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?

Creating a hygge mood

I don’t know about where you live, but here it’s freakin’ cold outside. 

And that calls for some severe hygge measures, my friends. 

We’ve been working on our hygge mastery for a few years now, and I gotta say we’re kinda talented. 

I chronicled our first Super Hygge Evening back in 2017, and we’ve been perfecting the art ever since. 

If you’re also experiencing below-zero windchill, here are some hygge tips that can provide comfort in this cold world.

Cozy mood

Pile on the essentials: candles, hot beverages, decadent desserts, comfy blankets, and hanging out with your most favorite creatures (human, feline, canine, hamster… whoever you like most).

Cozy books

If you want to have a cozy day/evening of reading, find yourself some good comfort reading. If you’ve got the latest book by your favorite author, save it for your hygge time. Or try one of these books whose stories you can completely sink into…

So, my fellow cozy readers… What are your favorite cozy hygge tips?

Such a Fun Age = such a great read

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

3 words: interpersonal, complex, pageturner

 

The first book I finished this decade, and what a good one.

 

You know how some books keep you turning the pages, but then you forget all about them later? 

And other books make you think about them over and over, even after you’ve finished reading? 

This book’s got it going on in both the page turning department and the you-can’t-stop-thinking-about-it category. 

I seriously want to talk with anyone who’s read this book… there’s so much to discuss!

We’re talking issues of race, class, power, and privilege. There are secrets from the past, and old traumas just waiting to burst forth, and new insults waiting at every turn. And then there’s our smartphone-infested age…

Emira is a twentysomething who gets a job babysitting for a little girl from an affluent white family—and she and the little one adore one another.. Alix, the toddler’s mother, is an Instagram influencer with designs on becoming a feminist icon… and the intent to improve Emira’s life (oh so condescendingly…)

Then there’s a flashpoint — when Emira takes the little girl to a gourmet grocery store and is accused of kidnapping. And then another person enters the picture, also intending to help Emira. 

And by this point, I just wanted everything to be ok for Emira, and the web kept getting more tangled. 

A total pageturner… not due to adrenaline, but because you’ll need to know how this situation is going to resolve. 

A book filled with wisdom and worry and despair and hope. 



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

Reading goals for 2020

(Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash)

New year, new goals. Except some of my reading goals are the same old, same old. Tried and true and so very good. I’m excited about the reading year ahead.

Here's what's new in my reading goals this year...

Read long books and savor them

Ever since I read Middlemarch last year and adored it, I’ve had a renewed and enhanced appreciation for really sinking into a long story. I want more of that this year.

Read a classic

See Middlemarch above.

Read an LBJ biography before our trip to Austin

We’re anticipating a trip to Austin this year, and that can only mean one thing: LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, plus a side trip to the LBJ Ranch. Yeah, baby..    

So this geek’s gonna read another volume of the magnificent biography by Robert A. Caro. Kinda a little too excited for normal life.

The same goals as last year, cuz I just adore them that much…

Continue to read at least 20% authors of color

One of the most rewarding reading goals ever. Last year I exceeded my goal, and I have every expectation I’ll do the same this year.

Finish Book Bingo 2020

I’m going for bingo blackout on our Book Bingo 2020 card and I’m totally excited about it.

What are your reading goals this year?

20 for 2020 goals

It’s time for New Year’s resolutions and all things self-improvement, so here goes…

Again this year, I’m setting mini goals for the year, inspired by the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. 

Last year, 19 for 2019… and the year before, 18 for 2018.

So this year… guess how many goals?

Here’s my list of 20 for 2020…

  1. Spend quality time with our sisters 
  2. Have a beautiful latte with a design in the foam 
  3. Have dinner with a good friend twice a month 
  4. Tinker with Canva
  5. Find a go-to recipe for molasses cookies. 
  6. And also ginger cookies
  7. Visit out-of-state friends 
  8. Buy a second diffuser 
  9. Style our home library shelves 
  10. Wear all of my clothes at least once 
  11. Learn about 2 local historic buildings each month 
  12. Have a quilting bee with a friend 
  13. Travel someplace geeky with the Dear Man that at least one of us has researched 
  14. Fix formatting on 25 high-traffic blog posts
  15. Do 12 “love where you live” activities
  16. Add targeted cross-training at least twice per month
  17. Write at least one book review each month 
  18. Meditate at least once per week 
  19. Visit and comment on more blogs 
  20. Browse biographies at the public library and pick one to read

I began compiling ideas in Google Docs earlier this year, then refined the list, then expanded it, then changed it up several times right at New Year’s.

Then, a couple of days ago, a friend and I discussed our lists and — in the midst of our conversation — decided on a shared goal:

Have a quilting bee with a friend.

It’s been years since we’ve quilted together (more than a decade!) and we both have UFOs that require our attention. When the idea emerged, we both lit up. So we each tossed an item off the list and replaced it with quilting.

This makes me very, very happy.

And now, since it’s the 4th day of the year already, I’ve made some headway on some of the goals.

  • For the latte goal, I’ve identified a nearby coffee shop that makes fancy  lattes with foam designs.
  • For the dinner with a friend goal, she already identified our new midpoint.
  • For the wearing-all-the-clothes goal, I’ve reversed the hangers in the closet so I can tell what I haven’t worn yet. And I wore two ensembles I usually neglect.
  • For the blog post formatting goal, I used Google Analytics to extract a list of the posts that have had the most views over the past year.
  • For the meditation goal, I already successfully ignored my calendar reminder to meditate yesterday. Well done, me!

So, good people… what are your goals for the year? Or do you say no to the New Year’s resolution scene?

Book Bingo 2019: What I Read

It’s time for the year-end reckoning! (I love this part.)

I completed the Book Bingo 2019 challenge and filled up my whole card.

Overall, as I look at this list of titles, I’m filled with a sense of satisfaction. There’s some good stuff there.

Here’s what I read…

 

Edgar Award: first novel     

A mystery that was nominated for — or won — the Edgar Allan Poe Award for First Novel 

The Lost Girls by Heather Young

 

Heroine   

Strong female voice: author, character, or subject

Middlemarch by George Eliot

 

Palate cleanser  

A book that refreshes and balances out what you’ve read lately   

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 

  

Genre-bending  

A book that plays with genre — it might break the rules or be categorized in more than one genre

The River by Peter Heller

 

Gen X author 

A book written by an author born between 1961 and 1981

Bingeworthy British Television: THe Best Brit TV You Can’t Stop Watching by Sarah Cords and Jackie Bailey

 

Odd couple  

A book about an unusual pairing 

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

 

Classic I’ve never read 

A book that’s stood the test of time

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

 

Pushing boundaries  

A book that challenges your worldview or awareness. Or a book whose pioneering character or author breaks new ground. 

Rocket Men by Robert Kurson

 

Explore   

A book that takes you or the character to a new place

From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-Stein

 

Place Name 

A book with a place name in its title (examples: Looking for Alaska. Or Alaska by Michener). 

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

 

Life hack

A book with a shortcut that makes makes your life (or a character’s life) easier 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin

 

Unbelievable

Nonfiction that’s stranger than fiction, or a novel whose premise you’re not buying 

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

 

Green

A book with a green cover, or a book about nature, money, envy, or any other green thing 

A Student of History by Nina Revoyr

 

Fire

Literal fire, passion, or something burning within 

Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin

 

Birth

The beginning or a fresh start 

Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken

 

Romantic

Idealistic or passionate 

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

 

Language

A book with a distinctive voice or a book in translation 

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

 

LGBTQ

A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

 

Novelty Book

A book structured in an unorthodox way 

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

 

South Pacific

A book set in, or written by an author from the South Pacific 

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

 

Folktale

A story incorporating elements of a myth, legend, or fable 

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

 

Map

A book about a journey, a guide to self-discovery, or simply a book with a map in it. 

Internment by Samira Ahmed

 

Deep Dive

An investigative, immersive reading experience

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

 

Unruly Woman

A book about a woman who breaks out of the mold

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

 

Lost & Found

A story of rebirth or redefining a sense of self 

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

 

And now, on to Book Bingo 2020!

 

If you did Book Bingo 2019, please post a link to your wrap-up post in the Comments — I’d love to know what you read!