Feeds:
Posts
Comments

July TBR

Welp. Definitely summer. July is here, and I want nothing more than to stay inside and not be out in all that nonsense. It’s a good thing I have plenty to read.

There are a lot of books this month, but some I have started already and many of them are pretty short, so hope springs eternal. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Lush

The selections this month focus on finding lush moments in daily life. They’re also research for my 31 Days series coming in October (specific topic TBA).

La Dolce Vita Weekend(s)

Speaking of living lush, I have a stockpile of books from multiple genres about the sweet life in Italy. I’m going to take at least one weekend this month to binge and cook out of them. Right now, I’m planning on that weekend being July 22-23, as I will be participating in Dewey’s Reverse Readathon that Friday and Saturday, but don’t be surprised if I block off the weekends before and after it as well. After a trip to our new-ish Italian market, first, of course.

General

These are a few just-because books I’ve been wanting to read for a few months, so here we go.

Narrow it down to five from two months’ worth of reading, I thought. That won’t be hard, I thought.

I thought wrong.

This is not really a judgment on the ones that aren’t included. I’ve read a lot of great books recently. These are just the five that impacted me the most. It has not escaped my attention that four out of the five are from authors I’ve read and loved before.

  1. Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor – Every time I read a Laini Taylor book, I think, “This is it. This is my favorite one she’ll ever write.” Then I read the next one, and it’s somehow better. Exquisite world-building, believable characters/relationships. I really don’t see how the next one I read can possibly outshine it.
  2. Bittersweet by Susan Cain – I’ve followed Susan Cain on social media for a while, so I was really excited about this one. It did not disappoint. Artists, dreamers, and those generally prone to melancholy may find it comforting.
  3. The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – Ok. Ready to move to Denmark. Or…ready to move to Denmark seven years ago before the outside world’s nutty political climate encroached upon it. I’m sure it’s still nice in a way America never ever will be. *sighs* I just want to be able to afford a house. Not even necessarily to buy – just to live in and have a yard and a garage and walls that I don’t have to share with anyone who doesn’t actually live with me. And foresee a time when I can really and truly retire without having to maintain a side hustle to supplement the meager future income I’m scrimping to save for. Those really are the highest financial goals I see as ever being remotely possible right now. But I digress…
  4. Heartless by Marissa Meyer – An origin story for the Queen of Hearts? Yes, please. Marissa Meyer is another author who is an instant yes for my TBR. I have been a fan since The Lunar Chronicles.
  5. Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton – This is my favorite book I’ve read this year. It’s clever and sweet and a perfect companion to Hollow Kingdom. I really do need to work on my friendship with the crows in my neighborhood. Do they like peanuts? I think they need peanuts.

What have you read recently that you loved?

June TBR

I am just back to work today from a fantastic (one might even say luscious) almost-two-week vacation. I got to go to the farm, visit friends I haven’t seen in a while, and shop at Daiso for the first time! Today, I’m glad to see my coworkers, and my inbox is not too outrageous. But I have to tell you – having to be places before noon is bullshit. Highly overrated. 0/10. Do not recommend. Other than my mild, justified melodrama over being anywhere but my armchair and doing anything other than nursing a French press of coffee this morning, though, I’m pretty excited about the month ahead. 

Vacation time also let me make a decent dent in my backlist TBR. I finished 16 books, which isn’t quite my personal record, but it’s close. I’ll talk more about my favorites from May either tomorrow or next Friday, but for now, let’s look at the plans for June!

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

And yay! The Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide is here! Several books I’m already excited to read are on it, so I’m going to start with at least these three:

Lush

June is the month when summer tries to sucker me into liking it. I mean, it’s a pretty good month. Bountiful produce, temperatures not quite as hot as they’re going to get, work not quite as frenzied as it’s going to get, fun Pride events, etc. My reading challenge and lush selections this month are a rampant revelry in meet-cutes and beach reads and nature essays and travel novels. Some of my favorite comfort read categories.

May TBR

An accurate representation of my perpetual TBR list. Aw, Booked Up.

We are officially one-third of the way through the year. In some ways, it doesn’t seem possible. In other ways, isn’t it November 2027 yet?

The TBR list looks a little different this month. You’ll see why in a minute. First, though, the book club selections.

Book Clubs

Good Intentions

So do you remember all those books I have listed in previous posts to read? With the exception of The Joy of Cooking (which is taking a ridiculously long time to read but is so, so worth it), I haven’t started all of them. Like…a lot of them. I put some of them off because a new installment of a beloved series came out. Or I received them in a subscription, but it turns out they’re the second or third in the series and I don’t read series that way, Happy Endings Book Club! Or I did start them, put them down because I wanted to finish a book club selection before we met, and never picked them up again, and now I need to restart them to remember what the heck is going on. Or I put them on hold at the library, and they didn’t become available that month, so I canceled it and there they remain, still unread by me.

This list is so long. I told Maggie yesterday that I was intentionally delaying this post to finish up a few of them before I hit publish. But it’s going to take all month to make a significant difference of any kind, so I’m just going to jump right in.

Anyway, there’s quite a list (and this is just the planned-to-read-but-haven’t-yets since October). Feel free to use this to feel better about your own unfinished and neverending TBR list. That just means we’re immortal, right?

Heh. 

The bulk of my reading in May is going to be working on that backlist. I know I won’t be able to finish it this month, but I bet I can make a dent. 

This post is for the schedule nerds. Those who mark “set up new planner” as the last thing on the to-do list in the old planner. Those who put the release date for next year’s edition of their favorite planner on their calendars as an actual event.Those who send out the office invitations for fun events that everyone else misses because they’re buried in a mass email that no one else reads.

My people.

It’s also for people who are curious about what reading for 24 hours in three days looks like. Spoiler alert – it involves way more sitting than you imagine. Plan active breaks and audiobooks you can take on walks or listen to while cleaning. All types of reading count. Not all my 2-hour blocks of reading will be done sitting down.

This is the tentative schedule for my retreat this weekend. I say “tentative” for two reasons. First, I find that I follow a schedule more easily when I give myself permission to veer from it (i.e., don’t view it as set in stone or something I have to do). Having to do things is a lot of pressure for a weekend that’s supposed to be fun, and if I need a more extended break, there are several things that I may decide to do that aren’t on the schedule. Also, my focus has been shit lately, so a certain degree of playing it by ear may be necessary. Shorter, more frequent breaks may become the rule.

Second, individual pockets of activity may be shifted depending on how much of my to-do list I get done before the weekend officially starts. For example, ideally, I will have time to make the Earl Grey shortbread dough tonight so that all I have to do tomorrow afternoon is bake and box the cookies for cookbook club. If that doesn’t happen, though, I have allowed space for this task to cut into Friday’s proposed reading time without derailing the whole read-24-hours plan just as it’s getting started.

I started planning my schedule by putting specific activities during the breaks, but I think breaks will work better if I leave them flexible. So just know that a break without a specific activity listed next to it may involve one or more of these things:

  • Dancing
  • Doing Pilates
  • Switching out/folding loads of laundry
  • Washing dishes
  • Tidying something that’s been visually harassing me out of the corner of my eye while I’m trying to focus on what I’m reading
  • Journaling (writing or art)
  • Taking a walk
  • Eating a snack

I also have potential reading times that I’m not including in my planned hour count. This gives me even more flexibility just in case I go rogue (a very real possibility). Additionally, I have planned 26 instead of 24 reading hours, just in case. So there’s a lot of wiggle room.

Friday, April 29 (8.5 hours)

12a-2a – Going to get it started at midnight, per my usual habit (2 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Make shortbread dough (or another break activity if that’s already done)

2:30-5 – Read  (2.5 hours)

5-5:15 – Check personal email/social media

5:15-6:45 – Bake/box shortbread for cookbook club. Listen to audiobook while baking (1.5 hours)

7-? – Cookbook club

?-bedtime – Potential reading time (or just go to bed early because carbs and wine)

Saturday, April 30 (10 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-1:30 – Read (2 hours)

1:30-2 – Put lasagna in slow cooker for evening

2-4 – Independent Bookstore Day Festivities at Patchouli Joe’s or read (potential 1.5 hours + break)

4-6 – Read (2 hours)

6-7 – Dinner/break/TV/social media

7-9 – Read (2 hours)

9-9:30 – Break

9:30-11:30 – Read (2 hours)

11:30-12 – Break

12-2 – Read (2 hours)

Sunday, May 1 (7.5 hours)

10-11:30 – Leisurely wake up/scroll social media/have breakfast/watch an episode of Boston Legal or Arrested Development

11:30-2 – Read (2.5 hours)

2-2:30 – Break

2:30-5 – Read (2.5 hours)

5-5:30 – Eat sandwich or salad

5:30-? – Attend private concert event to which I will definitely take a book and sneak in at least an hour of reading (1 hour)

?-bedtime – Read (1.5 hours, or however many are left at this point)

It’s likely that I’ll post updates on Instagram or maybe here (if I have actual commentary about how it’s going) throughout the readathon. Whether you are reading or spending time with family or working or doing a little bit of everything this weekend, I hope you have a good one!

Readathon Retreat!

Do you ever put aside a large block of time just to read? Isn’t it decadent? I occasionally take my own extended reading breaks, but I mostly do it when I participate in online readathons. I love these events, but my planning and execution usually goes like this:

  1. Get SUPER excited and exclamation-pointy about it when I read the save-the-date post months in advance!!!!!!! I’m going to read so much! I’m going to catch up on the TBR for the whole year!! I’m going to read for 24 hours straight!!!
  2. Put it on the calendar (in ALL CAPS!!!!)
  3. Promptly forget about it.
  4. Remember that I’m doing it (and was super excited about it) when I make my daily to-do lists for the week in my planner the Sunday before it’s scheduled.
  5. Get excited again!!!!
  6. Spend the week stacking up more books next to my favorite reading chair than I could feasibly read in a month, much less a weekend. Post pics of it on the Instagram, acknowledging the impossibility of the task I’m setting myself up for in writing while secretly believing that somehow I really can perform the bending of space and time that it would take to finish all those books during the readathon.
  7. Drink a strong cup of coffee on the Friday night it starts (because I’m fried from the workweek but feel compelled to start the readathon at the moment it officially begins – usually at midnight). 
  8. Read for a good 2-3 hours (typical for any Friday night, although most weeks I definitely start earlier than 12:00), and finally give up and go to bed when I notice that I keep nodding off and thus have been re-reading the same page for the last 20 minutes.
  9. Wake up late Saturday morning. Briefly and half-heartedly mourn the lost hours of reading I’ve missed in a sigh-oh-well but also not-sorry, well-rested fashion. Have breakfast and a vat of coffee while watching an episode of whatever show I’m currently bingeing to give my brain time to wake up and start doing that following-a-plot thing.
  10. Read for an hour or two.
  11. Get a sudden wild hair to do the laundry/dishes/sweeping/cleaning/Marie-Kondo-ing my bedroom or whatever task that I have inexplicably decided I need to accomplish immediately (this can last anywhere from half an hour to early evening). I may listen to an audiobook while I’m doing it if the activity is fairly mindless and not too loud.
  12. Read for an hour or two more. 
  13. It must be time to eat something, right? I should eat something. And watch another episode of my stories.
  14. Scroll through social media while trying to convince myself that, technically, memes and captions are a type of reading.
  15. Read a little while (i.e., less than an hour) longer and then go to bed. 

If the official readathon lasts into Sunday, repeat the pattern above, only with more frequent and longer interruptions because I usually go to church to sing with the choir and have at least one meeting in the afternoon and often spend a few hours on my writing job in the evening if my teams have a lot of work they need to be finished.

Well, Dewey’s  24-Hour Readathon is this weekend, and real talk – it may turn out a lot like that. And that’s ok. That is still an enjoyable, relaxed weekend, and I still get to read a lot. I’d like to make it a real retreat, though. More on that in a minute.

For you morning people, Dewey’s is a good readathon. It starts at 8:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, April 30 (that’s 7:00…on a Saturday…for those of us in the Central time zone. I can 100% guarantee I won’t be awake and reading at that time unless I happen to still be up from the night before.). For the rest of us, I (and also the staff of Dewey’s) give us full permission to adapt the schedule to fit whatever we want. Just watch the Dewey’s Instagram for the day if you want to be a little social about it.

My personal goal for this weekend is to actually read 24 hours total but stretch it out over Friday-Sunday. Inspired by this post, I am preparing to succeed by doing the following things:

  • Take Friday off work (both jobs) to get a good head start. This also gives me during-the-workday time (i.e., the best time) to go grocery shopping for easy-prep, retreat-ish foods if I haven’t managed to make it to the store before then. I already have to go to the store tonight because I am out of coffee (How, though. How did I not even realize I was running low? I must really need a break.), so hopefully all I’ll need to pick up later in the week is bread, fruit, or other easily-perishables.
  • Take Sunday off, too. Have a real weekend. Reserve the right to change my mind Sunday morning if I’m restless or I really like the songs we’re singing in the service.
  • Make a personalized schedule for my readathon. Ok, that gets some !!!!! That’s just as exciting as reading all weekend! It allows me to plug in planned breaks for cleaning, cooking, eating, doom scrolling, etc., with specific stop times. It also takes the non-reading but still bookish activities I will be indulging in into account. For example, this particular retreat will include making cookies from Eat this Poem for our cookbook club on Friday. I may go to Patchouli Joe’s for Independent Bookstore Day on Saturday, but I’m not committed to actually attending in person because 1) I want it to be successful and thus crowded but also I hate being in a crowd and 2) isn’t every day Independent Bookstore Day for me? Depending on how lovey I feel about the schedule when I get it finalized, I may post the itinerary here for fellow planner nerds to enjoy.
  • Meal plan with an abundance of snacks and cozy beverages. I’m currently thinking croissants or toast with butter/jam (maybe an egg) for breakfast, sandwiches/charcuterie for lunch, and delicious things I can slow cook in the Crock Pot all day for supper. This would also give me lunches for the next week, so that’s an extra bonus.
  • Create a big, impossible book stack like the one above, all of which I am likely to start and none of which I may actually finish that weekend. Or maybe I’ll include books I am close to finishing that I started a while ago and put down for a practical (i.e., ran out of time/needed to finish something else/etc., not because I wasn’t enjoying it) reason. Perhaps a mix of both, as well as some shorter books I can read in one sitting. I still have a couple of poetry collections I planned to read this month but haven’t yet, so those will probably be included, too.

If you’re participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon (or just doing your own self-designed reading retreat someday soon), I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you plan ahead? Do you wing it? Which do you enjoy more?

April TBR

April is National Poetry Month. Most of the bookish newsletters I follow are making great poetry recs at this time, so naturally, I am even more inclined than usual to pick up a few new volumes or chapbooks. If this post looks a little poetry-centric, that’s why. Also, you’re welcome.

First of all, my beloved friend courtney marie just released their newest collection, Songs We Used to Dance To, which I highly recommend that you buy and read immediately. Treat yourself to this wonder of a book.

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Lush Reads

All about poetry. Practically going to bathe in it. Perhaps while listening to jazz (as it’s also National Jazz Appreciation Month) and drinking glasses of wine.

Library

So many books, so little extra shelf space in my living room.

I was about to type “I didn’t read as much in March as I usually do…” but then I looked at how long some of the books I finished in March are, and turns out I did read quite a bit. These were my favorite five, in no particular order.

  1. A Match to the Heart by Gretel Ehrlich – The telltale way to know I really enjoyed a book is that I immediately seek out other books the author has written. This was a memoir about getting struck by lightning, and it was fascinating. I’m super excited to read The Solace of Open Spaces.
  2. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – Ok, I lied. There is somewhat of an order. This was my absolute favorite of the month. Laini Taylor is a world-building rockstar. I’m about halfway through the second book in this duology (Muse of Nightmares), and it’s just as good.
  3. Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust – This was my second time reading this one, and it was just as lovely this time around. If you like fairytale retellings, check it out.
  4. Microscripts by Robert Walser – A collection of essays compiled from notes the author scribbled on scraps of paper. I picked it up because Maira Kalman is the illustrator, and I love her. I’m so glad I did.
  5. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll – Technically two books but my copy has both of them in the same volume, so I counted it as one. I don’t remember how many times I have read this and I love it just the same every time.

What is the best thing you’ve read recently (books, articles, bumper stickers – whatever)?

Spring/summer at the farm

Making to-do lists to match my yearly theme always delights me. This is especially true when my word of the year is something like “lush.” In the spirit of Joy The Baker’s summer bucket lists, I’ve been musing about the next few months.

I’ve decided that my lush summer starts now. As I was reminded by Tsh Oxenreider’s newsletter this morning, the pursuit of beauty is important, especially in hard times, so why wait? Also, let’s face it – the weather in Texas basically thinks it’s summer from April-September anyway. And to my amazement and mild chagrin, April is LATER THIS WEEK.

The first step is to find some things to drop so that I have the freedom in my schedule and the energy to do the fun stuff listed below. I’ve already been practicing. My typical response to busyness has been to tough my way through something, even if a pounding headache or sensory overwhelm or exhaustion from panic attacks or some other not-at-all-subtle signal is telling me not to. I have been really good at paying attention to those signals lately, though, and canceling things when I need to. Sure, I’ve missed some things that I wanted to do. But you know what? The world did not end, and I got the rest I needed. Then, I got to actually enjoy the next thing I wanted to do instead of having to trudge my way through it, too. Ultimately, I hope that listening to my body better looks like not making too many plans in the first place instead of having to cancel them, but baby steps.

Here are some snapshots of how I want my lush summer to look.

Plants

Despite my angst about the heat and the pollen, this is a great time of the year for plants. I never met a fruit I didn’t like, but in-season (and I cannot stress that distinction enough) spring/summer fruits—specifically, blueberries, peaches, apricots, and cantaloupe—are my favorites. I have a small space for some containers on my porch, but most of my produce during this season comes from farmers’ markets.

  • Buy fresh produce and/or seeds from Denton Community Market (opening day for the season is this Saturday yay!)
  • Plant tomatoes and basil and all the random seeds I have in my containers 
  • Go to a pick-your-own flower/fruit/veggie farm. Perhaps one of these?
    Wow! U-Pick Farms – veggies
    Gemini Peach and Rose Farm – peaches, roses
    Green Valley Gardens – flowers 
  • Keep fresh flowers (carefully chosen, because allergies) on the table and around the house
  • Repot the office plant and perhaps pick up another new green friend or two along the way

Food

  • Try a new local restaurant. Osteria il Muro is the one I have in mind, but spaces are super limited. Maybe I’ll be able to get a reservation someday.
  • Make sun tea and lemonade
  • Buy cold brew from Coffee Hog once(ish) a month (yes, I could make it myself. But will I?)
  • Snow cones!
  • Make ice cream (or at least an icebox pie or two, which frankly is more likely than dragging out the ice cream maker. But hope springs eternal.)
  • Test some of the updated recipes for my Epic Meal Planning and Feast projects

Events/Travel
(if the aforementioned improved minding of my schedule allows, of course)

  • I’d like to take a small road trip if I can make room in the budget for it. San Antonio to see Hope and Nowhere? Beach getaway?
  • Attend a summer festival (or two). Maybe these?
    North Texas Lavender Festival (June 26-27) – TX-Ture Farm
    North Texas Book Festival (Aug 20, 3-7pm) – Greater Denton Arts Council
  • Visit the family farm once a month
  • Hang out at a winery with friends
  • Enjoy afternoons/days on the Denton, McKinney, and/or Gainesville square(s)

Social/Miscellaneous

  • Pool time with friends
  • Girls weekend with Maggie and Michelle
  • Lounge around in bookshops
  • Continue my cleaning streak by cleaning out closets and actually taking donations where they need to go
  • Redecorate or organize one small space in the apartment each week

What do you love most about warmer days? Anything you’re looking forward to?

Reading Alone

Sometimes I miss this little nook. Lots of good reading happened here.

I am a big fan of reading in community. I like gushing about my favorite parts of a book, and I enjoy hearing what others thought of it. This is why I am a member of more book clubs than I can usually handle and also why I enjoy readathons (such as the Dewey that is coming up on April 30).

I also really love reading alone.

Despite the fact that I talk about books almost constantly (particularly when I post here), there is also a rich inner life that comes with reading. In fiction, I get to wrap my mind around other alternatives and worlds, and it helps me better understand my own. In nonfiction, I get to learn from the perspectives of others who have lived very different lives than I have in a way that doesn’t often happen in passing conversations. The best books accomplish both of these things, regardless of genre. Reading sparks imagination, empathy, creativity, and wonder. It can be a solace or an awakening.

This is where I started with my reading life. I didn’t join my first book club until well after graduate school. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love reading just as much back then as I do now. In fact, there are some elements of reading strictly solo that I miss sometimes. I weighed what I read solely against what I knew and believed, and the ideas that made the most sense at the end of this wrestling match were the ones that endured in my worldview. There are other ways to learn how to think critically, of course, but being mostly left to my own devices for what is still the majority of my reading life is what makes doing so seem like second nature to me now.

While my bookish life has become markedly more social in the last decade or two, I carry over some elements of solitary reading. I track most of what I read, but there are some things that I hold so close that I don’t even mark them on my Goodreads lists. I still argue out loud in my living room with authors I don’t agree with (you’re welcome, neighbors). Whenever I have a mostly free weekend (or when I’m so exhausted I cancel everything I’m planning and force a free weekend…like this one coming up), I hunker down with my current TBR list, only surfacing to drink coffee, eat and sleep.

If you love reading but have zero desire to join a book club, you’re not alone (well, technically you are alone…that’s the point…you get it). You don’t have to be social about it. It can be just as rich an experience as reading in community. Maybe even more so, sometimes.

%d bloggers like this: