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: 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!