2020 Vision

We’re a whole month into the new year (!!!) and I’m finally getting around to writing my resolutions down here. I’ve had them written in my trusty Bullet Journal for a few weeks, but there’s nothing for accountability like making things public, y’know?

With that said, here are my resolutions for this pleasingly symmetrical year. I didn’t include anything work/school-related, because those are pretty clear benchmarks that I didn’t come up with on my own.

1. Read 50 books.

Including books for pleasure, not for school. I got pretty close to this number last year but didn’t quite hit it. Here’s hoping I can up the ante this time around. (As of writing this, I’ve finished 3 books so far this year: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and Women Talking by Miriam Toews. I would recommend all of them.)

2. Finish my novel draft.

I completed NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) last November by getting to 50,000 words, but I didn’t quite finish the story I was writing. I literally have not even opened that file since November 30th, but this year, I’m going to finish writing and editing the novel.

3. Go on 12 dates. (Joint resolution!)

This is a resolution I’m sharing with a few friends of mine. We’re all…not great at dating, so we determined to each go on 12 dates this year for an average of one a month and keep each other posted. Wish us luck!

4. Get more involved in the community.

I’ve done a bit of volunteering since I’ve moved through the local co-op’s awesome member work program, but I want to get more involved in some local organizations that support the community I’m now a part of.

5. Spend my time in ways that fulfill me.

I spend soooo many hours scrolling mindlessly on social media, and at a certain point it’s not even fun anymore. I think (I hope, kinda?) others can relate. I don’t know if it’s a social media “addiction” in my case, but it’s definitely something, and for some reason I’m not ready to give up Instagram entirely. But I am trying to be mindful of how I spend my time and to be more quick to put down the phone. Pursuits like reading, writing, and even sleeping make me much happier than the permascroll.

6. Learn to play the harp.

I’ve wanted to play the harp for as long as I can remember, and I’m determined that this is the year I finally do it! This resolution is the most “out of the box” for me, as I don’t really consider myself a musical person—the most recent musical experience I’ve had was playing violin until 4th grade. So this is a brand new adventure for me. We’ll see how it goes!

What’s on my bookshelf? December edition

Hello, friends! Long time, no blog (again). This time I don’t have as good of a reason as NaNoWriMo to have fallen off the blogging wagon (blog-gon?), but it has been finals week. So that’s probably reason enough.

I did a post like this a couple months ago, highlighting what I’m reading in the past, present, and (hopefully) future, and I’m glad to say I’ve kept up the habit of reading for pleasure! Read on for my thoughts on what I’ve read lately and what I’m looking forward to.

Just finished: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

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I read this book on my friend Catie’s recommendation. It’s a science fiction novel set in a dystopian future California where climate change has made food prices skyrocket, gasoline an inaccessible luxury, and water a scarce and precious resource. Sound familiar? Butler published this book in 1993, and it’s set in the mid-2020s. The future of this book is now uncomfortably near, and the picture it paints is uncomfortably realistic. It took me awhile to get into the book, but once a catalyzing event happened about a third of the way through, I was fully hooked. I would recommend it if you enjoy dystopian novels and/or feeling panicked about the future of our planet.

Just finished: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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I read this novel for a recent book club. It was a quick read, and I think it’s considered a quintessential “book-club book.” I enjoyed reading it, but after it was done, I’m not sure if I actually liked the book or its characters. I wish that Ng had delved deeper into certain themes and characters and left others to the imagination. But if you like suburban dramas like Big Little Lies, you’ll probably enjoy this one, too.

Just finished: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

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I’ve been eagerly anticipating this book for months and finally got a chance to read it, then I tore through it in two nights. Catch and Kill tells the story of Farrow’s struggle to report on Harvey Weinstein’s serial predation and other stories that launched the #MeToo movement, through the lens of his own experiences with fame and fear and the behind-the-scenes industry politics at NBC. As a reader, I found it engrossing, and as a maybe-aspiring future journalist, I found it inspiring. (But also scary.) I was almost put off on the first page by his characterization of two spies’ identities of Russian and Ukrainian as a “distinction without a difference,” but once I moved past that the rest was great. And sometimes sickening, in the non-Drag Race sense. I’m planning to listen to the podcast next.

Currently reading: The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman

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Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is probably my favorite book series ever (sorry, Stephenie Meyer!), and I was so excited to read about grown-up Lyra in this second book in his new trilogy, The Book of Dust. I’m in the thick of it right now (in fact, I tore myself away from reading it to write this blog post and accomplish at least one productive thing today) and really enjoying it so far. The newer books have a different tenor than the original trilogy, which helps to make them distinct, and it’s so wonderful to be back in Pullman’s world.

Currently reading: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

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Earlier this year, I devoured several of Bardugo’s other books and was utterly sucked into her fantasy world in the best way. I was intrigued by the prospect of this novel, which takes place at real-world Yale, but I shouldn’t have been surprised to find out that it also contains some fantastical elements. So far, it’s interesting, but I don’t think I like it as much as her other work. Part of that is the dearth of characters to root for in Ninth House, whereas her beloved novel Six of Crows had plenty. Since I haven’t bought this book and it’s still on hold at the library, I’ve been reading a few chapters each time I pass by a bookstore and have an hour to kill, so it still might take me awhile to finish it. I’ll reserve final judgement until then.

On deck: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

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Like everyone else I know, I read The Handmaid’s Tale a few years ago when the Hulu series was first making a splash and loved it. I still haven’t watched more than a few episodes of the series, but I’m looking forward to reading the follow-up.

On deck: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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This book is the next one for my book club, so I need to start reading it soon. I know almost nothing about it, only that everyone who’s mentioned it to me says it’s great. It seems like I will enjoy it, so I’m looking forward to digging in during my travels this winter break!

On deck: The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2019

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I read this anthology a few years ago and it was wonderful. It gave me the chance to read some incredible works that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise and that I still cherish to this day, like “The Big Kill” by Elizabeth Kolbert and “The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison. I picked this year’s edition up on impulse because I’ll be traveling soon and need some good airplane/airport/remote field station reading material.

Hope you enjoyed this updated list of what I’ve been procrastinating my real work for! What’re you reading lately?

What am I reading? Happy October!

Hello, friends! Can you believe it’s October already?! I can’t! But I’m pretty pumped. It’s shaping up to be a good month, in part because I have some great books to read.

For the past year or so, I’ve been trying to get back into reading for pleasure. As an undergrad, I didn’t really feel like I had time—and if I ever did read a novel, it would usually suck me in and I would ignore my schoolwork for the next 36-48 hours while I finished it. Also, to be honest (and I imagine this is pretty common), watching Netflix and scrolling mindlessly through social media has taken up a lot of the leisure time that I used to spend on reading. But since graduating last year, I’ve read a lot more books than I have in awhile. I’m trying to keep this up now that I’m back in (grad) school, and so far, pretty good!

Today, I’m sharing some books I have read lately, what I’m reading now, and what’s sitting on my bookshelf, waiting patiently…

Just finished: The Overstory by Richard Powers

Photo from Amazon

People have been recommending this book to me for months, so I finally picked it up a couple weeks ago! It’s a book about trees, people, and how they interact—so, VERY much up my alley. As you can see from the cover, it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last year. Pretty neat!

I enjoyed this book a lot. It tells interweaving stories across generations, with a hefty dose of wonder at the amazing and underappreciated things that trees do. I can get behind that! I must confess, though, this book was hyped up to me SO much before I read it that it didn’t quite live up to the high expectations. There were also a few moments of the author’s writing about women that made me raise an eyebrow. I still enjoyed it quite a lot, and I liked most of the characters (especially Patty. I love you, Patty!!), but it wasn’t favorite-book-status for me. If you like people, trees, and/or stories spanning decades, I would definitely recommend it!

(One final note: I went into this book and read about the first quarter of it thinking it was nonfiction. Yes, I know it says “A Novel” right there on the cover, front and center. Somehow I missed that the first dozen times I opened it. I kept wondering, “How did this guy get these random people across America to give him incredibly detailed accounts of their childhoods and family history?” Finally, the words “A Novel” permeated my brain. I was so impressed with Richard Powers’ journalistic prowess, but the book makes a LOT more sense as a work of fiction.)

(Okay, I lied. I have another, more final note. I keep accidentally referring to this book as “The Understory” instead of The Overstory. Similarly to how I sometimes mix up cellulose and cellulite. Yikes.)

Just finished: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Photo from Wikipedia

Apparently, I missed the media circus around The Night Circus when it was published in 2011. My friend Shelby recommended it to me awhile ago, and I checked it out from the library several times, but never got around to reading it until this past weekend. Well, now I get what all the fuss is about! Despite initially throwing me off with its unique writing style, this book sucked me in to a delightful fantasy-grounded-in-reality world that I haven’t yet stopped thinking about.

The Night Circus‘ central premise is its title—a circus that is only open at night—but it’s also a love story, a fairy tale, and a story about telling stories. To me, it was pure wish fulfillment, in the best way possible. The book was filled with gratuitous, detailed descriptions of the circus itself, as well as the beautiful gowns worn by the main character and an ornate clock that plays a surprisingly significant role in the story. The star-crossed-lovers dynamic was both familiar and fresh. It’s a story that reminded me why I fell in love with reading in the first place. It also inspired some of my goals for the upcoming months, oddly enough—I’ll elaborate on that in an upcoming post. 🙂

Overall, I ended up liking this book more than I thought I would! If you (like me, apparently) were living under a rock in 2011 and haven’t read it yet, and you enjoy a splash of fantasy, I would recommend it.

Currently reading: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Photo from Amazon

Murakami is my friend Cate’s favorite author, so I’ve been meaning to read one of his books for awhile now. When I saw that this one was on Barack Obama’s list of recommended reads for the year, I put it at the top of my library checkout list. Thanks, Obama!

Men Without Women is a book of short stories. Again, the title does a lot of work here in explaining the premise. As of writing this post, I’ve only read the first of seven stories, and I’m enjoying it so far. Translated from Japanese, Murakami’s writing has a deceptively simple yet direct and powerful quality. It reminds me a bit of Therese Marie Mailhot, whose memoir Heart Berries I read earlier this year. (Shoutout to the ACPC book club!) I’m looking forward to finishing this one.

On deck: A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Photo from Goodreads

I decided to go all in on the Murakami (thanks, Cate!) and checked out another one of his books for later. A Wild Sheep Chase is a novel, not a short story collection, so I’m excited to mix it up and read that one soon.

On deck: Educated by Tara Westover

Photo from Amazon

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about this book this year, and I intend to check it out of the library soon! As far as I know, it’s a memoir about a woman who comes from a Kimmy Schmidt-like upbringing and becomes, well, educated. Looking forward to switching it up with some creative nonfiction.

That’s what’s on my bookshelf for now! (Well…not entirely, but I have some details to save for the upcoming post I hinted at above.) Have you read any of these books? What did you think? What’s on your bookshelf? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know, and see you next time!