Digital Minimalism | Drop Everything and Read

Today is Drop Everything and Read Day, which, of course, is a favorite holiday for many readers.

Today I’m celebrating it also as Drop the Phone and Read Day, after having read Cal Newport’s latest book Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.

The idea of the book is this: reclaim high-quality leisure. Build something, join something, spend time with the people who matter most. And put down the darn smartphone.

In my case, I’ve carved out more time to read and to organize my home library. Super rewarding!

This is one of those books that prescribes a social media fast, and I’ll admit I did this only half-heartedly. And still: results!

What I did was to set these parameters for myself:

  • Instagram: only when planking, stretching, or doing strengthening exercises
  • Facebook: only twice a day, and for less than 5 minutes per day; moved app to 3rd screen on phone
  • Twitter: deleted from my phone

Even after the first week, my screen time went down. And I felt the wonderful liberation of extra free time. It was stunning.

And as Newport cautions, it can feel a bit empty at first, when one begins setting boundaries on these apps that benefit more from our attention than we benefit from granting them our precious time. A person feels a little bit at a loss.

But I soon began reveling in the extra reading time. And I felt more calm and rested. Time seemed to expand, and that’s well worth missing a post or two by people I barely know.

Anyone else done a social media fast? What were the results?

Your child might become a librarian if…

Happy National Library Week, everyone!

It’s a week of celebrating everything libraries have to offer. It’s the perfect week to visit your library!

It’s also an opportunity to read for the sheer joy of it and to encourage a love of reading in the children in your life.

And if you have a seriously devoted young reader, it’s a time to consider: Might this child be a future librarian?

(It’s embarrassingly obvious that this was my destiny.)

Here are the signs to watch for in the young…

Incessant reading starts early

Reading on the toilet: also begins early

Reading to dolls and stuffed animals is a thing that happens. A lot.

Cataloging their books    

Playing library and checking out books to siblings and friends

Requiring a grubby younger sister to wash her hands before touching their books

Finding your child in this pose more often than not  

Christmas wish list: all books

“Clean your room” translates into “Re-organize your bookshelves by genre”

“Go outside and play” translates into “Go outside and read”  

If you observe these behaviors in your children, encourage their reading, let them read widely, make sure they know you approve of who they are, and rest assured they’ll find their place in the world.

If they’re lucky, it’ll be in a library.

Favorite bookish shirts

If you’re a book geek, sometimes you just feel the need to represent. Often.

So over the years, I’ve built a closet of bookish clothes.

Today we’re throwing open the closet doors…

First, we have the I’m a serious readert-shirt…

Overreaders Anonymous shirt…because overreading happens here.

Source: Amazon

Next up… the librarian shirts.

We’ve got the due date stamp shirt…

Source: Out of Print

And the librarian t-shirt…

Source: Amazon

Then we have the shirts about specific books…

First: Nancy Drew!

Source: Out of Print; this shirt is no longer available, but they offer another Nancy Drew shirt  

And my Hamilton t-shirt…

Source: Amazon

So, my fellow bookworms… What bookish clothes do you have in your closet?

Favorite stuff on the Interwebs

You know when you find something online that you just keep thinking about?

Here’s what’s captivated my mind lately…

Home Library / Library Home

(photo credit: Joel Abroad, via Flickr)

Oh my goodness. We live in our dream house, but this one’s right there in contention for the title. It’s a former Carnegie library, and my heart nearly exploded at the sight of it.

“This $2.95M Home Used to Be a Library and, Wow, I’ve Never Wanted Anything More”

The Library 100

When I saw that OCLC published a list of the 100 most widely-owned novels in libraries…


“The Library 100”

And then they expanded the list to 500!

Full disclosure: I’ve read only 7 of the top 10. And then it gets worse: out of all 100 novels, I’ve only read 38.

(If only I got extra credit for reading Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice, The Red Badge of Courage, The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and To Kill a Mockingbird more than once!)

Grand Canyon Typewriter

Even if you’re not a complete fanatic about typewriters, there’s plenty to love about this story.

A park ranger set up a typewriter at a Grand Canyon overlook and invited hikers to type a note.

“You’re Just My Type: Hikers Compose Love Notes to the Grand Canyon”

Writing Tips from a Pro

Every time I see “5 Writing Tips:” followed by the name of an author, every single time I click. Publishers Weekly, y’all know my soft spot.

Two recent standouts:

5 Writing Tips: Mark Bowden

5 Writing Tips: Barbara Kingsolver

What have you found online that’s knocked your socks off?

What I’ve been reading: March 2019

Nonfiction! It’s been a glorious month of nonfiction reading.

Only one novel appears on the list of books I finished reading in March, though Middlemarch provides a steady drumbeat these days.

Here’s the nonfiction-heavy list of the books I read in March…

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek

3 words: story-based, engaging, enlightening

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about psychology of leadership, memorable stories that convey key information, learning about brain chemicals

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

3 words: strong, positive, thought-provoking

Give this book a whirl if you like… well-reasoned, thoughtful, thought-provoking rationale for feminism; practical advice for feminists; thinking about raising strong daughters

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Ida Keeling with Anita Diggs

3 words: conversational, persevering, real

Give this book a whirl if you like… strong women overcoming difficulties, African American autobiographies, runners’ memoirs, focusing on the future during hard times

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

3 words: quirky, first person, neurodiverse

Give this book a whirl if you like… first-person narratives, Japanese daily life, characters on the autism spectrum, orderliness, the comfort of a convenience store,finding oneself

Outer Order, Inner Calm: Declutter & Organize to Make More Room for Happiness by Gretchen Rubin

3 words: practical, positive, approachable

Give this book a whirl if you like… books about the home; quick, browseable books; decluttering; a wide range of tips; bite-size ideas

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

3 words: manifesto, challenging, practical

Give this book a whirl if you like… reclaiming control over your smartphone, reducing social media use, maximizing smartphone use by minimizing the amount of time wasted, reclaiming real life pleasures

What are your favorite books from this month?

Top 10 favorite books

A top 10 list of favorite books: it’s a tricky little devil. I mean, what should the criteria actually be?

The options seem endless…

  • Books I’d be happiest to re-read
  • Books I’ve actually re-read and been glad about it
  • Books whose bindings have fallen apart due to repeated readings
  • Books that had the most impact on me
  • Books that represent who I’ve been at various phases of life
  • Books that represent who I am right now
  • Books that represent each of the genres and styles I love best
  • Books that spark the most joy
  • Books I’d want with me on a desert island
  • Books I keep recommending to others, over and over
  • Books that are my favorites of the past decade
  • Books that have been on my favorites list for more than a decade

You see my dilemma.

Depending on which of these sets of criteria I choose, the list is gonna shift. Some books will always be there because they’re my very top favorites (I’m looking at you, Young Men and Fire and The Right Stuff), but others will appear or vanish, depending on the criteria.

So, after discussing this conundrum with the Dear Man and a good friend, I took their advice and went with:

  • Does it feel like a true representation of who I am?
  • Does it spark joy? (aka, Do I light up when I talk about these books?)

Based on those criteria, here’s my current list…

Young Men & Fire by Norman Maclean

Run by Ann Patchett

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

News of the World by Paulette Jiles

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

So now I’m wondering how you decide your favorites. What criteria do you use? Which books always always always make the list?

19 for 2019: the first update

We’re 1/4 of the way through the year, and I’m feeling a little bit concerned about my (lack of) progress on those wonderful 19 for 2019 goals I set.

The only thing that’s been definitively completed is this one:

Decide whether to catalog our home library

Given my slow progress on all those other goals, the decision on that one is: Ain’t gonna do it.
And that’s OK.

Meanwhile, there’s been headway on several of the goals that are ongoing in nature. They’re a-going…

Here’s what’s been happening…

Learn & use 12 new techniques on the blog

I’ve done 4 new things, including creating a content calendar and expanding the use of menus. This one’s right on course, and I’m excited about the next steps.

Set a twice-a-month grocery shopping rotation and stick with it

This goal’s firmly in place, and I’d say it’s a set habit, to the point that I’m calling it Completed. Every two weeks, I plan menus for the next two weeks, write the grocery list, and shop. Then the Dear Man picks up perishables during week 2. It’s pretty fabulous. Here’s something we cooked…

Have dinner twice monthly with a good friend

One of my happiest traditions!

Maximize the use of our new Instant Pot

This is also underway, and I’m making this amazing red lentil soup later this week. No photos available, because mainly we’ve been making non-photogenic but wonderful soups. And also a couple of things We’re Never Making Again (including that one thing I threw directly down the garbage disposal).

Style our kitchen island seasonally

Our kitchen island styling started out in fall and then the Christmas season, which were relatively easy. As the Dear Man says, Christmas always looks good. After Epiphany, we removed the Christmas-y touches and just went with a simplified evergreen and white motif. And then we faced springtime. We went Easter-y because it just turned out that way.

Dear Man and the Krazy Glue to the rescue, because I managed to drop the rabbit on my way into the house. But he glued on the broken ear so smoothly I can barely see the crack. And now I love that rabbit even more, because less than a minute after the break, the Dear Man was hard at work on the remedy.

Here we’ve also got an heirloom pitcher from my Dad’s Swedish-American ancestors and one of my favorite lidded containers made by my favorite potter. And the Dear Man’s dear mom’s vintage cookbook on the scale. All of these things make me wicked happy.

Research the history of our (school)house

I love research (librarian!!) so I’m undaunted by the obstacles we’ve been facing, including The Mystery of the Missing Schoolhouse Dedication. I’ve searched microfilm of two local newspapers, have been granted access to historical records from multiple local agencies, and still the search continues. There are more newspapers to explore, so onward…

But (big news) we discovered the name of our school’s architect, and we found a book he wrote about schoolhouses, which contains our floorplan, and I ordered a copy via Abebooks. I’m only a little bit impatient for its arrival.

So that’s the situation here.

I still have a Caesar salad to perfect, nearly a thousand blog posts to reformat, some history geek traveling to plan (woohoo!), and a vintage typewriter to decode. Plus KonMari-ing the basement boxes.

How’re your 2019 goals progressing?

Book Bingo 2019: Q1 update

We’re nearing the end of Q1 of 2019, and it’s time for a Book Bingo update.

My fellow Book Bingo-ers, I’m interested to hear what you’ve read so far this year — please tell me in the Comments. Also — if any of those categories is staring you down and you’re not sure what to read… let me know! I love a good book recommendation challenge.

The good news: I’m over halfway done! 15 of 25 categories completed

The bad news: The 10 categories that remain are gonna be tougher. We’re looking at Fairy Tale, South Pacific, and Edgar Award: First Novel. And while I’m anticipating these will be the most challenging, invariably a category that seems innocuous is the one that trips me up and has me scrambling in December. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of the categories I’ve completed and the books I read for each one.

Palate Cleanser

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Odd Couple

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Classic I’ve Never read

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Pushing Boundaries

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon by Robert Kurson


From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

Place Name

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow

Life Hack

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou


Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin


Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken


The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman


Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Novelty Book

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


Transcription by Kate Atkinson

Unruly Woman

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race Against Time by Ida Keeling

If you’re doing Book Bingo this year, what categories have been the easiest to pick off? Any categories you’re finding challenging?

Book Club Update: Less Bad Blood

Since the last book club update, we’ve read two books (Less and Bad Blood) and decided on our upcoming book, which we’re dividing into two sections because the thing is long. It’s a nice mix of award-winning fiction, journalistic nonfiction, and a classic.

Here’s what we’ve read and how it’s gone…

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Discussability Score: 4

Because: Our discussion was lively; when we’re all clamoring to speak, that’s a good sign. This is a difficult book to write about because it’s all too easy to commit spoilers. So we talked about the aspect of the book that makes it spoiler bait. (And it even came up at the next book club meeting.)

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Discussability Score: 5

Because: This book gave nightmares to more than one of us. So that’s some basis for discussion. The outrageous lies and gas-lighting and legal threats and all-around bad-acting really pushed all of our buttons, which was the Outraged part of our discussion. And then there was the Structure of the Book discussion, where we talked about the way the author put the story together and how his role becomes part of the narrative halfway through — which added even more oomph to a suspenseful, true pageturner.

Next up: Middlemarch by George Eliot

Because: I mentioned that I’m already reading it because of good Bybee inspiring me.

And our resident English major doesn’t recall having finished it, and wishes to. And my good friend’s boyfriend is a big fan of Middlemarch, so she’s interested to read it. And so there it is. We’re reading the first half for our April meeting and the second half for May.

Have you come across any great books for discussion lately?

At home with books: refreshing the blog

in the den, with the laptop

When I sat down two weekends ago in our sunny little den, I didn’t expect that when I left the room a couple of hours later, I would have changed the focus of the blog.

That was not at all the plan.

It looked all innocent: coffee in one of my favorite mugs… the laptop and iPhone and a legal pad on the library table. Me, all comfy in leggings and a big sweater and my favorite plaid scarf.

this scarf

The scene was set for cozy, not for transformation.  

I’d been seduced by Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast episode about creating a content calendar cuz I adore structure.

And I was settling in to listen and take notes. (It was extra delighting me that I was being a student here in our schoolhouse.)

And then it happened.  

I listened to the episode, took 7 pages of notes, and created that content calendar.  

And in the process, I realized I’d like to expand the scope of the blog.

So I’m gonna.

Here’s what to expect in the months ahead…

A continuation of…

  • Bookish commentary
  • Posts about self-improvement


  • Notes on home life: the domestic pleasures and blunders
  • Notes on travel: the delights and mishaps
  • Lists of my favorite stuff
  • A focus on living a good life
  • Main menu expansion: Books & Reading, The Good Life, Favorite Stuff

So join me here for talk of books. And living the best possible life. And coffee. And pizza. And the floundering ongoing search for the perfect vintage home decor items*…

So, my fellow bloggers… How have you changed your blog over the years? What changes made you and your readers the happiest?

*current quest: a wooden ladder to lean against the wall, and the perfect barrel — we’ll know it when we see it