Thursday, May 1, 2014

Inspiring Through the Pages [Guest Post]

While I'm honeymooning in Europe, a few wonderful bloggers will be taking over my blog! I am so excited to be sharing these ladies with you!  I need to get reading when I return from this honeymoon. Can't wait to check more off of this list! 

Hi Everyone! Nice to meet you. My name’s Katie, the quirky college student running Inkspot  and my twitter, LiteraryOdyssey. Raewyn is generous enough – and daring enough – to allow little ol’ me to guest post while she’s off reaping the rewards of all of her hard pre-wedding work. (Congratulations and happy honeymooning!) Don’t worry, she’ll be back to spreading her awesome with ya’ll very soon!

Today’s post is on books. Beautiful, fantastic books. 

It’s going to start off with a confession: I am a book nerd. I live, eat, and breathe books. By now, I think books might be part of my cellular structure. Maybe I am a book. Books have always been a source for adventure, learning, and excitement in my life. I have been blessed to share that addiction with other book-a-vores everywhere I go.

There are some books that are special not because of their epic plots or sarcastic characters, but because they grab some part of me. Their words seep into my flesh, settle into my heart. They reveal a part of human nature. They help me grapple with, wrestle through and come to terms with how I understand the world. Sometimes, when I need them most, they light a spark, illuminating a darkened tunnel. They inspire.

The most important thing we can ever be is inspired. Inspiration looks different to everyone, but is intrinsically the same throughout. If you have ten minutes, time-lapse photographer Louie Schwartzberg's TED talk is a life changing experience. A sense of wonder…that’s what inspiration is. It is the “oh my god” moment that Schwatzberg mentions in his TED talk. Something has caught your attention and made you mindful, it has connected with something deep inside your soul and it sends you on a journey. Wonder, inspiration, they deepen our experiences. They are gifts.

Books that inspire are special gifts. Special gifts like that deserve to be shared! So, in no particular order, this is list of a few special reads that have inspired me (there are many more, but to save your sanity, I’ve limited it):

1). Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
A high school teacher placed this book in my hand one afternoon. It did not last past nightfall. For anyone who has not read it, it is the true story of a man (Albom) reunited with his favorite college professor, as the professor battles ALS. Every page is filled with quotes, insights and thought-provoking questions that made me think about how I want to live, and love, in this world. Why are we so afraid of silence? Believing what you feel, trusting what you feel, is vitally important to connection. Being vulnerable is one of the most beautiful, loving actions we can do – for ourselves and for others. We are part of an ocean of humanity. And love, love always wins.

2). Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
Post-Morrie is Mitch Albom’s relationship with two different men of the cloth: a rabbi and a protestant minister. Two very different men, from very different faiths and walks of life, who never met, Albom shows, are, in fact, very similar. Their stories call to the strength of the human spirit, to resilience. Gratitude is the greatest door to happiness we have. The story is a lesson in not judging a book by its cover. You are not your past. As with Tuesdays with Morrie, the pages are full of quotes that lift the spirit, touch the soul, and challenge how the world, and our relationship to it and each other, is perceived. (I’m a quote-loving girl. Quotable moments sell me.) Don’t worry, though, it’s not just heavy-stuff! Humor is intricately spun throughout the entire story.

3). The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
There’s a movie coming out of this. GO WATCH IT. But you have been forewarned: bring a box of tissues. (Perhaps I should have labeled this post “To Which Tissues Are Necessity” because if you’re a crier, like me, these last three books will have you blubbering at some point.) I stayed up until 3am reading this novel when it came out. When I finished I lay there, clutching the book to my chest, whispering: “It’s beautiful.” I cannot claim that every page is full of inspiration, but I can admit that is has been a long time since a book struck me so deeply. It leaves you determined to live life fully, love deeply, throw caution to the wind whenever you can and remember that love is keeping the promise anyway.

4). Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D
This book does not inspire traditionally. There are no quotable words of wisdom that lift the spirit and elicit choruses of “Ah-has!” Living Downstream is an investigation into the environment and its relationship to cancer. That sounds depressing. So why do I love this book? Why, on earth, do I find that inspiring? Because this book inspired me to pay a closer attention to what is in my immediate environment. It inspired me to realize how interconnected everything is, from humans to the environment. It also inspired me to take a stand. Signing petitions; writing letters to senators and other government members; pressuring companies and manufacturers to change their processes; being an informed consumer; choosing as much “clean” products as I can; and educating my friends, family and acquaintances. These are all the results of inspiration. 

5). The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (and its sequel Daring Greatly)
Brene Brown has TED talks on Youtube, so if you are not a fan of reading, never fear! In fact, I found I had even more Ah-ha! moments out of her talks. These books inspired me to realize that vulnerability is courage. Vulnerability is the path to joy, the door way to creativity. Most importantly: vulnerability, joy, courage and creativity are all vital components to living a happy, whole hearted life.

These books took me on a journey into myself that led to a greater understanding of who I am. When I started reading them, I really thought I knew myself pretty well. Surprise! I had myself fooled. For instance: as much as I desire to be seen and heard, to get my work out to the world, I orchestrate myself to stay very small. Why’s that? You’ll have to read her to find out. ;)

6). Minding the Body, Mending the Mind by Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
You can heal your body. That’s all. A weighted, full-gun, hit you with a brick statement: you can heal yourself. Through various meditations, physical exercises, and check-list styled steps Borysenko shows readers how, giving us the gift of empowerment. As someone who has struggled with debilitating health issues her whole life, I found these tools and her writing and experiences incredibly inspiring. Healing does not have to mean curing, but it does not make it any less important or potent.

7). You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.
Take the first statement for the last book, multiple by 2 and add in “your life” as well and you’ve got it. Her work is powerful, powerful stuff. Our state of mind impacts our life. How we think and feel has an inextricable connection to our health and the way we live. Hay tells readers that we are not the pawns to the world around us. We are not powerless. We are the players. We have control. We can heal ourselves.

8). From Baghdad, With Love by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth
Perhaps being the sister of three military men got to me here, but I cannot help myself. There is something so touching about this story of puppy love in the middle of the horrors of war and the lengths Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman went through to save Lava. Friendship can form from any one, in any experience. One small, mangy little creature can become the most beloved, desperate of needs. And, as much as Kopelman saved Lava, Lava, with all her puppy-sweetness, also saved him and the other Lava Dogs.

9). Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
As someone who went to countless movie premieres and book releases, I cannot properly summarize the effect this book had on me. But I will try! What it taught me and how it inspired me:

The bond of friendship is strong enough to get you through anything. Your heart will call you home. Love will always prevail. Family is who you make it, not necessarily who you were born into. People are deeper and more complex than our mind can ever fathom. Love is a powerful motivator. All good things come with hard work. Embrace your quirkiness. We all deserve love. What makes you different and unique is what makes you special. Standing out in a crowd is better than blending in. A small group of individuals can change the world. Do not underestimate the underdog – we are all capable of greatness.

(Friendly neighborhood check-in on a long post…Still with me? You are? What a good sport! Brownie points to you. We’re almost through!)

After compiling my list of books that inspire, I put the question out to my friends: “What books inspire you and how?” A few of them were awesome enough to respond. This is their list:

1). The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
It “taught me to feel my emotions.” - Hillary

2). All of C.S. Lewis’ books, including the Chronicles of Narnia.
“His blunt but still graceful honesty about Christianity, and the way he writes about his love for deep, rich things of life [is inspiring]. He writes simply and clearly about complex subjects without diluting the beauty, pain, or truth of it.” - Laura

3). Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
It “taught me about love.” - Hillary 

4). The Wrinkle in Time trilogy by Madeleine L’Engle
It “inspired me to think bigger, and embrace my weirdness.” – Raven

5). The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
It “taught me that childhood demons both matter and can be defeated.” – Hillary

What books inspire you?
Keep being inspired. ♥

Thank you so much for taking over my blog as I'm gallivanting [and hopefully not freezing] in Europe!

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