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My Unread Shelf - 2019 Shortlist

24 January 2019

I took inventory of my books. It was a crazy experience to realize that I had well over two hundred titles waiting for me and then to realize that it would take me years to read them all.

I did my version of KonMari, which involved seeing if I could remember why I wanted to read these books in the first place. I ended up boxing up something like 40 books that I no longer wanted. Now to actually get them out of my house. . . .

In an effort to make some progress I decided to force myself to read or let go of twenty-four additional books in 2019. Considering I read well over a hundred books last year, this doesn't feel like that big of a deal.

My 2019 shortlist is as follows and is accompanied by zero pictures. (You're lucky there are even links.):

  1. The Appeal by John Grisham
  2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  4. Winter by Marissa Meyer
  5. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  6. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  7. Paris for One by Jojo Moyes
  8. Not The I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
  9. Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom
  10. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  11. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
  12. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  13. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  14. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  15. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  16. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams
  17. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
  18. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
  19. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
  20. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates
  21. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  22. Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews
  23. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
  24. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
In February I'm hosting a low pressure, buddy read via Instagram for White Oleander. If you've been meaning to read it and want a little extra push then shoot me a message! 

Enjoying for the Sake of Enjoyment

22 January 2019

Over the past few months I have been spending quite a lot of time drafting and deleting posts for this space of mine. Nothing feels like quite enough for this space. All of the "rules" are popping up each and every time I sit down to write. 

Is this post helpful? Can I break down this essay into various headings to help readers skim? What about this graphic? Would I pin this? Does the pin work correctly? Do I even care? Is another job something I'm looking for during a season where it feels as if I'm half-assing all of the various roles in my life?

Once upon a time I knew none of the rules. All I knew was that I had discovered a handful of writers out there who took it upon themselves to share a little something with the world. I was inspired. I sat down and wrote, just for the practice. I wrote to empty my head, so that maybe tonight I would actually be able to fall asleep. 

I stopped writing as much last year. Instead I read a lot and finally discovered Bookstagram. I've been having so much fun sharing my love of reading with other people who "get it," with people who also enjoy a good reading spreadsheet, but rules and thoughts about likes, followers, and end-goals have begun to creep back in. These "rules" and "goals" keep souring so many things that I love and I seem to have trouble just enjoying something for the sake of enjoyment. 

All this to say that this year, I'm trying really hard to just enjoy. I want to pay attention to when things stop feeling fun and then I want to not worry so much about taking a step back. I want to look at stats next to never, unless I'm hoping to get my hands on a particularly appealing book. I want stop stressing about hobbies and spend more time enjoying the things that I do.

The Mile Markers of Life

21 November 2018
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
I recently made myself read another Kristin Hannah novel. As per usual it destroyed me and will likely haunt me for years to come. My poor book has some serious water damage.

I like to keep notes whenever I'm reading.  I always have, but these days I'm finding it much more convenient to keep those notes via Litsy. Are you on there yet? I've found I'm much more likely to scroll through that timeline and look back on my notes than I am with any of the many notebooks scattered around my home.

While reading The Great Alone I stumbled across a quote that made me stop and think. I touched briefly on this via Instagram, but I quickly realized that I wasn't quite finished with my reflection. Don't you just love when something in a book makes you spend some serious time reflecting?



Books are the mile markers of my life. It's a simple little line that packs punch and for me, at least, I think there is some truth to it. What follows will be a little bit of a timeline of some of those books that stand out as the mile markers of my own life.

I found one of these books on Mrs. Herr's shelf in the third grade. I initially read the series all out of order, not understanding that there even was an order to such things. The first one I read was the one that has the storyline where the girls find Arabian Nights on Elizabeth's parent's shelf. I remember being so surprised by it, because Mrs. Herr had been raised Amish and seemed super stuffy. Maybe she didn't know what was in the book, but I'll be forever grateful that it just happened to be on her shelf. It was the one that really ignited my love of reading.

I bought this at the book-fair in 5th grade all because Kim bought it too. It was such a magical tale and it helped me to realize that there are all sorts of stories out there where anything you could possibly think of could and would happen. My copy barely has a cover at this point and I cannot wait to share it with my kids.

Harry Potter was forbidden in my home, so I bought it anyway on the recommendation of Jamie who said it was his favorite book. I hid that book and stayed up late every night until I finished it, then I hid it in the laundry basket. Why I thought that was a good place I'll never know. Maybe I wanted to be caught? My mom found it and asked me about it. I told her that she was wrong and that she should try reading it before she decided it was bad. She did and then my dad did and I received the next two in the series for Christmas.

This was the very first grownup book I ever read. To be honest, I was probably a little young for it, but I loved it. From that moment on I hardly ever returned to the kid's section of the library.
I became incredibly depressed during my first semester of college. I had done that stupid thing where I followed other people to a place that I didn't even really like because my first plan didn't quite pan out. I learned about the importance of a backup plan real quick. These books helped me through that semester and for that I will always be grateful.
This is one of the books I read when I made the biggest leap of my life. I moved across the country to Utah where I knew only a handful of people. Books definitely kept me company and this is the one that sticks out the most.

I got into audiobooks during the time I was driving around interviewing for a post college job. This was the book I was listening to when I went on the interview that resulted in said post college job. 

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell -

I started grad school right after my undergrad program ended and I remember feeling so intimidated. You see, despite doing well in school I've never really thought that I was very smart. This was the first book we read and we had to post a discussion essay about it for everyone to see. I was incredibly stressed and then I read some of the other essays and realized that maybe, just maybe, I was more intelligent than I gave myself credit for.
This is the book I was reading when I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter. The author happened to make a stop at a local bookstore around the time that I finished, so I went and met her. She remains the only author I have ever met, but it was just a cool reading experience all around.

This is one of those books I read in the witching hours while up with my first. Knowing that I would be reading this book made it so much easier to get up. I got through it pretty quickly, because my daughter NEVER slept.

My husband and I went on a little anniversary trip when my daughter was a little over 2(?). I brought this book with me, so that I could really relax by the pool and maybe worry a little less about how little e was faring with Grandma.

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah -

I read this while pregnant with my second. I was highly emotional and borderline narcoleptic. This was the right book to keep me awake and resulted in a good cry. 

Loving What Is by Byron Katie -

This book helped me to changed my thinking about so much. It also has helped me better manage some anxiety and depression that keeps popping up. I would recommend that everyone takes a look at it.

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett -

I still don't completely know what I want to be when I grow up, but the essay, The Getaway Car, helped me realize that I would like to try to write. I would really like to see my name on the spine of a book in my local library. Now I just need to do it and keep doing it!

Are there books from your life that you would consider mile markers?
What are they?

Might as Well Face It. . . .

16 November 2018

The other night we had the rare opportunity to leave the house for a date night. The world was our oyster and we were positively giddy about it.

I leaned over to T to excitedly conspire, "What should we do? Should we go somewhere where you have to actually sit down and leave a tip?"

"Only if you promise not to throw food!"

T and I are different in many ways, but are able agree on many of the more important things in life, such as the fact that pizza is really the perfect meal. We shared a pizza, topped with all the things our children hate, and then decided to give in our craving for dessert. But where to go?

Our favorite little spot had closed down for good a week before. I couldn't help but feel guilty as I recalled that the last time we had been there had been a solid two years before. The feeling passed and a quick Google search pointed me in the direction of a "dessert studio" nearby.

Now, I've never been to a place described in such a manner, so I was a little apprehensive. I quickly scanned the menu to ensure that chocolate of any variety graced the menu, but didn't look at it too closely.

I knew upon walking in that this was not my scene at all. A cluster of high school (?) or college aged  (?) kids were at the standing tables, all taking photos of their food. I looked around and imagined that they had likely also taken numerous selfies in front of the whitewashed, exposed brick wall. If only I knew their handles for Snapchat, Instagram or whatever kids are using these days.

I ventured over to read the menu more closely. There were a bunch of strange concoctions and I felt the panic rising in my chest. Turkey and cranberry ice cream? Bleu cheese and raspberry ice cream? Spumoni is as crazy as I go. Where were the normal flavors?

I turned to the dessert menu, desperately hoping there was something familiar. I spied the word brownie, ignored all the other ingredients that accompanied, and placed my order. Then I saw the tip jar.

The tip jar is a relatively new phenomenon for me. I first saw them in drive-thrus at places similar to McDonalds. Then I saw them at pizza places. Now I'm seeing it here.

I'm confused by these tip jars. Are employers no longer responsible for paying their employees? What exactly am I tipping for? You pressed a button, filled up a cup, and handed that cup to me. Good job, little buddy?

I understand the need for a tip when I go to a place with actual table service or tipping an attentive bartender or barista. I have no problem tipping in those scenarios and will happily tip more than the "recommended" amount, but these jars. . . .

After dessert I wander into Forever 21 in search of a basic striped tee. I walk in and have to walk back out to make sure that I'm in the right store.

It's hard to describe what has happened to this store, but basically it's as if the seventies, eighties and nineties exploded and left the strangest mashup of articles behind.

I wander in a daze and see my face reflected on the face of a woman who is likely in her late sixties.

It startles me and I do a double take, making sure that I'm moving a part of my body that she is not. I sigh, in relief. She is not my reflection, but she might as well be. My grand night out has resulted in a shocking revelation.

I might as well face it, I've become. . .old? Irrelevant? I don't know, but 29 sure feels like the new 60.

An Honest "About" Page

10 July 2018
We're all under construction

I've always enjoyed reading "About" pages on blogs. It seems that everyone attempts to put their best foot forward, while being creative enough to make them stand out from the crowd.

While I enjoy reading "About" pages, I really hate writing an "About" page. 

I don't have the type of story that would get me casted on any reality tv show. I haven't done a lot of exciting travelling. I'm very much a homebody who enjoys board games and reading. I'm not convinced that there is anything in particular that would set me apart from everyone and their grandma.

I recently stumbled across a blog's "about" page where I found the following words, "under construction" followed by the blogger's name. Now I know she is likely just in the process of rewriting, but if that isn't actually the most accurate about page for just about anyone then I don't know what is.

Aren't most of us continuously in the process of reinventing ourselves? Aren't we all just a little bit under construction?

I know it can be so hard to remember that no one is really as put together as their social media makes them appear, but for the sake of our sanity we need to. 

In those moments when we feel intimidated just remember we're all kind of faking it to some extent. 

In those moments when you elect to let someone else make the first move, reexamine. 

In those moments when you find yourself frustrated by someone else, remind yourself that they may be experiencing some serious internal construction that you know nothing about. 

May your internal construction help shape you into the most spectacular palace!