What a crazy month October was. My boyfriend and I are moving in together, so the majority of the free time was spent packing up and cleaning his apartment, then unpacking and settling into the new apartment. Moving is exhausting and it’s not over yet, because I’m not moving my things until December. Phew! That left little time for reading, and to be honest, my attention span for reading was getting a bit short anyway. I did manage to get through a few titles this month, though!
My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!
Devil in the White City: Incredibly, it took me until now to pick up this book. I was expecting it to be about H.H. Holmes and his murders, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find it to be more of a study of Chicago and the World’s Fair. Living in Chicago, I found it more interesting than ever, and it made me appreciate architecture in this beautiful city even more. Even if you aren’t an avid true crime aficionado, I recommend this book (but definitely read the print version, because the audiobook narrator felt s l o w.)
The Evidence of the Affair: This short story by Taylor Jenkins Reid, told in exchanged letters, was a nice dramatic read. Like many of her books, it doesn’t end up where you think it will, either. It’s free for Amazon Prime members, and a nice way to whet your appetite before Daisy Jones and the Six next spring!
Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!
Everything Everything: I think I’ve had Dani’s copy of this book on my shelf for over a year and never gotten around to it. One night, I was in desperate need of some comfort food, and nothing else I was in the middle of felt good, so I picked this up. I read it in one sitting and absolutely loved it. Another book that left me flabbergasted at the ending, I just didn’t see the twist coming at all. Great reading for a cozy night in when you need to disengage from your brain for awhile.
Interpreter of Maladies: This is a book my boyfriend suggested to fill a challenge prompt last winter, and it took a long time to get around to it. It’s amazing – and easy to see why it’s a Pulitzer winner. Though I really enjoyed it, it did feel like it took a lot of effort to get through. Despite that, I absolutely recommend it – the worlds Lahiri creates are rich, vibrant, and each story’s ending feels organic and real.
What about you? Did you read anything spooky this month?
June is National Audiobook Month, which is great – I love audiobooks. Podcasts can be a fun way to pass time at work or on a commute, but audiobooks are just as great and educational. A few years ago when I was driving from Nashville back to my hometown in Michigan, I popped on Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid on Scribd, and it started two love affairs: one with audiobooks, the other with TJR. They can also be meditative – when I’m doing really repetitive tasks, or cleaning the house, it can be nice to have a narrative rather than back-and-forth gossip of a podcast or music. To celebrate this month, I’m sharing some of my favorite audiobooks!
For audiobooks, I tend toward non-fiction, especially memoirs. It’s a fun way to hear someone’s story in their own voice, in a way that’s a little different than just text on a page. Here are some faves:
Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling: I listened to this last week in one workday and totally loved it. It’s Mindy’s second book, and in it, she dispenses lots of advice – from dating, self-confidence, the pressure on women to be thin, and the value of working hard. “Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.”
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson: What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Neil deGrasse Tyson wrote (and narrates!) this book with quick answers to broad, big topics. It’s clever, it’s easy to understand, and it’s easy to turn on and off – he presents a lot of the information in easily digestible bites to fit into any schedule. I really liked this a lot, and it made me think a lot about the world and the universe.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler: Another memoir by a female comedian, this audiobook is awesome. Amy invites Seth Meyers to read a chapter, as well as Carol Burnett, and both are exceedingly funny. Plus, my friendo Craig Finn gets a shoutout – they went to college together in Boston. Small world. She dispenses a lot of advice about what it’s like to be a powerful woman, especially in male-dominated fields, and how she overcame the stigma of being too assertive.
Good Clean Fun by Nick Offerman: Seeing a pattern of specific non-fiction books I like? This was a random pick for work one day – I don’t have a particular interest in woodworking or construction, outside four years of high school theatre – it just seemed like a good workday listen. His voice is almost meditative – very calm, soothing, and would be a really great bedtime story, or even to pop on to calm anxiety.
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore: I learned about “the radium girls” a few years ago from a Buzzfeed long read. In the 1910’s, many women in New Jersey took great jobs painting on watch faces – without any knowledge that they were being poisoned by radium, not knowing what consequences they would all eventually face. This book chronicles their story as well as the worker’s rights and labor laws their experience changed.
Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby and Hoopla– see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!
When listening to fiction, I look for books with multiple actors – it really helps me picture the action, and helps keep things straight! Plus, it’s more like listening to a fiction podcast, which is something I’m exploring more and more lately.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor: I’ve wanted to get into the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for quite awhile, but was never sure where to start – when I saw their first book on Libby, it seemed like a great way to jump in. It’s a really unique story, and I loved the way it built and resolved. The narrator is excellent – he also hosts the podcast – and it’s plenty long, if that’s something you’re looking for!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders: To be fair, I haven’t actually finished this one yet. But I absolutely love the large and varied cast of voice actors, including Nick Offerman, Carrie Brownstein, Ben Stiller, Rainn Wilson, Kat Dennings, and even more – it makes it feel almost like an old-time radio show, with each character having their own voice. This was also the 2017 Audie winner, and it’s easy to understand why! Historical fiction is a very difficult genre for me to get into, and the way this audiobook is done, even I am enjoying it.
One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus: This is a bit of a long listen, which could be a good thing if you really want to get invested in the characters. The story of a high school murder mystery, someone dies during after-school detention, and the search to reveal who was really behind the death. This book also features multiple voice actors, so it’s easy to keep the characters straight – important for listeners who might otherwise get confused by dialog in fiction audiobooks.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: Admittedly, this book hasn’t come through my library holds yet, but I can’t wait to listen. Another nominee for the 2017 Audie Awards, the preview sounds great, and the book has widely gotten great reviews. Queue this one up on your phone for poolside listening and skip squinting at a book or eReader!
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I can’t finish the list off without a nod to what made this such a compelling listen for me. Voiced by actress Julia Whelan, the story is wonderful, but Whelan’s performance adds a lot to the story. It’s told in a dual timeline, from the point of view of Hannah Martin. Whelan changes her voice for each timeline to accurately reflect the person Hannah is, and what she’s going through, in each. If this book doesn’t sound up your alley, keep your eye out for anything narrated by her – she’s really wonderful and narrates the best audiobooks!
What do you think are the best audiobooks? What ones are your favorites? I’m always looking for new things to listen to during work or on the road!
May is over, and it felt like finally, knock on wood, I got a reprieve from some of the stuff that’s gone on this year. Between mourning my grandma, my mom’s cancer diagnosis, and some other personal stress, nothing truly remarkable happened! I went to LA for work, went out to Navy Pier to see some Nashville friends play, and even got to make it to a Cory Branan show. The older I get, the more I start to really enjoy May – it’s usually when I spend a lot of time planning out my summer, and just like last year, I’m so excited to be spending it in Chicago. It’s the king of street festivals and I love that there are so many fun, free ways to see the city!
This month my saved links echoed the theme of something I’ve been focusing on in therapy – you don’t have to carry around everyone’s crap, and you don’t even have to carry around your own crap.
The Cost of Losing Your Keys: Okay, this first one is less in the “theme” of the others, but I’m so proud of it – I’M FINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE BILLFOLD! It’s been my favorite blog for years (the only one that I can remember reading in every city I’ve lived in) and I would be lying if I didn’t think it was super cool that I’m published on the same site as Taylor Jenkins Reid now. Last summer I lost my house keys… and let’s just say, it’s cost a lot more than I would have thought it could. (My roommate would like to update the total with an additional $50 from when she locked herself out of the apartment and had to take a Lyft out to pick up our spares from my boyfriend.) Anyway, it’s been my goal to write for The Billfold for a really long time, and I’m so happy to have finally done it.
9 Simple Ways to Start Living a More Minimal Lifestyle: Apartment Therapy has been my guilty mindless blog lately, and the articles are really helping me purge things I don’t need anymore but have struggled to part with. 8 and 9 in this list have been key to me while trying to clear out my closets. Their Weekend Project series is super fun too – every now and then if I’m just sitting at home not doing anything, I’ll take a look to see if there’s something I can quickly knock out.
If It Ain’t Yours, Don’t Carry It: Marisa Mohi is a friend-of-a-friend I’ve linked to before, and if you’re a writer, I definitely suggest adding her blog and YouTube channel to your regular reads. This post helps to simplify a pretty easy concept – you don’t have to carry the burdens of others – and it’s just something that I needed to hear at just the right time.
On Weight: I know Malory through the same grapevine I know Marisa from, and her food podcast is really great (if you’re in the Oklahoma City area and need food recommendations, OKC OVER EASY is where to look!) I’ve struggled with my weight for basically my whole life except the two years I was running super regularly. In this post, Malory says weight is stress I carry around on my body. I identify with this in a brutally familiar way, and part of losing weight for me is shedding the memory that a lot of the weight carries.
How to Stop Letting Your Anxiety Make Decisions for You: I’m getting much better about this, but I definitely admit that it hasn’t always been easy and I haven’t always excelled. Most of the time, whatever anxiety I feel isn’t even about the thing I’m feeling it toward, so really trying to figure out what’s actually going on has been key in starting to deal with this more effectively.
What are you reading this month? Any particular projects you’re working on to get summer ready?
The end of April has to mean that this long slog of winter and cold weather has to be on it’s way out. Right? RIGHT?!?! As we ease into yet another weekend that’s too cold to leave the house, here’s some reading from the past month.
Confession: I like wrestling. It’s goofy, it’s funny, it’s storytelling – and wrestlers are real, complex people. Jervis Cottonbelly, my favorite indie wrestler, is often vocal and open about his history with depression and anxiety. Earlier this month, his suicidal ideation led to a hospitalization. His blog post, On Sweetness and Suicide, is a great read for insight into not only what the hospitalization process is like, but also how it feels to have these thoughts you don’t want.
I’ve used Evernote for quite a few years, and I really like this post on how their CEO uses it and stays organized. The idea of assigning a theme for each workday is something I started doing recently, and it’s really helped my productivity to be able to think (and tell co-workers) when something isn’t on the docket for that day.
6 Apps That Will Streamline Your Investments Starting Now: I’m really focusing on getting my finances in order this year, and that includes setting up an investment or 401k account. I’m relying on breakdowns and reviews like this from blogs I trust to help cut out some services to help put me on the right track while I research the best option for me.
My Boston BFF and I are OB-SESSED with these money diaries. They really hearken back to when I first started getting into blogging and almost exclusively read personal finance blogs. Man Repeller has them too – the comments on theirs are often much less toxic or judgey – they definitely make me feel behind on my savings for where I am in my life now, but tracking my spending as though it’s a diary is making it a lot easier to to consistently track. (Today is day 23 – consistency!)
For the last several years, I’ve been feeling the crush of what it’s like to be an only child. This post from The Everygirl puts many of my concerns together – specifically the first and last points. My built-in support system is very limited, and I think a lot about what will happen if my parents die (and now that my mom is sick, I feel a lot of the responsibility on that,) but that kind of freedom can also be a real blessing.
I don’t know why this is sponsored content from Taco Bell, but we’ll go with it. The Muse posted an article with scientifically-backed tips on creativity, and I will admit that I wish it was a little more informational – I don’t need any more encouragement to grab a beer – but it’s a nice reminder sometimes that you could be too “into” your ideas and need to take a step back into your daily tasks, or even reset with a nap or shower.
I’ve really been enjoying the Girlboss blog lately (and the new layout took some getting used to, but now I’m really into it. I hope it was built by women.) They recently featured an article about guitar badass Sister Rosetta Tharpe – she was a killer on electric guitar and probably the first rock ‘n roll woman. She gets overlooked far too often, so do yourself a favor and read their great primer on her.
This post contains affiliate links. I was given an advance galley of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the publisher and a Quarterly Lit box for review, but all opinions are my own.
Summer is for sundecks, cocktails, and lots of books! One of my favorite pastimes is to post up in a comfy beach chair, crack open a book, and stay there until I finish. (Reapplying sunscreen liberally and staying hydrated, of course.) Relaxing with a book and hanging out outside is such a great way to recenter, and I highly recommend it as a regular part of your self-care routine. Since it’s Memorial Day, I thought I’d share my reading list for the summer – along with some all-time favorites.
The Animators: The story of two artists who have worked together since their college years, all reviews say this is a fantastic debut with great character development and that readers can’t put it down. My copy came from Quarterly Literary, whose January box was curated by the author. Their author curators annotate their books with Post-Its and trivia about the story, so it’s a bookworm’s dream. I can’t wait to get started on this book.
Attachments: A few years ago, Dani suggested this book to me, and it’s another one I read in one sitting. It’s rare that I’ll want more out of a book, but this is one what I would have read sequel after sequel of. Funny, relatable (especially to me, since I work in the tech industry as well), and well-written, it’s perfect beach read material.
Sweetbitter: This book has been getting rave reviews, and it was suggested to me because I loved both Drinking: A Love Story and Smashed. It’s the story of a college graduate who moves to New York City and gets a job in the restaurant industry, and how the effects of keeping up in her work circle starts to unravel her life.
Swimming Lessons: I love mysteries, so this book seems right up my alley. Ingrid writes letters to her husband about how she really feels – but she never gives them to him. She tucks them away in an unassuming book in the house, and then years later, drowns at the beach. When their daughter moves in to help care for her aging father, she starts to unwrap what really happened, and it’s a book I’m sure I won’t be able to easily put down.
The Nest: Another book on many “must read” lists, this debut novel follows four adult children as they try to keep it together enough to get the full inheritance their father left for them. I think this book will be really interesting as it studies the effect of money on friendships and family dynamics.
The Annie Year: Another novel packed in the Quarterly box is The Annie Year. It has rave reviews and follows Tandy, a small-town CPA who has an affair with big implications. Since I am from a small town similar to the one in this book (and also participated in theater, my own company embroiled in a “scandal” right now!) I’m excited to read this book and think it will be very relatable.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: I can’t let a book recommendation post get by without a YA suggestion. Jenny Han is a bit of a prolific YA series author, but this was the first one I cracked open. It’s a typical teenage love story about being torn between the popular boy and someone off-limits, but it does avoid some of the typical tropes since the girls in this story have more responsibility than most. I’ve added the rest of the series to my library hold list, and hope they come in soon!
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?: This book sucked me right in (even before I knew that author Maria Semple had been a writer on one of my favorite TV shows.) Bee’s mom disappears without warning or any hint as to where she might have gone. I love the mother/daughter relationship in it, and the way Bee is certain her mom would never leave her, feeling like she had to have left some clues out there for her to find.
All Grown Up: The story of Andrea Berg, who enjoys her single life while watching everyone around her lives the “perfect” lives – weddings, babies, dream jobs – and the impact it has on her. This book sounds funny, morbid, and right up my alley – another story about a single lady in her thirties? Sign me up.
Bitter is the New Black: It’s been a few years since I read this, so I’m going to revisit it this summer. The story of a woman who was born into privilege, lands a high-powered job as an adult… and then promptly loses it, finding herself in an unemployment office. Jen Lancaster’s books are easy to read through, and her first book is funny, witty, and perfect for summer.
The Forever Summer: What’s better for a summer read than a book called Forever Summer? Taking place on a Cape Cod beach, a DNA test reveals the story of three generations of women who connect over one summer.
If you can never decide what to read next, Quarterly can help! They have one of the coolest book subscription boxes around. Their subscriptions (choose from either the Literary box or the Young Adult version) and four times a year, they’ll partner with different authors for their shipments. They’ll always include three books, and their author curator will annotate their novel with Post-Its, which is so awesome. They also tuck in other goodies that match the theme of their books (The Animators author Kayla Rae Whitaker added colored pencils and a bookmark) for an extra bonus. It’s also a great subscription box for someone who wants to start reading more regularly again – since a subscription will deliver twelve books a year to your door, it’s an easy way to work toward a “one book per month” goal!
They’ve also released a new subscription box called PageHabit – with a wider variety of genres to choose from, each box comes with a debut novel, plus other fun goods. They also make a donation to support children’s literacy, and give you access to their community of other book lovers. (That’s a slippery slope, though – my “to read” list has grown exponentially since joining.)