Reading Diary: February 2021

I guess I was really missing the outdoors during all the snow and frigid temperatures last month: four of my six reads had a definite focus on nature.

I certainly don’t regret any of them! They were great reads and primed the pump for already getting outside a lot more in March (70 degrees and sunny? I’ll take that!).

What are your favorite wilderness reads? I’d love to hear from you!

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Reading Diary: January 2021

Sitting, Reading, Wintering

January came and went quickly, but the days felt slow.

I’m still healing from a sprained ankle. The weather has been bitterly cold. My emotions have been all over the place after the sweet-but-strange little Christmas my immediate family had, feeling glued to the national news in the worst possible way, and the strange new beginnings that 2021 and my 34th birthday offered.

But it did make for a month of wonderful reading, especially Wintering by Katherine May, which I would like to gift to just about everyone in my life.

So here’s to leaning into the slowness and into winter.

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

A Warning by Anonymous

Reading Diary: December 2020

Annual Goal Met!

Well, whatever else there is to be said for 2020—an absolute beast of a year, if there ever were one—I did manage to complete my annual reading challenge by reading 120 books!

I’m wrapping up the Harry Potter series, reading about how to set healthy boundaries with technology, and reminding myself to enjoy the world around me even in dark and difficult times.

Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy

Ladybird, Collected by Meg Heriford

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris

Nothing Like I Imagined by Mindy Kaling

Garments Against Women by Anne Boyer

What are you reading (or looking forward to reading) in 2021? I’d love to hear from you!

Reading Diary: October 2020

Reading and Rereading

Do you like to reread books? I don’t find myself rereading often—my to-be-read pile is very high with new-to-me titles—but I do enjoy occasionally revisiting a favorite.

Last month I started the Harry Potter series again from the beginning. My feelings about J.K. Rowling aside, it’s always nice to get back to Hogwarts!

I also had the chance to read a classic for the first time, enjoy plenty of remarkable essays, and discuss a courtroom thriller.

What are you reading these days?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Sometimes it’s just nice to revisit old favorites, and picking up this series from the beginning made for a nice distraction from current events!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

See above!

1984 by George Orwell

I somehow managed to miss reading this one until this year. I certainly understand why it’s a classic, but not exactly a comforting read in a year like this one.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

A gorgeous collection of essays about what happens “when American optimism contradicts your own reality.” Recommended reading for everyone!

Without a Doubt by Marcia Clark

This month’s book club pick was the story of the O.J. Simpson trial, beginning to end from the lead prosecutor’s perspective.

No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin

This was a lovely read, made even more so since I got to read it in a single sitting while on a pre-election-week camping trip!

What are you reading (or looking forward to reading) this month? I’d love to know!

Reading Diary: September 2020

30 books in 30 days (ish)

Last year was the first time I attempted the #30BooksIn30Days challenge and I made it to 22; this time I got to 26!

Books that had been on my nightstand for longer than I care to admit, brand-new books straight from the publisher, books that I’d been eagerly awaiting from the library. Rereads, audio books, book club selections. Fiction, nonfiction, how-tos, and even a screenplay.

I always enjoy a reading challenge and I’m delighted with the way this one went. And, of course, there’s always next year to get to 30!

Hope you’re surviving—or, better yet, thriving—and staying healthy!

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

 

#VeryFat #VeryBrave: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini by Nicole Byer

 

The Phantom Prince: My Life with Ted Bundy by Elizabeth Kendall

 

Death Rings a Bell by Will Buntin

 

Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving by Angela C. Santomero

 

Bad Kansas: Stories by Becky Mandelbaum

 

Scary Stories for Young Foxes by Christian McKay Heidicker

 

The Illustrated Crystallary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Magical Gems & Minerals by Maia Toll

 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

 

How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One by Stanley Fish

 

The Undying by Anne Boyer

 

The Last Dance: The Skywalks Disaster and a City Changed by Kevin Murphy

 

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

 

Burn It Down: Women Writing about Anger by Lilly Dancyger

 

Table for 9: Supreme Court Food Traditions and Recipes by Clare Cushman

 

Martin Luther: A Life by Marty Martin

 

OMG WTF Does the Constitution Actually Say? A Non-Boring Guide to How Our Democracy Is Supposed to Work? by Ben Sheehan

 

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

 

Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto by Cinzia Arruzza

 

Awkword Moments: A Lively Guide to the 100 Terms Smart People Should Know by Ross Petras

 

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

 

The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil by George Saunders

 

How to Connect by Thich Nhat Hanh

 

The Inner Coast: Essays by Donovan Hohn

 

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

 

What are you reading and loving this fall? Let me know!

Reading Diary: August 2020

Data and privilege and reexamining life

Another month, another round of book reviews! I finished ten books in August and am getting caught up with my 2020 reading goal (120 books).

I read lots of really great books this month—and admit that I’m also getting better about abandoning books I’m not really into using the 50-page rule (don’t give up on a book until you’re at least 50 pages in . . . until you’re 50 years old, and then you can lower that number by a page a year).

August brought lots of data-heavy titles and some heavy big life stuff (acknowledging privilege, breaking away from overwork, saying yes more, reexamining this country’s beginnings), but this year seems like a good time to dig into those things.

Hope you’re surviving—or, better yet, thriving—and staying healthy!

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker

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This was such an interesting and delightful read about the subjectivity and trickiness of math on a large scale. I admit I didn’t really grasp all the logic—“I’m an English major; you do the math!”—but I loved it anyway.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

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This book was worth the hype! Flawed protagonists, complex themes like gender and race and privilege, a surprising plot, exceptional writing.

Pretty. Damned. Fast. by Will Buntin

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I highly recommend having a friend who’s a screenwriter! Loved this one—a story of hot rodders and ghosts and going home to face your past. It’s a perfect read for late summer.

Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

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I started this pre-COVID and then lost the thread while I watched the world start to fall apart, but I came back to it in August and zoomed through it. A really fascinating exploration of language and how it’s changed rapidly over the last couple of decades in an internet world.

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan

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My church recently held a white privilege discussion group that was guided by this book. It was a much-needed perspective on American Christianity, and the ELCA church in particular, and an important read for white congregations.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee

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I love reading books that encourage a break from our hyperconnected worlds—this year especially. A much-needed reminder that work is not the end-all be-all when it comes to how we measure self-worth, happiness, and even success.

Yes Man by Danny Wallace

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What if you said yes to every question or suggestion presented to you? This was a fun read about turning your routines on their head, leaning into a personal experiment, and staying open to new and unexpected opportunities.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

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This book shook. me. up. It was no surprise, of course, to learn that there are data gaps when it comes to women. But it was stunning to read about the breadth and depth of those gaps; women have been willfully ignored (or carelessly forgotten) when it comes to anything from seatbelt design and pharmaceutical studies to city planning and how we expect people to work.

I strongly recommend this read to anyone who is convinced women have achieved equality with men and to anyone working in planning and leadership roles.

You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington by Alexis Coe

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I’ve never read a Washington biography because a 700-page love letter to a founding father has never really piqued my interest. But I loved this short and conversational look at his life—and the myths that we’ve accepted about the first president.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

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A unique and surprising story about friendship and resentment and parenting and visibility. A friend recommended this and I’m so glad she did!

What summer reads have you loved? What are you looking forward to this fall?

Reading Diary: Summer 2020

Catching Up on May, June, and July

Did I post about time flying by and feeling untethered last time?

That has only gotten worse, of course, with continued physical distancing requirements and recommendations to stay home as much as possible . . . and then my unexpected positive test result for the COVID-19 virus itself in late July. (I’m doing OK, just more tired than usual and now extra diligent about my mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing efforts.)

Anxiety and fatigue have made for a roller coaster of emotions, not to mention the effect they have on keeping track of time. Which is why my monthly reading blog post went unwritten in May . . . and in June . . . and in July. You don’t mind too much, do you?

Keep safe and stay healthy, friends!

Reading summary for May, June, and July 2020. 
Number of books read: 23.
Number of pages read: 6,072.
Longest book: The Stranger Beside Me.
Shortest book: The Quilts of Gee's Bend.
Favorite book: The Writing Life.

Here I Am: Using Jewish Spiritual Wisdom to Become More Present, Centered, and Available for Life by Leonard Felder

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“Present, Centered, and Available for Life” seems like an excellent aspiration, particularly this year. I very much appreciated Felder’s stress-management practices, which are rooted in both spirituality and psychology.

Arcade Game Typography by Toshi Omagari

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I’ve never really been drawn to video games, but this was a fun and fascinating look at the typography used by popular and niche games alike (and how limited it was by the pixels available in early game design).

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

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Irby’s essays have delighted me before and this collection was no different. Awkward, relatable, and hilarious. I read this one in paperback, but her audiobooks (narrated by the author herself) are a great choice too.

Nancy: A Comic Collection by Olivia Jaimes

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My husband gave this to me as an anniversary gift and I quickly read it cover to cover! The strips are irreverent and witty, and there’s also an adorable children’s book (Nancy’s Genius Plan)by the same writer/illustrator that we gifted to our nieces and nephew.

The Illustrated Herbiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Bewitching Botanicals by Maia Toll

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I was introduced to Toll’s work at a (virtual) conference in the spring and I am smitten with her beautiful books on paying attention to the natural world around us—and how certain herbs, fruits, and flowers can help us access our intuition. Also includes oracle cards!

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

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I distinctly remember a copy of this book floating around our childhood home—and that it was one of my sister’s very favorites. I don’t think I ever read it myself and was glad to check out this Cinderella tale.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

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I was excited to be back in the universe of Panem with this brand-new prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, even if I wasn’t quite sold on Coriolanus Snow’s origin story.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

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This book was described as “Steel Magnolias meets Dracula” and that seems apt. A strange and gory and sometimes quite funny story of, well, a Southern book club and the slaying of vampires.

The Illustrated Bestiary: Guidance and Rituals from 36 Inspiring Animals by Maia Toll

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I loved this one just as much as the Herbiary. Toll profiles 36 powerful animals and shares rituals, readings, and reflections to access their special energies. I cannot wait for her third installation, The Illustrated Crystallary,to come out next month!

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön

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Have I mentioned that my anxiety has been through the roof for much of this pandemic episode? I’ve found great relief in books like this one, which offer important reminders of starting where you are.

They Did Bad Things by Lauren A. Forry

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I joined the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club (out of Jenny Lawson’s Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio) a couple months back and this has been one of my favorites. It’s sort of a Gen X retelling of And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie’s classic mystery.

$9 Therapy: Semi-Capitalist Solutions to Your Emotional Problems by Megan Reid

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A quick little guide to offering yourself some love and care, even if you don’t have an abundant expendable income. “Take self-care seriously without taking yourself too seriously.”

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin

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Before the pandemic lockdown, I’d read another book—that I’ve since forgotten—that mentioned these incredible quilts and I quickly requested it from my library. Once the libraries opened back up, this one became available and it was a great little surprise to read.

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

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Historic fiction relaying the saga of getting Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago manuscript out of Russia. An intriguing story—and one that encouraged me to start Zhivago itself for some light reading.

Backpacking with the Saints: Wilderness Hiking as Spiritual Practice by Belden C. Lane

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I was surprised to find that Lane is actually from St. Louis, not far from my own home in Kansas City, and shares many of his backpacking experiences in the Ozark and Mark Twain National Forest wilderness.

Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix

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A clever novel styled as a catalog for an Ikea-like furniture store, Horrorstör tells the story of three employees working a special night shift to investigate strange goings-on before management finds out.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

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I borrowed this book from the library but immediately put in an order to my local bookstore after I finished it. A sweet, funny, and wholly relatable collection of essays about the writing life.

How to Houseplant: A Beginner’s Guide to Making and Keeping Plant Friends by Heather Rodino

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One of my new hobbies is trying to keep some plants alive. (I confess that I’ve managed to kill several basil plants and more than one aloe plant.) This was a great place to start and gave me the confidence to actually go to a local nursery and pick out a few new friends!

The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

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Our book club pick for July was this true crime classic about serial killer Ted Bundy. Surprising, horrifying, and fascinating.

The House on Mulberry Hill by Will Buntin

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A classic horror story of a reputed haunted house in the British countryside. It’s a quick and well-written script that I flew through in a single sitting!

How to Be Successful without Hurting Men’s Feelings: Non-threatening Leadership Strategies for Women by Sarah Cooper

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I wish that these helpful tips and useful illustrations didn’t feel so spot on, but they do—and the effect is a laughter-through-tears kind of read. Quick, pointed, and funny.

The Ones We’ve Been Waiting for: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America by Charlotte Alter

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Watching any facet of American politics today feels terribly, terribly depressing. This look at Millennials in political office certainly doesn’t portray a Utopian future, but it does make me feel a little more hopeful about the years ahead.

We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia

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The sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire, a YA novel about friendship and love and resistance and power. I admit I liked the first one better, but I enjoyed the story’s finale.


What summer reads have you loved? What are you looking forward to this fall? Drop me a line!

READING DIARY: APRIL 2020

Taking It a Little Slow

While I’m still on track with my goal of reading 120 books in 2020, I read about half as much in April as I did in March. With a full month of staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my anxiety levels were high and my attention span was short.

That said, I finished some great books and started some great books, so you won’t hear me complaining (or at least not in this post).

Hope you’re staying well and I can’t wait to hear what books you’ve been enjoying!

Reading summary for April 2020. 
Number of books read: 6
Number of pages read: 1,381
Longest book: The Vagina Bible
Shortest book: Write. Publish. Market.
Favorite book: Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies

Write. Publish. Market. by Jodi Brandon

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Publishing a book is such a daunting task, and this little volume is chock full of tips, tricks, and advice from someone who knows what she’s talking about. I bought this book at a conference last year and have referred to it several times, and this month I read it cover to cover.

Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster

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I have a “heart reading” practice each morning in which I read about a chapter or so of a book in the self-help/personal growth/mindset development genre, and I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through this one. Funny, sweet, and full of self-love.

How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind by Pema Chödrön

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My meditation practice has been on again/off again for a number of years, and I always appreciate a chance to come back to it with words of wisdom from someone like Pema Chödrön. This is a beautiful and practical guide.

The Vagina Bible: The Vulva and the Vagina: Separating the Myth from the Medicine by Jen Gunter

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This was my book club’s pick for April and it did not disappoint. It is always shocking to learn the neglect that womxn’s health has suffered in medical research, in healthcare teaching and training, and in education. A very handy resource for all manner of questions and concerns.

The Art of Mindful Singing: Notes on Finding Your Voice by Jeremy Dion

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I admit that I bought this one for its cover, sometime shortly before we were no longer allowed to roam bookstores. A look at why we tend to lose the art of singing, why it’s a valuable tool for mindfulness, and how to get it back.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

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This gorgeous, heartbreaking, and critical read was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry in 2014 and I’m so glad I finally got around to reading it. Highly recommended reading, especially for anyone living in America right now.


What did you read—and love—in April? What are you looking forward to reading next? I’d love to hear from you!

READING DIARY: MARCH 2020

Books During a Crisis

Well, when the month started, I was ready to relax into some books. I had a week of house sitting ahead of me, my work had hit a slight lull, and the idea of social distancing was surfacing. It seemed like the perfect time to hibernate with some reading.

But once COVID-19 reached official pandemic status (and there were outright orders to stay at home) my anxiety became a force to be reckoned with. I found myself rereading the same page over and over, and I just couldn’t make much progress. Still, I managed to stay on track by knocking out some shorter books from my TBR pile—and I’m hoping to do the same in April.

Stay safe out there, friends! And don’t feel guilty if you’re not “taking advantage” of the extra time you might have. Just surviving is enough!

March 2020 reading summary: number of books read (13), number of pages read (3,087), longest book (A Good Girl's Guide to Murder), shortest book (SCUM Manifesto), favorite book (Spiritual Rebel)

How to Be a Mindful Drinker: Cut Down, Stop for a Bit, or Quit by The Club Soda Community (Laura Willoughby, Jussi Tolvi, Dru Jaeger)

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been on the sober-curious bandwagon for a little while, which is what led me to this title. It was another great look at our culture of mindless drinking and a window into a community of nondrinkers (Club Soda).

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The Trial of Lizzie Borden by Cara Robertson

This was our March book club pick and I think we will be returning to the true crime genre! This was a very detailed look at the 1892 murder of Andrew and Abby Borden, Lizzie’s father and stepmother, and the ensuing trial.

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A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A title that’s both YA and a crime story? Yes, please. Loved this fictional after-the-fact investigation of a small-town murder. It’s got friendship, betrayal, and plenty of plot twists!

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The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life by Erika Owen

Perhaps more relevant now than ever, a quick guide to taking the path a little less traveled and to exploring a new place (or your own neighborhood) through aimless wandering and a little mindfulness.

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Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein

I’ve been considering a mindfulness/meditation/silent retreat for at least a couple of years, but of course there are always plenty of reasons not to commit. Which is why I was extra grateful to discover this little book: a DIY mindfulness retreat you can even set up at home.

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This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life by Annie Grace

Another in the category of sober living! If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’m still drinking—but I still appreciate the chance to reexamine the habit and be more mindful of my imbibing. (Especially that we’re all self-isolating now!)

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Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee

I read this over several weeks: It’s a pretty dense read and is a fascinating look at the things that, well, spark joy. From circles to rainbows to surprise, why do some things make everyone feel giddy no matter their age, ethnicity, or gender? Warning: This book will make you want to redecorate.

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Storied & Scandalous Kansas City: A History of Corruption, Mischief and a Whole Lot of Booze by Karla Deel

I always enjoy reading books about Kansas City, my hometown, and this one was no different. Not only known as the Paris of the Plains but also home to the Wettest Block in the World, KC was (is?) one hell of a party town.

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Spiritual Rebel: A Positively Addictive Guide to Finding Deeper Perspective and Higher Purpose by Sarah Bowen

With three weeks of daily readings, Spiritual Rebel considers ancient wisdom, modern religion, and pop culture to explore what helps us connect with our spiritual side and our life purpose.

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Unfuck Your Brain: Using Science to Get Over Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Freak-Outs, and Triggers by Faith G. Harper

I picked this one up because a local bookstore was planning an event with the author. That was, of course, canceled along with the rest of April. But I still enjoyed reading this little book on why your brain works the way it does and how to be okay anyway.

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