I don’t get much time for reading these days; between a full time job and two toddlers, my “free time” in the evenings is spent sweeping Cheerios off the floor or mindlessly scrolling Facebook as I lie exhausted in bed. However, a luxurious week long vacation to Costa Rica with my sister and my mom afforded me the opportunity to devour three books; three incredibly different books that benefited me in unique ways.
First, the career bolstering book, recommended to me by my new boss (A director of Story Development with years of experience churning out stories for major animation series and movies): Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar. This was a great read as it walked me through Pixar from its first day in existence to the giant of animation it is now. The most useful elements of this book include detailed notes and processes for how to handle feedback and critique as a creative, as well as how to work through “creative blocks”. As a writer whose livelihood now depends on churning out stories, I found it super valuable. If you love movies like Monsters, Inc. and Up, you’ll enjoy hearing anecdotes about how those movies came to be, and the transformations they went through to end up on the big screen.
Second, the lighthearted read that made me snicker in the public hot springs as I read it – A Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, creator of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. This book is also loaded with lots of background and notes on being a creative writer, but is more of a memoir based on Shonda realizing she needed to drastically overhaul her life and stop saying no to every opportunity that approached. I loved her no bullshit perspective on being fat, and consequently, how she lost weight. Also, her honest tales of motherhood and the challenge of loving her career AND being a mommy resonated with me, and how it’s hard not to feel like when you’re at your best at one, you’re failing at the other. This would be the fluffy beach or bathtub read I’d recommend for when you want something that feels inspiring but not too cerebral. If you don’t like poop talk or light crassness you should probably skip it, as Shonda, much like myself, is not afraid to wax poetic on the F word or the virtues of a good BM.
Lastly, the book I ripped through in one day, though sometimes caught myself skimming big, cerebral chunks that felt too smart for me- the Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. I’m a huge plant and food lover, and Pollan’s musings and research on both have made tremendous strides in people really thinking about the foods they put into their bodies. I admittedly don’t know much about GMOs, and this book helped me understand the connection between plants as business and why and how GMOs are changing the face of agriculture. I won’t get into my thoughts here on whether it’s a black or white good or bad type thing because quite frankly I haven’t decided yet, but as someone who loves both plants AND food, this book helped me see it’s something I need to pay more attention to. History lovers will enjoy all the research he put into it, like the true story of America’s Johnny Appleseed, the cultivation of weed, and why only one kind of potato is used for the legendary McDonald’s fry. I also liked the historical discussions about paganism and shamanism in relation to plants. Kind of cool to find out something as simple as growing tomatoes or potatoes could be seen as pagan, since they are both are from the Nightshade family.
I would recommend all three of these books depending on your interests — one for greasing your creative wheels, one for some feel-good laughs and gentle self-help, and one for exploring the connection between food and plants, history and nature. If you give them a go or have read them, let me know what you think! (These are affiliate links, so if you click them or buy a book from this link, I might make a half of a penny. Thank you! I won’t spend it all in one place. 😉 )