What I’ve been reading: July 2019

I kicked off the month with jury duty, which I thought would allow a fair amount of reading time due to all that time I expected to spend in the waiting room. Not so very true. (But jury duty: fascinating.) 

Here’s what I finished reading this month… 

Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts 

3 words: inspiring, upbeat, likeable

Give this book a whirl if you like… excellent audiobooks read by the author, inspiring memoirs, personal narratives of cancer survivors, living a life of grace and strength, expressing gratitude even during difficult times

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

3 words: imaginative, evocative, psychological 

Give this book a whirl if you like… shapeshifters, #ownvoices, fantasy, Africa, gender-bending, race, power struggles, pondering gender roles

The Policewomen’s Bureau by Edward Conlon

3 words: absorbing, character-driven, emotionally intense

Give this book a whirl if you like… women police officers in the 1950s & 1960s, dealing with sexism, the satisfaction of doing a job well, survivors of abusive marriages, the New York City police department

Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore 

3 words: browseable, varied, inspiring

Give this book a whirl if you like… photographs of women working worldwide during the past century, taking pride in one’s work, a feminist view on fashion

The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change by Michael Stephens

3 words: thoughtful, encouraging, open-minded 

Give this book a whirl if you like… being a librarian in the 21st century, new ways to serve the public, a positive voice

Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane

3 words: character-driven, quirky, observant 

Give this book a whirl if you like… first person narratives, gardeners, quirky narrator, if you like Elinor Lipman, friendship

What books have been making you happy this past month?

Book bloggers reunite!

One of the ways I know I’m lucky in this life: I get to meet with book bloggers IRL. 

Four of us who met at BEA 2016 (Julie of JulzReads, Katie of Words for Worms, and Marisa of The Daily Dosage) met for the third time (!) last weekend and it was so much fun. I knew it would be: the first and second reunions were things of beauty. 

We met for brunch at the new Unruly schoolhouse.

Get book people together, and it gets nerdy fast (I say this with the utmost affection). These ladies are smart and funny and quick-witted and kind. And man, does this group know books. 

And also: the bookish arts. Julz shared copies of her magnificent paper bookshelf (and we all marveled at its beauty and her wicked neat handwriting). And Katie brought her bullet journal and we all marveled at her artistry. 

Marisa brought beautiful desserts! (shoulda taken a photo of Julz's perfect salad)


And we underwent the schoolhouse quiz.

Here’s a sample of our answers…

Favorite book of 2019 thus far

Katie: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Julie: The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Marisa: The River by Peter Heller and Miracle Creek by Angie Kim 

Stacey: Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Favorite book from elementary school days (a sampling of answers)

Julie: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Marisa: books by Beverly Cleary and the Frances books (Bedtime for Frances) by Russell Hoban

Katie: Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Florence and Richard Atwater (love that there’s a penguin involved!) and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Stacey: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

And Marisa mentioned that her goal book for the year is Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry… and then a cry went up from the assembled because: such a great pick. And also: on our goal lists. So there just might be a read-along in our future… 

Only regret: we forgot to take a photo of the four of us together. Suffice it to say: we all looked fabulous.

For another take on our bookish Sunday, check out Julz’s lovely recap.

Our fellow bloggers and bookish folk… how do you stay connected with your fellow book people? We may wanna borrow your strategies… 

Red, white, and blue — and learning something new

As a kid, I did this dorky thing almost every year on the 4th of July: I’d sit down in the family room (the perfect room for summer — all windows on two sides) and teach myself something new. 

I’m not sure what that was all about, but I suspect that after a full month of summertime — and reading whatever I wanted all day long (oh my gosh… the bliss of it still hits me today) — I think I was feeling the need for some academic rigor. 

So I taught myself the sign language alphabet one year. And the Greek alphabet another. And the phonetic alphabet after that (…so when I saw the title Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, I knew that wasn’t very nice language).  

And this year, I learned some bloggy things. The biggest part of the day I spent learning to use the Elementor plugin for WordPress. 


I reworked my About page and pre-posted a couple of upcoming posts, and then attempted to do some stuff to the header, but that didn’t work out as well. 

But I learned stuff!

And it was fun. And I didn’t even say Whiskey Tango anything at any point during the process. 

And then the Dear Man and I went for a stroll through our beautiful new neighborhood and looked at all the lovely old houses, and we talked history and it was so pleasantly geeky. And now here I am, writing this post and feeling excited about all the things I can do with Elementor. 

And now, your friendly Independence Day dork is signing off for the week. 

My fellow Americans… I hope you had a happy 4th!

What are your favorite 4th of July traditions? 


What I’ve been reading: June 2019

Oh my goodness, such good reading. I just finished Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six and I’m having that afterglow that comes from reading something absolutely amazing. I tore through it like nobody’s business and it gave me that childhood feeling of just being absorbed completely in a book. Of course, the subject matter (all that sex, all those drugs, all that rock & roll) were nothing like my childhood reading — but the sensation of rapt reading: that was me at age 9. 

The other book that’ll stay with me was The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. I hosted a gathering shortly after reading it, and I gotta say: way better hosting because of it. Useful and thought-provoking ideas. 

Here’s a full look at the month’s reading…

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

3 words: wry, ironic, grim humor

Give this book a whirl if you like… raw war stories, strong narrative voice, science fiction elements woven into a story, mid-century tone, books that keep you wondering

I read it because: book club

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

3 words: sympathetic, character study, emotional

Give this book a whirl if you like… troubled lives, people doing the best they can in difficult circumstances, immigration, Chinese-American experience, cross-cultural adoption, musicians, highly discussible books

I read it because: book club (re-read)

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

3 words: eye-opening, encouraging, life-changing

Give this book a whirl if you like… examining how our view of effort vs intelligence affects our learning, rethinking talent and intelligence, focusing on hard work

I read it because: I heard a book talk about it and was intrigued

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker

3 words: conversational, thought-provoking, intriguing

Give this book a whirl if you like… how to plan parties that are more meaningful and meetings that are more effective, new ways of conceptualizing gatherings, why being a benevolently bossy host can be best

I read it because: Daniel Pink recommended it in his newsletter

Southern Lady Code: Essays by Helen Ellis

3 words: witty, snarky, funny

Give this book a whirl if you like… smart, funny essays; hilarious, strange family stories; celebrating one’s own particular weirdness; well-crafted personal essays; a woman’s perspective

I read it because: I loved her book American Housewife

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

3 words: somber, intense, poignant

Give this book a whirl if you like… stories of the road, orphans, pre-teen narrator, the Great Depression, chosen family, fleeing by canoe, children’s friendships

I read it because: free ARC from a friend who scored it (how amazing is that?!)

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

3 words: creative, compulsively readable, fast-moving

Give this book a whirl if you like… rock stars; documentary / oral history format; grim humor; the creative life; sex, drugs, and rock & roll; 1970s pop culture

I read it because: all that buzz

What were your favorite books this month?

A return to slow reading

Revolutionary reading development here…

I’m slowing things down.

Reading Middlemarch changed me: it gave me back the pleasure of slow reading. I’m so very grateful for that.

The edition I read was 912 pages in length, and it’s rare that I read such a long book. And I feel like I’ve lost my patience and attention span. But I really haven’t; I just haven’t exercised them enough.

It also makes me realize the downside of tracking my reading: the gamification effect that makes me want to add more books to my Done list. Sometimes I feel like I just want to read books to finish them to get on to the next. And that’s sad, my friends. I don’t want to live that way.

So Middlemarch was a wake-up call. A long, meandering, 3-month-long wake-up call. It gave me back my identity as an absorbed, contented reader of big, long books that take their time.

And now I’m going to try to keep that part of my reading life alive — to keep reading long books and to slow down my reading when the book warrants close attention.

I’ll be returning to Ron Chernow’s Grant and maybe, upon a friend’s recommendation, picking up A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.

And now it’s an official announcement, and we’ll see how I do.

How about you? Anyone else had a reading revelation?

Favorite bookish jewelry

Since sometimes we need to fancy it up, the readerly woman’s gonna need some bookish bling.

You can wear this stuff to the bookish places (the library, the bookstore, book club) but also to the everyday places (work, the grocery store, the library…)

It’s practical as all heck.

It’s a necessity of life.

Here are some of my favorites…

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain necklace

Source: Etsy

My sister bought this for me several years ago, and I don’t see the exact necklace, but there are lots of similar ones.

Eyeglasses necklace

Source: Isette on Etsy

I love this necklace and always get comments on it. : )

Nonfiction necklace

Source: Willow and Copper on Etsy

A friend told me about a craft fair that was taking place at a local farm, and we headed over there… and I found this lovely piece. It makes me smile.

Dewey Decimal earrings

Source: Etsy

I ordered these years ago, and I don’t see the same listing, but there are other Etsy shops that sell this type of thing.

What the call numbers mean:

  • 320.9: Political situation and conditions
  • 917.4: New England travel and guidebooks

I love the significance, especially since political science was one of my college majors.

So tell me: what’s your favorite bookish jewelry? Did you buy it for yourself or receive it as a gift?

What I’ve been reading: May 2019

The books I finished reading in May were few in number, but it’s a mighty assortment.

I dedicate this month’s fine reading to the good and inspiring Bybee of Blue-Hearted Bookworm, who encouraged me to read Middlemarch. If you’d asked me 6 months ago what classic I’d’ve expected to have read and loved, I gotta tell you: Middlemarch wouldn’t have been on the shortlist. But I read it and I loved it and I just keep thinking about it. And I’ll be forever grateful to Bybee for giving me the gentle nudge I needed. (When she said she re-reads it periodically, I was there.)

So, favorite book of the month: Middlemarch by George Eliot

And again, following Bybee’s fine example, I read (actually listened to) My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead. So I was awash in Middlemarch-y goodness throughout April and May, and I’m so happy for the experience. And I can see myself re-reading Middlemarch someday… Thank you, dear Bybee. You made my life brighter yet again.

Here’s a look at my full month of reading…

Middlemarch by George Eliot

3 words: lyrical, character-focused, absorbing

Give this book a whirl if you like… a big, absorbing story; classics; reading about a village; nuanced character portraits so detailed you’d recognize the characters if you met them; fiction that inspires the reader to examine her own life

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

3 words: literary, genteel, calm

Give this book a whirl if you like… mash-ups of literary criticism and memoir, examining a classic, literary tourism, intellectual appreciation of a work of literature

Gunflint Burning: Fire in the Boundary Waters by Cary Griffith

3 words: fast-paced, haunting, behind-the-scenes

Give this book a whirl if you like… forest fires, horrible consequences of an accident, behind the scenes of firefighting efforts, Boundary Waters Canoe Area

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

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

3 words: psychological, twisty, quietly menacing

Give this book a whirl if you like… ensemble cast, possible psychopaths, slowly unfolding narrative, characters with complex back stories, ends vs means, health resorts

What were your favorite books this month?

Books I can’t wait to read

My library holds list holds many delights. Here’s what I’m most eagerly anticipating reading in the months ahead…

  • The Policewoman’s Bureau by Edward Conlon
  • Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
  • Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
  • Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane
  • Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett  

This whole list fills me with wiggly anticipation.

What books are you aching to get hold of?

National Get Caught Reading Month

Raise your hand if you…

  • read everywhere, including places considered inappropriate
  • can’t rest until you identify the book someone else is reading in public

May is National Get Caught Reading Month, which, even though it always reminds me of #ireadeverywhere, is actually about inspiring children to read.

I love that it’s celebrated in May, right before kids head into summertime — where reading can help prevent the summer slide.

(Public library kudos: those summer reading programs are key. And free!)

And meanwhile, we all — even us grown-ups — can get caught reading.

So, in honor of Get Caught Reading Month, here are some suggested goals for May:

What are your plans for Get Caught Reading Month?

What I’ve been reading: April 2019

This month of reading has been all kinds of goodness. It’s a fine blend of home organization books, YA fiction, a couple of literary masterpieces (Middlemarch is still on my bedside table), and some remarkable nonfiction.

My favorite this month was Working by Robert A. Caro. I’ll post about it soon, once I’ve fully absorbed the delightfulness of that reading experience.

Here’s a full look at April…

Simple Organizing Wisdom: 500+ Quick & Easy Clutter Cures edited by Laurie Jennings

3 words: neat, pretty, practical

Give this book a whirl if you like… bite-sized, scannable, practical tips; pretty storage solutions

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

3 words: uproarious, ironic, adventurous

Give this book a whirl if you like… hilarious send-ups of beauty pageants, smart YA fiction, stories of being stranded on a desert island, humorous survival stories, girls empowering themselves, occasional pirates

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

3 words: compelling, quietly suspenseful, unnerving

Give this book a whirl if you like… fish out of water stories, first person narratives, LA, the extremely wealthy, poor grad students, obsessive love, solving a mystery, people making bad choices

Internment by Samira Ahmed

3 words: intense, chilling, dystopian

Give this book a whirl if you like… dystopian stories, #ownvoices, thoughtful young adult fiction, reading about life in an internment camp, resistance to tyranny

The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley

3 words: browseable, beautifully illustrated, clean

Give this book a whirl if you like… a wide array of organizing ideas for all areas of the home, cleaning recommendations, easy storage solutions

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals by Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin

3 words: cheerful, beautiful, concrete

Give this book a whirl if you like… organizing in a beautiful way, labeling absolutely everything, a conversational and encouraging tone, celebrity closets and pantries

There There by Tommy Orange

3 words: lyrical, complex, sobering

Give this book a whirl if you like… multiple narrators, #ownvoices, contemporary Native American lives, difficult life experiences, interwoven storylines

Little Town in a Big Woods by Marilyn Robinson

3 words: accessible, straightforward, informative

Give this book a whirl if you like… learning about the history of an Illinois river town, getting the basics via a children’s book

The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo

3 words: practical, encouraging, professional

Give this book a whirl if you like… advice for new managers, but also a good refresher and check-in for experienced managers, real-life examples from the author’s workplace experiences

Beautifully Organized: A Guide to Function and Style in Your Home by Nikki Boyd

3 words: enthusiastic, elegant, lovely

Give this book a whirl if you like… beautiful books about home organization, adding a touch of style to orderliness, practical and inspiring tips for organizing your home

Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing by Robert A. Caro

3 words: first-person, inside glimpse, psychological

Give this book a whirl if you like… “inside baseball,” the story behind the story, how extraordinary nonfiction is written, self-deprecating humor, biographical research, how books are researched and written, a psychological portrait of a biographer

What were your favorite April reads?