When Annie F. Downs releases a new book, I can hardly contain myself because I know I’m going to love it, and I know I’m going to have a hard time waiting for it to work its way into my hands.
This time was no different.
Subtitled “The joys of being an amateur, the power of falling in love, and why you need a hobby,” this book tackled some big things that I know from following Annie around on Social Media (yes, we’re on a first name basis even though we’ve never met) have been key development points in her life right now.
The thing I love about a well-written piece of non-fiction is how the author can be going about their daily lives, just doing their best to learn the lessons God is setting out for them, and the lessons they learn can be informative, instructive, and helpful for us too as the reader. This was both a uniquely Annie journey, but also relevant and helpful for anyone who feels they’ve been a bit battered by this past year (2020 especially, but 2021 isn’t looking miles better).
Throughout the entire book Annie talks about the concept of Eden. How the things she’s tackling help us find glimpses of Eden here on Earth, even though this is not perfection like God intended us to live in. And I think that’s beautiful. I think it’s revolutionary to look at the things we love, the places we play, and the people we invest in as pieces of Eden. Pieces of perfection. How much more would we cherish them? How much less time would we waste if we could really grab onto that idea?
The three subtitle topics made me curious before I’d read the book. The joys of being an amateur. The power of falling in love. Why you need a hobby.
In the joys of being an amateur, Annie — in her signature “I’m having coffee with a friend” style — talks about all the things we could do, all the things she could do, that we could feel like we need to be 100% professionals at, but that would likely wreck it if we were. She talks about playing soccer for the love of playing soccer. While I can’t relate to playing soccer in that way because I hate it, I can relate because I played volleyball nearly weekly for a few years until Covid happened (except for a six-month stint where my Achilles tendon preferred me benched). I was completely amateur, but it didn’t matter, because Annie is right — when you’re playing because you love it, it doesn’t matter one bit. Examples that popped into my head of things where I’m a total amateur (and that’s ok), are cooking, baking, and writing. I love all of these things, and if I started trying to do them professionally or for any reason other than just for my own pleasure, I’d probably hate them. I invite you to read Annie’s book and think of all the areas of your life where your amateur status is such a gift that allows you to enjoy whatever comes of it without the pressure of professionalism.
The Power of Falling in Love — this held so much more for me than I expected this section of the book to. From following Annie for years, I’m aware of parts of her journey with wanting to be married and have a family, and that’s what I expected this part of the book to be about. But while she does talk about that, she also talks about falling in love deeply and constantly, and you know what? I love that. I, too, am one of those people who say “I love that!” often, about things you wouldn’t think we should love… like the sound of mourning doves or the smell of wet pavement just after it starts to rain, or chocolate covered almonds, or cinnamon buns…. but I do, I love that. All of it. Those are all valuable things to love, but Annie also talks about loving yourself and how valuable that is. And I think Annie is right — I think there’s great power in falling in love, and I invite you to read through the examples she’s thrown out in the chapters she’s written because I could never do this justice, and I’d spoil it if I tried.
Why You Need a Hobby actually made me weep at the end of the book. A lot of the book hit me pretty hard, actually, but why you need a hobby got me. There are so many things I’ve wanted to do with my life, and I’ve spent so much time scrolling through social media or just generally wasting time instead. I cried when she talked about loving playing the French Horn but deciding to quit in middle school because it “wasn’t cool.” I cried because I could have played a couple more instruments, but somewhere along the way, just before high school started, I convinced myself that “band geeks” were uncool, so I didn’t want to be one… and somehow I believed that drama kids were cooler so I should be one of those instead. To this day, I regret that I don’t play more instruments, or that I don’t play the ones I do play any better, and there’s only one thing to do about that — get a hobby. I cried when she talked about hobbies not being rushed. How you can’t force a cake to bake faster than the clock moves, and rock climbing takes slow and thoughtful decision making (p. 193).
I’m inspired to write a list of all the things I’d like to do for fun, at an amateur level, that I’d like to be better at and just love doing — just because they’re good for me and it’ll be great. And I have this book to thank for that inspiration.
Throughout the book, Annie also talks about grief, and particularly Covid grief and the grief of isolation. Those things also hit me hard. I’m sure many can relate.
I don’t want to give away too much of the book. It’s beautifully written. It’s an easy read that packs a punch in terms of the takeaway but won’t hurt your brain to get there. It’s my favourite of Annie’s so far, and I thought it was going to be hard to unseat Looking for Lovely. But here we are.
I am certainly biased — Annie F. Downs has been my favourite author for a long time, and even if I’m not entirely convinced I’m an Enneagram 7 after all, just like Annie, I still love the things we have in common and I will still happily read anything she writes. Please go pick up this book, and check out Annie F. Downs on social media if you’re not familiar with her — find out what the hype is about!
Here are a few quotes from the book that really grabbed me:
“And the more days I live on this planet, the more I am learning that I don’t have to control my feelings. They are allowed to ride along with me anywhere I go; they just aren’t the best drivers. I need to feel them and hear them and pay attention to them but not let them lead the way. Love can lead though.” p. 93 (emphasis mine)
“But there isn’t anything happenstance or things simply falling into place in the kingdom of God. It’s all handled. It’s all aligned. It’s all a gift. And God does that a lot, it seems. When I look for His hand in the stories that I’m living, I always seem to find Him.” p. 139
“… searching for Eden can matter, even when it hurts.” p. 157
“Hobbies make space. They remind us of something beautiful, and that good can come from nothing…… And when the whole world is broken, it’s just nice to know we have the tiniest ability to put pieces together.” p. 175
“When you stop picking your hobbies or making decisions based on what others tell you is worth your time and effort, and you start listening to your own heart and your own wants, life gets so much richer.” p. 198
“I sat with a friend a few days ago and she said ‘You show what matters most by what you say yes and no to, by who gets your time and your money.’ It really made me think — about hobbies, about friendship, and about the speed at which I’m living my life.” p. 208
Me again: I certainly, truly hope that you’ll get a copy of this book and savour every moment of it (and then chuckle at how important it is to savour because you’ll get it when you’ve read the book). I hope if you weren’t already letting Annie’s wisdom and way with words coax your soul into needed change, you’ll make space for her to do so.
Please let me know if you’ve read this book and loved it as much as I did. It’s a beautiful piece of work, and I highly encourage you to read it.
Image credit: Amazon.ca
Book was provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.