Comfort reads

Anyone else turning to sure-bet comfort reading right now? I’m right there with you.

When times are uncertain or scary, I gravitate toward books that offer reassurance that things’ll be OK. 

Here are some of my favorite comforting books…

What I’ve been reading: March 2020

As I look back on the books I finished reading in early March, it seems like a lifetime ago. This new strangeness we’re living in… it creates a warped sense of time. And also of experience. When I look at the first couple of books on this list, I think of what a naive, unaware person I was then: quarantine would’ve seemed like something from a dystopian novel. 

But here we are, my friends. And we’re still here — still carrying on and still reading. And that’s something we can be thankful for. I’m glad you’re here. 

 

The March reading list: here it is… 

Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of the Children’s Ship by Deborah Heiligman 

3 words: vivid, urgent, gripping

Give this book a whirl if you like… British children evacuees during WWII, shipwrecks, true tragedy, quiet heroism

 

Lady Bird and Lyndon: The Hidden Story of a Marriage That Made a President by Betty Boyd Caroli

3 words: revealing, intimate, behind-the-scenes

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning the role and motivations of Lady Bird Johnson, stories of political partnerships, strong women, the power of subtle influence

 

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

3 words: joyful, quietly enthusiastic, encouraging

Give this book a whirl if you like… developing a philosophy for living, envisioning the worst so you can appreciate what you you have, finding peace, diminishing anxiety

 

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

3 words: atmospheric, menacing, unfolding

Give this book a whirl if you like… #OwnVoices, Southern mystery, current-day Southern plantation tourist site, single mothers

 

Welcome to Replica Dodge by Natalie Ruth Joynton

3 words: introspective, lyrical, intimate

Give this book a whirl if you like… beautifully written memoirs of everyday life, stories of religious conversion, fish out of water narratives, Jewish life, story of a new marriage and building a life together

 

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

3 words: folksy, heartwarming, uplifting

Give this book a whirl if you like… cats, small town America, the importance of libraries to the life of a community, Iowa

 

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

3 words: sobering, nuanced, thoughtful

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about Japenese American internment camps, blend of a child’s innocence and an adult’s reflections, WWII, memoirs in graphic novel form

 

What have you been reading lately?

Currently: quarantined and coping

So things have gotten a little bit weird in this world of ours. It’s scary and strange, and I hope dearly that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy in mind, body, and spirit. 

These days, COVID-19 concerns have us sheltering in place, and it’s all got an eerie dystopian feeling about it.

But our family is blessed with good health for our loved ones and ourselves, and I’m so grateful for that. And we’re fortunate to be able to work from home. And yet, there are worries and concerns, because this thing ain’t over yet. 

What are you doing that’s helping you through this?

For me, it’s…

  • Sheltering with the Dear Man and our goofy cat
  • Long conversations with my inner circle
  • Being able to work & having plenty of work to do
  • Running
  • Seeing so many people being their best selves — it does the heart good
  • Essential oils (the soothing blend and the allergy blend and sometimes the Christmas season blend)
  • The light therapy lamp
  • Evening walks through our neighborhood (greeting the neighbors as we skirt one another at a wide distance)
  • Reading comfort books before sleep (The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King — because really, how stressed out can a person be when reading about Mister Rogers? And also reading Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, which is so riveting that I understand why it showed up on so many people’s Best of 2019 lists)
  • Frequent planking (you can just throw yourself down on the floor and plank anytime you want to, when you’re working from home and wearing athleisure — and I gotta say, it helps with stress)

  • Sparkle lights
  • Daily counting of blessings

How are you coping with this new situation? And please let me know: are you and your family safe and well?

My word for the year: Abundance

Anyone else feel like there’s never enough time? 

That’s my constant refrain, and this year I decided to address it head-on. 

I chose “Abundance” as my word of the year. 

Here’s the backstory… 

 

abundance chalkboard vignette

In recent years, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft of the Happier podcast have talked about choosing a one-word theme for the year, and hat idea has resonated with me.

Last year, I chose “Comfort” as my word, since 2019 was all about cozying up our new nest. Weirdly, “Comfort” also gave me permission to slow down and just be

It was a good word. 

So this year, I looked at my biggest pain point, and it’s scarcity. I fret about not having time to do the things I want to do; I fret about whether I’m spending my time in the best way possible; I fret about whether I’ve saved enough for retirement someday; I fret about whether I’m doing enough to take care of my health; I fret, I fret, I fret. 

And I gotta say: I’m not really thrilled about that. 

So, that brings us to Abundance. 

This year, I’m focusing on abundance in every aspect of life. 

When I feel like I’m running short on time, I think about the fact that the way I’ve spent the day is aligned with my values — and then I let go of feeling like I should’ve done 12 other things on the to-do list. 

When I feel like I should be getting more sleep, I resolve to honor my bedtime alarm and get back on track with my sleep schedule. 

Since I work best when there are action steps, I set up a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, where I record one example of abundance each day. It’s basically a gratitude journal, and I only ask myself to record one good thing for each day. It’s also keeping me mindful of looking for examples of abundance throughout the day, which helps with my shift from a scarcity to an abundance mindset. 

My friends, it’s working.


An added bonus to choosing Abundance as my word… videos

When I announced my word of the year to the Dear Man, he mentioned the Mama Celeste pizza commercial from the 70s.

Then we also watched one of my favorite: SNL Morning Latte (“abundance” at 2:40); cracks me up every time.

Anyone else choose a one-word theme for the year? I love hearing people’s choices, so please let me know if you’ve got a word for the year. 

Quebec City itinerary: 5 days in Quebec City in December

We love the Christmas season, so Quebec City in December was on our must-visit list. Beyond being beautiful and historical and having a truly European vibe, Quebec City is the home to one of North America’s best Christmas markets. 

We packed our warmest winter gear (prepare to wear your warmest boots the entire time, my friends) and headed to the airport.

And then we were completely charmed by the entire experience — friendly people, greetings of “Bonjour!” everywhere, feeling like we had traveled much further than simply over the border to Canada, and the sensation of time traveling into the past…

Here’s our itinerary…

Day 1: Arrival in Quebec City

  • Flew into Quebec City
  • Picked up rental car
  • Lunch: Chez Victor (145 Rue Saint-Jean) – where they have vegetarian poutine that is seriously life-changing. I can’t stop thinking about it. 
  • Plains of Abraham Museum
  • Rode the funicular from Lower Town to Upper Town  (man, we love a good funicular)
  • Strolled Dufferin Terrace
  • Chateau Frontenac – walked through the lobby and looked at the display of Christmas trees

Day 2: Old Quebec City

Day 3: Day trip from Quebec City

Day 4: Upper Town

Day 5: Departure

 

Have you visited Quebec City? What sights should we add for our next visit?

What I’ve been reading: February 2020

All month, I had the feeling that I was reading lots of books but not finishing very many of them. I was sampling and bailing, and I was reading books that I’ve had underway since January… and still not finishing them. 

But when I look back at this month’s reading, it’s actually quite a satisfying list. 

Here’s what I read–and finished–this month…

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

3 words: raw, honest, grim but hopeful

Give this book a whirl if you like… overcoming, woman in a downward spiral, confronting racism and sexism, #ownvoices, getting help

 

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

3 words: lyrical, powerful, emotional

Give this book a whirl if you like… modern Native American lives, hockey, survivors of abuse, stories of difficult childhoods, Canadian fiction, #ownvoices 

 

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

3 words: comforting, bookish, romantic

Give this book a whirl if you like… small town setting, fish out of water, books set in bookstores, friendship through letter writing, reinventing oneself, the power of one person to change people’s lives

 

Meet the Frugalwoods: Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living by Elizabeth Willard Thames

3 words: personal, conversational, unconventional 

Give this book a whirl if you like… personal finance, homestead living, frugality, FIRE movement, young couple charting their own course, stories of personal growth

 

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow

3 words: fast-paced, investigative, disturbing

Give this book a whirl if you like… shocking behind-the-scenes stories of cover-ups of wrongdoing, investigative journalism, #MeToo, Bad Blood

 

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

3 words: irreverant, surprising, engaging

Give this book a whirl if you like… a touch of magical realism, first person narratives, twins, unconventional nannies, quirky characters, politicians in fiction, female friendship

 

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

3 words: practical, encouraging, totally do-able

Give this book a whirl if you like… customizable tactics for adding good habits and eliminating bad ones, research-backed strategies, a conversational tone, small steps that can make a big difference

 

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink

3 words: informative, surprising, practical 

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about what motivates us (and what doesn’t), rethinking ways of working and conceptualizing work 

 

What were your favorite books of February?

Bookish Advent calendar quotes

Each year, a dear friend and I give each other quotes to place on our Advent calendars. Then, after Epiphany, we get together and share our favorite quotes. It’s a magnificent tradition. 

This year, we’re a little bit off our game, because I delivered quotes late (oh, my) and then my friend moved and misplaced the quotes in the shuffle. 

So she’s having Lent/Advent quotes this year, and we’ll have a two-part reveal of our favorite quotes. Here are my favorites of the quotes my friend gave me this year…

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

—Isaiah 43:1

A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you. 

—Elbert Hubbard

Fairy tales are more than true—not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten. 

—Neil Gaiman, Coraline

 

 

Do you have any literary traditions that always make you happy? 

Great novels by women of color

For Black History Month this year, we’re going to take a look at some fantastic novels by women of color. We’re focusing on books published in the past few years, and this is a mere sampling… but there’s something here for practically every reading taste. 

 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: raw, honest, grim but hopeful

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite: cheeky, inventive, suspenseful

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson: lyrical, impressionistic, nuanced

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: realistic, emotional, relevant

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: realistic, emotional, relevant

What books are you thinking about during Black History Month? 

What I’ve been reading: January 2020

Anyone else with me on this? I love the New Year. I love the promise, the potential, the new start.

I love the goal-setting and leaping out of the gate and the good work ahead.

Hello, 2020. How about let’s be friends.

 

Here’s what my January reading looked like…

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid 

3 words: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

Give this book a whirl if you like… captivating stories about race and power dynamics, #ownvoices novels, Little Fires Everywhere, relationship triangles, deciphering motives 



When the English Fall by David Williams

3 words: matter of fact, somber, good-hearted

Give this book a whirl if you like… the Amish, post-apocalyptic fiction, first-person narrators, a view into another society, a gentle and introspective narrator, characters who have premonitions



The Sentence Is Death by Anthony Horowitz

3 words: engrossing, immediate, immersive

Give this book a whirl if you like… old-fashioned mysteries with an updated tone, books in which the author’s real life bleeds into the story, curmudgeonly detectives, sidekick narratives



Do the Work!: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way by Steven Pressfield

3 words: rousing, irreverent, tough love

Give this book a whirl if you like… a tough but encouraging approach to creativity, productivity books that cut through the excuses



A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

3 words: humorous, self-effacing, rollicking 

Give this book a whirl if you like… hiking the Appalachian Trail, fish out of water stories, self-deprecating humor, buddy narratives



Life’s Accessories: A Memoir (and Fashion Guide) by Rachel Levy Lesser

3 words: conversational, relatable, heartfelt

Give this book a whirl if you like… personal essays, clothing as a symbol for different phases of life, memories connected with physical possessions, family life, love and loss

 

 

 

My favorite of the month:

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

 

 

What’ve you been reading so far in 2020?