Westword Book Club: Brandi Shigley focuses on the essential and eliminates the rest
Brandi Shigley in her treehouse book nook.
Reading is about more than following a narrative or learning facts; it can also be a profound shared experience that culminates in a better understanding of ourselves and each other. In that spirit, welcome to the Westword Book Club, a weekly feature that celebrates the books that inspire Denver artists.
After years of an effort to bring boutique fashion to Denver's fleece-clad hordes, fashionista Brandi Shigley has sharpened her focus on helping others accomplish their goals in her Do What You Love seminars. One of Shigley's loves is books, and she has created an adorable lofted nook, which she refers to as her treehouse, at Fashion Denver Showroom, her combination boutique, studio, consulting office and mini roller-rink.
Westword: In general, what are your reading habits like?
Brandi Shigley: I think I have, like, five particular books in mind. People have told me that I need to just focus on one thing, but I can't focus on one thing; it's like that with my professional and creative endeavors, and it's like that with my books. I'm actually a horrible reader. Often, like with my favorite books, I'll just keep reading them over and over again because I love them so much. My boyfriend actually works at the library, and he'll check out stacks of books to bring home to me. I usually go to the library and check out a whole stack of unread books, return them and then come home and re-read Bless Me Ultima. It takes a lot to get me to read, but if I'm hooked within the first ten pages, I'll finish a book within one night.
Are there any books in particular that have informed what you do?
There are some books that are really inspirational as far as becoming an entrepreneur, and this one, The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta, totally changed my life. Within one sentence, it made me evaluate all the things that I love to do. What it basically said was, focus on the essential and eliminate the rest. When this book came into my life, I was a boutique owner doing consulting, doing all these different things, and it just made me realize what is essential to me, what I love to do, and what I can do so I'm not spending time doing something I don't really love. My focus is very inspired by that book.
What do you read for fun?
I don't favor fiction over non-fiction; it's a total combo. I have recently discovered graphic novels, and the series that I have gotten really hooked on is called Locke and Key, by Joe Hill. I didn't really know if I would like the format or the story, but I started reading, and I'm way into them now.
That's a pretty gruesome series.
It's so gruesome that it's awesome. It's grawsome! So the whole Locke and Key series, as far as opening myself up to a new genre and a new medium, have become a new favorite of mine.
Are there any other genres that are especially appealing to you?
I'm also a huge fan of young adult literature. That genre, as far as fiction is concerned, is something I'm really drawn to. One of my all-time favorite YA books is Lois Lowry's The Giver. I discovered a lot of these in my young-adult literature class in college. I was an English minor, and I was just not at all interested in talking [affects snooty accent] British Literature from the 1700s, so I saw young-adult literature on the course schedule and was like CHECK! Because I was intimidated by those hard literature courses.
What perspective do you think you bring to young-adult literature as an adult reader?
I think I enjoy it more now from the perspective of an adult with the freedom to read whatever I want. The books that I loved to read as a kid were not the books I was reading in school. Also, I can't forget Roald Dahl! I love Roald Dahl. The direct language really appeals to me; there's elegance in simplicity. If there's any theme, it's that I favor simplicity over clutter. I have a short attention span, so I need things that immediately captivate me, so the direct approach of young-adult literature really appeals to me.
Were there any other classes that broadened your horizons?
In college, I also really fell in love with Chicano literature, too. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya, and Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street. I love the poetic language in that book. It's so vividly described that I feel like I'm on that hot porch, sitting with all the characters. She has this simplicity in her words that really grabs out at me. Let's see...there's Naked, by David Sedaris. I got really into David Sedaris somewhere between the mid-'90s and the early aughts. I think I first heard him on NPR, maybe This American Life. He has this new book called Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls! which combines my young-adult sensibilities with my love for Sedaris's literary voice. He's one of my biggest inspirations.
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