It’s the dog days of summer, and the Delta variant of the coronavirus has thrown everyone’s vacation and back-to-school plans for a loop. It’s scary and stressful, but this month’s Feed Your Mind challenge prompts are designed to help you stress less and have adventures from the safety of your favorite reading spot.
If you’re up for the challenge, here’s how Feed Your Mind works:
Each month, we create five prompts to follow; you can challenge yourself to complete one, all five, or any number in between. These prompts are designed to motivate you to:
Explore new content types
Help you find works that are outside of your usual go-to genres
The challenges are a mix of timely prompts and random, fun ideas.
Here are August’s prompts:
Take a last-minute vacation
These books will take you to distant lands and help you imagine all the sights. These are definitely the most frugal and climate-friendly vacations you’ll ever go on.
Learn how to stress less
There are so many stressors in our lives right now that are inescapable. It’s okay if you feel lost, sad, or angry — that’s understandable. Scribd is full of helpful tips on how to stress less. No matter what your particular pains are right now, there’s a book or podcast out there to help with your anxiety.
Explore what’s trending on #BookTok
Tons of backlist books are on the bestsellers lists again thanks to the #BookTok community. We gathered many of the most popular books promoted on the platform, but you’re free to watch any number of #BookTok videos to see what they’re buzzing about. (Also: We recently started our own TikTok! You can follow us @Scribd.)
#BookTok: The Books Trending on TikTok
Go back to school (even if you’re not a student)
Whether school is in person or online or some hybrid of the two is still up in the air, and that’s very difficult to plan around. But you don’t need to be in a formal school setting to learn new things or revisit your favorite books from English class. Expanding your knowledge is what the Feed Your Mind challenge is all about.
Read a book about dogs or featuring a dog for International Dog Day
In the dog days of summer, International Dog Day is August 26. Pet a puppy and read a book featuring man’s best friend to celebrate the occasion.
Cuddle Up with These Good Dog Reads
Tweet us @Scribd or tag us on Instagram @Scribd using the hashtag #FeedYourMind to show what you’ve been reading or listening to for our reading challenge. Join our private Facebook Group Scribd Reading Room to talk about all the content that’s struck a chord with you.
What we fed our minds in August
Here’s what Scribd employees read for the challenge, and how much they enjoyed diversifying their (digital) bookshelves:
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Take a last-minute vacation
The French Exit by Patrick deWitt
In major need of escaping — even if just by imagination — I selected French Exit to read for this month’s challenge. Combining the opportunity to armchair travel to two of my favorite cities (NYC and Paris) and get lost in a relatively mindless dark comedy when all the events in the world feel so heavy, this was exactly the book I needed. The way I related to the characters reminds me of when I binge-watched Arrested Development; it’s a cast of quirky characters, has dysfunctional family (namely mother and son) dynamics, follows absurd plot twists, and mocks the aloofness and selfishness of high society. I probably can't watch the movie because I kept envisioning a Wes Anderson-style setting in every scene, and anything else might disappoint me.
The gist of the story is that a wealthy mother and son duo carelessly spend their entire fortune and move to Paris to stay in a friend’s apartment for free. Complete with a transatlantic cruise, husband reincarnated as a cat, private eye, and fortune teller, French Exit is anything but boring.
— Sarah S. (Editorial)
Falling by T. J. Newman
Fair warning: Reading Falling while flying might not be the best idea. I actually started listening to the audiobook on a flight, but I had to wait until I was back home to continue it. Once I had my two feet safely on the ground, I highly enjoyed this high-stakes thriller.
I had been hearing a lot of buzz around this New York Times bestseller from a first-time author, and I was immediately drawn in by the plot: A pilot must choose between crashing his plane of over 140 souls or letting his family die (his wife and two children were kidnapped shortly after he headed to the airport). And I was not disappointed! Falling captivated me from the beginning, and I was on the edge of my (firmly planted) seat with anticipation of what was going to happen.
The author draws on her own experiences as a flight attendant; unsurprisingly, I felt like the flight attendants were particularly great characters — multidimensional and likeable. Though I found the flashbacks a little hard to follow in audiobook format (because they seemed to bleed into what was happening in the present day without a pause on the behalf of the narrator), Falling was all-in-all a solid read. (Though I think this thriller may have put me off air-travel for a while!)
— Janelle G. (Marketing)
The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
Set in a dilapidated mansion during a weekend party, The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle blends mystery with what I can only call a roleplaying game. The story begins with the narrator suffering from memory loss while calling the name “Anna.” From there, you enter an Agatha Christie-style story with clues scattered throughout each chapter that will help you — and the narrator — solve the central mystery: Who killed (or really, will kill) Evelyn Hardcastle?
I love stories that experiment with style, and I love time travel. This story offers both with a unique hook. After each day, the narrator wakes up at the beginning of the storyline entering the story as a different character. One day, Dr. Sebastian Bell, party guest; the next, butler Roger Collins. Additionally, the central mystery needs to be solved within eight days or the game starts anew from the beginning.
What makes this story stand out is that the narrator needs to understand each person they inhabit: tTheir interpersonal relationships, how they need to act, and how that changes their approach to cluefinding. Beyond that, the narrator is competing to solve the mystery against two other participants. Failure for any means staying trapped forever.
The story leaves the reader satisfied by breathing new life into a traditional genre.
— Bob F. (Marketing)
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Learn how to stress less
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
As a recovering overachiever, I’ve been spending time educating myself about the reasons behind this stressful pattern, learning about boundaries, people-pleasing, and the like. In the (very ironic) task of doing my homework to learn how to be less dutiful, the last thing I took into consideration was how much social pressure there is to be an overachiever. There's some sense of control in thinking everything is personal and in our hands to change, but what if the whole world seems to agree with the inner voice that’s constantly asking you to do a bit more?
A number of recent books have come to grips with this social conditioning of hyper-productivity. Recent nonfiction has dwelled on the “burnout generation” (Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen) and our ever-growing obsession with efficiency (Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino). Odell’s book could be seen as their predecessor and her message is only reinforced after a year when we collectively had to lower our expectations for life and, inevitably, for ourselves.
How to Do Nothing is less directive than the title may suggest. It's a beautiful book with chapter-long reflections on redwood trees and rose gardens. As an artist in Silicon Valley (an oxymoron!), the author is aware of the risk of capitalizing on doing nothing. Her book won’t prescribe trying another essential oil in your next bubble bath or escaping to the mountains (she warns climate change will follow you there). An entire chapter is dedicated to why Christiania-like utopias won’t save us. The proposed solution is more — and paradoxically less? — doable: learning a way to live in resistance to our all-consuming attention economy.
— Andrea B. (Editorial)
Get Some Headspace by Andy Puddicombe
Like lots of folks, trying to stress less has been on my mind lately, especially after the last year and a half of pandemic pressures, lockdown blues, and the collapsing boundaries between work and personal space. Experts, friends — everyone it seems — recommends mindfulness and meditation as tools that really work for dealing with stress, so I’ve started meditating for about 10 minutes a day using the Headspace app. I wanted to get more context behind app founder Puddicombe’s approach, so for this month’s challenge I chose to listen to his meditation how-to guide, Get Some Headspace.
In the audiobook, Puddicombe structures his meditation and mindfulness lessons with a mix of personal stories (and entertaining misadventures) from his time as a monk-in-training, examples of what works for his clients, and quick exercises for listeners to practice applying his techniques. Combined with his conversational style, the result is a lowkey, enjoyable way to absorb the whys and hows of incorporating a daily meditation practice into your life in as little as 10 minutes a day. It never feels like a chore or a lecture. I’ve come to depend on daily hikes to help deal with the stresses of the pandemic, and Puddicombe makes for pleasant company along the way. Listening to Get Some Headspace is a no-pressure way to open your mind and let mindfulness seep in, helping shift your perspective so you can let go of some stress.
— Katie W. (Editorial)
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Explore what’s trending on #BookTok
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
There is no better example of an “if you liked X, then you will like Y” than Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series and Shelby Mahurin’s YA fantasy debut. Like Maas, Mahurin creates a world that is fantastical without being too far from our reality. The book pairs a witch with a witch-hunter, forcing them into a marriage that is obviously anathema for both of them. In this world, witches are hunted, a la the Salem Witch Trials, and our witch has been hiding her magic from the world. The writing is descriptive without being too floral, and the protagonists’ respective motivations are absolutely clear. It’s the kind of book that teenaged me would have devoured and read over and over again.
— Megan F. (Publishing Operations)
CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Go back to school (even if you’re not a student)
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
Ever since Sapiens came out in 2015, it’s been one of the most popular books on Scribd. In the intervening years, I’ve become a big fan of the book’s author, Yuval Noah Harari; his outlook on society jives with my dystopian-tech-doom-yet-hopeful view. (I particularly love this 2018 New York Times profile of him, where I learned about his ideas around tech’s creation of “the useless class,” which really resonated with me.) But still, I always hesitated to read Sapiens; it seemed so hefty, with so much hype around it, surely it was destined to feel too much like a school lecture, to be a disappointment.
It’s not a disappointment. It’s easily the best book I’ve read all year. Harari’s history lessons are utterly fascinating, whether you agree with his conclusions or not (I’ve had many a discussion with my partner, who’s also been reading Sapiens, about Harari’s claims around language, money, and numerous other topics where my partner thought Harari needed to connect the dots more). His sentences are sharp, full of wit and knowledge: “Most mammals emerge from the womb like glazed earthenware emerging from a kiln — any attempt at remoulding will only scratch or break them. Humans emerge from the womb like molten glass from a furnace. They can be spun, stretched and shaped with a surprising degree of freedom.” His breakdowns of human history into three large time periods — The Cognitive Revolution, The Agricultural Revolution, and The Scientific Revolution — feel intuitive and make his lessons easy to understand and remember.
Sapiens is a must-read for any member of humankind who’s concerned about our species, and it’s definitely made me an even stauncher Harari fan.
— Ashley M. (Editorial)
The reading challenge was originally published on August 1, 2021; updated with Scribd staff choices.
About the Author: Ashley McDonnell
Ashley is a Senior Editorial Associate at Scribd who loves Ernest Hemingway, “The Hunger Games,” and ice hockey. When she’s not reading or at the rink, she’s making nerdy podcasts about anime and manga.