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Fall is my favorite season of the year. The weather cools down, the colors deepen, and everything feels like coming home. (And food blogs become saturated with recipes for chili and chicken pot pie… which, yes.) I began fall by returning to my yoga studio after a four-month absence and joined them for 108 sun salutations to welcome the new season. We talked about the fall equinox and how the balance of day and night is an opportunity to think about balance in our own lives.
I’m not great at balance, especially now that my life is in transition. I always wonder, how much of my life should be focused on my career? How much time should I invest in freelancing? What does all this mean for my personal relationships and home life? And what about my mental health? Then I decided to turn to my favorite activity for education, entertainment, self-help, and relaxation: reading.
The easiest way to find balance in your life is to start where you spend most of your time. It just so happens that I spend most of my time consuming information, whether it’s through Twitter, online articles, magazines, or books. And given our constant contact with the Internet, you may find that’s where you spend most of your time, too. While my reading list is probably different from yours, I’m going to share some thoughts and questions to help you create your own reading list to find balance in your life this season.
1. What are your needs right now?
My most impulsive book orders are the result of me realizing I had needs that weren’t being addressed in other ways. For example: If you’re stressed, maybe a self-help book on managing anxiety or a guide on essential oils can help. Alternatively, maybe you want an entertaining novel to take your mind off things.
As for me, I’ve been dealing with body image issues and dipping my toes into the body liberation world. So on a whim I bought Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker for a dose of empowerment. I’ve mentioned before that she’s one of my favorite bloggers and has a ton of great insight on fat positivity, diet culture, and mental health. Admittedly, I just read this book last week (I finished it the day it arrived), but I know I’ll be coming back to it this fall.
How to address your needs in your reading list:
- What’s been on your mind lately? Is it negative or positive?
- If something is bothering you, what would make it better? Do you need more information about something? Do you need a new perspective? Or do you need a distraction altogether?
The key to finding balance is to be conscious of what’s on your mind and giving it an outlet. That way, it doesn’t take up more space than it has to.
2. What areas of your life do you seek growth in?
Growth encompasses a lot of things. It can mean your professional goals, your own personal development, your mental health, your relationship with your family—anything. If there’s any part of your life you’re trying to improve, you should consider that when crafting your reading list.
Here’s a breakdown of the ways I’m trying to achieve growth and how I chose the books for my reading list around those goals:
I’m currently looking for work, so right now my priority in career development is developing confidence in my abilities so I can 1) do well on job interviews and 2) perform well once I’m hired. That’s why I chose Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain for this reading list. I needed a book that would offer me a positive perspective of what it means to be an introvert in the workplace so I can begin to see my introvert qualities as assets rather than drawbacks.
The main reason I enjoy reading so much is because I like to learn new things. So the pursuit of knowledge is something I’m always striving for. That’s why I have Reproductive Justice: An Introduction by Loretta J. Ross and Rickie Solinger on the list. I was weary of the mainstream feminist movement’s fixation on abortion as the feminist issue and wanted a more radical, inclusive perspective. Reproductive justice is that perspective (and totally worth its own separate, educational post), and I plan to learn lots more by the time I finish this book.
I also have Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson on the list as part of some background reading I need to do on nationalism. I recently joined an editorial team that will be focusing on Asian American, diaspora, and immigrant issues. All of these things require me to understand the concept of nationalism much better than I do right now, so I’m excited to learn.
Finally, I have The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Óscar Martínez on my list because I care about immigrant justice, refugee rights, and global migration. This book provides narratives of people fleeing violence in Central America and details their journey through Mexico (via the train known as La Bestia) to come to the U.S. I previously worked in immigration rights, and listening to people talk about their lived experiences is one of the most basic ways you can come to understand the injustices of the system. This book is a way for me to learn about the context of Central America-U.S. migration while staying connected to a movement I’m passionate about.
How to address personal growth in your reading list:
- Think about where you want to be—whether that’s in your career, education, relationship, etc.
- What’s the missing element keeping you from getting there? Do you need inspiration or motivation? Do you need a second opinion? Or do you need some new knowledge and skills?
The self-help genre is full of books meant to help you grow, but it’s also not your only option. If you’re a writer who needs inspiration, maybe get a literary journal or a short story collection. If you’re someone who’s trying to practice a language you’re not yet fluent in, maybe get a book in that language. The options for growth here are endless.
3. What areas of your life have you been neglecting?
Of course, finding balance also means not letting critical parts of your life fall to the wayside. Is work taking over your life? Are you keeping in touch with your friends and family (assuming there’s a good relationship there)? Have you set aside time for self-care?
I’ve already read All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks a long time ago. It’s an incredible book that changed my perspective on family love and more importantly on how we learn to love as children and as adults. Lately, I’ve felt lacking in the self-love department. I added this book to my fall reading list as a reminder to offer myself grace during tough times.
How to address the missing pieces in your reading list:
- Step back from what you’re focused on and look at the big picture. What’s missing? What is important to you that you’ve been overlooking?
- What’s a gentle way for your to incorporate that missing piece back into your life?
A reading list is obviously not the cure-all for life balance. But it’s a good starting point for me, and I hope it can be for you, too.
I’m a reader by nature. It’s the way I learn best and it also happens to be something I enjoy. But of course it’s not for everyone.
If you’re like me and you have an overflowing bookshelf (and a bad habit of adding more to it anyway), this can be a good way of whittling down all the unread books. If you’re trying to find balance in your life this fall, I hope this gives you some food for thought. And if you have any other ideas on working towards balance in life, I’d love to hear it.