Sunday, October 28, 2018


Today is Sunday.  After four days of clouds and rain, there are patches of blue sky that fill my heart with hope and happy thoughts.  

I went for a walk with my husband.  We took in the fall colors and the neighborhood decorations.  We talked and laughed and no one interrupted us.  

And then, after lunch, I took my two youngest children to a birthday party at a birthday party mecca: laser tag, bowling, and arcade games all under one roof.  It is my son's favorite place.

"Who cares," you say.  "No big deal!"

Well, I say it is a big deal, ever since they opened a Barnes and Noble next door.

I didn't need another book.  God knows I've got too many unread books in my house already.  But, after some leisurely browsing, I settled on Virgil Wander because I adored Peace Like a River and it sounded like something I'd love: a small town story with a quirky cast of characters.  Yes, please.

I grabbed a venti hot cinnamon spice tea from Starbucks as I paid for my book.  There were no empty seats in the place.  I guess I wasn't the only one looking for the calm that only comes from books and drinks prepared by someone else.  I left and headed straight for home.
the GOAT of teas

Now that I'm here, I'm thankful those white, marble-top cafe tables were occupied by older men with laptops, women with lots of bags and big earrings, and in one case, a mother and daughter chatting happily together.  

I can read and write comfortably at home and Barnes and Noble served its purpose: a little alone time, being surrounded by books, and walking away with a hot cuppa.  

Plus, when I got home one of my older daughters had cleaned up the messy kitchen and baked pumpkin muffins.  Teens are truly wonderful sometimes.  Sometimes.  

Friday, October 26, 2018

Reading in Real Life

Today all of my kids are at school after a run of sickness.  I am in that euphoric state that will either result in great productivity or absolutely nothing.  But, if you're reading this I must be favoring productivity.  Yay me!  

I took the dog out this morning.  It's one of those cold days, somewhere between fall and winter.  It might rain later.  The trees in our yard are maroon, orange, and red--really red.  Ruby and I wandered around the yard for a minute or two and then, when we went back in, I was immediately met with the smell of heater + candle and a comforting sensation: warmth.  This is why I love cold months.  That split second makes the cold house and the heavy jackets worth it. 

Yesterday I put on a pot of hot apple cider and watched my whole family gravitate to the couches.  Carrying books and mugs we rested.  It was delightful and just what we needed.  

I set a goal to finish A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by the end of the month.  I've pushed it aside for the last two months and now I've got some momentum working in my favor.  The book is great for fall because it is a little melancholy and a little hopeful.  I'm learning so much about a period of American history I thought I knew well.  And learning through story is my favorite.  

This morning I read 20 pages and felt sad and also laughed out loud.  All this to say: it is an accurate portrayal of life.  

My other goal for the month is to finish The Ministry of Ordinary Places.  I think I could probably do it easily if I could stop thinking deeply about each sentence and underlining every page.  It is a challenging, beautiful book.  There are only 213 pages but each one is dense and I often find myself reading a few pages and then turning Martin's words over and over in my mind.  Some books are like that for me, especially when they come into my life at just the right time.  

I wish I could say I'm always reaching for a book or that I choose my book over TV before bed.  Neither of those is true.  And I'm coming to a place where I feel ok with that.  Life is meant to be more than sitting in a room reading.  I want to write, watch my kids play, spend time with friends and family, and go outside.  I love reading but it's only part of who I am.  

I'm glad that when I do get the opportunity to crack open a book I'm reading gorgeous writing and thinking big thoughts.  That's what I want from my reading life, and that's what I'm getting.  

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Reading Recap: September Edition

September was hard.  I feel like every month I say that, but this month: Wow.  Back to school, new routines, travel, going to my Grandmother's memorial, and off the charts humidity and rain.  I am ready for October. 

I had hoped to get more reading done, but the four books I finished were important ones.  They helped me relax, taught me something, and took me out of my little world for a while. 

Here are my October books:

"Nothing's worse than saying goodbye.  It's a little like dying."

I decided to start the month with a graphic novel and this graphic memoir has been sitting on my bookshelf for years.  I heard it discussed on a podcast and decided it was time.

It didn't knock my socks off.  The art was striking but I've read better.  I learned a bit about Iran from someone who lived through much of the revolution but I think I would have liked a longer forward or afterward to add more perspective.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
“People don’t like these facts, but I can’t help that. If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.”
My book club read this for September and the conclusion we reached is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is completely fine.

The story was a good one.  Things were revealed slowly, building a sense of mystery and making those pages turn.  But, I didn't find it "hilarious" as it's been lauded.  There were some parts that made me chuckle thanks to misunderstandings and crossed wires.  But I certainly wasn't rolling on the floor laughing or anything. 

Maybe the reviews were too buzz-y...if I had been expecting a story that centered on the psychological development of a character who had been through hell and was trying to live a "normal" life, I think I would have loved it much more.

I would file this novel alongside the likes of The Rosie Project and Ginny Moon and maybe Turtles All the Way Down (all of which I liked slightly better).  Eleanor deals with big themes like death and trauma in accessible and non-threatening ways.  I never felt super depressed, but when I would put the book down I'd realize my shoulders were clenched by my ears.

It is almost a meditation on empathy and how we can connect, and it's crucial that we connect, in a world that seems bent on isolation.  Loneliness is likened to cancer and the reader sees, up close, just how damaging it can be.  For these reasons, I'm glad to have read it, but I wish I hadn't been set up to think this was a funny little rom-com of a book. 

Nobody's Fool
“Throughout his life a case study underachiever, Sully—people still remarked—was nobody’s fool, a phrase that Sully no doubt appreciated without ever sensing its literal application—that at sixty, he was divorced from his own wife, carrying on halfheartedly with another man’s, estranged from his son, devoid of self-knowledge, badly crippled and virtually unemployable—all of which he stubbornly confused with independence.” 

My husband and I like to recommend books for each other and he recently encouraged me to pick up Nobody's Fool.  Richard Russo is one of his favorite authors and I hadn't read any Russo.  It was time.

we are a little gentler when recommending a book but the idea is the same

Nobody's Fool is over 500 pages and that made me annoyed.  (#notpettyoranything) My Goodreads reading goal is slipping out of reach and I wanted to read shorter books to make a dent in it.  I forgot how much I love a well-told story.  This book reminded me.  

Sully is a tough case.  He doesn't make good decisions and he's on a "stupid streak" for most of the book.  Ms. Beryl is Sully's landlady who is coming to terms with giving her son control of her house and money as she fears she's becoming slightly senile.  I don't think I can properly communicate how much I love these two.  

This a book of flawed characters who are mostly down on their luck.  It's gritty and painful, but Russo's story has a thin thread of grace running throughout the pages.  I was sad to be done with the book, and yet, it felt right.  

Worth every page.

I'd Rather Be Reading
"We are readers.  Books grace our shelves and fill our homes with beauty; they dwell in our minds and occupy our thoughts.  Books prompt us to spend pleasant hours alone and connect us with fellow readers.  They invite us to escape into their pages for an afternoon, and they inspire us to reimagine our lives."

I've been describing this delightful little book to everyone I see as a massage for my brain.  It was relaxing and soothing and I know those aren't typical descriptors for books and I don't care.  I can definitely see myself returning to this book the way I do to certain movies or TV shows when life (or the books I'm reading) are stressful and dark.  It was the literary version of a cup of tea and a warm blanket. 

Anne Bogel is the host of my all time favorite podcast and when I heard she had a new book coming out I quickly preordered a couple of copies.  It is a compilation of essays on reading.  Not preachy or braggy, she just tells the truth about what it means to love reading, to be a reader. 

Each chapter sparked a discussion I had with my friends and family or in my own head.  I will share some of these on another day, in a longer post. 

If you love to read: which, you probably do because you're reading this nerdy blog, you might want to pick this up.  You will feel seen. 


October is here and I am doing a buddy read with my 9-year-old and working through a book club pick that I'm not too sure about yet...What did you read in September?  Any big reading plans for October?