Category Archives: Reading

6 Tips to Read More in 2019

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Like many people, one of my goals in 2019 is to read more.

I have 3 specific reading goals:

  • Read 30 books total
  • Read all my book club books (or at least make valiant attempts)
  • Read and discuss four books with my husband

I’ve learned, through trial and error, that I have some serious reading pitfalls. My biggest problem last year was not being able to finish a book, but then also not reading anything else–because I felt like I needed to read THAT book.

I’ve come up with some tips to help me this year, which may be helpful to others.

1. Plan your reading year in advance

For the first time, I’ve chosen 30 books that I want to read in 2019. You can check them out here. I’ve been keeping a list of books I want to read on my phone from a combination of sources, like “best of lists” from the New York Times and NPR, the What Should I Read Next podcast, and of course personal recommendations. (One of these books is a weird pick. I really disagreed with an author’s POV in an interview I heard, but I feel like I should read the book before making my final opinion.) I will add to this list once I get my book club recommendations. Which may have some overlap.

2. Monitor the books you read

For the first time, I will be tracking the books I’ve read. I often forget books unless it was something transcendent and fantastic (Station Eleven, All the Light You Cannot See) or a book I could not stand and threw across the room. I like the idea of tracking my books in one place, and I am more of an electronic than paper person.

3. Plan ahead and put library holds on your books NOW

I tend to be impulsive about books. I’ll hear or read about something that sounds great and I’ll want to read it ASAP. Or I get into a book series but the library has a waiting list of 20 people or don’t have the next book in stock. Buying books, which I already do for book club, is an expensive way to meet a reading challenge. While I definitely do like buying books, I want to use the library more in 2019.

4. Create a mix of books

I love reading literary fiction. In my 20s and early 30s, I read the Man Booker prize winner each year, and I have cherished some recent award winners. But sometimes I get stuck in a book, especially if it gets too depressing or scary or whatever trigger it pulls for me. Last year, I got stuck in a dreary section of The Goldfinch (that book’s first 100 pages, by the way, were so compelling I could barely breathe while reading them). I know if I got through that part, the book would be worth it. But instead I fell into a reading rut and didn’t read anything for two months!

So I’ve added some lighter fare to help me keep reading. Sometimes I need to read for escape, and I think it’s better to do that than get mired in Netflix reruns. Which I did way too much of last year.

5. If you like a series, reserve more books in the series than just “the next one”

This tip comes from my mother-in-law who knows how to use the library system better than anyone I know. I LOVED Still Life, but there is a hold on the next book in the Louise Penny series. She advised me to not only reserve that one, but also the next few, as I will not want to wait for another hold. She knows how impulsive I get about a great series.

6. Share your list with someone you’d like to read with

My husband and I want to read and discuss more books together. When we lived in London, we did not have a TV for a time. We read a lot of the same books and had a great time discussing them. I’ve shared my list with him so we can choose 4 books together. Spoiler alert: Asymmetry will be the first one.

Are you planning to read more in 2019? Do you have any book recommendations? Were you able to finish The Goldfinch?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer Reading

IMG_6125This summer I’ve been reading physical books, after ten years of NOT reading many physical books. In completely original news, I blame Netflix, smartphones and Kindle for this lapse.

But then I joined a book club populated with really smart people who totally read the books we’re assigned. Since joining, we’ve tackled some fascinating titles like Hillbilly Elegy, Gentlemen of Moscow and We Were Eight Years in Power. It’s easier to bring a physical edition to meetings and bookmark pages with post-it notes so I can share my thoughts. So, the book club has done a great job rekindling my passion for that lovely dusty scent of pages turned, but also, a horrible turbulent airplane ride triggered Mal de Debarquement. Screens were really tricky for a couple of weeks; reading an actual book, however, calmed the vertigo down. So I went on a bit of a tear.

Here’s what I’ve recently read:

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

I love pairing travel with a book that can increase my connection with my destination. I read All the Light We Cannot See in Paris a few years ago. The city and particularly the Louvre took on a different sheen during my visit, and reading about Paris in the 1940s made the streets look different, and frankly, a little foreboding.  We went to Italy this summer, and while there I read Walter’s lovely, funny and wise book about an Italian innkeeper, a beautiful American actress who is dying, the filming of Cleopatra in Rome and modern-day Hollywood. Sounds disparate and odd, but the author creates a wistful tone that keeps you turning the pages. Bonus: the overriding philosophy of the book is both romantic AND stoic at the same time, which fits my own framework. AND the cover is gorgeous.

Gretchen Rubin Marathon (The Happiness Project, Better Than Before, The Four Tendencies)

The New Yorker once referred to Rubin’s books as the closest real world example of this hilarious cartoon.  I can relate. I don’t find daily living very easy. Routines are not my strength. I waffle making decisions about simple things. which can lead to procrastination. I prefer fresh adventures, big moments, new sensory experiences and unique journeys to day-to-day life. Rubin has described her ideal existence as being a monk with the same unchanging daily routine, which pretty much makes her my polar opposite. What she’s figured out is that we all fit into four different “tendencies”: Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel.  These tendencies inform how we keep habits, which is a key to happiness. Habits include regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, meeting work goals and being organized. The Upholders seem to hold all the cards in today’s productivity crazed world. They meet both outside and inside expectations, and are able to generate the unlimited energy and mental resources to complete all their goals and keep all their habits. I am a Questioner, which explains my annoying dithering about decisions and endless quest for research. My twins are both Upholders, and understanding this about them has helped me actually be a better parent.

Still, what I mostly take from her writing? Modern life is easier for an Upholder.

Station 11, Emily St John Mandel

The best book I’ve read in years is this dystopian novel set (mostly) years after a horrible flu wipes most of humanity off the planet. This probably sounds unbearably grim, but there is so much beauty and hope in the writing that it practically drips off of the page. Much of the plot features a traveling troupe of actors and musicians performing Shakespeare and Beethoven to the few exhausted survivors eeking out a pre-industrial revolution existence, and their poignant motto is “Survival is Insufficient.” Sound too wacky, genre or sad? Would it help if I told you it was a finalist for the National Book Award? This was in 2014, which, considering All the Light We Cannot See was ALSO a finalist and neither book actually won? 2014 must have been a particularly awesome year for fiction.

Into the Woods and The Likeness, Tana French

I like mysteries, and I’d heard French was known for her modern, literary fiction take on the genre. I really enjoyed Into the Woods, which was spooky, atmospheric and included one particular passage that still gives me the chills to even think about (it’s set in the titular woods). I must warn you that this book includes a child murder victim, which I normally can’t deal with, but the book avoided sensationalism. BUT, I couldn’t finish The Likeness. I could not suspend the disbelief needed to make the premise work. I appreciated the character development, writing, and liked the idea of a clique of really smart, sensitive academics devoted to each other living in a beautiful old home. But there’s just something about the idea of a doppelgänger that I can’t personally accept. Someone who looks exactly like a detective is murdered? And they have no moles or tattoos or freckles to distinguish them? And the detective goes and lives with the clique who knew her intimately to see why she was murdered? I just couldn’t buy it. Maybe it’s my annoying Questioner personality at work again. Supposedly The Likeness was inspired by The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, which I have never read. Maybe I should? I feel like I should read The Goldfinch first. Advice welcome.  Regardless, I will read French again, because I love the Dublin Murder Squad characters.

Less, Andrew Sean Greer

One of the women in my book club recommended this as our “light read” because the list in 2018 was pretty serious stuff. Then the month we read the book, Less won the Pulitzer, ha! I loved this hilarious, poignant and unabashedly sweet novel. The main character is an author named Arthur Less who decides to travel around the world to mark his 50th birthday–and escape an ex’s wedding–by using as many random free invitations and third rate literary fellowships as he can. For example, in New York City, he takes the assignment of interviewing an unexpectedly ill, lowbrow yet very famous science fiction author named H. H. H. Mandern in front of hundreds of his fans.

“Arthur Less?” the white-haired woman asks in the green room of the theater, while H. H. H Mandern vomits into a bucket. “Who the hell is Arthur Less?”

This book travels vicariously with the hapless Arthur as he bumbles through the value added tax system, various misadventures in Morocco and India but also some well-earned triumphs. Less is winning and likable, and I loved the character’s optimism and sheer doggedness in spite of literary snobs and his own low esteem. And the VAT bureaucracy.

What have you read this summer? Any thoughts on these books? Any recommendations of books you’ve read and loved? 

 

 

 

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What I am Loving Right Now

Kitchen cornerIt’s more than midway through January, and while I am enjoying reading about New Year’s resolutions I won’t be publishing my own. Instead, I’ve been thinking about things that have made my life much better in the last year. I would love to share them with you, and in turn I would love to hear from you. What items made your life better in the last year?

  1. Orange Theory Fitness. I LOVE these exercise classes, and I’m not an exercise class person. The biggest pluses are a wonderful crew of fellow workout partners, really nice staff and teachers, and a great app that makes it easy to book classes. While I have worked out regularly for a while now, since taking Orange Theory classes my energy has skyrocketed and the endorphins flow all day after a class. Plus — I have so much fun lifting weights (I feel like Gal Gadot), and hitting my tech-y targets using my heart monitor. I feel so strong these days. HIGHLY recommended.
  2. Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year. I have added a number of this book’s recipes to my core cooking rotation. Every single recipe in here that I have tried turns out delicious. I cannot say the same for most other cookbooks I use! My favorites: Spaghetti Bolognese, Butternut Squash Soup, Shirred Eggs, Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel Sauce, and Banana Bread.
  3.  Gusto. I started my own business last year, and Gusto makes payroll incredibly simple. If you are a business owner, I recommend checking them out.
  4. Show Your Work Podcast: I love LaineyGossip, who is known in Canada as one of the hosts of The Social. Her podcast talks about lessons from Hollywood that can be applied to our work lives. Sounds weird, but it’s totally fascinating. And sometimes useful.
  5. Best of Both Worlds Podcast. A friend recommended this podcast, which focuses on how to best balance work and parenting. Surprisingly A-list guests, like Gretchen Rubin (!), talk about productivity and give useful tips on how to get the most out of your life.
  6. Hold Me Tight: The only book about marriage I’ve ever read that is actually useful. From Dr. Sue Johnson, one of the developers of EFT, this method of improving marriages is unique, academic study-based and helps resolve conflict without focusing on the usual compromises. Instead, EFT focuses on emotional bonds. Truly, a game changer.
  7. High-end workout clothes: Yes, I have fallen prey to the Lululemon cult. Their clothes look and feel SOOOO much better than anything else I’ve tried. I was previously a fan of Target’s running tights, but the tights I bought from Lululemon are so much more flattering, comfortable and durable. Worth the money.
  8. Setting up a Household Folder on Google docs. This is suuuuuuppppper geeky, but I love having a shared folder that tracks what needs to be repaired/fixed, Amazon orders, meal plans, social schedule, Trader Joe’s grocery lists, camp schedules, etc. Totally keeps us accountable and ON IT.
  9. Mint: This app is heaven for the financial geek in me. I look at it all the time.

What do you love? Would love to hear your tips, hacks, and recommendations of things that have made your life better.  

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