It's that time of year again — time for 111 million people to turn on the TV and zone out for several hours watching grown men chase a cowhide ball around on some fake grass. Looking for an escape from all that testosterone? If you can't join me at the local trampoline park (yep, that's where I'll be headed post-meditation trip weekend — it's going to be great!), curl up with one of these decidedly feminine books that have been on my Amazon wishlist for awhile:
Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
Red Hot and Holy by Sera Beak
With a rare combination of audacious wit, scholarly acumen, and tender vulnerability-vibrantly mixed with red wine, rock songs, tattoos, and erotic encounters-Sera candidly chronicles the highs and lows of her mystical journey. From the innocence of her childhood crush on God; through a whirlwind of torrid liaisons and bitter break-ups with Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Hinduism, and the New Age; and finally into committed monogamy with her own red hot and holy Goddess, Sera shares transformative insights, encouraging us all to trust our unique path and ignite our own spiritual love affair.
Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home by Joshua Becker
Because I have five of them. FIVE.
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl Wudunn
Through these stories, Kristof and WuDunn help us see that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. They make clear how so many people have helped to do just that, and how we can each do our part. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. Countries such as China have prospered precisely because they emancipated women and brought them into the formal economy. Unleashing that process globally is not only the right thing to do; it’s also the best strategy for fighting poverty.
Also worth mentioning here from the same authors: A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself. Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
In her first book, one of our most beloved funny folk delivers a smart, pointed, and ultimately inspirational read. Full of the comedic skill that makes us all love Amy, Yes Please is a rich and varied collection of stories, lists, poetry (Plastic Surgery Haiku, to be specific), photographs, mantras and advice. With chapters like "Treat Your Career Like a Bad Boyfriend," "Plain Girl Versus the Demon" and "The Robots Will Kill Us All" Yes Please will make you think as much as it will make you laugh. Honest, personal, real, and righteous, Yes Please is full of words to live by.
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Exuberant, moving, and keenly observed, Not That Kind of Girl is a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the struggle that is growing up. Dunham illuminates the experiences that are part of making one’s way in the world: falling in love, feeling alone, being ten pounds overweight despite eating only health food, having to prove yourself in a room full of men twice your age, finding true love, and most of all, having the guts to believe that your story is one that deserves to be told.
Also, because although I don't always agree with everything Dunham says or does, I always love her style.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Mindy invites readers on a tour of her life and her unscientific observations on romance, friendship, and Hollywood, with several conveniently placed stopping points for you to run errands and make phone calls. Mindy Kaling really is just a Girl Next Door—not so much literally anywhere in the continental United States, but definitely if you live in India or Sri Lanka.
It's hard to find time to read, but it's hard to deny the benefits of sitting down with a good book and losing yourself for awhile. Here are some books that will grab you from the beginning, keep you reading and that you'll actually want finish because they're so damn good:
Wolf Hall: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
History buffs will love this telling of Thomas Cromwell's early career, written in first person (anyone who saw Showtime's series The Tudors will recognize the story). Funny and sarcastic, Wolf Hall is the first book in a trilogy, so there's more where that came from.
Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer
I love me some memoir, and Dederer's detailing of a modern mom & yoga struggles hit close to home. The book could have been cheesy had the author let it, but in the end it's a beautifully honest book that will likely motivate you to live a better life.
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Fans of the BBC phenomenal show Sherlock will get their fix with this series of books based on the idea that Sherlock Holmes had a brilliant and bold 15-year-old girl as his apprentice. Both smart and adventurous, you'll finish the book hungry for more.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom. Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.
To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.
Food Rules: An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan
This super short read dishes up (see what I did there?) 60 smart rules for healthy eating. It's a book you can comfortably zoom through in an evening or two, and one you can keep coming back to time and again for really great advice.
Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah
When Amber Hewerdine consults a hypnotherapist as a desperate last resort, she doesn't expect that anything much will change.
She doesn't expect it to help with her chronic insomnia. She doesn't expect to hear herself, under hypnosis, saying words that mean nothing to her: 'Kind, cruel, kind of cruel' - words she has seen somewhere before, if only she could remember where. She doesn't expect to be arrested two hours later, as a result of having spoken those words out loud, in connection with the brutal murder of Katharine Allen, a woman she's never heard of... Sophie Hannah’s trademark dark, twisty plot will keep readers guessing until the very end.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Set in the 1930s, full of alluring descriptions, and featuring a headstrong lead character, this is a literary novel that is also full of scandal, sex, and secrets. Fifteen-year-old Thea Atwell has been banished from her Florida family and sent to an exclusive equestrienne boarding school located high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Homeschooled along with her fraternal twin, Thea had lived an overprotected and insular existence until the tragic incident that triggered her ouster from the family. Thrust into a complicated social milieu of southern debutantes and their rigid pecking order based on money, lineage, and looks, Thea (a not always likable protagonist) struggles with overwhelming feelings of guilt and homesickness as well as the challenge of fitting into her new school. But she also begins to feel her power, both because she knows she is beautiful and because she is an expert rider. Some readers will be put off by the book’s deliberate pacing and explicit sex scenes, but others will be held in thrall by the world so vividly and sensually rendered in a novel that is as sophisticated in its writing as it is in its themes.
Amy Falls Down by Jincy Willett
Amy Gallup is an aging novelist and writing instructor living in Escondido, California, with her dog, Alphonse. One New Year’s morning she shuffles out to her backyard garden and is wholly unprepared for what happens next: Amy falls down. A simple accident, as a result of which something happens, and then something else, and then a number of different things, all as unpredictable as an eight-ball break. This novel explores the role that accident plays in all our lives. “You turn a corner and beasts break into arias, gunfire erupts, waking a hundred families, starting a hundred different conversations. You crack your head open and three thousand miles away a stranger with Asperger’s jump-starts your career.” We are all like Amy. We are all wholly unprepared for what happens next. Also, there’s a basset hound.
What other book recommendations can you make for busy women? Leave them in the comments below.
Celebrities don't often come across as the backpacking type (or at least their public personas don't really lend to imagining them out on the trail, with no makeup and dirt under their fingernails). Still, there are a handful of women who seem like they would be a blast out in nature. Here are my top eight women whom with I'd love to share the trail:
1. Jennifer Lawrence
Known as "America's Kick-Ass Sweetheart," you have to try really, really hard not to like J-Law. Her acting is all-in (I thought her performance in American Hustle was mesmerizing), and with roles like Ree in Winter's Bone and of course Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games trilogy it's hard not to imagine her as completely amazing out in the wilderness. Also, she has claimed herself to be "the fastest pee-er ever," a total bonus when backpacking.
2. Alanis Morrisette
Claiming her favorite place in the world is California's Big Sur, Alanis seems like she'd be a great conversationalist around the campfire at night (are there portable guitars)? Her songwriting skills make her one of the most memorable women performing today, and the fact that she starred on "You Can't Do That On Television" as a teenager likely means she's got a wicked sense of humor.
3. Annette Bening
Maybe it's her charm, or maybe it's the fact that she's managed to stay married to Warren Beatty for 23 years, but I feel like Annete Bening can do anything, and do it with grace (including walking miles a day with a 40 pound pack). Her roles in The American President and American Beauty, two of my all-time favorite movies, make me wonder if she'd be a fun-yet-even-keeled addition to any backpacking trip.
4. Alicia Keys
This badass R&B star made a name for herself at a young age, and has said that she loves trying new things. She's been quoted saying that she has huge calves, which puts you at an advantage in backpacking, and she once considered changing her name to "Alicia Wild." Plus, she could sing while we hiked, something that makes a long haul go faster (not to mention keeps the bears away).
5. Reese Witherspoon
Her recent performance in Wild aside, Reese is a big reader and considers herself “a big dork who read loads of books...I get crazy in a bookstore. It makes my heart beat hard because I want to buy everything." She's also a feminist — when asked who she would invite over for dinner, she said "all the female senators" and when asked what she would ask them, she replied "why there aren't more female senators." I hear you, sister.
6. Jennifer Aniston
I know this is completely ridiculous, but I've always secretly believed that Jen and I would be best friends given just 5 minutes together at the bar (good thing we'll never meet in real life). She's smart, she's independent and she's funny — all things that I look for in a bestie and a trail partner. Imagine how close we'd be after two days in the wild! (Plus maybe she'd bring along her bestie Courtney Cox.)
7. Jillian Michaels
Jillian Michaels is everyone's favorite badass, making her the ideal celebrity to get me out of my comfort zone and push me to be my best (something I do with my own clients). But I'd also like to take her backpacking because she's a writer, a vocation that's near and dear to my heart, and as an investor in the jerky company Krave, we'd have lots of great snacks on the trail. Plus she loves animals and communing with nature.
What female celebrity would you love to spend some quality time with while backpacking remote backcountry trails? Leave your answer in the comments below.
You’ve read the book. You’ve highlighted moving passages and made notes in the margins. You’ve downloaded and printed out the book’s reader’s guide/discussion questions. The food is all set (the best book clubs always include some element of eating). All that’s left is to let the magic happen.
The date arrives
Start with greeting everyone who arrives, making sure to leave enough time for socializing. If members haven’t met each other before, it’s a good idea for everyone to go around and say something about themselves, such as why they’re looking forward to this book club, and what was the book that most influenced them in childhood. In fact, this is a good idea even if you’ve all known each other for years.
Now it’s time to have the discussion. Most books have discussion guides put out by the publisher, but it’s also good to have some generic discussion questions ready to go (see my post "Book club questions that work with any book" for a helpful list). It can help if there’s one person who acts as moderator. Here are some things for moderators to keep in mind:
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Picking the right people to join your book club can be a tricky proposition — you want a nice mix of people in order to foster some really great discussion. This may or may not include all of your besties. While it’s comfortable to just invite your inner circle to be part of the group, if you really want to learn and add some rich dynamics to the gatherings, try inviting people you’d like to get to know better.
Start with friends
You know your friends, you know what they like to read. Asking friends often makes communication, and thus scheduling and picking books, a bit easier.
Make sure you have similar reading styles
If you like fantasy novels about warlords and kung fu princesses, you’re probably not going to want to invite someone who reads nonfiction business books. A little variety is good — one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about book club is reading books that are out of my comfort zone. But you don’t want to overshoot your comfort zone by a hundred miles.
Ask them if they would be interested in joining a book club & why
Whether it’s in person or electronically, ask potential members what they would like to get out of the book club. This gets people thinking before you even have your first meeting about what kind of commitment they want to make to the group, which is never a bad thing. Start them off with some background about what you’re looking for, including the kinds of people and books, to start the conversation.
Finding (then asking) people you don’t know
If you’re new to town, or want to start a niche book club (a book club that only reads a very specific kind of book), or just are looking to meet new people, you should consider asking people you don’t know. Of course, this can be tricky, but if done right, can be extremely rewarding.
Meetup.com can be a great place to start a niche book club (in fact, Outdoor Book Club got started as a meetup group). There are some costs involved with going this route, but it’s one of the best places to find people online who are looking to get together in person. You could also start an open Facebook (or other social media) group using keywords that describe the types of books and/or people you’re looking for (i.e. “Business Book Club for Women” or “Smallville Philosophy Club”).
Finally, there’s always the old-fashioned way of posting flyers at your local library or bookstore. That’s certainly a good way of finding people who are right in your neighborhood, and who have the added bonus of patronizing places that love and support books (which are some of the best people in the world, if you ask me).
Want to learn more about how to start a book club that doesn't suck? Download my kindle ebook "How to Start a Book Club That Changes the World" from Amazon today.
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Scheduling a time that works for everyone in your book club can be a huge headache. With everyone's different schedules and commitments, find a date, time and place can feel like a perfect storm. Here are a few guidelines to make scheduling your book club easier.
First set a meeting length
You’ll want to give your group enough time to fully discuss the book, but still have plenty of time left over for socializing. However, keep in mind that having a three-hour long book club can be intimidating for some people who are busy. For more social book clubs, evenings are a good time to schedule a meeting, so that people can stay later if they’d like to socialize more. But for more formal book clubs, sometimes lunch hours work better. In fact, my own book club was initially comprised of all co-workers, and sometimes the only times we could meet were in the executive conference room at lunch.
Pick a location
For book clubs among friends, rotating between the members’ living rooms is a good choice; that way one person doesn’t take on all the responsibility of hosting. For friendly/social book clubs, it’s best to keep the group to eight members or less, and no one should be required to host the group at their home if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Restaurants, libraries, bookstores and even local parks and hiking trails can make good meeting spaces too (at Outdoor Book Club, we believe that being outdoors and talking about books is the best of both worlds!). If you decide to regularly meet at a public space, inviting 12 or more members becomes more feasible.
Don’t be afraid to switch up your locations a bit — maybe pick someplace different for special occasions (like reading a book that inspired a movie, you go out to watch the movie then hold your discussion afterwards at a restaurant). Or maybe for your holiday party/gift exchange, you’ll decide to meet at the botanical gardens or museum, adding an a special air to your usual book club gathering. Or maybe your book club is having an anniversary, or someone is getting married, or you just want to treat yourselves to something special for your birthdays — in that case, can I suggest planning a custom Outdoor Book Club trip (I do all the work, you just show up and be awesome)?
Sending the invite
Once you’ve got a good idea of a time, place and meeting length that works for everyone in the group, it’s time to send the official invitation.
As I’ve already mentioned, make sure you give people plenty of time to put the meeting on their calendars. Two weeks is good, but a month is even better.
Make sure the email lays out all the details, in writing, that gives everyone all the information they need to get to the book club on time. There’s a template for doing this in my book "How to Start a Book Club That Changes the World" if you need some inspiration, but basically start with passion and excitement, be clear about your agreed-upon expectations and end with a warm, personal touch that let’s everyone know how happy you are that they’re part of this amazing little group.
Want a convienent, clearly written guide that gives you everything you need to know to plan an awesome book club? Buy my ebook on Amazon, How to Start a Book Club That Changes The World.
Adventurous women are some of my favorite people, but not all of us came by it naturally. Maybe we were adventurous as kids, but over time that bold and bright spark was wrung out of us through the process of growing up (raise your hand if you were ever told as a child, "that's not very ladylike!"). But many of us end up rediscovering our inner heroine as we face the challenges and rewards of adulthood, learning that maybe ladylike is an ideal to which we no longer aspire.
But regardless of if you were born adventurous or came to it through a series of challenges, we're glad you made it. Here are a few misconceptions people have about adventurous women:
You probably don't care much about how you look.
When I'm out on the trail? Nope, I don't care if my hair is messy or you can see my wrinkles. But then again, neither do the trees or my dog or the people I camp with (or if they do, they've certainly never mentioned it). But when I'm at home and going to meetings with clients or out on the town, you can bet that I don't want to come across as incompetent or weird — so I actually like putting on makeup and nice clothes.
Do you enjoy being dirty?
Okay, this one might be somewhat true. Yeah, being dirty at the end of the day is a sure sign that the day was a roaring success. It means I probably pushed myself out of my comfort zone and learned something new, even if the thing I learned was how to fall of my bike in a new way. But I'm not always dirty. I count hot showers as one of my top 3 favorite activities.
You must be really tough.
Sometimes. Sometimes not. But since when is being tough all the time a virtue?
Your husband must be lonely
If anything, he thinks it's kinda awesome. And one of the best things about being an adventurous woman is that I get to spend plenty of time being adventurous WITH him. It's pretty much my favorite thing ever.
"Being dirty at the end of the day is usually a sign that I had a ton of fun."
Oh — you're crazy & must have a death wish
Mmm, not quite. I might spend my weekends outside participating in activities that the majority of women don't — mountain biking, backpacking, rock climbing come to mind — but that doesn't mean I'm crazy or want to die. It means I'm passionate. There's a (subtle) difference.
You probably get hurt a lot
It's true, I have more bruises than most women I know. But I love those bruises like mini-children. I earned every one of them, and it turns out that bruises aren't the end of the world! Getting hurt is life, and the more you understand and accept that to risk yourself is to risk being hurt, the happier you'll be.
You must be in amazing shape
Ha! I run, I occasionally lift weights and I do get out and bike and walk fairly regularly. But I'm in no way an endurance athlete. I just find that moving my body doing exciting activities feels good (and keeps my otherwise-expanding butt in check), so I want to do it more. So I'm not in amazing shape, but certainly good enough shape.
You must hate girly stuff
There is room in this world to be both girly and adventurous. I enjoy a nice pair of heels, a beautiful wrap dress and expertly applied eyeliner as much as the next girl. Pink really isn't my color, but I do enjoy giggling and wine about as much as anyone.
So what other myths and misconceptions are out there about adventurous women? Leave your biggest whopper in the comments below.
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Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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