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Once again, I have a library problem. Or I’m a problem to the library. At any rate…I also have a solution.

So I was doing really well, only checking out a sensible number of books at a time that I could reasonably expect to finish before they were due back at the library. Just a little thing like having to schedule a time during their limited hours to pick them up was all it took to curtail my habit of going on a reservation spree and taking out more books than I could possibly hope to finish that quickly. But now that the library is back to normal hours and operations, and I can just pop by and pick up everything I’ve put aside at my convenience, I’ve reverted back to old practices. I wish I could tell you that the stack above represents even a fourth of the books I have checked out, but…no.

This month, I’m weaning myself off again. I’m never at a loss for something to read. I have four apps with books and audiobooks I can read from my phone. I also have hundreds of books in my personal collection at home. So there’s no reason I need to hold on to the library’s copies that someone else could be enjoying. I’m going to read my books for the clubs I’m in and my joy selections for the month, but other than that? Working on this stack of library books so I can get them back where they belong.

[One could argue that I could just return the books without reading them and check them out later when I know I have time for them, but one would receive a derisive scoff as a reward for this helpful suggestion which would then be completely ignored.]

Book Clubs

Joy Books

We’re going a little meta this month. These joy books actually deal with joy as a subject.

Library Books

These make it back to the library by the end of the month.

Pride Month!

Of course, I will also be reflecting on my favorite books written by LGBTQIA+ authors and/or starring LGBTQIA+ characters in my local library’s monthly book discussion. If you want to explore this genre, some of my favorites can be found on these lists.

What’s on your TBR list for June?

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“May your coming year be filled with magic and reams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” Neil Gaiman

Every year, I write this quote on the first notes page of my new planner. When I read through my 2020 planner, it made me cry, not only because of some of the things I missed but also because of how much of this sweet wish actually came true. It wasn’t at all in the ways I expected, but I guess that’s part of the surprise.

In Joy the Baker’s “Let It Be Sunday” post last week, she talked about goal setting as making deposits on your dreams. I love that perspective. Each year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I reflect on the last twelve months and tweak the goals that need a little nudge to get me closer to who and where I want to be. As I mentioned yesterday, I reflect and adjust throughout the year, but this is the time that I always have some days off work to really dig in.

Here are my goals for 2021:

  1. Read 120 books. Third time’s the charm? I don’t know what will happen this year, but I know that I’m more myself when I’m reading regularly. As long as the focus to do so remain constant, ten books a month is a pretty reasonable pace for me, and when I have a little extra time off, I read even more (thus the 13 I read in November and the 15 in December). The theme for this year’s reading is community. I’m in three local book clubs that meet live every month, another one that discusses primarily through a Facebook group (Fantastic Strangelings), and a new one that Roxane Gay is leading. A friend at work is also organizing some of us to participate in the Pop Sugar challenge. I love talking about books with fellow lit lovers.
  2. My current career plans are to retire from UNT when I’m eligible in nine and a half years and then embark on my second (third? fourth? Who’s keeping track, really?) career as a full-time writer. To this end, I will need to have established a strong second income already, which I have already begun working on. I wrote 250,000 words in freelance articles in 2020, and for 2021, I want to push to finish 300,000 words. This means an average of 6,000 words a week, which is a lot but also reasonably doable.
  3. One thing I have become acutely aware of this past year is how the spaces in my home are technically functional but not really inviting. I want to fix that this year, and I have weekly goals for doing so mapped out. Even if I’m the only one who enjoys them, I am reason enough to make them as cozy as possible.
  4. You know what would also be great dream to realize? Becoming a better/more confident artist. I mean, I’ll perform anyway, but I would like it to take less intense and sudden practice, particularly when I’m performing with other artists who regularly put in the time to be prepared for such things. The first ten years I played piano, my mom made me practice an hour a day to justify the lessons she was paying for. It was not always convenient or easy, but it sure was handy to be able to sub in with little to no warning when someone needed me to. At the height of the time I was performing regularly, I danced 10-15 hours a week (and my legs were phenomenal). I also was more aware of how food affected my body and paid more attention to strength so that I didn’t get injured. I have so many writing projects started, and I want people to be able to read them in their entirety at some point. So I have a lot I want to accomplish. I don’t expect myself to carve out an extra 25 hours a week right now, but I can build toward more consistency. To this end, I am putting aside an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights as well as two hours each Saturday, to give myself time to make personal art practice a specific, regular part of my schedule. For January, I’m going to practice each of the three genres (writing, dance, piano) at least three times a week, and I’ll expand/adapt once I am consistently doing that. My hope is that by the end of the year, I’m closer to the 25-hour mark than the 5-hour one.
  5. Pursue joy. Joy is my word of the year, and as you may have been noticing in the 31 days series (which we’re just shamelessly going to continue until it’s done, ignoring the fact that the 31 original days for which it was intended have passed), I have a lot to say about it already. You can expect a few updates a month, and I’m going to be reading at least one book a month with joy in the title. The first one I started with the blog series was Surprised by Joy (which I expect to finish within the week). January has three selections by the same author – Jennifer McCartney’s The Joy of Being Online All the F*cking Time, The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place, and The Joy of Doing Just Enough. In a month where everything else is certain to be pretty intense, I expect these books will bring a little levity.

Do you make resolutions? If not, do you have goals you’re working toward? I’d love to hear about them!

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Some of my favorite images from the year

Well, here it is. The end-of-the-year review. I feel like a lot has been said about the world in general, and I’m tired and a little sad tonight, so I’m not interested in recapping it (didn’t I do this last year, too? I remember being very melancholy last year at this time. Maybe that’s just who I am now.). So I’m going to go through the year I thought I was going to have, how it changed for me personally, and maybe some more things as I ramble on.

First, some goal-setting changes:
1. I love resolutions, but I maintain the flexibility to adapt them. I did this really well this year – mostly out of necessity but also because it just makes sense to set goals that way. To work toward what you want until you get it or don’t really want it anymore or figure out something you want more.
2. Instead of plotting all the short-term tasks needed to reach goals in a chart for each month at the beginning of the year, I plotted one month at a time and based the new standards for each month on the previous month’s actual accomplishment (it’s like I KNEW) (I did not know) (No one knew). I like this much better, and it gives me a much clearer picture of the real progress I’m making.
3. I took the month of December off from the reward system of checking things off. Mostly I did this to just take a break from it, which was needed. But also it gave me a chance to see what habits actually stuck when I removed the reward of a check mark or a crossed-off item. Very illuminating.

Official resolutions I made at the beginning of the year and how they went:
1. Read 120 books. I did not quite make it. But, considering that I went for about four months where I had the attention span of a gnat and couldn’t read for more than five minutes at a time (I read a total of six books during those four months), I think my final total of 96 is still pretty respectable.
2. Finish Fishbowl again – nope. Although I’ve made considerable progress.
3. Keep up with microfictions on Ello – yes…ish. I haven’t even checked lately to see if Ello is still a thing. But I have written a LOT of microfiction and short stories. I didn’t set a specific number to write every month, so I didn’t keep count, but that was the main creative writing I did.
4. Perform with Spiderweb – yes x2! I was in the last in-person show, collaborating with Sarah Ruth for Spiderweb Loves You on Valentines Day. And I had a spot in our online Spiderdead in November playing an original not-really-a-composition-but-more-like-a-prompt called Maybe Hope is a Terrible Idea.
5. Find a doctor – yes. Done.
6. Find a new dentist and eye doctor – not yet. Have people picked out to try, though, in the first few months of the new year.
7. Continue to build Pilates practice – yes, but not back with the in-person classes yet (although my studio has been great with upping the cleanliness standards and thinking outside the box and serving customers – really proud of the way they’ve done things). When we started working from home in March, I accepted a 30-day strength challenge with Jessica and Mary in my office, though, and I incorporated a lot of Pilates stuff in that and have expanded it and kept up with it pretty well. I may be able to test into Level 2 classes when I return.
8. Work – vague resolution about continuing to figure out what I want to do with my life that got put on the back burner when I was just happy to still have work.
9. Word of the year was “alive” and we know how I feel about that. So that’s that.

Goals I didn’t have at the beginning of the year but added and met anyway:
1. Reduce plastic use and trash production. I started putting trash day as Monday on my calendar (I needed help remembering some things – see note above re: attention span). I soon found myself finding ways to prolong it to another day to see how long I could go without filling up the trash cans. I’m up to three weeks (except in the kitchen because food-adjacent waste really shouldn’t sit in my house for three weeks but I just use smaller bags).
2. Reduce food waste – my fridge had a hard year and I think it’s on its way to dying. My freezer still works great, though, so I began freezing leftovers. I’m down to almost zero food waste, so I think that’s a habit I’ll keep even when I have a fixed/new fridge.
3. Automate shipments – toilet paper, toothpaste tabs (the Bits ones – plastic free packaging!), laundry sheets (also plastic free!), etc. I needed to take things out of my headspace this year, so I automated a lot of shipments of things I normally would just run an extra errand to get when I ran out. Now I don’t run out. Great decision – 10/10 – highly recommend.

Things I learned about myself:
1. I’m way more adaptable than I thought I was. Like…my response to chaos has mostly been to fight and thrive (relatively speaking).
2. I am very particular about who I trust. And I like that about me. I mean, I’ll extend a basic trust to most people – I don’t want into new relationships assuming they’re shady – but past that basic trust? It has to be earned.
3. I can like and get along with someone without trusting them or letting them affect me. This makes me good at standing up for other people, and I want to practice that more in the future.
4. I need to be touched. Like…regularly. I knew this already but I really really know it now.

I lost a few people I love this year (some COVID-related, some not), and that’s been hard. I also had a few heartbreaks, one in particular that was really heavy and terrible. I feel like I’m in perpetual heartbreak these days, and I don’t know how to not be. I’m really trying to seek joy in the midst of it anyway.

Finally, to end on a sort of positive note, some highlights:
1. Staying connected to Spiderweb even though it’s online and particularly to the You Are Here support group
2. Monday night text study
3. Book clubs!
4. So many artists adapting to online performance and sharing really beautiful things
5. So many local businesses adjusting to changes and finding new ways to serve customers
6. The Science of Well-Being – free course from Yale
7. Wake and Bake fundraising boxes of baked goods
8. Backyard hangouts with people who love me

Goodbye, 2020.

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Books and mascots and dressing up for the intrawebs

That may be the most introvert-y title I’ve ever written.

In a lot of ways, this pandemic/work/socialize-from-home situation has been rough. My mental health is not its best self ever. Or, rather, it has been more work to take care of it. I don’t think prolonged isolation is good for anyone, and I’ve definitely had challenges that I expected as well as those I did not. I have needed to take many more precautions and call on more support than usual in order to function.

Other distinct pockets of my life have (dare I say it?) flourished. After the initial shock wore off (this is the theme, really), I have been able to adapt in several ways that sort of flow together but also are each their own separate issue:

  1. Reading – For a few months, I wasn’t able to concentrate to read at all. But now that I have at least an extra hour per night to add to my regular reading time that I was spending just driving from work and then to-and-from whatever meeting I had on that particular evening, I am reading about 100 pages a day. My reading goal took a hit from those missing months, but I may still read more books than I read last year.
  2. Productivity – Working from home makes me super efficient. Having more control over my work setting allows me to get through emails much more quickly, and I don’t feel rushed on phone calls. I miss my coworkers, of course, but my productivity (and thus my motivation) is thriving. We are closing one of our buildings at the end of the semester, and I was able to give significant help in getting those students moved over, and this would have been a lot harder/more stressful in the office.
  3. Sense of self – It’s been interesting to see the habits that have dropped off and stayed gone and the ones that I have either continued or picked up. I was surprised to see the things that I do, say, wear, etc., to make others more comfortable and things I do, say, wear, etc., to show up as who I really am. It will be interesting to see how (or if) I adjust back to old habits that I find stifling once I’m out in the public again most days.
  4. Consistency – Each month, I make myself a chart that has goals I want to focus on that month. It’s usually a mix of habits I want to build and the things I know I need to stay grounded and at peace. If you’ve been around here a while, you know my goals tend to be…lofty. But I’ve been meeting them better than usual. In fact, the last time I was this consistent with eating well, dancing, playing the keyboard, exercising, etc., was in my early to mid-twenties when I was performing regularly. While I’m not performing right now (well, not a lot – I do have a piece in the virtual SPIDERDEAD show tomorrow night), I am excited about how well I’ve been staying on track with things that are important to me.
  5. Creativity – All the others kinda lead in to this one. When I have the time (and the ability) to focus on what I want in life, my creativity thrives. I have so many project ideas, and I’ve been consistently writing toward my NaNoWriMo project. I also have a 31 days blog series coming up in December that I hope you will enjoy. I look forward to getting to collaborate with people again, but for now this will do.

I hope you are finding some moments of joy or clarity or focus or whatever you are needing right now.

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Check In

_I don't know what to say to that._ _That's the most honest you've ever been._

A little bit of my microfiction project

It’s been a minute since I’ve checked in, so I wanted to say hi.

Hi. How are you? What are you up to these days? What are you learning? Where are you finding beauty? Or peace? Or – dare I hope it – joy?

A small recap of my days:

  1. Coffee. One cup of strong coffee that I gulp down on my way to work, as my current work environment is not conducive to nursing it lovingly throughout the morning.
  2. Go to work. Yes, at the office. Wearing masks all day because we’re in public. “But Suzanne,” you wonder. “Can’t you do 100% of your job from home?” Yes. Yes, I can. But apparently there are a lot of hoops to jump through when you are required to go through HR to get permission. In related news, I need to make an appointment with my new doctor. Hope they can fit me in before September.
  3. Dinner and down time. I’ve been trying to rebudget to support local businesses more. Ergo, I’ve been eating a lot of simpler things so that I can splurge more often. I really enjoy it. This week, I’m eating chili pasta, salads, and breakfast for dinner. I’ve been rewatching Revenge, Scandal, Leverage, and Bones recently, so I usually watch one of these shows each night.
  4. Meetings. Most nights I still have some meeting, even though they’re online. This week, it’s text study, a couple of book clubs, and church council. Looking forward to a workshop with Spiderweb Salon on Sunday afternoon.
  5. Writing. My second job is a writing job, so I spend a few hours every evening (at least Monday-Thursday) doing that. At least once a week, I have a light load of assignments so that I can make time for some creative writing. I have the focus of a puppy right now, particularly by that time of the day, so I’m working on my microfiction project (see example above).
  6. Reading. I am reading more slowly these days, so I am focusing on what we’re talking about in book clubs before I delve into other things. I just finished Where’d You Go, Bernadette? for book club this week, and I liked it even more than I liked the movie. I listened to the audio version, though, and I do not recommend it if you have hearing-related sensory issues. There was background music throughout it and sometimes it was hard for me to hear the reader over the music. I’m reading White Fragility with another group and The Speed of Trust with a group from work, and I am really enjoying those discussions. Our church group is talking about A Better Man this month, and I am always happy to re-read Louise Penny. This is a choose-your-own-adventure month in Spiderweb’s Follow the Reader, and I love foodie memoirs, so I’m reading From Scratch by Tembi Locke and now I need to go to Italy even more than I already did. Someday.
  7. Bed. I’ve been rocking my skincare routine lately. I think the ritual is comforting. Bedtime consists of a full bottle of water on the nightstand and a good sleep playlist.
  8. Weekends are nice. I’m getting used to having weekends mostly free again. I forgot what that was like. In a word? Glorious. Remind me of this in the future when we all get busy again and I forget how much I need easy weekends.

Loneliness? Check.

Restlessness? Check.

Rapidly veering more steadily toward chaos and anarchy? Check.

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My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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It’s the International Day of Happiness. This week has been w.e.i.r.d., to say the least. I’ve had a few panic attacks, and I’m still at work as we try to accommodate students who have nowhere else to go and figure out what in the world we’re going to do next (I would welcome faster decisions here…I’m just sayin’.). But there’s also been so many opportunities for joy. Just in my little corner of humanity, there is so much goodness. There are also so many fun things online. Here’s a list for times when you’re feeling more anxious than happy or just want something hopeful.

  1. Italians singing from their balconies.
  2. Lots of love happening on the ‘gram. Nikki Mayeaux is posting a daily creative prompt called Poem Passwords. The pictures on #seeninquarantine are spectacular. Between her early start for April Love and purrs from her sweet cat, Susannah Conway is soothing my soul. Julia Turshen is posting daily foodie prompts. I love this list from worn_ware of people offering yoga, meditations, etc.
  3. Tessera Arts Collective in Philadelphia closed the gallery for now, but they are still on for installing a street art campaign throughout the city this Sunday.
  4. Local businesses that can’t afford to shut down completely are making the best of it with delivery and curbside pickup. The Dentonite is keeping a running list. I love watching local business owners figure out how to take care of their employees by offering alternate earning opportunities and giving devoted patrons the ability to still tip their baristas/servers (*cough* support Golden Boy *cough*). Also…Golden Boy has key lime and coconut pie right now, which are in my top three favorite pies (blueberry is the third, if you’re wondering).
  5. Aid Network Denton and the city of Lake Dallas are keeping up a list of ways to get help or get involved if you can give help.
  6. Nature is delightful. The canals are clear and the swans are back in Venice. And penguins at the Shedd Aquarium enjoy a tour of the zoo.
  7. Since you can’t go in person, many field trip locations and entertainment venues are coming to you. You may also be able to watch the stage production of your favorite musical online. The Metropolitan Opera is streaming. Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeted himself playing “All I Ask of You”, and Lin Manuel Miranda responded with his performance of “Everything’s Alright”. Yale is offering their course on The Science of Well-Being for free (audit only).
  8. For artists whose income is impacted by all the cancellations, here’s a list of places that may be able to offer support.
  9. Books resources! I didn’t know how much I needed Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog in my life until this week. In fact, many children’s authors are reading their books online this week. And one that made me salivate – download from a selection of over 300,000 books for free from the New York Public Library through their reader app!!!
  10. Debbie Allen is teaching online dance classes! So is Chloe Arnold!
  11. Joy the Baker is just a delight. As usual.
  12. People are putting their Christmas lights back up to spread joy.
  13. All the Julia Child is streaming!!
  14. What am I doing this weekend? I’m so glad you asked! 24in48’s Social Distancing Readathon!

I’m sure there’s more. What are your favorite things people are doing right now?

 

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About half the current list

This month has been a great reading month so far. I’m looking forward to diving in to the rest of these selections.

For book clubs:

  • Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – I read the ebook on this one, and I like the structure of the writing. Our book club decided that we need this band to be real.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne – The audiobook was well done, so I highly recommend it on this one. This is the first of the series, and I will need to read the rest of them. I found myself staying up later to listen to it, which is unusual for me, as it usually takes me forever to get through an audiobook. This one held my interest, though.
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi – I haven’t read a graphic novel in a while, and I already love this one. It’s funny and poignant, and I’m excited to talk about it with my Spiderweb group.
  • Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m looking forward to starting it when it arrives in the mail.

Other reads:

  • Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark – I loved this book. It’s written (and read – I know! Two audiobooks in two weeks! Who even am I?) by the two women who run the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder.
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz – This is a cute book about three children and their adventures. A book club friend described it as “The Canterbury Tales meets Harry Potter.”
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – I love Anne’s online persona as The Modern Mrs. Darcy, and so of course I pre-order every book she writes. I look forward to starting this treatise on how to make more confident decisions. I’m not really indecisive, but sometimes I overthink things because of who I am as a person, so I’m sure there will be something in there for me.
  • The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris – I picked this one up because it is written by the author who wrote Chocolat, which I love (also…I just now discovered that there’s a cookery book with recipes inspired by Chocolat and I must have it immediately). Other than it being marketed as a modern fairytale, I don’t know much about it, but I’m sure it will be a good read.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory – Second book in the series after The Wedding Date, this is going to be a fun read. I love this author, and I plan to tuck into this one this weekend.
  • Dining In by Alison Roman – I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to cookbooks that I’ve checked out of the library, so I’m trying to work my way through them. I am skimming most, but this one has a lot of ideas I like, so I’m spending a little more time with it.
  • Nothing To See Here by Kevin Wilson – My third (third!) audiobook of the month. I’m not sure if I’m just getting better at choosing good audiobooks or if my ability to focus is improving (wow, that would be awesome), but I like this one so far. I’m only about 30 minutes in, but the story has already grabbed me.

What are you reading right now? Should I add it to my future TBR list?

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February TBR

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My inner overachiever made this stack. We’ll see. The month is busy, self.

I was just looking at the calendar, and I have something planned for every night except one for the rest of this month. Sometimes I wonder why I am the way that I am.

I forge on, however, in my reading goals. These are the books I’m working on/starting this month:

For book clubs:

  • Educated by Tara Westover – I finished listening to it a few days ago. Many parts of it horrified me in an are-they-for-real sort of way. Other parts horrified me in a that’s-exactly-how-it-felt-for-me sort of way. Horror aside, I recommend it.
  • Midnight’s Children by  Salman Rushdie – I am about 60 pages in, and I love it already. Beautifully written story. I’m also listening to it during my commute, and I recommend the audiobook read by Lyndam Gregory. I hope to carve out a lot of reading time this weekend, because we’re discussing it next Tuesday.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin – Excited to start this one!
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin – I started this one years ago but didn’t finish. I look forward to reading it next week.
  • American Sherlock: Murder, Forensics, and the Birth of the American CSI by Kate Winkler Dawson – I just got the notice that this has been shipped today, so it should arrive soon.

Other reads:

  • Jubilee by Toni Tipton-Martin – The recipes in this book are fantastic. This is going on my cookbook to-buy list.
  • The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott – Humor? Check. Magical realism? Check. Themes of religion, loneliness, and love? Check. So many things that I love in a book.
  • Something Old, Something New by Tamar Adler – I’ve read a lot of her articles in food magazines, and I loved An Everlasting Meal. I expect to love this one just as much.
  • Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman – The second in the series. I enjoyed Seraphina, so I’m excited to see what happens next.
  • Jazz by Toni Morrison – I have a lot of Toni Morrison books on my shelf, and this is one I have never read. Excellent so far.

What are you reading?

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The book books (as opposed to the audio or ebook selections)

“Whatcha thinkin’ about?”

I would get this question from a friend when he thought I was being quieter than usual. If I felt like staying quiet, I would lie and say, “Nothing.” But mostly, I answered with the thing that was foremost in my mind, usually the book(s) I was reading at the time and what intrigued me about them.

I read about 10-ish books a month. This month, I’m finishing up a lot that I have started, including a couple from my Spiderweb book club that I love so far but didn’t finish in time for discussion night. I’m in three (oh, wait…now four…I joined the Bloggess’s Fantastic Strangelings) book clubs so that’s about half of my reading every month. I also added a few from my own collection that I’m re-reading or have been making lovey eyes at for a while. Or ones that are due at the library soon.

This month’s reading:

  1. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – I actually listened to this one on the way to the farm for the holidays. I do not recommend listening to this in the dark while you are driving, particularly if you are driving through an area known for wildlife that has a habit of darting out in front of moving vehicles. On the upside, the hyper-vigilance *cough*paranoid jumpiness*cough* this book inspired means that no wildlife were harmed in the listening of this book. My book club was mixed in its reviews. I enjoyed the parts that she wrote (much of the book was pieced together from her notes after her death).
  2. Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok – I finished this one last night. I related to the title character quite a bit, and this book is helping me work through a rediscovery of an old self whom I miss. This line in particular stuck out to me – “I kept my attraction a secret because I had learned that to do otherwise was to invite the gods to mock you.” More on this in a later post.
  3. The Power by Naomi Alderman – I’m starting this one today. The Spiderfriends in book club have been talking it up, so I’m super excited about it.
  4. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – This is the supplemental read for Spiderweb, and I’m enjoying the re-read. I forgot how much I love it. I’ve just finished the first part wherein she compares two different meals. Enjoy: “And if anyone complains that prunes, even when mitigated by custard, are an uncharitable vegetable (fruit they are not), stringy as a miser’s heart and exuding a fluid such as might run in misers’ veins who have denied themselves wine and warmth for eighty years and yet not given to the poor, he should reflect that there are people whose charity embraces even the prune.” Glorious.
  5. Follow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford – This is the first selection for Fantastic Strangelings. I haven’t heard a lot about it, but I trust Jenny Lawson’s judgment wholeheartedly.
  6. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones – This is one of the best memoirs I’ve ever read, and I really love memoirs. The writing is lovely, and the flow is perfect. Great first book to start the month.
  7. First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen – This is my car book this month (listening, not reading, to be clear). I liked the first novel about the Waverly sisters. Light magical realism, enjoyable enough if you like that genre and easy to pay attention to.
  8. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – One of my top five favorite books. I’ve read it a couple of times. On New Year’s Eve Eve, Spiderweb had a party and a book exchange, and this is the one I brought. So of course I had to read it again. I find new treasures each time.
  9. Lakota Woman by Mary Crow Dog – This was the supplemental read for November, and I’m still working my way through it. It’s fantastic but heavy, so I am taking my time.
  10. The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa – Another book I’m finishing from Spiderweb. I usually tab the books we are discussing, but I found myself tabbing every page, so I stopped and just decided to enjoy it. I am about halfway through.
  11. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – I met Roxane Gay when she came to UNT, and this was the book I brought for her to sign. I got to tell her how much Hunger meant to me. She was delightful and present. It was a great night.
  12. French Lessons by Peter Mayle – I like to read at least one book about food a month. I love everything I’ve read by Mayle, and I expect this one will be no different.

What are you reading now?

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