May picks! Favorite content—books, audio, video, and vibes—from last month.
I’m not a big fan of self-help books just because I typically seek out family and friends for advice and use reading for entertainment. However, The Gift by beloved psychologist Dr. Edith Eger piqued my interest after listening to her interview in one of my favorite podcasts.
A particular quote, highlighted by the host, caught my imagination: “It takes courage to be average.” There’s a whole context to this statement once you read the book, but it remains powerful even without the context.
Reading the book is like getting a warm, comforting hug. Although this book is about the self and how to heal yourself, it is also an exercise in empathy with powerful insights based on stories culled from her profession as well as her personal experiences.
The overarching theme of this book is kindness—to be kind to yourself and others. That is the gift that keeps on giving.
The Midnight Library is marketed as a YA book, but that is a limiting label. Anyone who has ever regretted anything will find moments of illumination in this popular book.
In the story, the protagonist Nora Seed (incidentally an anagram for reasoned) decides to end her life, then finds herself at The Midnight Library where the librarian guides her through parallel versions of her life based on her What ifs. It’s basically a book about talking someone off the ledge, so to speak.
It’s good, and I’ll probably read it again if I ever find myself floundering again or feeling self-important.
TTFA for short. This is the podcast that introduced me to Dr. Edith Eger. This podcast, hosted by author Nora McInerny, is sort of the antithesis to toxic positivity. Instead of putting on a brave face when asked “How are you?,” the stories in this podcast bravely answer the question with honesty and a lot of heart.
I have been listening to this podcast for over a year now, but last month the episode with Dr. Eger struck a chord and made me realize just how necessary this podcast is in a world full of uncertainty and ever-present anxiety.
Some of my favorite episodes are “To Michael” and “Our Parent’s Debt.” Both episodes made me cry. More importantly, both episodes made me think.
About all the various struggles in this world.
About how some struggles end in triumph, and others don’t.
About the fact that there’s no easy answer to some problems.
And maybe there’s no need for answers, sometimes.
And that we don’t have to put a positive spin on things.
Sometimes, painful events just are.
While the podcast provides levity to serious issues, it also does not shy away from discomfort. In fact, it lets listeners marinate on it. Instead of cutting away to a commercial or continuing with the story, the producers let the story breathe with pockets of silence. During heavy parts, the music trails off to let the gravity of the moment sink in.
Listen to TTFA for raw stories from real people. Stay for the superb storytelling.
VIEWING & VIBING
Writing sprints on YouTube
If there’s a booktube, there is apparently also an authortube where both aspiring and published authors post writer-related content and stream their writing sessions while interacting with their subscribers in between. Subscribers and the livestream host would often share their word count after a particular sprint.
I started “watching” writing sprints on YouTube last month and it’s working so far. I say “watching” because I don’t typically actively watch the video. I simply put it in the background like white noise.
Writing is often perceived as a solitary activity. It’s common to envision a romanticized portrait of a writer alone in a shed in the woods a la Henry David Thoreau in Walden. Writing sprint videos make the writing process not only collaborative, but also social.
People writing or working together via livestream seems to be a virtual extension of cafe culture where writers and remote workers work together in companionable silence. It’s possible the mere presence effect is at play as writers globally lean on each other virtually for motivation and accountability. It definitely eases the stress of the task knowing you are not the only one struggling.
I have so far subbed to Davaisha (grapefry), Kate Cavanaugh, and Zara Hoffman, but there’s a whole community worldwide in this sphere because of the NaNoWriMo initiative—an entire month dedicated to writing novels. Fun!
There are tons of tiny home and tiny living channels on YouTube, but none as vibey and soothing as Never Too Small. I have fallen asleep to several videos on this channel because of its soporific editing style.
Instead of moving the camera to show the space like a typical apartment tour video, the camera is fixed in Never Too Small which minimizes stimulation and distraction. It works because the spaces are small enough to fit in a single frame.
To demonstrate the space-saving innovations in their featured apartments, a person (usually the architect) calmly walks into frame, opens up the storage spaces and other contraptions, then leaves. It is very satisfying to watch how these architects manage to maximize the space without compromising quality of life.
The voice over and interviews are equally soothing; the sound perfectly modulated to create this cozy ambience perfect for vibing or relaxing.
That’s all for May!