embrace who you are: your identity, your life experiences, your preferences, and your thoughts. Look to other writers for influence, but don’t try to imitate them.

Keep reading and keep writing new work. The two practices will feed into each other.

Conclusion

So, always keep a new book on your bedside table.

Constantly seek new literature to read.

And think of reading as a prerequisite for creating great work.

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As always, thanks for reading my Writing Advice column here on my blog.

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Happy writing!