Our Media Director’s Favorite Reads for a Fresh Start

Building the industry bookshelf one recommendation at a time.

By Jen Kuczynski

A bit of hope, a bit of inspiration—sometimes that’s all you need in a book, and these reads are chock-full of goodness. The authors’ lovely perspectives on compassion, cooking, and life’s ups and downs have taught me a thing or two about how to live well. Great books to pick up whenever you want a good reset. 

The Happiest Man on Earth
by Eddie Jaku

I picked this book up in an airport bookstore, because my flight was delayed, I had time to kill, and perusing bookshops is one of my favorite things to do. I had never heard of this book and I didn’t look at the reviews (which is unlike me), but something compelled me to get it. From the very first page, I instantly knew why I had to have it, and before my flight even took off, I finished it in one sitting.

This is a quick and simple read, but words cannot describe how impacting and profound, beautiful, heartbreaking and awe inspiring this book is. Eddie, the author, was a Holocaust survivor whose mindset not only allowed him to persevere through dark times but to emerge from them a genuinely happy, compassionate, and inspiring person. I finished the book with a feeling of elation that I would liken to viewing a Ted Lasso episode—you will feel every emotion on the spectrum, and your faith in humanity will be restored.

Thank you for the ugly (public) cry, Eddie.

“So, after you put this book down, please, remember to take time to appreciate every moment of your life—the good, the bad. Sometimes there will be tears. Sometimes there will be laughter. And if you are lucky, there will be friends to share it all with, as I have known throughout my life. Please, every day, remember to be happy, and to make others happy too. Make yourself a friend to the world. Do this for your new friend, Eddie.”

The No Recipe Cookbook
by Susan Crowther

This may not be a “typical” rp Reads book selection—but the lessons in this part memoir, part cookbook have far extended beyond the kitchen for me, while also empowering me to become a more confident home cook (which I am personally passionate about). As the name suggests, this cookbook does not include a single recipe, but instead focuses on the fundamental principles that anyone can implement to become a better cook—and for me, a better thinker as well. It encourages intuitive thinking and giving yourself the space to explore. It describes culinary virtues of patience, adaptability, and love next to techniques like preparation, combination, and procedure.

My biggest takeaway from this book is that all of us have the power to trust our own intuition rather than limiting our choices to a voice of authority (which, in this book, was ‘the Recipe’). Our best creations can come from tuning into our common sense, trusting our inner voices, and taking risks in service of authenticity. 

“Use recipes for inspiration rather than commandment. Be courageous; never be afraid to substitute ingredients in a recipe. You don’t need someone else’s permission to experiment with cooking. Let cooking be your palette. Make mistakes and welcome the lessons. Listen to your gut and retain with your brain. Play at your own pace. Allow yourself to eat something different every day or cook for five minutes a year—whatever makes sense to you. Give yourself permission to try and fail and try and succeed and try and fail. And try again.”

The Obstacle is the Way
by Ryan Holiday

Have you ever come across a book that seemed to find you at the perfect time? That’s what The Obstacle is the Way is to me. Inspired by Stoic philosophy, this book offers readers a framework on how to focus on the things you can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity. While this is also a quick read, it is packed with powerful stories and words of wisdom that can be easily referenced and returned to over and over again. My copy is dog-eared and highlighted to oblivion, and I always take something new away every time I revisit it. In an industry (and world) where we all face challenges on a regular basis, it is so helpful to have a guide like this one in our back pockets!

“It’s so much better to see things as they truly, actually are, not as we’ve made them in our minds. Objectivity means removing ‘you’—the subjective part—from the equation. Just think, what happens when we give others advice? Their problems are crystal clear to us, the solutions obvious. Something that’s present when we deal with our own obstacles is always missing when we hear other people’s problems: the baggage. … Take your situation and pretend it is not happening to you. Pretend it is not important, that it doesn’t matter. How much easier would it be for you to know what to do? How much more quickly and dispassionately could you size up the scenario and its options? … Give yourself clarity, not sympathy—there’ll be plenty of time for that later.”

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