The five books I read in 2017 and highly recommend

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Books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. My parents, especially my dad, worked in the café 14 hours a day, seven days a week. During school holidays, when all my friends were going away with their families for a fabulous holiday (well, at least that's what I thought was happening), we stayed at home and had to keep ourselves busy. We also lived in a small town on the (far) East Rand, so there really was nothing for children to do. I remember walking to the town library often to look through the books. Books were my constant companion during those long school holidays.

The genre of books I read has changed over the years, from books we were given at school, which included A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer and Don Quixote, to the fantasy-rich stories of Enid Blyton's Up the Faraway Tree, to the adventures of the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, and the teenage love series of Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams. In my twenties and early thirties I read books by John Grisham, Sydney Sheldon, Dan Brown, Paulo Coelho, Kahlil Gibran and Marian Keyes. I enjoyed dabbling in the classics, like the novels of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. I even reread some of Shakespeare's works … I know, nerd alert! I'm also a self-confessed magazineaholic; when there's no time to read a book, I read a magazine; Woman & Home, Living & Loving and Harvard Business Review being some of my favourites.

The days of having an abundance of time to read books changed when I married and started having children, though. To the extent that I completely stopped reading books for a few years and I missed it immensely. The reunion with books happened when I discovered the Kindle app and Amazon's ''one-click'-direct-to-Kindle-app' facility early last year. The best inventions ever … and the most dangerous combination for a book-lover! The books I now find myself reading lean more towards leadership, motivation and inspiration. In 2017, I managed to read five great books – I was so proud of myself!

So, in no particular order, here are the books: 

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
This was an inspiring read. Before reading this book, I thought that Ms Rhimes was similar to Oprah in personality: She is the complete opposite in fact! In this book she shares the transformation that took place for her over the period of a year, when she made the decision to say "yes" more and in so doing, challenging herself to step out of her comfort zone. It was a fun and great story. Stepping out of one's comfort zone is a topic we cover in the RenewYou workshop and I always recommend this book to the women in attendance. Sometimes it takes one small courageous change to make a profound impact on one's life.

Man's search for meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl was a prisoner of the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, for a period of three years. This is a harrowing account of his time in the camp. However, the focus of the book is on the power of having hope and meaning in one's life and how the absence of these can literally destroy you. I read the book two years after the traumatic experience I went through, and it gave me the much-needed answers to questions I was grappling with the weeks and months following the trauma. I remember bursting into tears when I read the words "The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – in his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay." It's a heavy read emotionally, but I highly recommend it.

Own It by Sallie Krawcheck

My research on the topic of empowering women has resulted in the discovery of many inspirational women who have successfully navigated the corporate world. Sallie Krawcheck, worked in the male dominated US banking industry for many years, so she has a lot of experience in navigating the gender differences of that world. If you've read and enjoyed 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, you'll enjoy this one too. This book resonated with me more because Ms Krawcheck worked in Financial Services, as I did, which made it relatable. It was in this book that I discovered the startling inequality that women face during retirement years due to the gender pay-gap, the "motherhood penalty", and the choices we make around our careers, when we are juggling family and work. "80% of women are poorer in retirement that men." That is a sobering fact. (If you haven't already started thinking about your retirement needs, please find yourself a reputable financial adviser as soon as possible and have the conversation. We owe it to our future selves to start planning for that inevitable time of our life journey.)

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
This is the only non-fiction book that I read last year. It was painfully funny, although at times exaggerated in its description of life as a stay-at-home mom, but it was an entertaining read nevertheless. There were some relatable moments, I have to admit, and some cringeworthy moments too. What I enjoyed about the book is that it didn't paint the picture of the 'perfect/ideal' mom, but touched on the unspoken realities of how difficult it can be to raise small children and maintain a clean home and puke-free clothes, the real desperation and effects that come with sleep deprivation, and the identity crisis we (can) experience when our lives move from the known world of being a child-free career woman to the unknown world of becoming a 'mom'.

Think Small by Owain Service and Rory Gallagher
In the RenewYou workshop one of the things we focus on is creating a 'map' towards the achievement of big goals. This book validated for me the process that we follow in the workshop. The premise of the book being "if you want to achieve big, you need to think small". The book provides examples of how this practice has been implemented at not only a country level, but also at a personal level. It's an easy read, and is for you if you're the type of person who is constantly procrastinating or giving up on your goals because you're overwhelmed by the distance between where you are now and where you want to get to.

And that is it!

Note: These books are available at leading bookstores, via Takealot and on amazon.

(PS. I'm excited to let you know that I have read more than five books this year so far!) 

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