What’s on my bookshelf: January 2022

I’m back to blogging with a bunch of books! Yay, alliteration! OK, I last did a post like this last January, and I have read several books in the intervening year. But here’s what’s on my mind, reading-wise, right now!

Just finished: A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, 1): Chambers, Becky:  9781250236210: Amazon.com: Books

One of my most enjoyable reading experiences last year was discovering Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series, so I was excited to check out her latest work, the first in a new (and pretty different) series. I loved her optimistic, character-driven approach to a classic sci-fi yarn in Wayfarers; this book takes on both of those adjectives even more, as it reads at times like a coffeeshop AU fanfiction. And I don’t mean that in a bad way! OK, I will admit I was a little bored by the lengthy exposition of this book, but in all it’s a pretty quick read, so I didn’t have too long to feel impatient before the plot kicked in.

The basic premise is that in a future Earth-like planet, robots have collectively decided to stop working for humans and do their own thing in nature instead. This reckoning happened in the book’s distant past, and its implications shape the story’s serene world, and the meandering journey of a nonbinary monk trying to find their place in it. Although I grumbled a bit about the lack of plot, this ended up being a fun, feel-good read that got into some pretty profound territory about the meaning of life by its conclusion. Would recommend reading along with a good cup of tea.

Just finished: The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
I read a different edition of this book with a different cover, but I prefer the look of this one. My blog, my rules!

I continued my streak of cozy, feel-good reads with this warm and funny story from L. M. Montgomery, the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables books. Unlike Anne, we meet our protagonist Valancy as an adult, fed up with her overbearing family and uneventful life in small-town Canada. (This family in particular is the source of most of the jokes.) A revelation leads Valancy to make some big changes, and both romance and hilarity ensue. It was initially recommended to me on the basis of its descriptive writing about the natural world, which is admittedly beautiful, but it makes up a much smaller portion of the book than I expected based on that recommendation.

The Blue Castle‘s pacing felt uneven—it cycles between not much happening for many chapters, and a LOT happening at once—but I enjoyed it a lot anyway. I would have preferred to spend a bit less time on Valancy’s initial miserable circumstances, and more on the rather delightful situation she finds herself in towards the end of the book, but regardless, I’ll definitely be reading this one again in the future. Despite The Blue Castle‘s shared lineage with Anne, it reminded me most of The Secret Garden. Late bloomers and rogue-loving romantics, this one’s for you!

Just finished: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir: Zauner, Michelle: 9780525657743: Amazon.com:  Books

Like, I’m pretty sure, every single other person who read it, I LOVED this book. Definitely my favorite of the year so far (although I also really enjoyed the other two!). Zauner beautifully and heartbreakingly portrays her journey through grief and quest to reconnect with her family and culture. I laughed, I cried (a LOT), I learned, I related. What more can you ask from a book? Truly an amazing memoir, and I remain astonished that one person (Zauner is also known as the indie artist Japanese Breakfast) can be so talented at writing AND at other things! I would be jealous, if my dominant emotion wasn’t just gratitude to be able to read her writing. I cannot rave enough! (And apparently, I can’t formulate anything to say about this book aside from pure raving!) If you haven’t already, please read it!

Currently reading: Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport and How to do Nothing by Jenny Odell

The subtitles of each of these books—”Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World” and “Resisting the Attention Economy”—might give the impression that they are similar in mission and scope. In some ways, they do have a lot of similarities, but in many others, they couldn’t be more different. Odell is certainly more radical, questioning the very foundation of our capitalist society, while Newport’s approach is more individual, seeking meaning while remaining within the system. In a nutshell (and with the caveat that I haven’t finished either of them!), Newport’s Digital Minimalism is a practical guide to minimizing and optimizing the role of digital distractions in your life, while Odell’s How to do Nothing is more akin to a manifesto for collective action (or inaction?), with the goal of opting out of society’s productivity obsession in favor of a more meaningful life. However, both contain a good mix of practical and theoretical sections, drawing on a range of sources to promote their points.

Despite the fact that I don’t read much nonfiction, I’m steadily making my way through both of these books, and really enjoying the parallel reading experience and parallel insights that are coming along with it. I’m maybe getting too repetitive here, but it’s hard to overstate just how different these books are, while seemingly sharing a common goal. They’re less like two sides of the same coin, and more like two completely different coins, both of which are coming up “heads.” Regardless, I’m getting a lot out of both of them. Digital Minimalism is the one I’ll recommend to my dad, and How to do Nothing is the one I’ll recommend to my friends. OK, I’m done now; I think you get the picture!

On deck: How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams and Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

I know next to nothing about either of these books. (The former, a fizzy rom-com? The latter, an adventure/thriller/heroine’s journey? OK, now you know as much as I do.) I picked them both up at the library recently and am definitely looking forward to delving back into the world of fiction!

Have you read any of these books? If so, I’d love to know what you think! If not, I’d love to hear about what you’re reading anyway! Feel free to drop a comment below, and I’ll talk to you soon(er or later).

Scrumptious maple-mustard vinaigrette: a recipe

This is probably my favorite salad dressing—and I don’t even eat that much salad!

It’s inspired by the Love & Magic dressing at SweetArt, an incredible vegan restaurant and bakery in St. Louis. I went to college in St. Louis and whenever I needed a pick-me-up treat, I biked to SweetArt and got myself a cupcake (only $2 on Wednesdays!). When I wanted to be a bit more nutritionally responsible, I indulged in their burger—still the best veggie burger I’ve had to date—and a side of the kale salad with Love & Magic dressing.

I was obsessed with figuring out the secret to their dressing, and I never did, until a couple years ago when a Thanksgiving recipe called on me to make a marinade with maple syrup and Dijon mustard. I tasted it and it was delicious…and it reminded me of that elusive, magical dressing. Since then I’ve honed in on a recipe that may not contain all the same Love & Magic as SweetArt’s, but it’s still pretty damn great.

Tl;dr: Make this dressing, and whenever you’re in St. Louis, get a burger, a salad, and a cupcake from SweetArt—you’ll be glad you did.


  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1.5 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • Black pepper, to taste


  1. In a jar, combine all ingredients. Screw the lid on tightly and shake vigorously to combine. Taste the dressing and if desired, add a bit more maple syrup for sweetness, vinegar for acidity, mustard for tang, or soy sauce for saltiness/depth of flavor. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from this one from the Food Network.

Winter comfort(ing) food: a recipe

This is the first of (hopefully) many recipe posts on my blog. I’ve been cooking for myself regularly since I went vegan, three and a half years ago, because my college did not have a wealth of options in that category. I’ve discovered a lot of amazing recipes along the way, and also started to get more confident improvising in the kitchen.

I made the following dish last week while visiting a friend’s house. She had a lot of root veggies and a block of tofu to use up, so we made this hearty meal for dinner: Deep, roasty flavors, a filling grain, and a green element adding some much-need vitamins. I wouldn’t call it comfort food per se because it’s not, like, mac and cheese (stay tuned for that recipe!), but it’s definitely comforting. I don’t have much else to say other than, I hope you enjoy!

Oh, one more thing: This recipe isn’t an exact set of steps to follow as much as it is a template to use or adapt to your own needs (and current pantry contents). It’s pretty flexible, so I wrote it as such.

Roasted root vegetables, balsamic tofu, and warm kale salad with couscous

  • Serves: 4
  • Time: 1 hour


  • 1 block (~16 oz.) firm or extra-firm tofu
  • Grain of choice (we used ~1 cup dried couscous)
  • Assorted root vegetables—we used:
    • 1 large potato (sweet potatoes would also be great!)
    • 2 turnips
    • 4 small beets
  • 1 bunch kale, or other dark leafy green
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Pat tofu dry and gently squeeze out any excess water. Cut the tofu into small cubes.
  2. Combine the balsamic vinegar, Italian seasoning, nutritional yeast, and salt + pepper (we used about a teaspoon each of the latter two) in a container with a lid. Add the tofu to the marinade and shake it around until it’s all covered. Let the tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes.*
  3. In the meantime, prepare your root vegetables: Wash and chop them into small pieces, roughly the same size as the tofu. Spread across one and a half baking sheets lined with silicone mats (or parchment paper). Lightly drizzle the veggies with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then use your hands to toss and coat all the pieces.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  5. When the tofu is marinated, add it to the other half of the baking sheet. Save the leftover marinade.
  6. Bake the veggies and tofu at 400 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until slightly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.
  7. While the veggies and tofu are roasting, prepare your grain according to package directions.
  8. Also while they’re in the oven, prepare the kale: Remove large stems and tear the kale into bite-sized pieces. Massage for 30 seconds, then add to a large skillet with 1 Tbsp. olive oil on medium heat. Cover the skillet and steam the kale for a couple minutes.
  9. Mix the remaining olive oil with the leftover marinade and pour it over the kale, stirring until it begins to wilt and get brown in a few places. Turn off and remove from heat.
  10. Serve the grain, kale, roasted veggies, and balsamic tofu while warm. (I didn’t do this, but I think they’d be delicious topped with a drizzle of tahini sauce). Enjoy!

Recipe notes

*The balsamic tofu component was adapted from Bites of Wellness.