Books, Beach & Bliss


This week is one of two I take each winter to a sun-kissed beach in Mexico. In an act of voluntary simplicity, I subscribe to solitary confinement in spartan ocean front accommodations which serve as the ideal cleansing locale to rest, meditate, read and write….all things I love to do.

I generally solicit two reactions when I reveal this proclivity. Some react aghast that I travel alone with a stack of books to voraciously consume in a week without engaging a single soul. Others eye me with envy. Which are you?

Along with 8 hours sleeping to the rhythm of the waves, a clean diet of mostly fruit, vegetables and fish, an hour of yoga and meditation (or a nap as the case may be!), and 4 hours of writing and correspondence, I devote the rest of my time to reading.

I love reading.

As for content, I like to mix it up a bit. I like to include a contemporary biography, something historical or classic, plus a book that’s socially or economically current. I always seek something real estate relevant, as well as something light-hearted and escapist… a.k.a. chick lit.

This trip I’ve been ambitious in my undertaking. I’ve chosen six books and a stack of magazines (Vanity Fair, Fast Company, Dwell, Toronto Life, Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Canadian House and Home, GQ, Details) to indulge my thirst for words.

Here’s this trip’s read (some finished, others in progress but all well underway) with comments:

1) Outliers: The Story Of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay Books 2008

M.G. is a brilliant writer who weaves together inspiring insights and lessons. Just like ‘Tipping Point’, ‘Blink’, and ‘What The Dog Saw’, ‘Outliers’ gives the tell-all behind-the-scenes reality on how people (or companies, or trends) attain Success. This is a must-read.

2) Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, Simon and Schuster 2011

You can’t follow a Malcolm Gladwell book without more real life inspiration. Reading the biography of Steve Jobs leaves you realizing that a life well-lived is one that eschews the pursuit of wealth for the pursuit of passion and doing your craft with the utmost commitment to perfection, although perhaps with more kindness. You can’t help admire Steve Jobs for his living his authentic self.

3) Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres, Grand Central 2011

To give my whirling mind a rest, I eagerly opened up Ellen’s latest endeavour. Alas, although I LOVE Ellen I did not love her book. I’ve discovered it is not her content that makes her a comedian, but her delivery. It was a snooze fest. Sorry Ellen! The greatest gift your book gave is that it validated that I, too, can be a comedic writer.

4) At Home: A Short History Of Private Life by Bill Bryson, Anchor Canada 2010

Bill Bryson’s comprehensive look at the history behind domestic artefacts using everyday objects contained in our homes is remarkable. His insights into housing and their contents is astonishingly detailed and complex, and a worthwhile journey to embark on. This tome is chock-a-block full of tidbits you likely don’t know but are suddenly glad you do!

5) A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French, Penguin 2011.

I immediately adored this book the moment I read the first line. Dawn French, the author, is an English television actor renowned for her comedic role as ‘The Vicar Of Dibley’. The book opens with 17 year old Dora saying “My mother is, like, a totally confirmed A-list bloody cocking minging arsehole cretin cockhead of the highest order.” This is true bawdy English humour, with a surprise ending.

6) Sleeping With The Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War by Hal Vaughan, Knopf 2011

I’m fascinated by the world of fashion, Coco Chanel, and Paris (one of my favourite Cities!). To slip into the underbelly of Chanel’s life during the dark times of war, followed by her reinvention, is an extraordinary read. Who knew she could be so cunning and duplicitous? O la la!

When traveling alone, another favourite pastime is people watching while pretending to read. On this trip I’m doing plenty of it during dinner on the roof terrace of Joe Jack’s Fish Shack. Here’s a clandestine snap plus a pic of their ‘Parisian Bistro Salad’. It’s a mix of sautéed brussel sprout leaves,bacon lardons tossed in red wine vinegar and broken soft-boiled egg served warm topped with seasoned bread crumbs. Cooks take note! This simply-prepared dish is delicious.

Vacation escapes like these balance my body, exercise my mind and nourish my spirit. They bring clarity, awareness and insight, and help refine my own fascination and obsession with the multi-faceted world of housing.

How fortunate am I?

Back soon!

~ Steven

Confidential to K.A – Golly Yes! I want a Margarita but tequila is like gasoline to me…it burns fire inside! Boo!

Books & Magazines

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