You Are What You Read

I’ll admit it: despite the fact that I own a tablet, I have never read a book electronically. There’s just something about flipping pages that makes reading more satisfying for me. When I have my eye on a novel and biography, I generally turn to the library (#sustainable). But there are some books that I just need to keep close. These are the books that warrant reading, re-reading, referencing, and the occasional post-it note.

I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they read. Book selections can offer insight into curiosities, hobbies, attention span, and more. I thought it might be fun to share a few favorite titles I keep on my bookshelf. Here are five that are worth a read:


The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, by Twyla Tharp

“It’s vital to establish some rituals—automatic but decisive patterns of behavior—at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.”

The Creative Habit book cover

“Creativity” has become a bit of a buzzword. It’s a trait attributed to artists, inventors, and savvy west coast entrepreneurs. Creativity is marketed as mysterious and free, so the idea of a creative habit might seem paradoxical to some. But within the constraints of habit and ritual, there is so much opportunity for creation. In The Creative Habit, celebrated dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp shares her recipe for fostering creativity through deliberate practice. If you find yourself in a rut and want to reenergize the way you approach your work, your art, or your life, I highly recommend giving this one a read!



There is No Good Card for This What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love, by Dr. Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell

“You’re not a burden. You’re human.”

There is No Good Card for This book cover

If you’ve read the more narrative posts I’ve shared on my blog, you know that I spend a lot of time thinking about empathy, kindness, and human nature. If you follow me on social media, you know I’m a big fan of illustrator Emily McDowell. When I learned that she and Dr. Kelsey Crowe were publishing a book all about how to show up for people facing their darkest moments, I was quick to preorder myself a copy. This unassuming, cartoon-filled book should be required reading for all of humanity. Whether you fancy yourself an empath, or you’re self-admittedly uncomfortable around people who are struggling, there’s something in here for you. Crowe and McDowell have basically created a handbook for being a better person. Go ahead: read, rinse, repeat!


The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook, by Deb Perelman

“I’ve noticed that nobody hates cooking as much as they hate the roulette of not knowing if their time, money, and efforts are going to be rewarded by a recipe that exceeds expectations.”

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook book cover

I love to cook and am admittedly pretty good at it. But what I’m even prouder of is my ability to identify a worthwhile recipe. One scan of the questionable directions and I know to skip that highly pinned cauliflower mac and cheese, for example. I don’t mess around with recipes that look like they might not yield amazing results because, frankly, I don’t have the time. What I love about Deb, creator of the blog Smitten Kitchen, is that she tests and tweaks until her recipes are foolproof. She does the hard work to ensure that I’m going to be happy with the results. And her food photography and flavor combinations are incredible. This book is equal parts eye candy and mouth candy (?). Don’t miss the simple yet amazingly delicious roasted tomatoes and cippolini onions with white beans. Sop that up with some crusty bread and thank me later.


Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown with Christopher Vaughn

“The quality that work and play have in common is creativity.”

Play book cover

I first encountered this book as a graduate student in applied drama and theater for the young. So much of it resonated with me. Stuart Brown is a psychologist and the founder of the National Institute for Play.

Brown has dedicated his career to studying the impact of play on our intelligence and development. His findings indicate that play is vital and transformative and that we benefit from engaging in play throughout our lives. In his book, he talks about what he’s learned from observing animal play behavior, how children learn through play, and how adults who spend time playing are more creative and joyful. It’s a quick read, but one that will give you even more reasons to take a break and have some fun.


Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms, by Erin Benzakein

“One of the best parts of growing a cutting garden is having a bounty to share.”

Cut Flower Garden book cover

My love of this book is more about the pictures than the words. For several years now, my husband and I have grown a raised bed vegetable and herb garden. Last year, I experimented with adding a cut flower garden to our yard. Floret Farm’s book was my inspiration. Flipping through the pages you’ll find full bleed photography of stunning blooms. Sunflowers, ranunculus, sweet peas, and—my favorite—dahlias, all from the bounty of famed Floret Farm. It’s not a very practical handbook unless you have a lot of land and a lot of time, but there are plenty of useful tidbits of information. I also appreciate the seasonal guides offering instructions for assembling bouquets, flower wreaths, and more. A gorgeous, coffee table worthy book!


I hope that at least one of these books is new and of interest to you. There are so many others I could have pulled—from Hamilton: The Revolution (show tickets booked for September, lyrics to full show memorized as of two years ago) to Full Catastrophe Living (all about mindfulness in an increasingly distracted world) to The Happiest Baby on the Block (the 5 S’s are new mom required reading). But, I’ll save those for another post . . .

Now that you’ve seen what’s on my bookshelf, take a look at the books in your home or office. What five titles would you pull from the shelf to give people a sense of who you are and what you care about? You know what they say: you are what you read!