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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Cures for Love by Stendhal

Did I buy this in college and only just now read it? Yes, I did. Will I read this collection of 150-year-old maxims about love again? Unlikely.

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Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

A clever and delightful novel about a protagonist who only sees himself as “Generic Asian Man”—and his quest to become “Kung Fu Guy”—in the black-and-white world of Hollywood.

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SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas

I think I will let Michelle Tea’s foreword sum up the brilliance of this 1967 critique/satire/call to action:

“To see the SCUM Manifesto’s humor, to let it crack you up page after page, is not to read it as a joke. It’s not. … The truth of the world as seen through Valerie’s eyes is patently absurd, a cosmic joke. The hilarity in the Manifesto strikes me as fighting fire with fire.”

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

Reading Diary: February 2020

Right on Track

I read nine books in February (or, more accurately, I finished nine books; Little Women took me awhile). And this month I was very fortunate to read several titles I wanted to review with five stars!

I’m exactly on track to hit my 2020 goal of 120 books, though somehow my to-be-read pile only seems to be growing instead of shrinking.

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays by Mary Laura Philpott

I love reading essays about life—and all the messy, complicated feelings it involves. This book genuinely made me both laugh and cry; I read a copy from the library but expect it’ll join my permanent library as soon as it’s in paperback.

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

Thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade novel about a girl who can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead. I was so glad to discover when I got to the end that the next installment was already available!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

This is a beautiful novel and a moving depiction of the lives of several, sometimes interconnected, women. Sometimes award winners can disappoint, but it’s deserving of the hype.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem should acknowledge that.”

Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker

I’ve been in a “sober curious” place for a little while, feeling like drinking has become a habit that might not be where I want to spend my time/money/energy/health. This was a great examination of drinking culture and recovery programming—and specifically the impact it has on women.

Tunnel of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab

The follow-up to City of Ghosts, I read this in a single sitting. The third installment comes out later this year and, in the meantime, I plan to check out another of her series, Shades of Magic.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The story of the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, which destroyed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 volumes. Also part examination of libraries and part history of the LAPL, it was a fascinating read.

What Now? Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond by Yael Shy

Meditation is becoming an increasingly important part of my regular routine, and I really enjoyed this quick little read about its value—especially for young adults.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This was actually my book club’s November pick, so I’m really behind in finishing it. But I’m so glad I didn’t abandon it because, of course, it is a complete delight. Certainly a classic for a reason!

What five-star books have you read recently?

Reading Diary: January 2020

11 books down, 109 to go

I’ve been extremely lucky the last couple of years to increase my reading. (It helps to not have a regular job . . . and to have a husband who is often happy to make dinner.)

After crushing my 100-books-in-2019 challenge, I’ve bumped up my goal to read 120 books in 2020. And that, of course, starts with January. Here’s what I read last month.

January 2020 reading stats: Number of Books Read: 11 Number of Pages Read: 3,379 Longest Book: The Starless Sea (512 pages) Shortest Book: On Tyranny (126 pages) Highest Rated: Unfollow (5 stars) Lowest Rated: Emma (2 stars)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

This was one of those books that I kept seeing on best-of and must-read lists, but actually knew very little about when I started. It turned out to be a very engaging read and a clever story.

Twenty-one Truths about Love by Matthew Dicks

As a lifelong list-maker myself, a novel written in lists was immediately intriguing. And it didn’t disappoint! This was a sweet and funny book about love, among other things.

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

Erin Morgenstern is magical and so is her writing. This one seemed to wander a little too far afield at times, but I appreciated the chance to get lost in another of her beautiful worlds.

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

An exploration of the silencing and the doubting of women, many of her anecdotes felt very familiar and it made me sad to think about how often this is still happening in our world.

Indistractable: How to Control Your Awareness and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

I appreciate any opportunity to read more thoughts on the attention economy . . . and how to ensure that we are mindful, both when we’re consuming and when we’re producing.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder

History does seem to repeat itself, and this was a fascinating and horrifying reminder of the past—and the dangers of authoritarianism.

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan

I’ve been going through (another) true crime phase, mostly spurred by a slew of Netflix docuseries and my recent discovery of the My Favorite Murder podcast. I’d never heard of Israel Keyes before, but I won’t forget that name now.

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper

Westboro is only about 60 miles from where I live, so I have long been familiar with their picketing and hate speech—and with the tweeting of Megan Phelps-Roper. I found her memoir both beautiful and heartbreaking, a captivating look into the WBC and the necessity of questioning our own beliefs.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

This graphic novel has been on my to-be-read list for years, and I’m so glad to have finally gotten to it. A memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, it made me both laugh and cry—and it made me want to read more.

The Conference of the Birds: The Fifth Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

I have loved this entire series, but admit that I haven’t found this second trilogy quite as engaging as the first. Still, I’m looking forward to the conclusion in the sixth book about Miss P and peculiardom!

Emma by Jane Austen

This was my book club’s pick for January and while I appreciate the brilliance of Jane Austen and the character of Emma, this was not my favorite book to read. If it weren’t for peer pressure, I likely would’ve marked it as did-not-finish and moved on.

109 books to go! What have you read recently that you loved?

The Tidiness of KonMari and the Joy of Book Clutter

Ali (that’s my husband) and I have been watching Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix. I read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, not long after it came out and was smitten with the idea of only keeping what sparks joy. I have such a tendency to hold on to things just because I have them—but what’s the use in having fifty T-shirts if I only enjoy wearing two of them?

The KonMari method

If you’re unfamiliar with the basic premise of the KonMari method, it’s that you gather up all your belongings by category (such as every article of clothing you own) to consider what to keep or discard, rather than the more traditional decluttering tactic of tackling one room at a time. You hold each item and ask whether it sparks joy, whether you get some feeling of love or thrill from wearing, using, or looking at it: if it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, thank it for its service to you and let it go.

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But giving up clothes comes easier than paring down my collection of books, the second category to prune using the method. I just like having them, even the ones I’ve already read more than once and even the ones I’ve owned for awhile and haven’t yet cracked open. There’s a Japanese word for buying books and never reading them—tsundoku—and I certainly relate to that spirit.

Keeping the books

More than just an affinity for collecting books, though, there’s a sense of vastness in having a large personal library. Keeping shelves stocked with books is a nice reminder that there’s so much out there still to read and learn and enjoy, no matter how many titles I read. As a recent Fast Company post puts it, “An antilibrary is a powerful reminder of your limitations — the vast quantity of things you don’t know, half-know, or will one day realize you’re wrong about.” So much possibility exists!

I like what Marie Kondo encourages in suggesting that we let go of the things that no longer spark joy in our lives. Ali and I are planning our own KonMari-style tidying. But books do create joy for us, and I’m definitely not planning to force myself to give mine up any time soon.

Tell me what you think! Are you diving into the KonMari method in your home? Are you ready to give up books for the sake of tidying?