BOOKS I READ IN APRIL

April has been a good reading month. And it’s for two reasons: for one I was able to score a free month of kindle unlimited and so I always try to read as many books as possible. And the second reason is I have discovered audio books. Some of the unlimited books came with an audiobook so I was able to switch when from reading and listening. Amazing when you spent hours on the sewing machine with face masks. Ok, I stop my rambling as you probably want to know what I have been reading. Here are the books I read in April:

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BOOKS I READ IN MARCH

craftaliciousme seeking creative life books I read in March

The first quarter of this year is over. It feels like we have already lived through a decade again. When looking back at all the goals and plans for 2020 it’s almost comedic. Life can change within a couple of days. Good thing books are a constant. After struggling through a couple tough ones reading picked up again. However I didn’t find any hidden gems lately. I finished 3 books and one I missed telling you about in February.

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Becoming a better listener and how I am working towards this goal

Advertising | The copy of this book was provided by the publisher – my thoughts and opinions you read here remain my own.

I’m struggling with not being patient enough to listening closely what people have to tell me for a long time. And it’s been on my resolution lists not once but a few times to become a better listener. I know it’s important to hear other peoples voices, don’t interrupt them and hear what is said. So it’s no wonder it made it on my 101 goals list as well. I was more than happy when I saw this book “Die Macht des Zuhörens” by Dr. Michael P. Nichols hoping to give more insights on how to actually achieve it. Even more happy when I received it as a copy by the publisher for review.

The Lost Art of Listening – What this book is about

Goodreads summery: Why do we often feel cut off when speaking to the people closest to us family members, friends, or colleagues? What is it that keeps so many of us from really listening? Michael P. Nichols answers these questions and more in this thoughtful, witty, and helpful look at the reasons people don’t hear one another. His book, a guide to the secrets of listening and being listened to, is filled with vivid examples that clearly demonstrate easy-to-learn techniques for becoming a better listener. He also illustrates how empathic listening enables us to break through misunderstandings and conflict and to transform our personal and professional relationships. 

The book is structured in four main parts:

  1. Yearning to be Understood → Der Wunsch, verstanden zu werden
  2. The Real Reason People Don’t Listen → Die wahren Gründe für das Nicht-Zuhören
  3. Getting Through To Each Other → Zueinander Durchdringen
  4. Listening in Context → Zuhören im Kontext

Dr. Michael P. Nichols includes a lot of examples from is work as a therapist in this book. This often helps making a point or illustrating a situation. Every once in a while he plays out the same situation from both perspectives giving the reader an example of what it means to “put yourself in the other person s shoes”. I found this concept very helpful. Throughout the whole book it is never to promote his own (perfect) handling of certain situations. (And I have come across other books where the same concept had exactly that feel.) Instead he induces here and there some charm and wit to his writing maybe even some sarcasm when he writes “of course I never fell into that trap, I am a therapist after all”.

A beautiful inside helps on the way to becoming a better listener

Even though this book is a scientific textbook it reads easy enough but not superficial. I read comparable books and they seemed to not getting it right in explaining complex ideas or situations without loosing some of the authority. They somehow tried too much to be easy to read and hence seemed to me superficial. Does that make sense? Not this one fortunately.

Each chapter was about 20-30 pages long. I read approximately one in a sitting and I recommend that. At the end of every chapter there were really approachable and doable exercises. I have only read through them as I didn’t have the patience to wait until I finished them (sometimes it says within the next week…, over the course of the next interaction with family members, etc.). However I think now that I have read the book cover to cover I will take another approach and look at it more as a work-book and do those exercises.

A thing I really enjoyed is the layout of the book. I recently read that the old style of textbooks where you only have chapters divided by paragraphs do not work in our low-attention-spanned society anymore. Books need to read more like social media snippets. And this book really gives you all this. It has a ton of really cool (tweetable) quotes and short summaries braking up the texts. Best about it: the author didn’t just pick a sentences from the previous text and have it set in a different type and font. No it is actually a condensed sentence of the idea or thought previously discussed. Additionally there are text passage with grey background for in depths info making the book even less monotonous.

Becoming a better listener is hard work

Now you might wonder if it is worth reading 300+ pages in a textbook to work on yourself. I’d say yes. This book has given me a better understanding and guideline as “Nonviolent Communications” even though a lot of principals are similar. Michael P Nichols never says it is an easy task to become a good listener though. It is hard work that in the end pays off – in all of life relationships. To convince you to have a look at this book I share some of the underlined text snippets in my copy with you:

  • Most problems of understanding don’t correlate with egoism or bad intentions but the need to say something. We concentrate on what we will reply instead of listening what is said.
  • It needs two people to share a feeling– one who is speaking, one who is listening.
  • When we detect sadness or depression in a person we often assume that something is wrong, something has happened. Maybe the “something” is that no-one is listening to that person.
  • When people don’t listen to us we we automatically look to blame them: They are egoistic and disrespectful. (When we are not listening it is because we are tired or bored or the other person was disrespectful with us.)
  • To show real interest in other people we need to set aside our interest.
  • Real listening is a strenuous and silent process.
  • Our own prejudices are functioning as a filter of what we are hearing and how we react to it.
  • People who have learnt in their childhood to show themself dignity are better listeners.

This is just a few snippets of wisdom. I am sure onces I read through the book again I will mark different passages.

The book in German translation “Die Macht des Zuhörens – Wie man richtiges Zuhören lernt und Beziehungen stärkt” has been published through Narayana Verlag. The original titel is “The Lost Art of Listening – How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships” written by Michael P. Nichols.

Books I read in January

One of my most favorite way to spent time is reading. Lucky me has quite a lot of time pockets to fit in a good book too. And as mentioned many times before the ebook reader is my best friend because I always have a library available at my finger tip. While one day I spent fighting of shadows, dragons and dance with magic the next I learn about goal setting or such. But honestly it all keeps blending together and I think that is sad. Often people ask me about the best recent book or what happened where and I have a hard time recollecting. So I will introduce a new monthly topic here and let you in on my monthly book reads. Hope you find some interesting ones to reach for next time you look for a good read. For more book talk you may also come and join me on goodreads.

January started off as a pretty good reading months for me. Honestly the best I ever had as I finished up 11 books in total.

Smoke & Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor | ★★★★★

What’s it about: An art student being raised by monsters living in Prague and getting a glimpse of the world beyond. Later on the adventure takes of and takes her places she could have never imagined but always had an inkling.
What I thought: This is a wonderful world you will dive in. It’s not black and white and monsters might not be the evil nemesis while angels are not so innocent. Love that crosses lifetimes, friendship that spans universes and humor crossing races. Its a wild ride and oh so fun. It’s a modern story with fresh aspects and peppered with wit and strong characters.
Language: English (also available in German)
Recommend to: Everyone loving a good fantasy epos.

Big Dreams, Daily Joys by Elise Blaha Cripe | ★★★★⭐︎

What’s it about: A lot of compact information on goal setting, prioritizing and list making. It’s structured in five chapters with different focus on the project and goal setting stages. It contains quick exercises and hands-on approaches to get started right away for people with to many ideas or people who need to find the one idea first.
What I thought: It’s a handy guide if you need a kick in the butt, if you never tackled a big project or if you just need to fresh up on a few skills. I loved every advice, it was well written, fun to read and very authentic when you follow Elise online. I was waiting for the big epiphany to hit me. I consider myself pretty good in project management so it wasn’t all new to me however there is a ton of value here. And sometimes you just gotta hear things you already know.
Language: English (also available in Russian soon)
Recommend to: Everyone needing to pick up on some goal setting skills.

Die schönsten Wintermärchen by Gesine Damell | ★★★★⭐︎

What’s it about: A beautiful collection of known and less known fairy tales and short stories. All center around winter, snow, ice and darker season. Feelings and traditions that occur this time of year.
What I thought: When I bought this book I thought it was a bit more christmassy but it was actually not at all. In hindsight I like it this way. I am especially in love with the cover.
Language: German
Recommend to: everyone loving the winter season, liking to sit by the fire reading a nice story maybe reading it to loved ones

Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B Rosenberg | ★★★★⭐︎

What’s it about: It’s THE book about how to communicate in a peaceful and respective way. Rosenberg developed a concept to engage conflicted parties and tested it in diplomatic crises, in gang related fights, in prison, schools and personal relationships. It contains a lot of helpful insight in his yearlong studies and expertise. The chapters are easy enough to read even though scientific based and are lined with examples from his practice. At the end of a chapter you will find a summery and exercises to review the learnings.
What I thought: I see the value of the theory and can see why it had a ripple effect in the academia. However there were a few times where I was left with an uneasy feeling when reading. If I would follow my conversations exactly as described it would leave me rather frustrated and too questioned. It sometimes had a bit of an esoteric feel to it. I am not sure if it was the way it was written, the way and state I read it in or just the way it was supposed to be. Would be curious how you see that. Nevertheless I took a lot of thought and value from it hence my 4 stars.
Language: English (also available in German)
Recommend to: Everyone interested in learning more about communication, interacting with one another, living in a peaceful and more harmonic world.

Die ferne Hoffnung by Ellin Carsta | ★★★⭐︎⭐︎

What’s it about: Historic fiction about a family in Hamburg trading with coffee. After bad investment of the father and his sudden death the three sons have to take over and struggle to bring it back out of bankruptcy. The new colonies in Africa bring hope by branding out and so part of the family is embracing an adventure.
What I thought: It was a quick and joyful read with a few interesting details about German colonialism and Africa around the 19th century. At times I thought it was a bit predictable where the particular storylines were heading but it was still enjoyable. I will probably read the following books.
Language: German (also available in English)
Recommend to: Everyone loving some historic fiction, a good family drama and doesn’t mind reading lots about coffee, cocoa, trade and Vienna coffee culture.

Lucia im Netz der Lügen by Carola Schierz | ★★★⭐︎⭐︎

What’s it about: Fairy tale about a father and daughter who struggle to do the right thing in a time when all around them people choose the easy and financial lucrative way.
What I thought: Compared to other tales written by this author I thought it fell a bit flat. However it might have been because I am not so fond of this whole upper class and downtown abbey kinda setting. And I didn’t feel much connection and fondness towards the main character. Other than that it was well written and easy read.
Language: German
Recommend to: Everyone liking a fairy tale set in a noble household and people who fight for righteousness.

Zitronenhimmel by Monika Detering | ★★★⭐︎⭐︎

What’s it about: A 67 year old widow that decided to move to the Baltic Sea in her camper and start over in life. Her family is not too happy about it. She starts a penpal-ship with her grandchild having deep conversations about death and afterlife while she experiences freedom and new adventures in her new place.
What I thought: I have a tendency to pick up books that don’t shy away from talking about death and sickness and this was a very interesting pick. It was interestingly written and opened my mind to the view of the older generations it was from the point of view of a retired person and the worries and hopes this generation has for their life. It made me think twice about interacting and maybe not dismissing certain things as fast.
Language: German
Recommend to: Everyone wanting to hear another point of view, loving to read about books in books and not afraid to approach the topic of death.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger | ★★⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

What’s it about: Angela is born in a girls body but it never felt quite right. Inside she always knew she was a boy and was more interested in boys things too. Gradually she changes her looks in a more masculine way until she declares she will go by the name “Grady” now. That is were we start the story approximately and we will follow along how family, friends, society and system is reacting to that.
What I thought: I was looking forward reading something I have no points of contact with and learn more about thoughts and struggles about life as a transgender person. Unfortunately I think this is the wrong book for that. While the book it self was written well and easy enough to read I thought the whole story fell rather flat. The emotions certain reactions provoked could have been more explored. I hated that it was rather stereotypical most times. I am sorry to say but it felt like the author picked a trend topic to sell books but had no genuine interest in it and did just enough research to get by.
Language: English
Recommend to: I am not sure I would. There are probably better out there to get acquainted with this topic.

Tangled in Blue by Marion Castella | ★★⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎

What’s it about: A teenage boy and his first love. Discovering how it feels to fall in love, be disappointed and hurt. And coming out as a gay.
What I thought: It could have been a really sweet story about falling in love and meeting your first love. Unfortunately the author ruined it by adding a crime story, a celebrity story, Atome addiction and divorce issue. It was all over the place and hence terrible. The positive thing (for me) is that I never really realized it’s a story about a gay couple. Either the author perfectly described that without any weirdness or I just don’t have an issue with it.
Language: English
Recommend to: If you need a quick mindless beach read and there is nothing else it might do.

Now that the year started of this great and I was able to check of a few of books of my reading goals this year already I might up my total a little bit. What books should I add to my list? Let me know in the comments what you favorite read was.

Happy reading

Tobia

MY 2019: SEVEN YEARS OF BLOGGING

Who would have thought in 2013 that seven years later I am still here. I am still typing away on this space in the internet and there are (still) a few people finding it’s way to my site. So I will not break the chain and once again reminisce about what has happened in the blogging world in 2019 and in seven years of blogging. (Feel free to hop on to previous years year six, year five, year four, year three, year two, year one).

Blogging

Compared to last year I have been showing up more consistently and I can proudly say there hasn’t been a months I didn’t blog. Yeah me! Overall there were 38 posts published. My personal favorite was the recap of me moving to the U.S. 20 years ago but I also had a lot of fun writing the reading list for 2019. It comes as no surprise that the most time consuming post to write was my 101 goals in 1000 days though.
But let’s have a look about your favorites this year:

Your most visited post from this year though was my round-up of my current favorite Instagram accounts and the (almost) monthly coffee dates are also well liked.

Social Media

I spent a lot of time on Instagram this year. And even though my following has not increased I deleted all the spam accounts and lonely soldiers It was great way for me to connect to people and have some lovely conversations. I even got to meet people in real life. I have tried to re-connect with Twitter but somehow have not really been able to. Do you still use twitter? Also I have not been neglecting Pinterest a little and might need to spent more time there next year.

Over all I have found more joy and love in blogging in 2019 than in previous years. I had many more posts to write and drafted but since I had my arm injury I needed to slow things down. I am hoping for 2020 I will be able to continue or maybe post a little bit more. If you have something you would like to read about let me know in the comments. If you want to follow along for my journey in year eight add me on Feedly or Bloglovin. Also lots of talk happening over at Instagram of course.

Happy New Year

Tobia