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December TBR

Hello to the end of the year. Or the beginning of the year, if you prefer to go by the liturgical calendar.

Anyway, a transitional time.

This month, I should easily meet my reading goal for the year, and I hope to finish at least one of the reading challenges I have been working on. I’m sure there will be a recap or five later in the month about what I’ve read, what I liked the most, what surprised me, what I learned, etc. 

But for now, the last TBR of 2022.

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

For my GirlXOXO selection this month, I chose the keyword “night,” so the Calvino classic listed above that Follow the Reader is reading will do nicely. I’m mainly going to focus on one of the challenges because I’m so close to finishing the 52 Book Club Challenge. I’ve started most of the ones that I have left, so the odds are in my favor. 

  • A second person narrative – Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
  • A book picked based on its spine – The Saturday Book: 26, edited by John Hadfield
  • A book that has an alternate title – The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
  • A book that intimidates you – Welcome Home by Najwa Zebian. Zebian’s Instagram is challenging, in the very best way. I expect that I will have a lot of intense feelings while reading this book.
  • Author published in more than one genre – When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
  • Job title in title – Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon


Library/Series/Just Because

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We’re all mad here.

I love costumes. I usually dress up as food (e.g., one year for Halloween, I was a strawberry milkshake), but this year, I am the Mad Hatter. It’s so much fun. The spool sash took forever but is definitely my favorite part of the outfit. One of my coworkers squeals, “You’re so cute!” every time she walks by. I enjoy that.

I can be fairly sensitive and serious, but any chance I get to insert a little whimsy into my life, I jump at it. I love opportunities to be creative, and I notice that I do better mentally when I make an effort to seek them out. To that end, I track creative tasks as part of my ongoing goal-setting for the year. This year, I have eight categories I’m tracking, and while I have specific goals for each (see parentheses below), I try to work most of them in as often as possible:

  • Writing – My writing job and blogging basically track themselves, so I limit this category to other projects, such as poetry, fiction, and newsletter or journal submissions (at least four times a week).
  • Needlework – Most of this is knitting, but I also have been playing around with embroidery and cross stitch (at least twice a week).
  • Piano – I have been working through a book of sonatas, trying to keep my sight-reading skills fresh, but I’m also (slowly) composing a piece. It’s the first song I have written since I busted out “Texas Is the Place for Me” for a piano recital when I was in junior high, but unlike that little gem, this one is strictly instrumental (at least twice a week).
  • Art journal – I have a lush-themed art journal for the year as well as an ongoing scrapbook sort of thing. I also include coloring in this because most of those pages serve as page backdrops or cover art for my various art journals (at least three times a week).
  • Cooking/baking – Is cooking creative? It is the way I do it. Also, have you seen Pie Lady Books? But even if it’s not that elaborate, I like playing around with ingredients and seeing how it turns out (at least once a week, but usually more, especially if I have several free days/evenings).
  • Collaboration – Creative tasks are even more fun with other people. Choir practice and jam sessions are typically how this pans out, but the occasional studio or art party counts, too (at least once but often twice a week).
  • Performance – I usually sing with the choir in service on Sunday mornings, but I’ve been dipping my toe into being on other stages for the last couple of years. I have a performance coming up in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned if you’re local (at least four times a month).
  • Miscellaneous – Dang, I love a craft project. I like figuring out how to build or make things, especially if I can use them to decorate or accessorize. At any point in time, I likely have three or four projects in process, and the only reason there aren’t more is that I am limited on space (at least twice a week).

Speaking of goal tracking, I would be remiss if I did not wrap up this month of writing about creating a lush life without revealing the specific things I have been trying to put into practice on a regular basis this year. I didn’t set a specific goal number for them; I’m mostly just logging them for informational purposes. There are five main categories that I use to track lush living:

  • Cozy – Big surprise there, I know. This category is super broad. Any day that includes sufficient cozy elements (this category is also super vague) gets a check mark. Mostly, this is an opportunity to reflect at the end of each day on whether I have made time for myself to relax.
  • Pleasure/self-care – Closely related to cozy (and sometimes they do overlap), this category is more for specific self-care actions like facials and getting my hair done and foot soaks.
  • Socializing – If left to my own devices, I will hermit away and hardly ever leave the house. But several things I’ve talked about this month involve actually connecting with other people, so I give myself a little shout-out in my goal chart when I do something social.
  • Journaling – Sometimes this seems like too much navel-gazing (particularly this month when I’m also journaling daily-ish online), but it is vital to my mental health. I’m so much more grounded when I take a little time every day to write my thoughts out. My journals bounce between total stream of consciousness and well-organized, multi-tiered arguments. It’s a wild ride. I may have to appoint someone to burn them when I die.
  • Adulting – For lack of a better term. I tend to procrastinate unpleasant tasks until I am desperate to get them done. This is unnecessarily stressful and counterproductive when it comes to living a lush life. In addition to putting the week’s to-do list in my planner, I give myself credit for each task in my chart, and it’s working so well that I’m going to keep doing it next year.

And that’s the end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series of posts on creating a lush life as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. Hopefully, you found the occasional nugget that can help you make your life a little lusher, too.

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The cute kitchen where we made meals together on Cape Cod

I have a busy calendar this month, and I’ve (sort of) accepted that I’m not going to make it to everything. Yesterday, for example, was National Coming Out Day, and my art collective partnered with a local advocacy group to host an open mic. I had planned to go but was utterly drained by the end of the day, so I went home and went to bed early instead. Tonight there is a performance that I want to attend, and I am hoping to make it. I am mourning the days when I had the energy to plow through a full day of work (or school), go to class or meetings in the evening, and then still go out afterward and have no problem getting up and doing it all again the next day.

Or am I just forgetting how tired I was then?

A big part of the reason I keep putting things on the calendar and trying to make it is that I firmly believe that showing up is part of community care. I have been in groups that practice mutual compassion well, and I have been in places where it was every person for themselves. I’ve had friends who cooked me meals and did my dishes when I was sick. I’ve also had times when I felt so alone I wondered how long it would take for someone to find my body if I died. Self-care is important, but community care is equally essential.

Sharing resources and helping when it’s needed are both aspects of community care. Maintaining connections, listening to others’ points of view, showing up, and offering validation are vital components, too. I know I shouldn’t feel like I’m failing my friends when I just can’t make it to an event after a difficult day, but the feeling persists. It’s hard to shake the notion that, if I were practicing lush life correctly, I would have the time and the energy to do so.

Perhaps part of lush living is letting go of my lingering perfectionism. Or remembering that I, too, am included in community and thus am allowed to receive/take care when needed.

I’m writing about what lush life is (and isn’t) this month.

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October is for fires and The Mummy

This weekend was the Denton Arts and Jazz Fest. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dreamed of missing it, even though until recently it was at the end of April, at the height of allergy season for me. I went every year. I would go on Friday if there was something special I wanted to see, but I was definitely there all day Saturday and at least in the evening for Brave Combo on Sunday. I just accepted that I wouldn’t really get a weekend off to reset socially, and it was worth it to me. I had a lot of fun at Jazz Fest, and I didn’t want to miss out.

I also got terribly sick at the end of each semester. I always thought it was just the stress/relief of finishing classes, but looking back, I’m not so sure. Thanksgiving through December was always busy with holiday travel and huge gatherings and shopping (and it was before the internet, so it was all in person *shudders*) and the local tree lighting festival, and the end of the spring semester was banquets and graduations and Jazz Fest. After I finished my last final (or, once I started teaching, handed in my grades), I took a breath and paused for a moment, and that was my body’s cue to shut down for about a week. I was alarmed the first couple of times it happened, but then I just accepted it.

I’ve learned how to avoid it now, but it does come at a price.

I need a lot of alone time. My specific concoction of introverted, socially anxious, sensory sensitive, and whatever else happens to be going on requires a certain amount of downtime to regroup, or I will get sick. It takes me a couple of hours every night to wind down, and I need at least two nights off a week when I just come home and decompress. It’s also imperative that I have at least two consecutive days a month in which I come home the night before the first day and don’t leave again until the morning after the second. Ideally, at least one weekend will be free for this to happen, but if not, I know I will need to take the appropriate amount of time off work to ensure that it does. To really thrive, I need more alone time than I’ve described here, but that’s the minimum. If I want to stay well, it’s not optional.

I suspect there are a lot of people for whom a great amount of solitude is necessary. I just don’t hear a lot of them talk about it. Maybe we’ve been taught to be ashamed that we can’t handle that much stimulation all the time without any real breaks like others seem to be able to. If that’s you, and no one has told you this yet, let me state clearly – there’s nothing wrong with you. Taking care of yourself is the right, responsible thing to do. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

I had hoped to go to Jazz Fest this weekend. One of the students I work with performed, and so did one of my friends’ bands that I haven’t seen in a long time. The original Blues Brothers band was there, and I always like looking at the booths (especially the jewelry) and camping out in front of the UNT stage on Sunday afternoon. Judging by the pictures on social media, I would have seen a lot of people I know and had a good time. I’m a little sad to have missed it.

But our cookbook club had a murder mystery dinner on Friday. We got to dress up and play catty characters. So much fun! And I spent last night jamming with some friends I get to perform with in November. This morning I went to church. I really like the study we’re doing now, and I got to sing in the choir. And tonight I sat by the fire with Spiderweb friends and watched (most of) The Mummy. It was a full, busy, lovely weekend that still left me with the large blocks of alone time I need to be ready for this week.

Sometimes it’s ok to miss good things. Lush life doesn’t mean you have to pack every waking moment with activities you love and force it all to fit. It means learning when not to.

I’m unpacking what I’m learning about living a lush life this month.

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Workplace Hygge

Once I started exploring what it means to have a lush life, the word cozy kept coming up. And the more I started searching for cozy things, the more I kept running into posts and books about hygge. For those unfamiliar with the term (and clearly not on Pinterest, because it is all over Pinterest), hygge is a Danish concept that takes cozy to the next level. In addition to embracing comfort, it also includes elements of warmth, well-being, and connection.

I’m way down the hygge rabbit hole, so it’s likely to come up a few times this month. If you want a quick and charming crash course, I recommend The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking. Today, I’m giving you a brief overview of the five dimensions of hygge he outlines, which are essentially ways you can experience the phenomenon through your senses. Everyone’s preferences are going to be different, but I’ve included examples of mine. This is a particularly useful exercise for me, as I am easily overwhelmed by sensory input. It’s good to intentionally make note of the ones I enjoy.

Taste

Food is a big part of comfort, and the Danes know this. They have a whole pastry named after their nationality (which I really need to try in Denmark, I think. You know, to get the full experience.). When I think of cozy food, things that are familiar and satisfying come to mind:

  • Soups with a side of crusty bread
  • Eggs and toast
  • Oatmeal with dried fruit and maple syrup
  • Stir fry/warm salads
  • Peaches, nectarines, and apricots (really any fresh fruit, but those are my faves)
  • Antipasti – any combination of cheese, bread/crackers, pickles/olives, maybe salami or fruit
  • Burgers
  • Potatoes in any form. Particularly if there is also cheese involved.

There are also specific flavors that fit in this category for me. I love coconut and caramel and peppermint (not all together, though). And of course, a nice cup of coffee or hot tea increases the cozy factor of any activity.

Sound

I love rainy day sounds. Not just the rain but the things I like to do inside when there’s a storm outside. The tink of knitting needles. Soft instrumental music, particularly piano and/or acoustic base. Pages turning as I read. The washer and dryer running. Small sipping sounds as I try to drink my cup of tea before it’s cool enough to do so (this is the only eating/drinking sound I like at all, btw. All the rest are gross and upsetting. This is a hill I am prepared to die on.).

One of the reasons I find coffee shops so comforting is the combination of sounds coming from behind the counter. Kettles boiling. The clinks and clunks of the espresso machine. Coffee dripping and pouring. It’s very much what I imagine Heaven must sound like.

Also…when cats ekekekekek. That’s some good ASMR right there.

Smell

Coffee. Vanilla and butter. Citrus. Tomato or pea plants. Fresh bread. Food smells, basically, are my favorites.

The other scents I think of as comforting are those that remind me of a particular time, place, or event. For example, the very specific smell that hits me when I open up Mom’s Christmas cabinet where she stores all her decorations. It’s sort of like an apple/cinnamon smell but not quite.

Touch

One of the first things I did after I chose the word lush for my theme this year was to buy new bed linens. There was nothing wrong with the ones I had, but they were getting a little worn and scratchy. [So, I guess there was something wrong with them. I just feel wasteful if I get rid of something before it’s absolutely unusable (no worries – they have been refurbished into decorations/costumes).] I love flannel sheets, and I use them all year long. I also bought a comforter that is slightly weighted (not too much! Most weighted blankets are too much!), which helps me fall asleep. I like drinking out of glass or ceramic receptacles. I will drink out of metal or plastic or paper cups, but it’s just not the same.

I think I’ve gotten to the point where I absolutely refuse to wear hard pants. Jeans, slacks, anything that you have to button/zip? Not interested. I don’t even know that I own any such thing anymore. My daily attire is all dresses and skirts with either shorts or leggings. Comfy shoes that are designed for long hours roaming bookstores. Sweaters and other layers just in case the temperature suddenly changes because Texas. Bookcore for life.

Sight

I’m going to go into this more when I talk about having a cozy home later in the month, so I won’t dwell now, but muted lighting (I’m in the market for lamps), candles, and twinkle lights are my jam. I love dark, rich colors (and yes, classically eccentric is a good name for my preferred decorating style). In pictures or movie scenes or art, I prefer slow-moving ease to bustle. I favor open sky and beaches over woods or forest. I need intentional blank space in decorating, too.

What makes you feel cozy?

I’m writing about lush life this month.

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YAY THE -EMBER MONTHS HAVE BEGUN!

This is my favorite third of the year. Soon, it will be sweater and boot weather. Well, not SOON soon – this is Texas, after all – but relatively so. I wore layers today anyway. I will usher in fall through sheer force of will. I already have half my costume ready for Halloween. I. Am. Ready.

This is also about when I start thinking about goals for the upcoming year. My favorite planner is going to launch this month, and I think I already know what my theme word for next year is going to be (Maybe. There are a few contenders, but one has a sizable lead). But before that happens, I have some goals to finish up this year. I’m posting a series about what I’m learning about living a lush life in October, and I really want to finish most of my reading challenges. So here we go!

Book Clubs

A couple of my book clubs are starting spooky season early, and I approve. Actually, a couple of my book clubs lean toward spooky almost perpetually, so really, this is not a big shift.

Reading Challenges

  • Modern Mrs. Darcy’s (Summer) Reading Challenge
  • The 52 Book Club
    • Book with an alternate title – The Golden Compass (or, as it was originally published in the UK, Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman 
    • Author published in more than one genre – I’ve enjoyed her adult novels (romance? Chick lit? Anyway, steamy stories I really enjoyed), and now I’m going to try her YA sci-fi. When the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry
    • Book longer than 500 pages – The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
    • A book picked based on its spine – The Saturday Book: 26, edited by John Hadfield. See the book next to the bottom of the stack in the picture above, and if you think the spine is something, you should click on the link and see the cover. This may be the acquisition from Booked Up (RIP?) of which I am the proudest. 
    • Job title in title – Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon
  • Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge
    • An award-winning book from the year I was born – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    • The book that’s been on my TBR list the longest (and still is there….even though I meant to read this back in January…) – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
    • A book whose movie or TV adaptation you’ve seen – Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
    • Winner of the Women’s Prize – The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
  • GirlXOXO Keyword Challenge
    • Keyword: Salt – Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
    • Literally any of the ones I haven’t finished yet from previous months.
  • POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
    • Social horror book – Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
    • Sapphic book – Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake
    • Book title that starts with the last letter of the last book read (a somewhat difficult category when you read several books at the same time – also possible/probable that I’m overthinking it) – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (cross-post from Read Harder – starting after The Final Girl Support Group)
    • #booktoc rec – Happy Hour by Marlow Granados
    • Two books set in twin cities – the Tokyo book complementing my earlier NYC read (The Personal Librarian) –  Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

What are you reading this month?

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I’m cheating this month. I refuse to narrow down my choices to five. One might argue that it’s my own rule and I can break it or change it however I like, and that’s what I’m doing. Instead of choosing just five of the books I read last month to gush over, I’m going to gush over three books separately and then talk about the five favorites from a particular genre.

Agatha of Little Neon was Follow the Reader’s selection last month. The main character is a nun (sister? The distinction was made in the book, and I think she’s a sister, not a nun. I was that day years old when I learned this.), and the overall theme was friendship and its quirks. It was easy to relate to her, especially those moments when she felt like part of the group but also an outsider. My favorite line from the book was “It’s my belief that many men sleep too soundly at night.” Same, Agatha.

I gave Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris five stars on Goodreads. I was utterly charmed by this book. I’m a sucker for good, character-driven stories. It was quirky and witty and a delight to read.

Of course, I want to listen to Viola Davis narrate her memoir Finding Me. I would listen to Viola Davis read a grocery receipt. This book broke my heart and made me cheer. Parts of it are hard, but she’s a fantastic storyteller. Highly recommend.

Summer is the time for beach reads, which for me can mean anything from foodie fiction or books about books that I can imagine myself finishing in a few hours while drinking a mai tai and listening to the waves to a story that actually has the beach as a setting. In other words, my definition is fluid at best. They usually include a little bit of romance and/or sex, and they typically have happy endings (but not always). These were the five summer/beach reads that I really enjoyed last month:

  1. By the Book – This story has two things going for it right off the bat. Jasmine Guillory, so you know it’s going to be good, and it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling that focuses on story crafting. Adore.
  2. Book Lovers – Um, if Emily Henry writes steam this well in every book, let me go read all of them right now. This one is also about the book industry, and it was fantastic.
  3. The Love Hypothesis – Olive is me (socially, at least). Now all I need is to plot a fake relationship with an attractive, available, brilliant guy so that he can go ahead and fall in love with me.
  4. Instructions for Dancing – A meet-cute through ballroom dancing? Yes, please. Also, fair warning and generically spoilery – per her usual, Nicola Yoon will rip your heart right out with this one.
  5. Meet Cute – This book makes me want to work on my own collection of short stories that I’ve started (or…one of the three that I’ve started…). I really loved most of these selections and found a couple of new-to-me authors whose work I’d like to explore.

Tell me the one (or eight) books you’ve really loved recently.

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March TBR

I finally finished bingeing (is it really a binge, though, if it takes you the better part of a year?) Once Upon a Time last month. The final season had a mostly different cast, and I was not a fan of one of the new actors in particular, so it took me a little more time to get through it. But I kept coming back because Alice (in Wonderland but she’s “been to lots of places”) was one of the key characters in the last season. I loved her part in the storyline as well as Rose Reynolds’s portrayal of the character.

So this month, in addition to tracking down the Once Upon a Time in Wonderland spinoff, I’m prolonging the Alice magic by re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. As I love all manner of tweaks and retellings, I may also read one or several of these:

I’m open to other Alice/Mad Hatter/Queen of Hearts/Wonderland retellings, of course. Fortunately, there are so many. Hit me with your faves. 

Book Clubs

Reading Challenges

Most of the books I’ve read so far this year have completed prompts on my challenges. A proper update on how each one is going is coming in the next few weeks, but these are the ones I’ve picked out specifically for this month.

  • Read Harder – Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust (queer retelling of a fairytale)
  • Girlxoxo – The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh (keyword: beautiful)
  • 52 Book Club – The Maid by Nita Prose (we’ll try this January book club selection again to fulfill the prompt “published in 2022”) 
  • POPSUGAR – The two original Lewis Carroll selections listed above (from the advanced section – a duology – although I do have a lot of duologies on my general TBR list)

Lush Reads

A nice blend of challenge and comfort.

Additional Options

Mostly books that need to go back to the library soon but also some long-standing TBRs.

What are you reading this month?

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February TBR

My library is going to be stoked to get some of these back soon.

The problem is that there are too many books in the world. And by “too many,” I do mean “Yay! So many!” And by “problem,” I do mean “luxurious, lovely happenstance.” My TBR list is always going to be bigger than my time frame for completing it, and I’m just going to have to make peace with that. 

Here are a whole lot of books that I will likely start (and for the most part, finish) this month.

Book Clubs

  • Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson – I meant to read for two hours Monday night and then finish up the rest yesterday before book club, but then the pace abruptly picked up and so I had to read to the end before going to bed on Monday. Worth it. Who even needs sleep. 
  • The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray – I want to be a personal librarian. Anyone reading here who would like to hire me to do that sort of thing? References available upon request.
  • A Match to the Heart by Gretel Ehrlich – Memoir about being struck by lightning. We are all fascinated and curious.
  • Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal – Fantastic Strangelings coming through with the magical again.
  • Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur – Happy Endings selection for the month of love
  • To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara – This is a pretty long book, Roxane Gay. You’ve never steered me wrong before, though, so I’m in.

Reading Challenges

I’ve added a couple of reading challenges (surprising no one – we all knew this would happen). Partly for me, but mostly because I know some of you like a little structure and I want to highlight challenges you may enjoy that I’m also participating in. If you want a challenge and none of the four I’ve chosen fit your tastes, fret not. Girlxoxo does this so much better than I do; here’s the master list of challenges they compiled for 2022

A lot of my selections fit categories on all of the ones I’m doing (although my personal meta-challenge is that, no matter how many I end up tracking, I won’t use the same book for more than one prompt on the same challenge). In fact, I may do a separate reading challenge update in the middle of the month to outline all the prompts and the books I read to match them. Here’s just a taste for this month.

Lush Reads

The lush themes for this month are food, love, rest, and dreaming. And chipping away at long-time TBRs. Happy.

  • Babette’s Feast by Julian Baggini – loved the movie and just recently found out it was a book. 
  • How To Do Nothing by Jenny Odell – I really feel like this month is going to be the month I finish it. It’s just so inspiring…to do nothing…
  • All About Love by bell hooks – in honor of the recently departed icon.
  • The Alchemist by Paul Coelho – Approximately 12,341 people have recommended this book to me – will it live up to the hype? My expectations are pretty high.
  • Warrior of the Light by Paul Coelho – Might as well pick up the companion manual, too.

Additional Reads

This list is mostly an assortment of books due at the library soon-ish and racy/romantic recommendations from friends.

Clearly, I need to set aside at least one reading weekend this month. 

What are you reading now?

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I love my book club selections this month!

I have a slightly bigger reading goal this year (150), so I’m starting out ambitious. Some of these books are ones I started in December and hope to finish up this month, and some of them are books that I’m starting but know they will take longer than the month to finish. At any rate, I hope to get a good start on the 12.5 books a month needed to meet my year’s goal!

Book Clubs

I am a member of six book clubs (not counting the library club, where we talk genre instead of a specific book we’re reading together). Three meet at a specific time (in-person or Zoom, depending on various factors), and three are ongoing discussions online. All add fascinating reads to my TBR list.

  • Dial “A” for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto – We discussed this one on Tuesday, so I’ve already finished it. It was a wild ride. I listened to the audiobook. Highly enjoyable.
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich – I love this author, and I’m looking forward to reading and discussing it over beer with the church folk.
  • I Forced a Bot To Write This Book by Keaton Patti – We were going to read this last month in Follow the Reader, but several had a hard time finding a copy so we pushed it to January. I’ve read some of it already, and it’s pretty entertaining. This is the sort of thing I’d enjoy reading aloud to party guests when I’m schnockered (aw, remember when I had parties? I…don’t miss it. But also I do. It’s complicated).
  • Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon – Happy Endings selection that sounds fun.
  • The Maid by Nita Prose – I’ve had this on my list since it was announced, and I’m so happy that it’s finally out and it’s our Fantastic Strangelings pick for the month. It sounds like a great read for fans of Clue, cozy mysteries, and charming characters. 
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor – My Christmas present to myself was a Literati subscription so I can just have Roxane Gay’s book picks mailed directly to me. I don’t choose a lot of science fiction on my own, but I think I’ll like this one.

Reading Challenges

In addition to my book club selections, I want to be more intentional about keeping up with the two reading challenges I’m doing this year. 

Lush Reads

Committing to my word for the year through reading/study/reflection worked really well in 2021, so I’m going to continue the practice. Part of this is to get back in the habit of journaling, so I’ve chosen four books that help me explore topics on well-being-esque topics with daily or weekly prompts. Real talk – I’ve already gone off the rails and completed several “days” in one sitting for at least two of these books, so I’m not sure it’s going to take me all year to finish them as designed, but at least they will get me back into the habit of daily journaling, which is my purpose in reading them in the first place.

I also am finishing up/starting three books that talk about living abundantly and seeking delight and remaining healthy and sane in the process, all of which go along nicely with “lush.”

  • The Book of Delights by Ross Gay – If being utterly charmed is something you’re into, just go ahead and keep this one by your nightstand.
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – Practical advice from Modern Mrs. Darcy.
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I ran into this one as I was going down a hygge rabbit hole after seriously cozying up my bed linens. Intrigued.

Other Selections

December was one of those months I couldn’t settle on just a few books. So I have a couple of books I’ve read a few chapters of and want to finish up. Also, I have quite a few books that I need to return to friends or the library soon, so they’re on the list, too.

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I have been slowly reading this one for about three months now. The story and characters and language are all wonderful. 
  • How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith – I started listening to this on the way home for Christmas and the chapter on Angola Prison made me madder than it’s responsible to be while driving. So I’m only a little bit into it, but it’s a fantastic tour of several monuments and landmarks and their significance. Highly recommend. Check your blood pressure beforehand.
  • Role Models by John Waters – I borrowed this from Sarah 14,000 years ago, and I found it while dusting shelves last week. Past time to read and return it!
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – This has been on my TBR list a long time and is due at the library this week, so I want to hurry and finish it so the person waiting for it can get to read it. It’s so lovely.
  • Music on the Brain by Arlene R. Taylor, PhD & Michael R. Hudson – I received several copies of this from my friend Matthew (thank you!), who works across the hall from Dr. Taylor, so I have a couple left to loan if you’re local. Great read so far!
  • Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger – Gosh, I love mystery series. And I want to get this one back to Lois so someone else can enjoy it. 

So the list may look a little daunting, and I’m not expecting to actually finish everything this month, but this is what’s on my current pile.

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