2016 was a year of amazing highs and low lows, but I found inspiration through many stories that I read that year. These books are different in many ways, but similar in the way the offer inspiration to seek out your goals, live your dreams, and to continue when times get tough. They also gave me a reality check when I found myself in self-pity and shook me to realize things really aren't that bad. So here are my inspirational books from last year, and I can't wait to share with you the ones I'll be reading this year!
Born To Run - Christopher McDougall
I actually listened to the Audiobook of Born To Run while driving to and from work in October. It definitely made my long drive more enjoyable! Born to Run is a story about several super athletes, including Scott Jurek, and the story of ultramarathoners in the US, and a secret tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who managed to run hundreds of miles barefoot or in shoes made of leather straps and thrive on meals of pinole and chia seeds. Its a great read, especially if you're just getting into long distance running like I was!
Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness - Scott Jurek
Scott Jurek is America's top ultramarathoner. He just finished running the entire length of the Appalachian Trail this past summer, has won the Badwater Ultramarathon twice (running through Death Valley in the heat of summer), and won the Sparathon three times running 153 miles from Athens to Sparta, just to name a few of his accomplishments. What I like about him is that he's a good old Midwestern guy, born and raised in Minnesota, and a vegan athlete. He chose to go vegan to improve his fitness and it has just taken off from there - proof that you can be an extraordinary athlete and eat a plant based diet. Eat & Run is a great autobiography of his life and where running has taken him. Plus vegan recipes are included after most chapters! Definitely an inspiration while reading at night to get up for those early morning runs!
Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training the Body and Mind - Sakyong Mipham
I've read this book twice now, usually before I start training for a big run. Running with the Mind of Meditation is written by Sakyong Mipham, a Tibetan lama and leader of Shambhala and an avid runner. The book discusses lessons which combine mindfulness with physical movement that can be used by anyone regardless of spiritual background or ability. The hope is to teach runners to run with more energy, focus, and patience. I was intrigued by this book because my mind tends to wander when I run and I find myself becoming incredibly impatient and unfocused leaving me to freak out when my mind thinks its going to be harder than it really is. This book has helped me take a breath, think about the moment I'm in, acknowledge how I am feeling, and let go of everything else. Since I've put some of its teachings into practice I've noticed I've become a much more present runner. One part of the book discusses using your breath to control your mindfulness and its been incredibly beneficial to me:
Paying attention to the breath as we exhale and inhale is extremely beneficial for the body and the mind. It helps to detoxify the mind from stress and negative thoughts and emotions, including regret. The breath is like the waves in the ocean that help circulate the water so that it does not become stagnant. Therefore when we pay attention to the breath, we are automatically brought into being present. This clarifies our mental state.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed
Most of you have probably seen the movie, Wild, with Reese Witherspoon, but if you have the time, please read the book! As always with books and movies there is so much more in the book than in the movie. The movie was great, but the book is amazing! I loved reading Cheryl's story about hiking for months with hardly any money to her name and having to survive in nature and then how nature went from being terrifying to amazing and that when she would venture into towns and off the trail she would yearn to get back to it. Some people compare her story to Eat, Pray, Love, which I couldn't get through. Eat, Pray, Love to me was about a woman who went through hardships just like Cheryl, but she ventured off to Europe and Asia to find herself. I like how Cheryl carried what she needed on her back with less than 20 dollars in her pocket because that's all she had. I felt more of a personal connection to Cheryl, maybe because of my constant desire to be in nature, or maybe because of her struggles, and I loved reading her story.
Find a Way - Diana Nyad
I read Diana's book in one weekend. She is the woman who attempted to swim from Cuba to Key West five times, only to finally complete the swim as a 64 year old, defying the notion that you have to be of a certain age to accomplish lofty goals. But her story is so much more than that swim, its about her perseverance through so many things in life and to never, ever give up. If you are looking for an inspirational story about an amazing woman read Find A Way! I found it incredibly intriguing as a swimmer, but it also helped me get through my rut in marathon training when I was constantly injured and could never finish my long runs. Reading this book got me back out there for every run, whether I made my distance or not, it helped me persevere to the end.
The Astronaut Wives Club - Lily Koppel
I am a space geek. I loved watching shuttle launches, and now following astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko and their Year in Space this year. This book is about the wives of the first astronauts of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. The stories are more about these strong women than specific space talk. We always remember the men who went into space, but what about their wives? Having to put on brave, all American faces while their husbands may have been in danger thousands of miles away, these women were expected to keep the house clean and the kids fed while they had their own aspirations. Trudy Cooper was Gordon Cooper's wife, he one of the first astronauts, but she was the one who was the pilot and encouraged him to get his own pilot's license. She tried to champion women to enter the space program only to be shut down by Congress. It would be a long time until the first American female astronaut would launch into space, but it wouldn't have happened without Trudy. A great read about amazing women who were stuck in a time where it was difficult, but not impossible, to break free from men's opinions of what they could and could not do.
Year of Yes - Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes OWNS Thursday night TV. She is the creator of Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder. She is a self-professed introvert and has panic attacks any time she has to do an interview (which she usually tries to get out of). One Thanksgiving her sister told her, 'You never say yes to anything', which sparked something inside of Shonda to start a Year of Yes, where in 2015 she agreed to anything she was afraid of - going on Jimmy Kimmel, giving the commencement speech at Dartmouth, attending White House events, anything that she would have normally said no to out of fear and anxiety. These yeses started a year of yes and a hysterical ride of what has happened before and since she's said yes. Anyone who is starting to feel unsure of their place in life, has been walked over one too many times, and just feels like life can spin out of control needs to read this book. Its about saying YES to things that scare you and how to live up to your own badassery. A great and uplifting read, you'll look at life differently when you're finished!