In this post, you’ll find a Stillness is the Key book review, plus all of the fiction and non-fiction books I read in February 2021.
Lately, I find myself gravitating towards slowness. I want to do less. I want to enjoy the small moments. I want to quiet my mind and experience peace. Society says we can do all of those things when we retire.
As a working creative and a thought leader, I feel that pressure to do more. To move faster. And to be a part of all the conversations. What if I miss something? What if I fall behind?
Stillness is the Key book review…and validation
This book felt like a permission slip to let go of all of those things and honor my intuition. To just be still.
Stillness is the Key was the perfect reminder that sometimes the best course of action is to take no action. In other cases, to ensure that you are leaving space to rest, recharge, and gain the clarity you need to make your next move.
Changing the narrative
It’s the type of message that I need to read, reread, and keep rereading because my brain struggles to compute it. Even though I learn towards peace, I’m not immune to impatience, especially when it comes to my creative projects. If I’m not taking action towards achieving my end goal, I’m uncomfortable.
Doing great things requires action but also discernment. The things we don’t do can often be more important than the things we do. Ryan Holiday argues his case through stories of significant figures throughout history, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, and Anne Frank.
Learning from the best
My favorite account was Winston Churchill’s routine in his years before leading the fight in World War II. His daily schedule included reading, writing, naps, long walks through his garden, and fanciful dinners. In a proper balance of business and pleasure, Churchill had created mental space to make sage decisions.
When it came time to lead the United Kingdom through World War II’s dark days, he could not keep up with his ideal routine. But it didn’t stop him from creating a modified version. Holiday eludes that Churchill’s insistence on creature comforts like naps, cigars, and champagne directly contributed to his success as a leader.
A perfectly balanced book
Stillness is the Key was an ideal blend of self-help, biography, and history. You’ll be delighted by these stories and be inspired to take action (or not).
I have a list of books that I try to read once a year. Stillness is the Key has been added as a permanent re-readable.
When books speak
What book(s) have you read that helped you follow your gut in the way that Stillness is the Key did for me? Come and say hi on Instagram to let me know.
Here’s the list of everything else I read in February 2021 (listed in the order I read them):
The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett (Fiction)
I began this book with tempered expectations. When something is as hyped as The Vanishing Half has been, it’s hard not to hold it to a higher standard. Despite my attempts to read with a critical eye, I found few flaws.
The Vanishing Half is truly a piece of art and deserving of its many accolades.
While I was familiar with its popularity, I didn’t know much about the plot except that it was a story about twin sisters who go their separate ways.
The book is more of a family epic, spanning decades, as it exams the theme of the masks we wear— either to honor ourselves or to please the people who don’t matter.
In The Vanishing Half, author Brit Bennet has woven such a vibrant story that I’d love the opportunity to reread it, as I expect that there is even more richness to uncover.
It Ends with Us, by Colleen Hoover (Fiction)
I didn’t read the description before reading It Ends with Us because I’m a Colleen Hoover believer. Upon finishing this novel, it’s cemented. She is a phenomenal storyteller, and this might be her best. As you’ll learn in the author’s note, it centers around a personal topic to her, and it shows.
This was not my favorite from Hoover’s catalog, and it is not a book I’ll read again. It was heavy. But it was fantastic.
What I thought was setting up to be a traditional love story, very slowly and (I suspect deliberately— which is part of the brilliance) morphs into something different. I don’t want to share too much more about the plot other than to say that it has a happy ending.
I think it’s challenging to write about an ugly topic and make it beautiful, but Hoover pulled it off. She has inspired me as a writer and delighted me as a reader. I can’t wait to read another!
This Close to Okay, by Leesa Cross-Smith (Fiction)
A heartwarming story about the brokenness of humans and the power of comfort. It starts with a recently-divorced woman rescuing a stranger from a suicide attempt. The rest of the book follows their friendship which unfolds over a single weekend.
Despite the heavy subject matter, This Close to Okay was such a cozy read. It’s set in October, around Halloween weekend, and is filled with instances of chilly rainstorms, candles, tea, and pumpkin spice. I only wish I had read it in the Fall!
The characters are likable, the plot is compelling and the writing is beautiful— almost poetic in parts. It loses a star because the central conflict could have been resolved if the characters had had a simple conversation. But then there wouldn’t be a story! I was happy to be along for the journey of their relationship.
Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfeld (Non-Fiction)
Seinfeld quotes, from the television series and from Jerry’s standup are shorthand in my household. Everything is a Seinfeld reference.
I had heard most of this content in this book before, but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable! Is This Anything? chronicles Seinfeld’s routines decade by decade, and if you listen to the audio version as I did, it plays as one long standup routine.
Each decade is preceded by a short story about what it was like to be a working comedian during that time in Jerry’s life. These sections were the most interesting to me and I wish they had been a bit longer.
If you’re a fan of Seinfeld the comic, or the show, this book will feel comforting and leave you laughing out loud.
Eye on the Struggle: Ethel Payne, the First Lady of the Black Press, by James McGrath Morris (Non-Fiction)
This book chronicles unsung American icon, Ethel Payne’s journey. We follow her journey from a child living in Chicago’s South Side to monumental moments in history, such as the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, and at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Today we’d call her a “hustler,” but in the mid-20th-century, Payne did everything she could to satiate her drive to cover the news and create positive social change. She spent most of her career working for Chicago’s The Defender. In between, she took side assignments, taught, served on boards, and traveled extensively to cover stories, often to international destinations like Africa, even into her late 70’s.
Eye on the Struggle is meticulously researched and very dense regarding Payne and the Civil Rights Movement. My only gripe is that I would have preferred to have read an account that went deep instead of wide. It left me wanting to know more about Ethel’s intricacies as a person rather than all the things she did.
This book is an excellent read for anyone who wants to learn more about a lesser-known historical figure or the Civil Rights Movement, told from a different perspective.
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