2016 Book Report – Part One

I did a lot of reading this past year, much more than any of my previous adult years. I recently fell back into a habit of reading and I made it somewhat of a priority in 2016. I thought I’d do a quick review of what I read last year. I’ve broken the list down into two parts for your reading pleasure. Here’s some of what I read in 2016:

Big Magic. Read more at pamelapetrus.com

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

One of my most favorite, uplifting books from the year was Big Magic. I did a larger review of the book because this one really helped jump start my own creative explorations and gave me a new perspective on creativity altogether. I will say this – this book is not just for “creative” people. (More on what being creative really means here.) It tells us to go make something and shows us how to pull creativity into all aspects of our lives; it’s not just about putting paint on a canvas, writing books, or other traditional creative methods. This one has shown up on practically every must-read list and I highly recommend it too.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
The number one thing I’ve returned to from this book is the idea that good ideas and inspiration come to us for only a short time. If we don’t act on that inspiration, the idea leaves us and goes on to someone else. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve sat on an idea only to see someone else do it before I do…. Because of Gilbert’s theory on this, I’ve acted on many more ideas than I have in the past. I certainly haven’t acted on every notion; however, I’ve taken action on the ones I’ve felt most passionate about when I’d probably have waited until the “right time” without this newfound perspective.


Book Review: Essentialism
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

This is another book that showed up on most of the must-read lists. Some people I know from the internet made major life-changing decisions because of this read. Some changed the trajectory of their lives altogether. Because of seeing such impactful results, I had high, high hopes for this book. I truly expected some sort of breakthrough regarding time and priorities. To be honest, it wasn’t quite as impactful for me as I’d hoped, and I can attribute this to a few things. One, I probably built my expectations up a bit too high. Two, I was finishing this right after the flood and let’s get real – my mindset was a bit too scattered and muddled to be working on such complex concepts. Nonetheless, I did take away several new ideas (I included an excerpt in this post.) and I’ll probably read this one again now that my mind is a little clearer.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
I applied this information mainly to my work life and it did give me some fresh thoughts on what’s important there. The main thing that I continue to remember is the idea that life gets cluttered like our closets. We must continually cull our lifestyle, just like we do our belongings at home. Getting your life in order isn’t a one time (or one weekend) task. We have to periodically take stock of what all we’ve added to our schedules, just like we seasonally clean out our drawers and cabinets. We don’t end up with packed closets because we intentionally chose that. Instead, we add an item here and an item there that results in us having too much stuffed inside. Our hectic lifestyles come to us the same way; we add one thing here and one there until we’ve packed our calendars to the brim, leaving no time for rest, rejuvenation, or growth. Looking at my calendar with the same mindset that I do my closets has opened my eyes to the fact that “getting it together” is a continual process, not something that happens once.

 Book Review Eat Pray LoveEat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is an oldie but goodie. After reading Big Magic, I decided to explore Gilbert’s other work. This bestseller is the story of her exploration post-divorce and the process she went through to rediscover herself. It’s somewhat similar to Wild if you’re familiar with that book/movie. Eat Pray Love touches on feelings and emotions that we’ve all had at some point – that feeling of being lost, having lost touch of who you truly are and what you want. After hitting rock bottom after her divorce she takes somewhat of a sabbatical to rediscover herself, and the story and lessons learned via that experience were very inspirational. I loved her story, especially the parts I could apply to my own journey, and it’s a great, somewhat easy read that I’d suggest getting around to if you haven’t already.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
After reading this book, I was encouraged to remember that we can all stop what we’re doing and start over if needed. We can hit “bottom” and still end up with a life that’s even better than we ever imagined. And most importantly, by following the path that we know to be best in our guts, we open up our lives to all new possibilities and a level of grandeur that we wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.


Marina Keegan The Opposite of Lonliness
The Opposite of Loneliness – essays and stories by Marina Keegan

I picked this one, another bestseller, for a trip based solely on the cover. I loved the photo and colors so I grabbed it without even checking reviews. Had I discovered what it was about, I most certainly would not have bought it. It’s a story of real-life tragedy and my aversion to anything sad would have prompted me to place it right back on the self. Nonetheless, I read it cover to cover and honestly, the sadness wasn’t overwhelming. (Thankfully). It’s the compilation of work from a young writer who died much too soon. This one caused me to think a lot about the brevity of life (a full post about that here) and brought with it a new perspective on what’s important. I read this post-flood and I was already going through a life-changing time and developing new ideas on what’s important. This book added to that new mindset.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
If you read the post linked above, you’ll see that this book intensified my introspective nature. I began to take stock of everything in my life – relationships, daily tasks, my possessions – everything. I think being catapulted into a real-life story of obsolescence further solidified my new outlook on life and helped me determine what was most important to me at that time.

Book Review Rising StrongRising Strong by Brene Brown

I’ve recommended this book to 30+ people and it certainly opened my mind to concepts I hadn’t considered before. The foundation of the book is vulnerability (and its relation to shame) and it touched on a lot of concepts that I hadn’t considered before, and in many cases intentionally avoided. This is not an easy read and as a matter of fact, it took me a while to finish it because I could only read small sections at a time – sometimes not even a full chapter.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
I have many, many notes from this book and I should probably come back a do a full review of this one. The main thing that I’ve used over and over again from the book is the process of identifying how the story you’re telling yourself about a situation can differ from reality, and almost always differs from someone else’s story. At the very beginning Brown points out that we write “shitty first drafts” in our minds, filling in the blanks and creating what’s often a false reality. We do this most often in disagreements and I’ve made a point many times to share with Matthew “the story I’m telling myself” and it’s helped up get to the root of disagreements much more quickly and prevent smaller misunderstandings from becoming much larger ones.

Book Review Present Over PerfectPresent Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

I will most likely dedicate an entire post to this book at some point. This one certainly ranks high on my list of all-time favorites. With this one too, I bought it with no research, simply from seeing a post from a friend. (Thanks, Leslie.) Before this book, I wasn’t familiar with Shauna Niequist. I dove in not even really knowing what to expect and I turned down more pages and made more notes that I would have ever imagined. The book is all about learning to stop hiding behind “busy” and accepting yourself and your life for what it really is. It’s about learning to transform your life away from schedules filled with things everyone else wants you to do (story of my life, really) and instead leaving room to breathe. It’s about only doing what’s truly important and best for you, even if it seems at first to not be the “right” thing. Her story is that of saying no to book tours and speaking engagements so that she can be home with family and actually write more. At first glance, it seems she should “ride the popularity wave” while it was available and the book shares examples of how not riding that wave opened more doors and offered a more fulfilling life for her. It’s all about saying no when others expect you to say yes, and that is overwhelmingly one of the things I struggle with most and don’t want to admit. Because of this, I think this book will be one of the most life-changing for me and I’ll certainly read it again soon. Probably more than once.

What I’ve Used Most from the Book:
I’ve learned that I can say no. I’ve learned that following my intuition regarding what’s right for me is far more important than packing my days with what others deem significant. Since reading this book, I’ve found myself saying “no” more often and being more conscious of what I add to my calendar. After all, saying yes to one thing means inadvertently saying no to something else. And that something else could be what’s truly important to you. This book also solidified my desire to write and share my own story (the real and true unfiltered story) and moved writing that book up a little on my priority list.

There’s the first half of my book report from 2016! Several of these have ended up on my all-time favorites list and I can’t wait to read them again. Are any of these your favorites too?

Click here for 2016 Book Report – Part 2!

3 thoughts on “2016 Book Report – Part One”

  1. I love reading about what other people are reading! I read Big Magic this past year, too—my first Elizabeth Gilbert book. I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected to. I’m looking forward to reading Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner this year…

    1. I want to read that one too! Let me know if you like it! I loved Big Magic. I now follow her on Insta, have read other books, and listen to her podcast. Haha

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